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Rio Arriba County (Brazos, San Juans)

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Brazos Cliffs 
Ghost Ranch 

Rio Arriba County (Brazos, San Juans) 


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Location: 36.5008, -106.4795 View Map  Incorrect?
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Administrators: Aaron Hobson, Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB, Marta Reece, Kristine Hoffman
Submitted By: George Perkins on Nov 9, 2008
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Ghost Tower (a.k.a. Chimney Rock) from the east. T...

Description 

The southern San Juans and Tusas Mtns. in Rio Arriba County in north-central New Mexico, provide a few unheralded obscure gems in New Mexican climbing. This area is just far enough away from most major population centers that it never get too crowded; historically this area has been the stomping grounds for Santa Fe and Los Alamos climbers.

For a long time, the Brazos Cliffs (New Mexico's biggest wall, exceeding 1500' in its highest section), were explored and the focal point of Los Alamos climbers. Los Alamos climbers have been epic-ing on these cliffs for years, as the LA Mountaineering Club had special access until recent years (as this group no longer has any sort of special access privileges). Nowadays, the Brazos Cliffs see much less traffic and remain truly wilderness adventure climbing.

In between these areas, the striking and scary looking sandstone spires of the Ghost Ranch area have been explored by Cam Burns and Mike Baker, at times using innovative aid climbing techniques. Many more spires of this nature no doubt remain to be climbed in this area and elsewhere in the region.

There is probably some ice climbing in the high country in the San Juans for those willing to hunt it down, but it's unlikely you'll find it publicly documented.

This region of New Mexico has a reputation for being rough, renegade, and scary. Many outsiders seem to be scared of interaction with locals, which may or not be not warranted.

Supplies Small markets can be found in El Rito, Abiquiu, and Chama. For a full supermarket, Espanola, Taos, Alamosa, or Pagosa Spgs are nearest, but the market in Chama is fairly good too.

Camping Nearly unlimited camping opportunities can be found on Carson National Forest Land. Be alert to not trespass on the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant area near the Brazos and to pay attention to other private property notices. A number of forest service/BLM campgrounds are around the area as well (none of them located really close to the crags).

Other activities The Rio Chama provides excellent rafting and fishing. Cliff jumping on one of the southern arms of Abiquiu Lake might seem like a good idea on hot days. Ghost Ranch is worth a visit.


Getting There 

From Santa Fe, take US-84 north, passing through Espanola toward Abiquiu, and follow directions to the individual areas. From western Colorado, US-84 south out of Pagosa Spgs leads to the same area. From Alamosa, south on US-285, and various shortcuts reach the areas.


Climbing Season


7 Total Routes


['4 Stars',0],['3 Stars',1],['2 Stars',0],['1 Star',5],['Bomb',0]
['<=5.6',0],['5.7',2],['5.8',2],['5.9',2],['5.10',1],['5.11',0],['5.12',0],['5.13',0],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',0],['V2-3',0],['V4-5',0],['V6-7',0],['V8-9',0],['V10-11',0],['V12-13',0],['>=V14',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Rio Arriba County (Brazos, San Juans):
Cat Burglar   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 14 pitches, 2000'   Brazos Cliffs
Browse More Classics in Rio Arriba County (Brazos, San Juans)

Featured Route For Rio Arriba County (Brazos, San Juans)
Main Brazos Cliffs from the approach hike.  The Cat Burglar route goes up the steep left-angling ridge in the middle of the picture.  The "boxcar" feature is visible about 3/4 of the way to the top.  The route goes just to the left of the boxcar.

Cat Burglar 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b  NM : New Mexico, other Northern ... : ... : Brazos Cliffs
This is a ~2000' climb just to the left of the "Great Couloir," a prominent cleft running the whole height of the cliffs just to the left of the highest part of the Brazos Cliffs (see photo at right).We did 11 roped/belayed pitches using double 50 m ropes, and simul-climbed several hundred feet more before unroping at the top. I will try to describe the roped pitches here, but please also look at the attached photos and their captions. In particular, take a look at the attached hand-drawn topo...[more]   Browse More Classics in NM

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