Hike past Owl Rock and into the drainage on the south side of Elephant Butte. Look for a rubble filled gully leading up between two fins (see photos) and head up into it. As it narrows and ends, you will see a small fin that comes down. Climb the fin and continue up into the next meadow. Leave the meadow on the right and follow a bowl up as it steepens and dead-ends at a short wall. This wall is the crux and can be climbed on either the left or right side at about 5.3-5.4.
Once above the wall follow the steep sandstone down to the left until you see five bolt hangers that aren't visible from above. Rappel down and scramble into the lower valley.
From here, turn towards the summit and scramble up class 3/4 sandstone slabs up towards it. Angle right as you ascend and look sharp for a cairn marking a weakness in the upper cliffs. Once above the short cliff, climb up and find a short scramble that puts you on the summit plateau.
To descend: As you descend the slabs down towards the valley the first rappel put you in, aim for a small pinnacle straight below (see photos). Follow the gully next to the pinnacle down until it cliffs out. There are three old pitons that can be used for a final free hanging rappel down. From there simply hike down the gully, take a right and head back to the car and don't forget to smile about dodging the tourist crowds and climbing a seldom visited summit.
Park at the Garden of Eden overlook by Owl Rock.
We had a 60m rope and some backup webbing for the two rappels.
The crux doesn't need gear but some people would appreciate a sitting belay from whoever will climb up without a belay.
Although the rest of the route is no harder than class 3/4 (if the easiest path is chosen), this route would be dangerous when wet. Also, people uncomfortable on steep sandstone slabs will not have a very good time.
BETA PHOTO: The rubble filled gully is the key to this route o...
BETA PHOTO: The hard to see pinnacle straight down in this pho...
from owl rock
BETA PHOTO: The 3 pitons for with some old webbing for the fin...
BETA PHOTO: On top of the crux. The rappel anchors are just o...
BETA PHOTO: Looking back down the rubble-filled gully. The sh...
last rap has air
BETA PHOTO: This is the first meadow. The way to the crux is ...
BETA PHOTO: This is the final scramble to the summit. It's a ...
BETA PHOTO: This is the crux on Elephant Butte. Some of us cl...
Us on Elephant Butte - 2009
BETA PHOTO: This is above the first meadow. The crux is strai...
BETA PHOTO: Getting close to the summit from the slabs. The c...
at last rap
BETA PHOTO: This is looking towards the summit from above the ...
last rapp off of Elephant Butte
|By Zach Allen|
Nov 8, 2010
Well worth doing. Spectacular views, and a fun little romp.
|By paul bucher|
From: moab, utah
Mar 15, 2012
what an awesome fun route! great view from the top. less complicated than you might think and easy to to find the decent. classic easy adventure. this is a must do! i would rather be cautious and call the crux 5.6. i can do 5.4 all day in hiking boots and i stopped and shoed up at the crux. i was alone and carrying a pack so it may have just felt harder than 5.4. some pro is possible but it's not going to be bomber. hope the topo helps
|By paul bucher|
From: moab, utah
Mar 26, 2012
did it again on 3/22/12 with dante. he agreed with the 5.6, this time i was able to pull the crux in my hiking boots but still feel the moves (all 3 or 4 of them) are 5.6 note; last time i fixed up the anchors and in this short time someone had removed all the bomber new stuff i left and replaced it with junk. bring cord or webbing for rap anchors! also this time we cut right at the slabs and dumped our rope at the base of the small decent tower and went up from there. saves a little bit of weight on the final part of the climb.
|By Forrest L.|
Mar 27, 2012
Paul, sorry to hear that.
We climbed it on 3/14 I believe, there was a nicely tied off cordalette around the pitons for the final repel, and a large nest of new and old slings for the first repel.
Oct 29, 2012
rating: Easy 5th 1+ 3 I 5 M 1c
The short "5.3 section" is no more than 2 short moves of easy 5th class. My brother got up it in hiking shoes. Just bring a static line and some webbing for the raps.
|By Brad Edwards|
From: Grand Junction, CO
Apr 4, 2013
I didn't know what to expect when I read that there was a rappel for the ascent. Seemed backwards to me, but this was just a really good hike/climb/rappel/scramble with great panoramas and we didn't see a single person while we were there and there was some huge event in Moab that weekend. If you've got a few hours, do this. I'm taking folks real soon!
|By Mark P Thomas|
May 4, 2013
Crux is thought-provoking but easy enough to do in hiking shoes. No real point in bringing pro on the climb, just a rope for the 2 rappels.
Fun route with some nice side canyons and squeeze chimneys to explore, and a great rest day detour. At a relaxed pace we were on the summit in less than two hours, and less than an hour getting out.
|By Chris Bartram|
From: Westminster, CO
Apr 17, 2014
How long are the rappels? will one 50m work or do i need a 60m?
Jul 11, 2014
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a
50m suffices. Have fun. Awesome awesome outing!