Northern San Juans Rock Climbing
My dad, age 62, on the last pitch. His last 13er.
Telluride, Ouray, and Silverton are surrounded by thirteeners and fourteeners with a plethora of technical options that can be ascended year round. The San Juans are the 'freshest' mountain range in the US (newest geologically), and the rock quality is generally chossy everywhere. Once the angle rears up to near vertical; however, the rock improves to a point of taking gear you can trust. Alpine routes are best climbed when ice is present for protection and to hold the choss together, but most can be climbed year round. Lots of alpine ice forms in the fall and spring. Many, many accidents and deaths have occurred to hikers on the local 14ers due to rockfall. Full winter ascents are rare, and skis are almost required. The remoteness of these routes compromises rescue severely It's best not to trust your gear, ever (don't plan on rappel descents or pushing yourself); however, the technical standard in the entire area is generally low (5.5-5.8, AI3-4). There are traverses aplenty, and most peaks can be descended with low grade downclimbing if not hiking by the hiking routes. Other hiking sites are sources of beta (13ers.com, 14ers.com
as well as the local guide service in town).
Almost all of the technical routes are at the tops of the peaks which means long approaches and plenty of scrambling in and out. Trails crisscross everywhere and the majority of routes around can be climbed in a long day. Camping is free in the National Forest for 14 days per location.
With the exception of the 'hiking' routes on the local 14ers, it is unlikely to encounter others. I say 'hiking' because the standard routes to summits require plenty of 4th class and sometimes low 5th class on loose rock with high exposure and high consequences.
Telluride is in Southwestern Colorado. About 6 1/2 hours from Denver, 2 1/2 hours from Grand Junction, 2 1/2 hours from Durango, 2 1/2 hours from Moab, UT. The closest reasonably priced airport is 1 1/2 hours away in Montrose. You can fly direct to Telluride. The Victoria Inn is the cheapest accommodations in town. Groceries and liquor stores are expensive (as is everything else), so do your shopping before you arrive. There is a laundromat just outside of town in Lawson Hill; in the same area as the Telluride Brewery. Drink good beer while you wash the fear-sweat outa yo undies.
Climbing Season For the Alpine Rock area.
Weather station 0.9 miles from here
11 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',1],['3 Stars',6],['2 Stars',3],['1 Star',1],['Bomb',0]
Classic Climbing Routes in Northern San Juans
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Northern San Juans
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Northern San Juans:
Featured Route For Northern San Juans
Emma/Gilpin/Sneffels Ski Tour 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b CO
: Alpine Rock
: ... : Telluride Traverses
This is an Emma, Gilpin, and Sneffels ski traverse, south to north, with roughly 8,000' of ascent.Start up the south face of Mt Emma (13,581') from Telluride (8,750'). Ascend steep snow to the ridgeline just south of the summit, and then do a wee bit of scrambling the final hundred feet to the summit. Ski the steep north face of Mt. Emma through various cliffbands to a shelf (~12,250) below the south face of Gilpin Peak.A slender hallway of steep snow splits the otherwise steep and rocky south f...[more] Browse More Classics in CO