Elevation: 6,721 ft
GPS: 38.632, -105.222 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 190,444 total · 806/month
Shared By: Richard M. Wright on Nov 29, 1999 with improvements by Adam Block and 1 other
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac
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Description

Situated directly above the hairpin is one of the most obvious cliff bands at Shelf Road. Cactus Cliff faces South-Southwest, gets great sun, and can be climbed most of the year. The rock is typical of Shelf Road in general and reminds me of The Gallery. Cactus Cliff is home to several fine lines, although the trend in difficulty is a bit less than at The Gymnasium. Development, which has slowed to a tectonic crawl in recent years. However, in the winter months, Shelf Road can be the only option available, short of Mexico, so it is still worth keeping in mind and Cactus Cliff is always worth a mid-winter romp.

Cactus cliff is now hands-down the most well-rounded sport crag in Colorado, including at least one route of every grade from 5.7 to 5.14a.

Getting There

Please park in the newly expanded parking area at The Bank Campground.

There is a new trail leading to Cactus Cliffs from The Bank. This is now the fastest, most convenient way to approach the area. The trail was built in August by the Rocky Mountain Field Institute with the help of AmeriCorps volunteers and a grant from the Access Fund. It is approximately 1.5 miles long.

PLEASE DO NOT PARK ALONG SHELF ROAD.
For more information contact BLM at 719-269-8500 Thank you for your cooperation.

APPROACH DESCRIPTION: From the new parking area by The Bank Camground, follow the road NW towards The Bank for ~100yds. Pickup the trail on the right side of the road that descends into the canyon. Follow this trail for ~5 minutes, crossing the canyon bottom, and passing below the 2150 Wall, to a terminus at the road that heads up above Cactus Cliff (this road was the former approach to Cactus). Turn left and follow the road uphill towards Cactus. Continue along the road as it banks hard right, passing the new toilet. Where the trail banks left, continue east, passing signage, along a well maintained trail that traverses Cactus Cliff.

155 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Cactus Cliff

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
 549
Crynoid Corner
Sport
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 417
LaCholla Jackson
Sport
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
 249
Three-Quarter Ton
Sport
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
 178
Politically Incorrect
Sport
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 276
Funkdemental
Sport
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 187
I Claudius
Sport
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 394
Muscle Beach
Sport
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 193
I Lean
Sport
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
 160
Illegal Smile
Sport
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a
 278
Lats Don't Have Feelings
Sport
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a
 138
Gravitations
Sport
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
 136
Hot Beach
Sport
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
 91
Almost French
Sport
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
 96
Tits Up
Sport
5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b
 89
The French Are Here
Sport
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Crynoid Corner
 549
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Sport
LaCholla Jackson
 417
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Sport
Three-Quarter Ton
 249
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Sport
Politically Incorrect
 178
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Sport
Funkdemental
 276
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
I Claudius
 187
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Muscle Beach
 394
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
I Lean
 193
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Illegal Smile
 160
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Sport
Lats Don't Have Feelings
 278
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a Sport
Gravitations
 138
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a Sport
Hot Beach
 136
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport
Almost French
 91
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport
Tits Up
 96
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b Sport
The French Are Here
 89
5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b Sport
More Classic Climbs in Cactus Cliff »

Sun & Shade

Routes Mostly Face: Southeast · South · Southwest
Sunny Roughly 10am to 8pm during high season
6am
8pm
Details: All year aspects. Far right side of the crag faces South East and gets AM sun to mid PM. The most popular area, i.e. routes leftwards of Alexi's, stay shaded til late morning. More trees exist in this area offering shady belays.

Weather Averages

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Low
 
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Prime Climbing Season
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Photos

Brad Short
Saudia Aurora, CO
Brad Short   Saudia Aurora, CO
IMO, Cactus seems to have more loose rocks on routes and ledges than some of the other Shelf areas. Be careful and wear a helmet -- both leader and belayer. Nov 14, 2002
A bunch of parking citations got handed out on Sunday afternoon for parking on the road. It was the first time in ten years of climbing there that we've had that happen, after multiple times parking on the big pullout on the bend below the Spiny Ridge/Gym junction. Best topark at the Bank I suppose but that lot's a little too small these days. Mar 8, 2004
ac
ac  
Were the ticketed cars in the pullout or on the road? I've always assumed that the cars in the pullout were legit while the other cars who parked on the road were breaking the rules. Mar 9, 2004
There is a shiny new road sign just past the turnoff to the campgrounds: "do not leave cars unattended, next 4 miles". I assume that means you can't park along the road, nor in the pullouts adjacent to the road. Mar 22, 2004
3 weekends in a row has been enough to convince me that Cactus Cliff is the LOUDEST crag in the state. From wife beaters to screaming kids to spray lords, I've never been surrounded by such rude LOUD climbers in my life. No more than 8 cars were in the lot this past weekend but when we were near any party, they were loud. I climb with my kids and teach them to be respectful of the other climbers around them yet the adults in the area can't do the same. Dec 27, 2004
Scott Miller
Denver, CO
Scott Miller   Denver, CO
I agree with BR The road to Cactus should be closed for sure. Are people that lazy they won't take the nice hike from the campground. This crag plays host to some of the most gapertastic climbers I've ever had the displeasure to climb around. If your visiting from out of state DON'T follow the crowds, poke around and you WILL find good climbing. I could have sworn there is a little more rock to climb at Shelf, other than Cactus Cliff. May 29, 2006
Chris Zeller
Boulder, CO
Chris Zeller   Boulder, CO
As of 9/21/07, the road to Cactus Cliff is closed. Don't follow the directions in the guidebook. The access is much easier now from "The Bank" campground. From the campground walk to the parking area then 50 yards or so down the right fork of the road. Turn right onto a nice trail that leads onto the old Cactus Cliff road and then up to the cliff. About 1 mile. The whole trail is extremely well made and marked. There are signs everywhere to the crags. Great job and a definite improvement from what I can see. Sep 24, 2007
Jason Halladay
Los Alamos, NM
Jason Halladay   Los Alamos, NM  
Thanks for mentioning the road closure and new access trail, Chris. More information regarding this change is on the accessfund.org website. It reads:

Shelf Road: Cactus Cliffs Road Closure, CO (11/14/2006)

Liz Nichol, Outreach Coordinator, Rocky Mountain Field Institute
Beginning November 2006 the road leading to the Cactus Cliffs climbing area from Shelf Road will be closed. The BLM has decided to close this steep, un-maintained road due to liability issues and the requests of private property owners along the road.

Cactus Cliffs, Spiney Ridge, and The Gymnasium are still open to climbing.

There is a new trail leading to Cactus Cliffs from The Bank. This is now the fastest, most convenient way to approach the area. The trail was built in August by the Rocky Mountain Field Institute with the help of AmeriCorps volunteers and a grant from the Access Fund. It is approximately 1.5 miles long.

Please park in the newly expanded parking area at The Bank.

PLEASE DO NOT PARK ALONG SHELF ROAD.
For more information contact BLM at 719-269-8500 Thank you for your cooperation. Sep 25, 2007
James Cox
Cotopaxi, Colorado
James Cox   Cotopaxi, Colorado
Excellent climbing, but it used to be nice to be able to drive right up to the routes, although the new trail is nice. Did 5 different routes today, and I gotta say there is some excellent limestone up there. A lot of anchors, so if you are new to leading, you won't fall far. May 15, 2012
mkclimb
Western Colorado
mkclimb   Western Colorado
To whoever took my draws from Manly Bulges,
- I put those up last Saturday, intending to finish the route Sunday. My dog tore a muscle Sunday morning in the campsite, and I had to bail to take him to a vet. Came back today to finish and retrieve my draws, and they are all gone - 7 blue OMP draws and one OMP Vulcan. Just hung a second set of draws to finish the route but would like my quickdraws back! I'm camping in Sand Gulch at the group site by Freeform, everyone hanging out there knows me and the draws can be dropped off with anyone there. Full set of draws = not bailed gear.

Would love to have them back - thanks,
Mike. May 29, 2016
Derek Young
Denver, CO
Derek Young   Denver, CO
  • CLIMBERS BEWARE - MY DRAWS WERE STOLEN OFF GLUE SLIPPAGE
I left my draws up on this route starting with bolt 4 to begin the crux and through to the top. That's 8 draws. I hung them for project burns and for others to have fun. This was mid-Oct. Went back this past weekend Dec 1st and they were taken. I guess poaching draws still happens at Shelf. Watch out everyone! This route is 12b so all fingers point to someone who climbs the grade - or takes the time to steal by aiding a route. If anybody sees them, they are 7 BD Posiwire with replaced vari-width dogbones, and 1 two red carabiner tan colored, thin dogbone. All bolt sides had green tape marking them as mine. It'd be really swell if the person gave them back. Bad form.

Needless to say, I won't be leaving gear on routes anymore and wish the best to those that still have gear up on Deeper Shade, The Example, etc. What's next, the perma-draws off Headcheese?! Dec 3, 2017