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Routes in Winter Wall

Basalt Therapy T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13
Blind Faith S 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Clean Energy S 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Gopher Broke S 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Grape Ape S 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Hellboy S 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Highly Caffenated T 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13
Highway to Hell T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13
Naked Lunch S 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Old Sling T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Old Sling Straightened T 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Original Face Route S 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c
Pale Face S 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a
Post Moderate S 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Protein Supplement S 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Roid Boys S 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
SOL Man (aka Not In the End) S 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Sunbaked S 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Trough, The T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Vitaman T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Xibalba S 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b


Long, sunny, moderate sport routes are the primary attraction for the Winter Wall. This wall contains some of the longest sport routes in New Mexico and makes for a great winter destination.

However, be careful on many of the routes on this wall. Despite some absolute gems, many of the routes look and can be a little chossy. Climbers, and especially belayers, should always wear a helmet at this wall. That said, there are some classic lines here and it's a very popular sport climbing destination in northern NM.

The routes Post Moderate (5.9) and Grape Ape (5.10c) are two, not-to-be missed classics of the wall.

Getting There

See the Diablo Canyon overview photo. The Winter Wall is impossible to miss as it is the tall, south-facing wall directly in front as you as you enter the parking area!


The Winter Wall is unique for its rope-stretching sport routes. Many routes are over 100' long and therefore require 70 or 80 meter ropes, two 60m ropes or mid-way rap anchors on a single rope for descent.
Often times, newer climbers aren't well-versed in different methodologies for efficient and safe climbing/lowering using two ropes. George's comment below includes some great suggestions for descending Winter Wall routes.

As with all descent options, double or triple check your knot and rope configuration before lowering or rappelling!

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Classic Climbing Routes at Winter Wall

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
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John Gustafson 1
Los Alamos, New Mexico
John Gustafson 1   Los Alamos, New Mexico
Hey - to the couple from New York who were climbing at Winter Wall 12/22/17, did you leave a pair of crack gloves behind? If so, reply here on how we can get them to you. Dec 25, 2017
George Perkins
The Dungeon, NM
George Perkins   The Dungeon, NM
[EDIT 1/19/2016: Please! Be careful and doublecheck everything! Less than 2 weeks after I posted this, (I had best intentions that some tips might help people), a climber fell from the top of one of these routes. I do not know the details of what happened and if I did I probably wouldn't post them here. I do know that I, and others, have witnessed considerable confusion at this wall over the last 15 years, so I had thought posting some advice might help. If there are things people can share here, or at the crag, to avoid future accidents, please do so. If moderators or other people think some of what I've posted below just makes things more complicated or unhelpful, ask an admin or me to change it. Seriously. Let's work together and hopefully something like this won't happen again. People have a tendency to use accidents like this to push their own agendas or validate their own beliefs about how things should be done. I don't really think that's appropriate, and I don't want my post below to be seen as doing that. Really feeling sad about this.]
Cragging at the Winter Wall is logistically more complicated than most crags, for climbers who haven't done sport climbs longer than 100' (half a 60m rope). There aren't other moderate sport climbs this long in NM, so it is really worth a visit!

Most of these climbs are best led as a single pitch from bottom to top. Even for those that do have a mid-way station, using the mid-way station as a hanging belay as you would on a multi-pitch climb can be pretty awkward and isn't recommended.

Here are some ideas that might help:

  • A 70m or 80m rope will let you do more climbs here than you can with a single 60m and rap or lower off as you would at a shorter cliff. Knot the end! Some climbs will reach with a single 70m or single 80m, others won't, and the actual length and stretch on your rope might be different from someone elses.
  • Descending these routes: If the climb is longer than half of your rope, rappelling is usually the best way to descend from the high anchors, so bring a rap device and something to go directly into the anchor while untying and setting up the rappel (2 slings or PAS). Be especially deliberate and doublecheck when tying ropes together, and while cleaning anchors and setting up rappels. If you're not confident with these tasks, climb with people who are and have them do those steps. Learn these skills in a setting in which a more experienced climber can doublecheck for you, not on your own 150' up this cliff. (When using 2 ropes tied together, lowering the climber is complicated in that it often requires that belayer pass the knot joining the 2 ropes, unless specifically planned for, see below) Try to think through the scenario before you leave the ground, as communication can be an issue on long pitches.
  • If you only have 1 60m rope and the climb is longer than 100', you need to do climbs that have a mid-way anchor (or can reach a nearby one). There's still quite a few you can do at Winter Wall with 1 rope. The best way to do this is to have the leader climb all the way to the top in a single pitch. Belay the follower from the top, then both rap down, in 2 raps, using the mid-anchor (if you don't know how to belay a follower from above, or rappel, learn from someone who does before trying here). On some climbs, when you're confident it will reach, the leader can clip the top anchor, and lower to the mid-station, and belay the follower from there (this can save a little time).
  • Using 2 ropes: Chances are you haven't used 2 ropes while sport climbing anywhere else in NM. There are some strategies about how to manage the 2 ropes, and which is best will depend on your situation:

1) Leader can trail the 2nd line. Upon anchoring at the top, belay up the follower, then both climbers will rap off, on 2 ropes tied together. This is a pretty simple option, and is good because you can check each other when setting up the rappel. Trailing the extra weight of the 2nd rope can be annoying for the leader, especially if the climb is near their limit.

-Often, however, you want to set up a 2-rope toprope instead of immediately belaying up a follower. This lets 2 or more people TR the climb one after another, and lets the belayer be more comfortable on the ground (food, water, jackets, etc.). Also, a 2-rope toprope lets climbers who aren't comfortable rappelling still do the climb. So, after anchoring at the top, tie the 2 ropes together and set up a 2-rope toprope through your slings, or lowering biners. Rappel down. While rapping, the leader may want to reclip 1 of the ropes through some draws as directionals (make sure it's the side that doesn't have the knot). If no one is TRing it, clean the draws on the way down.

-When toproping on 2 ropes tied together: There's a trick that makes this easier so that the belayer doesn't need to pass the knot, and so that the climber can be lowered from the high anchor instead of rappelling. Don't have the toproper tie in to the end like you usually do. Instead, while the knot is still at the top anchor, climber ties in (fig 8 on bight to locking biner is easiest) to the middle of the rope on the side without the knot. Start climbing. Just as the climber gets to the top, the knot will reach the belayer; climber can then just be lowered by the belayer. (If this climber needs to clean the anchor, they should (a) be aware of threading the correct rope, not the tail, through the chains/lowering biners, and (b) consider anchoring themselves, pulling the knot between 2 ropes up to the anchor, and setting up a typical 2-rope rappel).

2) Alternatively, the leader can belay the follower from the top, with the follower trailing the 2nd line. Then both rappel on 2 ropes. This is also pretty simple. The extra weight can be annoying for the follower, and make sure the 2nd rope is flaked and not going to get snagged on rocks or packs at the base.

3) Leader can climb with just one rope, then get the 2nd rope after anchoring at the top. From the top, pull the lead rope all the way up through the draws, throw it back down, have the belayer tie the 2nd rope to it, leader puts the rope through the top anchor, then the leader pulls up the 2nd line and raps down. This method is a bit of extra work, but is nice because no one has to trail a rope, or belay from the top. However, it doesn't work very well if the leader wants to clean the draws (if no one else is climbing the route later), since the rope isn't running through them when the leader is coming down.

4) If both climbers want to lead the route: 1st climber leads on 1 rope. At top, tie rope to anchor (helpful later on if you leave a 1m tail, and if you don't tie it to the last link or lowering biners), and rap single-strand to base. (If the route wanders a bit, it's often easier to pull the rope up through the draws and drop it back down, rather than trying to unclip the draws as you rappel.) 2nd climber leads on 2nd rope. At the top, he ties the 2 ropes together and does a normal 2-rope rappel. This method works pretty well: No one has to climb with an extra rope hanging off them, though occasionally the tied off 1st rope will get in the way of the 2nd leader.

Hope this helps! Be safe, and ask others for help if you're confused. (Reading this comment should not be considered an adequate substitute to learning, hands-on, from guides, mentors, or more experienced climbers.)

[edited with a few minor additions ~1/27/2016 after receiving suggestions from a couple of people] Jan 8, 2016
J. Albers
J. Albers   Colorado
To whomever is stashing their tarp near the Winter Wall:

Please consider NOT stashing your tarp in the bushes below the wall. While I understand that Diablo is dusty and tarps are nice (I have used them in the past), stashing them in the bushes is problematic for a number of reasons.

1) It makes the place look trashy. I know that the NM climbing community is relatively small, but if everyone stashed a tarp, the place would look like crap....and no, just because the locals occasionally dump a sofa in the desert doesn't mean that we shouldn't treat the place better than they do.

2) Rodents can and will chew apart your tarp and leave litter EVERYWHERE. This is what happened to your tarp. Huge chunks of it were spread virtually all over the base of the crag making an absolute mess. I picked up what I could and hauled it out to the trash.

In the future, I won't wait for the rodents to destroy tarps; I will simply be taking any tarps I find at the crag with me when I leave. If anyone posts up that they are missing their tarp, I would then be happy to return it to them.

Cheers. Jan 5, 2011
Highway to Hell had slings on the anchor bolts. We replaced these with chain later. The Old Sling Route uphill was named for a single sling in the crack. We wanted Bradshaw's guide to name the trad route right of Roid Boys. Mar 6, 2009
Jason Halladay
Los Alamos, NM
Jason Halladay   Los Alamos, NM  
Great point, Scott. As one that has recently established a new line on the winter wall and spent a great deal of time cleaning it, I know this to be true. Even after quite a bit of time cleaning it, I still heard a lot of people encountering loose rock.

A winter or two ago a large chunk of rock pulled loose on a leader on the very popular Post Moderate route resulting in a couple of broken ankles for the leader. This goes to show just how bad the rock can get due to its location and aspect (and relatively poor quality to begin with.)

In addition to new routers cleaning the routes as they put them in, I believe all climbers that climb on this wall should not just always wear a helmet but adopt a new attitude about climbing...the rock is dubious...tread lightly, lower expectations and bitch less about the route developers cleaning job. The rock is constantly "evolving". Jan 8, 2009
Scott Beguin
Santa Fe, NM
Scott Beguin   Santa Fe, NM
I don't remember a sling on Highway To Hell when we did it. You must be thinking of a different line. I know there was a sling on the offwidth left of Sun Devil. And the arete to the right had four bolts on it with a biner on the last one. That section was 5.7. I don't know who pt those in. Jan 8, 2009
Scott Beguin
Santa Fe, NM
Scott Beguin   Santa Fe, NM
If you do happen to establish new lines on this wall, cool. But please clean as much as possible before you actually install bolts and call it done. Be patient with it and do a good and thorough job. Don't just assume that it will clean up with the climbing of others on lead. This puts not only the climber, but the belayer in real danger. I have always believed that the helmet was a mandatory piece of gear at Diablo, especially the Winter Wall. Nuff' said. Jan 8, 2009
There were three routes (and one started) on this wall when Tom Wezwick and I came to the wall during the later 90s. The Original Face Route existed, there was a sling in the crack we called Old Sling, the crack now called Highway to Hell and the start of an arete to the right of Highway (about three bolts up). Apr 1, 2008

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