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Note from scotthsu: George Perkins re-assigned this page to me from MP user Sheets on 10/10/08. The text below was written by me, and I will slowly add to it. Thanks for your patience.
The Brazos Cliffs tower some 3000' above the surrounding lands to the northeast of Tierra Amarilla. The tallest parts of the Cliffs offer up to 2000' of technical climbing/scrambling. The rock is hard pre-Cambrian quartzite. The first technical climb was made on the Brazos Cliffs in 1952 by George Bell, Sr., Virginia Lotz, Don Monk, and K. Bruecknerand when they climbed Easy Ridge. Later that year, George Bell and Don Monk climbed the Great Couloir. Over the next 20-30 years, members of the Los Alamos Mountaineers
(LAM) established some 45 routes and major route variations on these cliffs. The LAM website has an engaging write-up on the climbing history
of the Brazos Cliffs. George Bell, Sr. wrote an article on the Brazos Cliffs, published in the March 1972 (#639) issue of Trail & Timberline, on which much of this description is based. In 1986 the Los Alamos Mountaineers voted against assembling a guidebook
to help preserve the sense of wildness that is so unique to these cliffs and to give future generations of climbers a chance to re-discover the cliffs for themselves.
The Brazos Cliffs are on private property, and thus access is restricted (click on "more info" link above).
The cliffs have three main parts, from west to east: (1) the main Brazos Cliffs, (2) the Brazos Box Canyon, and (3) the Encinado Wedge. The main Cliffs are about 2000' tall, and the Cliffs get shorter and steeper as you move east, with the Wedge being about 1000' tall. A selection of the routes (from the T&T article) are listed below. Main Brazos Cliffs routes listed from west to east
(w/FA party and year):
Brazos Box Canyon:
- White Gully (5.5), D. Liska, A. Liska, G. Bell, and M. Williams, 1967
- Cat Burglar (5.7), D. Liska and L. Campbell, 1971
- Great Couloir (5.6), G. Bell and D. Monk, 1952
- Great Couloir Direct (5.6), G. Bell and D. Coward, 1956, with subsequent variations by D. Liska et al.
- Easy Ridge (5.6), G. Bell, D. Monk, V. Lotz and K. Brueckner, 1952
- East of Easy (5.6), G. Bell, W. Hendry, C. Keller, and R. Harder, 1970
- Going to Jerusalem (5.6), F. de Saussure, 1958
- Cleft (5.6), G. Bell and F. de Saussure, 1958
- Box Tower (5.5), G. Bell and M. Hane, 1959
- Gothic Arches Buttress (5.7), D. Liska, G. Bell, L. Dauelsberg, and M. Williams, 1969
- West Ridge of the Wedge (5.8), W. Hendry and C. Keller, 1970
- Wicked Ridge of the Wedge (5.6), W. Hendry and M. Hart, 1969 with east variation by D. Michael and L. Dauelsberg, 1971
- Roofy Ridge of the Wedge (5.7), W. Hendry, L. Dauelsberg, M. Hart, C. Keller, and M. Williams , 1969
- Rickety Ridge of the Wedge (5.4), LAM party, 1968
Routes are 10-17 pitches long, all with non-trivial approaches and descents, and thus are all Grade III & IV.
to be continued...
Main Brazos Cliffs:
From US84 just north of Tierra Amarilla and south of Chama, NM, take NM512 east and drive about 7 miles to pullout parking on N side of the road (near a row of condos), just before the the split to Corkins Lodge
. Hike east along the road, bear left at Corkins Lodge sign, walk north a few hundred yards, then bear right near an A-frame house and continue hiking another mile or so to the turnaround at the end of the dirt road. The dirt road gets very rough and rutted toward the end (unpassable even with high clearance 4WD), and it is all private property so no public parking. Total walking time to the turnaround is about 1/2 to 3/4 hour. Hike east another 100 yards past the turnaround, then turn north uphill toward the base of the cliffs, lots of bushwhacking and talus/scree scrambling, fairly steep terrain near base of cliffs, which are ~500 feet above end of road (just a guess).