Elevation: 7,072 ft
GPS: 36.688, -108.837 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 64,748 total · 392/month
Shared By: Camster (Rhymes with Hamster) on Nov 20, 2007
Admins: Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Drew Chojnowski
Access Issue: Climbing on the Navajo Nation is ILLEGAL. Details
Access Issue: Ship Rock is located on the Navajo Nation Details


Tsa-Beh-Tai (Ship Rock), the Rock with Wings, is a unique giant basaltic collapsed volcanic neck rising 1500' out of the desert in NW New Mexico, certainly the largest such formation in the world. The multiple summits and fins resemble sails of a black ship sailing the desert, but the Navajo description of a rock with the 3 winged dikes radiating from it is more succinct. Cliff Monster, a man eating dragon, is said to have once resided in the large bowl below the summit.

Reaching the summit of Ship Rock was the last great problem of North American mountaineering during the late 1930s prior to its routefinding difficulties being unlocked in 1939 by the Sierra Club team of Dave Brower, Bestor Robinson, Raffi Bedayn, and John Dyer. Bolts were placed for protection but not for upward progress during the first ascent, and this one of the first times that bolts had been placed in rock in the history of climbing in North America. The FA did use pitons for aid climbing. The story of the FA and attempts at the FA is found in Roper and Steck's "50 Classic Climbs of North America". That this climb was included in this seminal "tick-list", along with its striking summit and apparent inpenetrability, has made this peak draw more interest from climbers than other spires off-limits on the Navajo Nation. Still, this is probably the least visited of the "50 Classics" in the lower 48.

A few different rock types are found on Ship Rock, including volcanic breccia, basalt, and xenoliths (chunks of limestone and gneiss brought up during eruption). Rock quality varies from surprisingly moderately hard to loose and crumbly.

At least 10 routes have been established on Ship Rock, attacking it from most major aspects, with a few more climbs established on its subsidiary summits. Most of these are difficult aid climbs, however the approximate route of the original Sierra Club route is rated 5.9 A0 and should take 6-12 hrs for most parties.

Supposedly, fall is the best season to climb Ship Rock. 'They' say it can be climbed in any month, but in general: Summer is hot; in winter blizzards occur often; in spring, high winds are common.

See the out-of-print and hard-to-find "Desert Rock" for route descriptions and historical accounts from 20+ years ago.

For a great, brief history of the last "legal" ascent of Shiprock in January 1970, read Lee Davis's account in this forum post.

Getting There

Ship Rock is about 10 miles SW of the town of Shiprock, NM. From the town of Ship Rock, drive south on US-491 7 miles. Turn right on the Red Rock Highway, drive ~8 miles to the prominent dike. Turn north on a dirt road just east of the dike, follow this almost to the base of Ship Rock. Various tracks go to most sides of the monolith, and you should be able to get within a few minutes walk of the rock. To get to the west side of the monolith, cross over the southern dike to the south of the Rock proper. High clearance recommended.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Ship Rock Area

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a C0
Regular Route
Trad, Aid
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R
Moby Dike
Trad 10 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Regular Route Ship Rock
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a C0 Trad, Aid
Moby Dike Ship Rock
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R Trad 10 pitches
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