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Shared By: LeeAB Brinckerhoff on Nov 11, 2008
Admins: Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Drew Chojnowski
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Y shaped canyon, nice big pine trees, some cool artifacts. Can be sheltered from the wind because it is a canyon. Rock quality is generally good to excellent welded tuff boulders and short cliff bands, 10-30' tall. Some of the bigger stuff might require bolts. As with most areas in the Ponderosa region there are a hand full of excellent problems, the main difference besides the longer drive is the fact that almost all the rock is good enough to climb and therefore there are a lot more problems in general, perhaps 300ish (Penner might be able to give a more accurate count), where as The Pond has maybe half that number. Also there are a number of established routes out here as well, presumably most are more down canyon from the bouldering.

Note added by admin, though as a general rule this sort of behavior should be followed at all climbing areas. The actions of a few can effect the access of all.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Minimize your impact (use the existing roads and trails). Be respectful of the area and any archaeology you might discover. This a sensitive area. See the comments below; it's clear that those who've climbed here for years feel passionately about this.

Getting There

From the town of Ponderosa turn onto FR 269 and follow this for aways past the Corral. At this point due to the concerns of some others who have climbed in the area we will leave it up to you to find the exact location. Just know that there are a couple of developed areas out past the Corral, this one and the Mega Blocks. Approaches vary from next to nothing to 15 or 20 minutes depending on where in the canyon you want to go.

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Location: The Range AKA: Marlboro Country Change
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William Penner
The 505
William Penner   The 505
We call this area the Range and per Paul's post below, he calls it San Juan. How the Marlboro Country name came about I don't know, but it has a certain sick appeal I guess. Probably should ask what the folks at Jemez Pueblo call it for the original name.

In the winter of 05/06, we (Berenika Byszewski, Chris Carpenter, Tom Ellis, William Penner, and others....even Aaron Chavez cleaned some stuff) established around 350 problems. Despite this much activity, we did not do all the lines. My best guess is that we did half, focusing on the most obvious and aesthetic across the spectrum of grades. Tom and I found the area while out on a scouting mission for choss, never expecting what is arguably the second best bouldering area in NM. We documented the majority of problems but have been too lazy to go the next step and finish with some maps, etc.

We were not the first to climb there as Dave Batten, Paul Davidson, and Bob Murray spent a bunch of time in the 80s. According to Paul, their efforts primarily focused on toproping and leading the excellent cliffbands downstream of the main area. They bolted a few lines that look great and there is the opportunity for more. Paul also said Bob did some bouldering in the area, so we can never be sure what had already been done before we arrived.

Almost all the landings are perfect, flat and clear, and many of the boulders are quite tall. Lots of the climbing is also located on the cliffbands around the canyon. Certain walls like the Walmart average 20 ft tall and have lots of problems.

Too bad the road is closed, maybe by the time the FS fixes it, we will finish the maps.

W Nov 11, 2008
Ah... this is a bummer.
I hate to see a sensitive area posted up on the web.

Yes, it's an amazing area. But it's sensitive.
There used to be a fair number of artifacts still laying out in the open. There's one ruin that's been trashed, you can see the rope hauling marks up on top of the cliff band.
There's also a shrine in the area.
That's why we kept it quiet for 15 years.

Couple of items (someday I'll post the routes and the history.)

It's Dave Batten, not Dave Baltz who did most of the stuff there with Bob and I.

Bob was very active in this area, just as he was at Ponderosa.
Many weekends over a 3-5 year period are going to result in a number of boulder problems. No offense to Mark, but I LMAO when I read about Bob establishing a few problems in the area.

Bob may or may not have kept notes. He used to keep prodigious notes about his problems but I think he stopped after he moved to New Mexico. I'll ask him.

3rd party to "discover" the area names it ? Hmmmm....
We called it San Juan. It was found after we'd done a bunch of stuff at Ponderosa. Guess I should at some point post the climbs at Ponderosa. Some good crack climbing there.

FWIW, we stopped driving the road into San Juan because we felt it was damaging to the mesa. In fact, at one point, the FS tried to close off the road out to the mesa. It's also a real slow PIA unless you're driving fast in which case your only accentuating the erosional damage.

If you look on Lee's topo map, after you climb the hill, and after the last switchback there is a small spur off to the left. We would park here and hike in. It's a nice hike, maybe 15 minutes. Goes up and over some Moqi steps (and past one area with some decent TRs, where the Moqi steps are located.)

The walk in takes about the same amount of time as the drive in and you don't increase the erosion out on the mesa. It's also a nice warm up.

If you go past the turn off to the Mesa, there's a small area with a pull out at the head of the main canyon that has two or three bolted climbs. They're pretty good but short. The right hand is pretty steep. There's more bouldering further up stream, wild strawberries, etc....

Used to be that the main canyon was heavily used by at least one bear.

Like William said, most of our climbs are downstream of the Y.
We did do a number of problems on the one big boulder right there near the Y and some stuff on the walls just east of the Y.

Overall, I'd guess there are 20 or so bolted climbs in the canyon that range from 5.8 to possibly 5.13. The short thin arete on the east walls with 3 or 4 bolts on it is the possible .13. You can walk down just S of this. It was our standard way into the Canyon.

Heaviest concentration of bolted climbs is in that area.
Then out at the mouth itself where the longer more obvious lines are to be found. We also TR a number of faces rather than deal with drilling. It was always a bit of an issue for Dave. He favored not drilling, I pushed for establishing lead problems. So, we did both.

We did not put in lower off and anchor bolts. We always carried two long slings or ropes that we would use to tie off the pine trees and then runner out to the cliff edge. Most of the areas have a concentration of two or more routes so once you string an anchor, you can reuse it. I imagine for some climbs, chain anchors are only a matter of time.

Guess I better get back quick and finish off those two climbs... Nov 12, 2008
William Penner
The 505
William Penner   The 505
Paul, San Juan is a great name and I agree that this area is very special, at least it was for me. As you and I know, the ubiquitous Moqui steps along the mesa edge indicate we discovered the canyon long after some other folks. Everyone that ever goes there should be respectful of what they find; almost all the mesas in the Jemez are loaded with things that are best left alone. As an archaeologist I have distinctly heretical opinions about this issue that are not for consumption on the internet.

I have no problem asking Lee to remove any information on how to access the area, but calling it San Juan will eventually give it away to anyone willing to use a map and explore. Of course there are very few of those folks. I am all for pretending it does not exist and never speaking of it again, but I know where it is and that wouldn't affect me.

For those who would like to access the area via Paul's approach there are still a few cairns to mark the way. Because there has been little traffic, the trail is quite overgrown with oak.

FS 296 is still closed and will be again for the winter so accessing anything this year is out unless you want to walk 6 miles to boulder. Nov 12, 2008
Nice pics Guillermo.
Of course, that ladder gives away how you really do those high balls

Our first couple of trips there involved parking at the corral and humping up the hill. Long walk considering the alternative and only takes you out to the main cliffs.

I don't remember cairning that route, which doesn't mean much.
There were cairns down in that first drainage and an old trail which I always wondered about. Probably puebloan ?

Dave Batten was also an archeologist and we had many a discussion about what was best for the various artifacts. Dave had an interesting idea, bury them for later discovery.

Which reminds me, the history of the first usage that I'm aware of either Ponderosa or San Juan was by Ron Beauchamp and ??? (I'll have to ask him), I think it was Doug Bridgers. Before the corral there's an old jeep trail that heads out NW. They camped out in that area once upon time and did some bouldering on a nice rock that's out in the flats there. There's also some stuff near the corral, on the south/east side of the road.

I don't know what the solution is, to keep it quiet or to try establish an area ethic ? In general, climbers will try to follow local ethics but... Nov 13, 2008
LeeAB Brinckerhoff   ABQ, NM  
What to do guys?
I've only been out there once and while to rock was pretty good and there are a ton of problems, the drive is awfully long to get out there as opposed to some other areas around Ponderosa.

There are a lot of people that ask about it and would like to check it out which is why I posted it. If the community in general feels that the directions should perhaps be purposely vague because of the nature of the area that is fine.

Though I would defend the climbing community as a whole and say that the majority of damage to artifacts and such would be caused by others who might stumble upon the area.

I also felt that there were a bunch of teaser photos posted on some web site with no info about where the were, which I think is completely bogus. If you want to keep an area quiet, keep it quiet.

Oh, hey Paul I'm not really into text and all that stuff, LMAO?

It sounds like keeping the name as is and perhaps removing the specific directions and maybe just saying that it is out on FR 296 and FR 139 might be best or just that it is out past the Corral?

But as Bill says, if someone wants to find it badly enough they will and if they have directions it will be easier and there is potential that in their search they could do more damage than if they knew how to find it in the first place. Nov 14, 2008
My opinion is too make this information available to the climbing community. The reality is that all climbing areas in New Mexico have some sort of sensitivity issue be it cultural, archaeological, environmental, or whatever. It is on public lands and should be used as such unless the Forest Service closes it. We should all respect the land and its resources and it is our responsibility as climbers to make others aware of special case sensitivity for an area. I do not think it is our call to say it is off limits. Lee is correct many pictures have been posted of the area and to my knowledge it was never the intent to keep it a secret. In fact I believe it is probably the opposite and this area should be looked at as a contribution to New Mexico climbing community. If more info. on the area is to be provided to the general climbing community then ethics and sensitivity issues should be described to them. This place has a pretty cool history to it and has been used for a very LONG time. One way or another it will continue to see waves of use and activity. Nov 17, 2008
William Penner
The 505
William Penner   The 505
George, thanks for your efforts towards balance on this issue. Everyone who is posting knows and respects one another so it is nice there is no mud-slinging.

Sandstonesloper (one of the posse during our time at San Juan/The Range and the only one to have his picture at the area show up in Climbing magazine) is right that all climbing spots have varying degrees of sensitivity, cultural, archaeological, or otherwise. For example, the Temple had some artifacts in the dirt under it but it probably does not need a sensitive disclaimer, at least not at this point. One of the bouldering areas at Three Gun Springs has sherds and chipped stone adjacent to the rocks; the list could go on. You can hardly spit in NM without hitting something of historical interest.

Since we are discussing San Juan/The Range, I should specify that there are only two issues in the canyon with the majority of bouldering. There is a Puebloan field house (essentially a small, one-room adobe and masonry structure that now consists of 2 to 3 ft high standing walls) and the underside of a boulder that has been walled-in with adobe. We did not develop boulders anywhere near these features to avoid impacts. That said, most of the mesas in the Jemez are littered with field houses and other features; San Juan Mesa alone probably has hundreds of field houses. Singling out San Juan/The Range as deserving of some special protection might not be the most effective educational effort as it implies the area is more unique than other spots up there. I like how it is just another cool but small part of a larger whole. Maybe there is no final answer but I welcome other opinions. This discussion makes things seem more ominous than they actually are.

A good guideline for climbing here would be to limit your impacts in commonsense ways: stick to existing roads if you drive in, walk on trails, think hard before installing any fixed hardware, and if you see something of concern, climb elsewhere in the canyon because there is plenty of rock.

If anyone objects to this being discussed so openly I will gladly delete or edit the post.

Also, ditch the name Marlboro Country and call it anything else but that....San Juan, The Range, Cibola (our first naming attempt), whatever. I agree with Paul that someone who actually spent time there should have more say about the name than a one-time visitor. Nov 17, 2008
After talking with William and Lee (how ironic, discussing a beautiful remote area surrounded by plastic holds) it sounds to me like the road itself will be just the filter the area needs.

Brief history:
After climbing some of the Ponderosa cracks one day, Jim Haisley and I were doing a run up on top of the mesa (oddly enough, we actually encountered a guy out running up there the same day, not sure who was more surprised.) From a distance, San Juan looked to be great rock without the problem of the 100 feet of junk at Ponderosa.

I raved about the potential to Bob and Dave and they drove up there and hiked up from the corral. They came back with stories of hard stuff up on the left ridge.

I went up and did a similar hump with John Fleming and came back raving about the area. We'd gone to lower angle rock (Black Diamond, 9+ and Uncut Stone 10-) and found it be much better quality than Cochiti. Probably even better than Ponderosa.

Later, Bob, Dave and I went up to have another look and this time we found the road out to the mesa top. The road was such a pain that we looked for and found the walk in described above.

I have ridden a bike in from the closed gate by the town but it's a real PIA ridding up the switchbacks with gear. (Lee, that's pain in the ass.)

I found some notes and diagrams of the area and I know Dave also had written stuff down. One of these days I guess I'll try to redraw it and scan it and maybe even post it.

I count around 17 leads and another 30+ TRs that range from 5.8 to 5.13. Some of those problems could be high balls but we were padless and getting old anyway. Some of the easier stuff I purposely bolted to have warm ups (The Playground and Bear's Backyard where there are ~11 leads from 5.9 to 11+ or maybe 12-.) Most of the leads are short, 3-4 bolts but there are few in the 6-8 range. As I mentioned earlier, we generally didn't put anchors on top but instead carried around rope and slings for rigging anchors from trees. Bob had a 3" ~ 80ft long piece of tubular webbing that we used a lot.

On many weekends, Dave and I would go work on leads while Bob would wander off and boulder for the day. I know Bob spent a lot of time working on boulders below the east rim of the mesa.

We did a few of the obvious stuff in the stream bed and some short TRs in the left side of the Y.

The obvious boulder right at the Y in the stream bed we called The Bishop (dead tree on it's north side) and the one up stream Knight's Castle. My notes show the Castle with 3 bolts on top ? Left side was Bob's Way and the right side the Yawning Maw. The boulder down in the stream bed and just upstream of the Castle was cleverly named Stream Bed Boulder (Dave probably had a better name for it.) I believe Bob worked a number of problems on it.

There are a number of difficult TRs on the east ridge of the canyon between the Bishop and the Castle. These are just downstream of the obvious walk down.

I'll talk with Dave and find out what he has that he's willing to share. Dec 4, 2008
Hi. Glad to hear I'm somebody's hero. That'll be a fascinating new role for me. Do I have to wear an outfit? :-)

My memory differs a bit from Paul's, but not on any important points. The theme of the discussion so far revolves around whether this area is fair game for climbing or whether it is so sensitive that it should be kept quiet. Frankly, I don't think there's any way to truly keep it quiet, and I always assumed it would be (re)discovered some day. Thing is, I also imagine that most of the traffic up there will be folks who like to get away from the playgrounds--people who like the natural as much as the social aspects of the sport. It's just hard enough to get to even when the road's not closed.

Educating climbers: not easy to do. There's always a sizable contingent of independent/rebel types who don't like rules: when I was starting out it was Warren Harding--Red Mountain wine and lots of bolts. That said, I think it's about all we can do. It is an archaeologically sensitive place, and should be treated respectfully, as any wild area should be treated. By the way, I don't recollect suggesting that we should bury archaeological sites or materials, although I may have pointed out that sites are much safer when they are deeply buried than when they are close to the surface as here.

Here's my version of the history of discovery. Paul Davidson raved to Bob Murray and I about this place, and Bob and I went up on a cold November day to take a look. As Paul said, we hiked up the steep hill from the corral. There was snow on all the ledges--I'm not sure we even brought ropes or climbing shoes, as we were just there for an outing. We wandered around for a while, very impressed with the quantity of rock and the general potential of the place, then headed back and told Paul it didn't seem to have much potential. We thought it would be funny, but my recollection is that after getting the desired rise out of Paul, we confessed reasonably quickly that we were just kidding and that it looked pretty good up there. We went back the same way several times, and worked on TRs near the canyon mouth, and it was only after a couple months of going up there that either Bob or Paul discovered the easier trail in.

I agree with Paul that there weren't any cairns on that trail, except maybe near the stairway. We just wandered generally westward, through very open woods and short grasses, down across a dry stream bed and up to the east rim of the mesa, then across to the central canyon. There is, as Paul said, a small area of good TR's just before you get to the stairway. I named it something to do with bread or loaves or something, and that was a theme to some of the problems. Hot rise, warm rise, cool rise, something along those lines--I was never very good giving names. But the best problem there, which was arguably in the 12 range, we called Corner Pocket.

For the rest, Paul's recollections seem accurate, although I never thought of the landmarks with names. I'd say we climbed there at least five years, tapering off in the last couple of years before I left Albuquerque in the summer of 93 (I'm way out east in Portales, now). I took some notes, wrote some descriptions of the problems. I agree that the hardest thing we tried there was a bolted route that could have been 13 since we never successfully led it--a boulderer at heart, I think I was afraid to try--best I could do was work out all the individual moves on TR.

Paul and I will certainly get together some time, and see what we can remember together. I took a few notes, but not very detailed, and drew a sketch map of part of the east canyon wall down from the Y. I'd like to drag my arthritic old bones back up there some time, just to see how much I've deteriorated. I think most of the stuff we did was in the 11s and 12s, and if I'm right about that, I probably wouldn't get very far on any of them. Maybe I'll just take pictures instead.

Anyway, thanks for jogging my memory on one of my favorite places. Thanks also for the sensitive and amicable discussion. And for those of you who are inspired to go that way, remember to tread lightly.

As I read back through the existing posts, I see that Paul has already changed his, so I should perhaps take out my references to our different memories. I'm an inexperienced poster, so forgive me my fauxs pas.

Happy climbing! Dec 4, 2008
Thanks for posting Dave!
Good to hear your history of the first visit.
I didn't recall all the snow (both on the ground and back in town!)

To just clarify one thing, I didn't mean to say Dave suggested burying sites. What I recall is Dave suggesting that one possible solution to the conundrum of finding artifacts would be to cover them up where found. We had come across a huge potsherd (probably 8" x 10") and had left it there. On the drive back we discussed the issue of finding artifacts. Dave, as an archeologist, mostly advocated leaving stuff alone. While I was wondering about the possible loss of unique items to breakage, pot hunters, time, etc... My lust for the old allowed me to postulate that picking it up, recording where the item was found and at some point turning it in to "the authorities", might be the best solution.

One of Dave's ideas, that stuck with me because I think it has merit, would be to cover the artifact up where it lays. Dave didn't claim that was "the" solution but put it out there as a possible one. I'm going to have to get the other bouldering archeologist to spill his guts on his heretical opinions.

BTW - I can hear some of you guys thinking, who the hell is Dave Batten. Well, Dave is another one of those best climbers of which you've never heard. He regularly snaked the first ascent from me (that means out climbed me, and I was still in decent shape) and on occasion even out climbed Bob. While out climbing me may not be newsworthy, out climbing Mr. Murray was.

I think Dave makes some great points here. If you're willing to put the effort it takes to get out to this area (especially now with what appears to be a semi-permanent closure), then I'm sure you deserve to be there (and will probably have it to yourself.) It's not like this area is really all that hidden. But it sure is nice and full of great memories. Dec 5, 2008
I talked with Bob the other day (yes, Bob Murray.)
He had some interesting things to say about both this area and the Pond.

Back when the Pond was first "discovered", he told one of the guys about a lot of the stuff we'd done out there and even offered to go out with the new finders and show them some of the better stuff he'd found. He doesn't remember who it was but does remember that they really didn't seem interested in his offer. Man, that's a head scratcher for me. I guess if you ignore history, eminent domain is a bit easier to sell.

In the late nineties Bob had briefly considered writing up a sort of guide to what he'd found, but it seemed like a huge task. Between San Juan canyon and mesa and the areas along the Paliza canyon road (aka the Pond/Ponderosa area) he counted over 300 problems, scattered all over. Finding them again, let alone describing HOW to find them seemed too daunting. Shortly after 2000 or so we mostly stopped going there altogether - Bob felt he'd done nearly everything of interest that he had any reasonable hope of doing and it was about the time Dave left town.

If Bob counted 300 problems, you can probably add at least another 100 or so problems that the other few of us going out there did because Bob wouldn't even be counting things that were easier than V3 (never mind any lead/TR climbs.)

I'd have to say that Bob did more than just a few moderate problems in the area. Unfortunately, Bob doesn't boulder much anymore. Too many years of hard cranks have left a few recurring injuries. Mostly he's out doing long third class stuff. Feb 13, 2009
LeeAB Brinckerhoff   ABQ, NM  
Hey Paul that is too bad that someone was not willing to take Bob up on his offer.

Isn't all bouldering 3rd class by definition?

I only ask because I though Bob had picked up a new bouldering pad within the last couple of years.

I also have a feeling that at this point if a true full guide was put out to the areas around Ponderosa you would be looking at close to a thousand problems. Of course the problem with that would be getting everyone to come forward with everything that they did. Also there would doubtlessly be many problems that nobody would care to repeat. Feb 13, 2009

Good point, all bouldering being 3rd class by definition.

Guess there's two definitions.
The Freedom of the Hills classification,
to climb without a rope, as in rope not required.
And then there's the vernacular one,
you're gonna die if you fall off.

Given Bob's proclivity for anonymity, I was shocked he'd even offered.
And then even more surprised someone didn't jump at the chance.

Given all the traffic these areas are seeing, I'd guess that your 1000 problem estimate is possibly on the low side.

I wonder if they'll ever fix that bridge.... Feb 16, 2009
I would love to be in the loop, if ever a guide were attempted to be put together for this area. We were super active with development at the Pond, Booty Blocks, Mega Blocks, etc from 2000-2005 and have hundreds of our problems to add to the mix.

Interesting to hear about Murray's involvement in the area. What we heard from someone who had asked was that he hadn't done much in the Pond area at all. I would love to know what he did do, so we aren't trying to reclaim anything that had been done by him back then.

I agree about the sensitivity of this area and the hesitancy to promote it any more than here. When we were up there in those years 2000-2004 we saw so many ruins, artifacts, etc. We never brought anyone else out there, other than our little group. Jan 10, 2010
Owen S.
Los Alamos
Owen S.   Los Alamos
Vid here… Jan 28, 2013