Elevation: 4,884 ft
GPS: 34.968, -110.647 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
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Shared By: Colin Cox on Feb 28, 2009
Admins: Luke Bertelsen, JJ Schlick, Greg Opland
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Downstream of the Winslow Wall is Arizona's best DWS venue - East Clear Creek Reservoir. The same Coconino Sandstone walls rise out of deep water, offering fun, boat accessed rock climbing at all levels of difficulty. Knowing how to swim is the only requirement for this area, but to fully enjoy it you will want some sort of water craft that can be paddled or motored along this 2 mile long stretch of East Clear Creek. The current is negligible but a windy day can make paddling a battle, so think about bringing a water craft that will conserve your energy for the plentiful pumpy climbs. The climbing ranges from low ball bouldering to serious deep water solos. The rule of thumb is picking a line with a clean fall to deep water. One must become aware of the dangers lurking beneath the surface, such as rocks or sand bars. Testing each landing zone for depth and obstacles is highly recommended. Yearly flooding can change the floor of the reservoir. Don't assume that established climbs are safe. Test the water yourself.

As you get comfortable with falling and jumping into the deep water, remain diligent about the dangers. One can get lulled into assuming the water is deep everywhere, but it isn't. Changing light conditions can hide shallow water or submerged rocks. Never habitually dive from any climbs. Play it safe as I did on my first day of water soloing here. Clouds had moved over and the surface of the water turned dark. Feeling confident from a long day of crashing into deep water and never feeling the bottom, I was by myself and I nearly dove headfirst from an untested 20 foot drop. Luckily I remembered the NO DIVING rule we all agreed to at the put in. Turns out the water was only 4 feet deep. Had I done a dive, it would have been my head and neck that hit the sand bar instead of my feet and ass. Diving is super fun but it really is not worth the risk unless you and your friends are 100% certain about the safety of the area you are in. Water soloing seems so safe but in reality an accident in the water takes on a whole new dimension of seriousness. Please be careful.

Dangers aside, the climbing experience here is unlike anything else in Arizona. Climbers rarely venture into 100 degree heat to go climbing, but here it's all just meant to be. The sandstone is grippy even with warm hands and wet shoes. The water is chilly, but an invigorating relief from the blazing summer sun. You'll go from broiling to shivering as you go from boat, to rock, to water, and then back to the boat again. Climbing becomes a way to cool off. Be sure to bring plenty of water, a towel, a sun hat, a dry bag, and any other comforts one might bring for a day on a lake. Once you put in at McHood Park you will be out for the day so pack wisely.

  • **Bring a large trash bag to collect the plentiful bottles, cans, cups and other trash floating in the creek or on the rocks and beaches. If you forget just use your boat as a big trash can until you get back to McHood Park.

Getting There

Heading south out of Winslow on Hwy 87 you'll want to watch your speed. Just as you begin to speed up, Hwy 99 will come up quickly on the east. Turn left onto Hwy 99 and drive to Lake McHood Park about 5 miles down the road. Cross the bridge and turn left to free parking and a convenient put in spot. This is a popular summer picnic area for the locals of the region. Park mindfully.

Captain your vessel upstream and under the bridge. Continue another 1/2 mile to where the cliffs begin to offer safe climbing above the water. Yeah Buddy is the first published climb you will encounter on your right or West Side. The warm up boulder is further upstream on your left or East Side. Routes are divided between the the East and West sides of the creek. The treasure map I made years ago can serve as a reference for locating some of the classics, but it is not GPSed, just my best guess. The walls get taller as you go, and soon you will see more lines than you could possibly climb in a summer.

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Classic Climbing Routes at DWS East Clear Creek

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
More Classic Climbs in DWS East Clear Creek »

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Golden, CO
Monty   Golden, CO  
This place is Great!
Went there in August a few years back, the weather was in the 90's but was perfect for some DWS. I know the creek can be low certain times so not a bad idea to ask a local before traveling down there.

As for camping, we drove just east of the resivoir and turned south onto some dirt roads next to the canyon, make sure you are on the east side as i believe the west side of the river is on private land... The camping would have been a lot more pleasant if it wasn't for the insane ammount of broken glass around. Seems people really like to prove themselves by breaking bottles woooo. I'm sure you could camp else where away from the canyon, but then you couldn't wake up and jump in the river...

Always check your landing and have fun. Mar 23, 2009
David Gershwin
San Diego, CA.
David Gershwin   San Diego, CA.
I loved bouldering out here in the late nineties. Not too many folks around, just a crew from Flag and some local kids from Winslow who thought we were weird, but they did show us the sickest cliff jumps. The fishermen thought we were all nuts. I Had my truck locked in at Mchood once, and had to hitchhike into town to grab some dinner and a cheap motel for the night. The gates get locked sometime around sunset. Mar 8, 2012
JJ Schlick
Flagstaff, AZ
JJ Schlick   Flagstaff, AZ  
A little consensus never hurt. I think it's fair to say that people have been hucking themselves off of climbs here for a long time. It would be interesting to know just how long, and maybe some more history on the routes here will surface with time.

An option on the FAs with question marks, would be to use something like "East Clear Creek Old School" or something of the sort. Maybe just ECCOS. That way people know it was indeed done a long time ago, but exactly by who is unknown. Just a thought. Mar 22, 2012
Phoenix & Prescott, AZ
arjunmh   Phoenix & Prescott, AZ
Yeah, being a newby to this area, I can safely say that it'd be cool to hear more history. Made my first and only trip (so far, hopefully will get back next year!) on Sunday and had no clue about any routes, except when some passing Flag climbers would yell out the name of whatever we were on. Finding some of the routes here now, I discover that we actually got on a fair number of classics just be on sighting what I thought were nice looking lines. Hard for me to tell with some of the pics that are posted, so will be sure to have the info with me next time. Bottom line, it's an amazing place and terrific to climb whatever I feel like without any concern about ratings and whatnot! Aug 29, 2012
Boat Beta?

Does anyone have any beta on boat rentals or hiring out a Jon Boat? Heading down to East Clear Creek next week and trying to get us much beta as possible. Thanks in advance. Jun 23, 2014
Since many of our friends expressed interest in future trips to East Clear Creek, but no one had ever been there, Carolyn and I thought we would write up a trip report. Yes, it’s Saturday morning and we’re home. That should tell you something… This was an awesome area, but getting the logistics right seems to be crucial in having an enjoyable time. Thus, we have some recommendations.

The climbing is quite a ways from the put-in. We put-in right at our campsite on the lake, not wanting to load the car up and drive around to the “official” put-in. This added 20 minutes to the paddle, 1/4 mile if I had to guess. We paddled for almost an hour before we got to any climbing at all. Over the next hour we messed around on a bunch of stuff that gradually got better as we went further. We kept wondering if we were “there yet” or not. The real climbing starts when the rock gets tall on the left hand side, going away from the bridge. There is some bouldery stuff before that, but don’t tire yourself out on it.

Recognizing any of the 32 routes/problems listed on mtn project was very difficult because there was A LOT (A LOT) of rock, and the locations of the routes/problems on mountain project were either relative to each other (“a little ways to the right of Sea King”), or an approximate milage from the bridge. Milage was completely useless once we were in the canyon. We couldn’t say if we’d paddled 1/4 mile, or two miles. It would have been much more helpful if the descriptions used landmarks (cell tower, Batman graffiti, 60x40 foot slab…) It was pretty risky to try to dig out our phones every time we wanted to find a problem.

So, we couldn’t identify many routes (I picked out two while we were paddling, then identified maybe five more looking at mtn project afterwards), but there was so much rock, you could just look for cool lines and try them out, usually erring on the easy-looking side because they tended to be harder than they looked. It was usually quite a challenge to get from our inflatable kayaks onto the rock. Anything below water level was covered in frictionless slime. You basically needed decent hand holds to get on the rock.

I climbed 15 or 20 routes/problems. The tallest was approximately a 45-foot 5.10, which was really enjoyable. I did a couple others that were 25-35 feet tall, and a whole bunch that were 10-20 feet tall. I saw probably 30 others I’d like to have tried, and that was just by scanning the rock as we went by and without getting to the end. We figure we paddled 1-1/2 miles from the bridge, and according to mtn project, the climbing ends at a dam at about 2 miles. Probably 50% of the rock we saw wasn’t really climbable because it slabs out near the bottom, but there is still a lot of climbable rock!

A fact of deep water soloing is that your shoes are going to be wet. We tried as hard as we could to keep them dry between attempts and made heroic kayak sit-starts, only to stand up on the rock and have our shorts drop a quart of water on them as we stood up. However, our shoes stuck surprisingly well, even while wet. The rock was pretty grippy sandstone, and quite a number of times I caught myself thinking “I can’t believe I’m smearing on this!” I wouldn’t suggest bringing your favorite shoes, though.

Your hands are going to be wet ALL THE TIME, too. Liquid chalk definitely helped a bit, if your hands were somewhat dry before using it. There were a lot of incut crimps, so wet hands didn’t make a huge difference. There were a lot of slopey pockets too, but any slopers had a thin layer of sand on them that made them useless.

In fact, EVERYTHING is going to be wet ALL THE TIME! We put our phones in double-zip lock bags, and I consider us lucky that they survived. I brought mine hoping the use the mtn project app, but most of the time it seemed too risky to dig it out. We brought some sandwiches in a cooler, and they stayed mostly dry. Everything else was soaked: climbing packs, shoes, chalk, anything in the packs, towels, etc. There are very few places to escape the water once you’re into the actual climbing area.

There is NOWHERE to escape the sun. This is the biggest reason we came home after one day. We both got sunburned as hell. We both put on sunscreen multiple times over the day, there’s just no way to keep it on when you’re in and out of the water several times per hour. In the end, we soaked our towels and covered as much skin as possible, but it was much too late for that.

Which brings us to watercraft. We had three Aire Lynx inflatable kayaks from the Kirtland AFB Outdoor Recreation (OR). We were really psyched to rent 3 of them for the entire weekend for $72. I would’t recommend going this route. These things are a pain in the ass to paddle, especially if you’re the unlucky person towing the gear kayak. When we were ready to be done, we paddled for a solid hour back to the put-in. It was extremely tiring after climbing all day. The seats in the kayaks are useless, and the kayak sags in the middle, where you’re sitting. Thus, you’re using your abs to sit upright and paddle for as long as you can, then you lay back and paddle ineffectively for a while. There was a bit of a headwind on the way back, and a couple times I was paddling as hard as I could just to stay in place.

The other thing about these is that you’re sitting with the middle part of your body in the water all day. This might be because we couldn’t properly inflate them because OR didn’t give us the right adapter. So we had to pump them as hard as possible, then fiddle to close the valve while air leaked out. We did get a pretty good system going though, and they seemed well inflated, so the “sagginess” may just be a characteristic of these vessels. That being said, we saw another crew with a different type of inflatable kayaks, and they looked pretty perfect. [UPDATE: When I returned our kayaks to OR, they had one sitting on the ground that was inflated hard as a rock. It turns out they had given us the wrong adapter. So, I would probably rent from them again next time, but make sure to get the correct adapter so we can inflate the kayaks fully.]

You definitely need something that paddles well. This is the second reason we bailed after one day. According to mtn project, the climbing starts 1-1/4 miles from the bridge. I’d guess we put in 1/4 mile before the bridge, at the camp site, so you’re going to be paddling at least 1-1/2 miles. There is no current, but as I said above, the lightest headwind makes paddling a pain in the ass. People were cruising past us in canoes and normal kayaks chatting and smiling, and we were cursing them as we struggled to make progress. The thought of paddling all the way out there and back again was just too much to handle.

Another important quality of the water vessel is the ability to get in and out of it easily. This was one huge plus of our inflatable kayaks. You could float right up to the climb, parallel park to it, get your feet over side and pull on. Getting back in from the water was really easy too. I was even able to stand-start if needed. However, I feel these benefits were outweighed by the kayaks lack of paddle-ability.

One other consideration regarding the camping. We camped on the northwest side of the reservoir, before you cross the bridge. The camp sites are very open. There are no trees, buildings, lean-tos, or any kind of shelter other than the gross restrooms and a seemingly abandoned house. The wind was STRONG. It battered the tent the entire first night. We left all of our non-valuables in the tent to weigh it down during the day, and when we got back from climbing, it had scraped across the ground for ten feet and hung up on the picnic table. As we dragged it back to where we wanted it, the wind increased, making the tent pretty much uninhabitable. This was the final reason we left after one day. It was rather exciting trying gather our things out of the tent while Carolyn held it erect. Staking the tent to the ground was impossible due to the gravelly, rocky ground. I’d recommend planning on sleeping in a car if there’s any chance of bad weather. There seems to be plenty of camping. There are probably 50 sites, and 3 were occupied over the holiday weekend that we were there.

Overall, I’d say it was a good adventure, and we both did some really enjoyable climbing. I’d definitely go back any time. But we’d have to bring more clothing to cover ourselves, and we’d need to try a more paddle-able water vessel. Jul 5, 2014
Miguel D
Miguel D   SLC
Thank you everyone for the input. Particularly skelldify with your trip report. Great information, it is very much appreciated! Heading out there this Sunday hopefully so any tips are welcome. I'll report back with my own comments

UPDATE: I did go about two weeks after originally posting this comment. I didn't end up doing much soloing, just because I wasn't sure where the routes were and because the people I went with weren't very interested in climbing. Regardless, it was a very fun outing. The current was barely noticeable, so you could paddle up or downstream without much resistance. We went probably about 2-3 miles upstream and also found some great cliff jumping spots. Particularly one spot that we dubbed "The Plank". The area is beautiful whether you're climbing or not. But we did climb one crack that was probably about 15 ft off the water. Quite enjoyable. Definitely recommend this place to anyone. Wether you're looking for some good DWS or simply a nice, relaxing kayak ride and some cliff jumping Aug 16, 2014
JJ Schlick
Flagstaff, AZ
JJ Schlick   Flagstaff, AZ  
With Colin's help we sorted these lines into two areas, East and West. We are thinking of ways to further sort locations, but we shall see. Please let me know if there are any glaring mistakes, and as usual, the route counts will take a day to sort out inside the site. Thanks. Jun 20, 2015
Alec Orenstein
Gallup, NM
Alec Orenstein   Gallup, NM
Anyone have current conditions for water level, etc? I'm hoping to head out there in a few weeks, but given the extremely dry winter, I want to make sure I'm not ACTUALLY soloing... May 16, 2018