> Taos Area
Description and Geology
A nice collection of quality climbing on iron hard pocketed basalt. There is something here for everybody and a few more to come. From vertical to overhanging jug-hauls, to technical corners, powerful roofs and thin fingers. Mostly sport, some mixed and a few classic trad pieces in sound, clean stone. Set above the "Rock Garden" of the Rio Grande Box, this area is surrounded by climbing areas, rafting, fishing, camping, and mountainbiking all about 20 miles from the town of Taos. Expect solitude, which means low traffic and no chalk marks.
Celebrating the spirit of escapism, independence and defiance many of these route names honor the visionaries, artists, authors and crazies that saw a Utopia in Northern New Mexico's Vistas.
These are new routes and they might still give up a hold or two so a helmet is recommended. Yearly freeze thaw can be severe on New Mexico's basalt, climb with caution.
The geology of the Rio Grande Box is largely volcanic. Olivine tholeiite basalt forms the three main layers of the Servilleta Basalt. The middle basalt unit is separated from the upper and lower tiers by layers of sediment forming the benches. These horizontal basalt layers of dark-gray, pahoehoe (ropey), vesicular (air pocketed) lava compose the main climbing walls in the gorge (Vista Verde, Utopian Vistas, Dead Cholla, John Dunn area, Horse Thief, etc.). The rock we climb in the upper Box area of the Wild and Scenic is more dense, can be red to light brown and was not from the lateral Servilleta flow. These remnants of volcanic plugs are more appropriately termed dacite, and it may contain crystal inclusions known as phenocrysts. The middle box or La Junta section has several examples of swirled volcanic rock from old low relief dacite volcanos. Miners' crag is a nice example. The wall across from Miners' is also a remnant.
Star ratings are relative to this area.
See Dead Cholla Wall
under Taos Area or click the Aerial Photo link above for driving instructions toDead Cholla Wall
parking area.In the past, climbers had used an old two-track from West Rim Road to drive closer to the crag. However, vehicles are not prohibited on this old road. Please respect the rules of land managers and do not use this approach. Instead, access Utopian Vistas from the Dead Cholla Wall parking.
From the Dead Cholla (trailhead for the West Rim Trail) parking, it's about 15 minutes along the West Rim Trail to the wash on the rim -- if you continue past there to where the power lines cross the gorge, you've gone too far (maybe half again too far).
If you time the walk -- at 6 minutes from the car, the trail makes its first significant bend east toward the rim before bending back north; there is a second one of these at 9 minutes. When you hit the third such bend at 15 minutes, you are there -- look for a pullout on the right just as you come over a rise (the rim of the wash).
Drop southerly (right) along the wash to the rim, and follow cairns left (north) along the base of the Upper Tier, then, as Bob says, pretty much straight downhill from Black Mamba, the pretty black-streaked corner. The trail goes down past the juniper and deposits you at the south end of the lower cliff.
The beautifully scenic Utopian Vistas
New trail signs along the West Rim Trail. Approach from the Dead Cholla parking area.
Taking in the view with Ron Olsen and the late, great Jack Roberts
View Looking West. Shows relative locations and approaches to Dead Cholla and Utopian Vistas
View from the rim at the parking spot above the crag. Upper tier climb anchors are right off the lip in the foreground. The descent is a 100 ft further along this rim to the south (right in photo)