Elevation: 2,911 ft
GPS: 35.715, -114.926 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 15,812 total · 393/month
Shared By: DesertDan on Aug 21, 2015
Admins: Justin .
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The Lower Canyon has the highest concentration of climbs at Keyhole, with routes ranging from 5.0 to 5.13 and boulder problems up to V10. The rock throughout Keyhole Canyon is quartz monzonite with a lot of desert varnish on the faces outside the wash. It has the feel and flavor of the small-grained, heavily varnished areas of J-Tree, including the serious nature. Climbing has been done here regularly since the 60s, with the earliest known technical climbers being the Sierra Club.

Most of the petroglyphs at Keyhole reside in the Lower Canyon also. Some excellent pictographs can be found in the Indian cave under the boulders at the mouth of the canyon, and an eclipse on the backside of the fin rock to the right of the stairs under the big boulder choking the wash. BLM lists Keyhole as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), and requires climbing to be 100' from rock art here. Any routes described inside of this restricted area are for historical purposes only and every climber should respect rock art by staying off and not touching it in any way.

There are no sport climbs anywhere at Keyhole. The area is steeped in traditional climbing with old-school grading, and the handful of routes that protect entirely with bolts tend to be run out and committing. The routes that protect naturally or are mixed also tend to be run out and committing. Finding gear here can be tricky, with many obscure or technical placements. Bolts are used sparingly on lead and even less so for anchors. Only a couple of climbs have fixed anchors at the top, and those only because no natural gear was available. Please do not add top anchors or bolts to climbs.

Leading with a nut tool to clean out clogged seams can be useful as well as extra micro cams, and brass and ball nuts. That being said, Keyhole still has a bunch of climbs that are beginner-friendly and protect in a straightforward manner. AND everything can be top roped.

If you're looking for convenience, there's none to be found here. It's 25 miles from the nearest town, full of sharp plants, poisonous critters, and is hot six months out of the year (which only accentuates the balancy, slippery, insecure feeling known as Keyhole Weirdness). If you do make the effort to come here, you'll be rewarded with super fun climbing in an awesome, uncrowded, and remote setting.

Getting There

The Lower Canyon is the first part of Keyhole you'll get to, and runs from the fenced mouth up to the top of the first waterfall.

79 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Lower Canyon

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
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All new climbers at Keyhole are taught to do climbs in the same, or better style, than the first ascent. Anyone can lower the bar, but it’s far more admirable to raise the bar.

Please be respectful of the traditional climbing at Keyhole, first instilled by the Stone Masters, and help maintain the longevity and traditional flavor of the area, i.e.

- Never add bolts to established climbs- this includes belays/rappel stations.
- On new routes use gear whenever possible, bolts are always a last resort.
- Lead new climbs ground up, even if top roped or cleaned on rappel first. Jan 9, 2018