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Cochiti Mesa Update

Original Post
Scott Beguin · · Santa Fe, NM · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 3,180

Update: I went out here yesterday and discovered that most of, if not all of these routes were affected greatly by the Los Conchas fire in 2011. Bolts and rock layers have been cooked by firestorms with ambient air temps greater than 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. There are no live trees left, no shade, crumbling rock, burned hardware, and is pretty much a wasteland now. It was quite sobering to find this. This marks the end of an era, and a wonderful area that this was. I am thankful to have gotten to climb the years that I have there. I did not make it to Eagle Canyon to check it, but I am assuming the worst as well. The Dihedrals were cooked too. Vista Point seems to be ok, but could use some anchor upgrades as there are no trees to anchor with. I guess you could drive a car to the rim and use it for an anchor. I will head out again at some point to verify the status of the crags I did not make it to, and will post.

Mick S · · Utah · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 60

Bummer ... thanks for the update.

Chris Clarke · · La Paz, BO · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 130

Double bummer. I was lucky to climb there in the mid to late 80s and remember it fondly.

Ian Donnelly · · Santa Fe, NM · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 470

We went up to Eagle Canyon a couple weeks ago and climbed a few of the routes. Don't expect there to be nice shade from the trees anymore, they're all scorched. By the end of the day we were filthy from cleaning out pockets filled with ash/run off. The routes will eventually clean up again. Be careful of snags, etc...

Shirtless Mike · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 5,105

Unfortunately Scott is right. I didn't believe that the fire could get hot enough to damage the rock but it did. It was depressing to see, but the North Cliffband of Cochiti mesa is for the most part destroyed. The fire was hot enough to separate the layers of patina from the rock. Without the Patina I doubt there is anything solid enough to climb.

Fortunately most of the South Cliffband was spared. Everything from the entrance thru Shadowdancer looked fine. From Velocity Unto Ferocity thru the end of the cliff there were some signs of fire damage, but most routes should still be climbable. It was relieving at least to see Shadowdancer still untouched.

Eagle Canyon looked fine, I only saw slight fire damage at the base of Earth Monster area.

"Gunning for the Buddha"

Gunning for the Buddha
"Praise the Lunge"
Praise the Lunge
"Touch Monkey" Maybe still climbable??
Touch Monkey
"Digital Pleasures" This photo shows how much the patina is peeling off the rock.
Digital Pleasures
"Thief in Time"
Thief in Time
"La Espina"
La Espina
"OMS & Pickpocket"
OMS & Pickpocket
Looking up at "OMS"
Monomaniac · · Morrison, CO · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 17,430

Ugh. What a major drag. Glad the other cliffs were spared, but the North Cliffband had a special ambiance with the wide open base and large trees that really set it apart. I also thought the rock there was somewhat unique; more monolithic and blank than the other cliffs. Such a bummer.

J. Albers · · Colorado · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 1,793

Thanks for taking the time to post all of the detailed info. Damn is this sad.

Anyone have opinions on what the heat means for the hardware?

crankenstein · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 0

What a major bummer. Such a special place. I also wonder about the hardware and if any of the damaged rock is still climbable?

Shirtless Mike · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 5,105

From what I saw, most of the highly damaged rock is no longer climbable. The rock is even worse than the pictures show. On a route like "Thief In Time" where the rock didn't look that bad, everything was hollow at the base. It felt like I could have picked any part of the wall and pulled the patina off. I was surprised to see how badly the fire affected the rock. Maybe there was some small amount of moisture in the rock, which when heated boiled off and the resulting gases is what caused the outer layers to peel off.

I would guess that the hardware is suspect as well in the North Cliffband area. A quick Google search shows that an average forest fire burns at 800°C and can reach upwards of 1200°C. You can Stress Relief Anneal, steel at temperatures as low as 600 - 650°C. I think if the bolt became hot enough to anneal it that it would no longer be in tension, jeopardizing the bolt. I'm no metalurgist however.

I think any glue ins would have been severely damaged as I've heard you can remove them with a blow torch. Also in some of the worst cases the rock around the bolt may have been damaged. I think I remember some of Cochiti having glue ins.

I have no idea for the other walls, South Cochiti Cliff and Eagle Canyon. I'd like to believe they are fine and they looked fine, but it's tough to know what temperatures they saw. For now probably a good idea to use caution and check out the first few bolts of the route carefully.

Crypply · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 0

i was in NM 2 or so months ago and got on Touch Monkey, all of the holds are solid, but you cant stand on any of the feet. they just break.

Shirtless Mike · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 5,105

So does Touch Monkey still go? Any idea of the new grade?

NateM · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0

I am interested if there are any updates on the status of climbing at Cochiti Mesa. Based on the above posts, it appears some routes are clearly ruined. Nevertheless, I am hoping that some routes might be fine, and am curious if anyone can provide an update on routes that survived and the integrity of the bolts. Thanks...

md3 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 45

I really liked that place and unfortunately, I was climbing there before I would have any chance with the harder routes.
If the patina is baked off does erosion accelerate? Is the fire cycle a factor a negligible factor or something geologists pay attention to? Just curious. I have never taken a geology class.

Adam S. Read · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

I had not been to the mesa since the fire until recently, and it was heartbreaking to see it. I put up quite a few of the routes at Cochiti Mesa and Cacti Cliff, and it was pretty shocking to see how big and intense the fire was and how utterly changed the landscape is without any of the big trees. I'd seen the massive debris flows that took out the Dixon apple orchards right after the fire, but the dome road was closed for quite a while after that. It must have been an absolute inferno raging up the canyon-side. Besides the flaking of the patina on the cliff faces, there are 1-2 inch-thick plates of tuff that spalled off the top, even far away from the few trees that were once on top. I didn't make it out to see if the cool petroglyphs at "PetroCliff" overlooking the former orchard are still there, but I very much doubt it. I also didn't stop at Cacti cliff, mostly because I didn't recognize it until I'd already driven way past it.

As someone else noted, some routes, like Shadowdancer (probably the best route there) look fine. Others will probably clean up OK if it really seems worth the effort. I wouldn't trust most of the bolts though because so many were obviously cooked. I think that bolts that retain their zinc coating with hangers that are still shiny could be OK, especially if they can be tightened. But if there is any doubt, it's probably not worth finding out the hard way. It's hard to imagine that this area will ever see much traffic given how much work it would take to rehabilitate it.

It's still a pretty cool place, if a little stark, and I sure had a lot of fun there back in the day...

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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