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Fall River, Kansas 1980
ID 111370204 ·

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David Engel
Dec 1, 2015
Fall River, Kansas 1980  
This looks like it might be "The Cave Route" (unofficially 5.6 or 5.7) - tallest route in Fall River climbing area. Its 60 feet over the railroad tracks. This face was blasted by the railroad as it is above the river and they needed room for the tracks. This section of rock is all east of town and located by walking the tracks for about a mile or less. To my knowledge the land has always been privately owned and in the 1980's I climbed there with the Explorer post 888 (training) and camped and climbed there other times. I heard lots of stories of the owner running people off with a shotgun. If you can find Scott Heckathrone, he was by far the best Kansas climber to complete all the routes and attempt some that others from the outside rated. One was even stated to be 5.13 (unclimbable), which was a long vertical finger crack that flared out at about 20 feet up and then returned for the last 5 or so feet. Found about 40 feet to the right of The Cave Route just to the right of a low area of about a 12 foot vertical. Jul 6, 2017
David Engel
Santa Rosa, CA
David Engel   Santa Rosa, CA
Yes, this is Fall River. There is a series of great climbs just south of the railroad tracks. I climbed there frequently in 1979 and 1980. Perhaps I can dig up more photos. It does sound like it could be the "Cave Route" although we didn't use that name. It was the highest of the climbs at the site.

We never had access problems. I seem to recall that we asked once if we could park at the end of the road near the farmers house. We always parked in that area and never had a problem. No doubt, as time progressed, the landowner situation has changed. I doubt that the cliff is owned by the farmer above the cliffs. Most likely, it is owned by the railroad as it is just a few feet away. On the other hand, whose going to argue with an angry gun toting local. We camped on top of the rock at times.

I presume you could hike to the cliff along the railroad track from the town of Fall River. The cliff is at 37.608007, -96.002778. Although, these coordinates might not be exact. It was only 37 years ago that I climbed there. Using Google Maps, I measure that it is approximately 1.45 miles from the main street in Fall River to the cliff along the tracks. This street is named Merchants Ave. There are ways to make the approach shorter.

Perhaps some of the lower portions of the cliff were blasted by the railroad. However, most of the cliff is natural, well indurated sandstone. I am a geologist and I didn't observe drill holes or any blasting signatures on most of the rock. This area is rolling hills and Fall River cut downward through the sandstone. The photo shows jointing patterns and bedding planes seen in rock. Jul 30, 2017
Okay, I could be completely wrong about the blasting of the cliffs by the railroad. Several times I climbed at Fall River, Kansas in the 1980s. The longest route by far is what we were all told was known as the Cave Route...at least 60 feet. It is at the nose of the cliff where it comes closest to the RR tracks below. I will find my photos and post them. I have a few. At the base of "The Cave Route" (TCR), there is a lower section of rock that is from 6 to 20 feet and it runs horizontally to the left from TCR for a good distance, say 50-80 feet. Above this lower section were a few small trees we used as anchors for at least three (3) climbs we completed. First, closest to TCR was a chimney climb, pretty dirty, but fun....5.5. I would not say that TCR was more than 5.6. The next route to the left was a short shear vertical face with tiny finger holds which blasted my forearms as it slightly overhangs the entire way up. We all called it "LA Face" (5.7). Next, further to the left was a short, but fun dihedral, which I only ever heard called "The Diahedral" (5.5 or 5.6).
To the right (facing the cliff) from TCR, the cliff went away from the RR tracks and about 40-50 back in there is a place you can easily scramble up to reach the top of the cliff...you scramble up and to the right under an overhang. The overhang is another route with a small roof problem that I worked on for quite some time. You have to climb out to the edge of the root and then lunge above it to reach a small finger crack to complete it. I recall hanging with my hand jammed into that crack. Not sure what it would be rated. I think my brother completed it and I never did after getting nerve damage in my index finger. Moving on. Back to where you scramble up, just to the right of the scramble is a very short route called "The S Crack" which was probably 10-12 feet, really a bouldering problem. I know I have a photo of this one. The cliff goes on to the right for some distance... Feb 19, 2018

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David Engel
Santa Rosa, CA