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El Cap Original Route/ West Face 

YDS: 5.8+ French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c X

Type:  Trad, 1200', Grade IV
Original:  YDS: 5.8+ French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c X [details]
FA: Ray Garner, Herb Conn, Lee Pedrick. 5/29/1949
Page Views: 3,331
Submitted By: Kevin Kent on Dec 14, 2014

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Edit: After talking to a bunch more locals it became very clear to me only white people call this formation Agathla(n) (means piles of wool in Diné), so I'm going with what they call it: El Cap.

This is a very serious and dangerous climb.

I'll try to keep the description light to preserve some of the adventure. Climb up the dike on the west face consisting of extremely blocky and loose but dense basalt. Wind around following easiest path, but generally staying on the right side of the dike. Mostly easy movement punctuated with short sections that are steeper or looser and more intimidating. Good pro is hard to find because so much of the rock is loose. After a few pitches, gain a notch at the top right of the dike and enter the north bowl system. Unrope and scramble down and traverse to the next bowl and continue up talus bowl to the NE ridge. From there climb 5.6X for 300' to the summit (no register).
To get down reverse the ridge and bowls to a lower notch above the west face dike. 4 raps with one 70m rope will get you down. The rappels generally consist of pins from the FA supplemented with fixed nuts, newer pins, or the odd old bolt.

It's hard to break this climb down into a star, difficulty, or grade rating. Definitely a memorable experience though. Maybe it's not truly X but who knows. FA said 5.7. I've seen it called 5.9+/R+++

To keep this above board get approval from the locals who live at the base before climbing.

More info can be found in Green's Rock Climbing Arizona, Bjornstad's Desert Rock, and a nice feature article in the 1950 American Alpine Journal.


It isn't actually in Monument Valley; it's about 7 miles north of Kayenta or 15 miles south of MV. It looks like Shiprock's evil twin. The route starts at the obvious dike on the left side of the west face.


Double or single rack, small stuff is better. Lots of slings. Helmets. 70m rope. Small selection of pins and hammer could be nice for beefing up rappels or pounding old pins back in. Webbing.

Photos of El Cap Original Route/ West Face Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: El Cap at sunset, Owl rock shadow shown.
El Cap at sunset, Owl rock shadow shown.
Rock Climbing Photo: NE summit ridge is on left side of this photo
NE summit ridge is on left side of this photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Cool geology. Taken from notch at the top of the d...
Cool geology. Taken from notch at the top of the d...
Rock Climbing Photo: Half way up the dike
Half way up the dike
Rock Climbing Photo: Start of the route
Start of the route
Rock Climbing Photo: El Cap!

Comments on El Cap Original Route/ West Face Add Comment
Show which comments
By Noah McKelvin
From: Colorado Springs
Jan 9, 2015
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c X

Ah, about time Agathla graced Mountainprojects pages. Shiprocks evil twin, indeed. Maybe the better of the two imo. :) Nice work on the ascent guys. This one never see's much action. Definitely an accomplishment just to survive this thing. haha! So classic. I put that handwritten topo somewhere. Maybe I'll post it one of these days. But probably not. This thing is all about adventure and nothing else. RAD summit.
By Paul Davidson
Jan 15, 2015

I recall Mike Lawson telling me about pulling off a huge car sized block on this thing back in the early '80s....
It's a gorgeous peak.

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