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El Malpais

Routes Sorted
L to R R to L Alpha
1096 T 
A Moment's Respite T 
Breech Baby T 
Crack of Heraclitus T 
Easy Come, Easy Go T 
Icebreaker T 
Mt. Cosmic Debris T 
Mushroom, The T 
New Frontier T 
Overdrive T 
Rotten Peach T 
Screaming Yellow Yum-Yums T 
Strensuous Curve T 
Surfin' the Turf T 
Sword of Cimmeria T 
Trudy Buns T,S 
Unknown V2 
Unknown V3 
Unknown V5 
Unsorted Routes:

El Malpais Rock Climbing 

Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Elevation: 7,200'
Location: 34.8721, -107.8868 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 7,678
Administrators: Aaron Hobson, Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: David Baltz on Nov 9, 2009
You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
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BETA PHOTO: page one of Malpais feature from December 1976 - D...


The El Malpais climbing area extends for twelve miles along Hwy 117 on the easern edge of the lower Grants lava flow from which the name was taken. The climbing is on soft sandstone and is comparable in quality to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The area was first explored, starting in the Fall of 1975, by David Dahrling and David Baltz who had established thirteen moderate trad routes by December of 1976. Further action in the late '70s by Paul Horak, Mark Dalen, Charlie Ware led to additional routes, as well as visits by such out-of-state luminaries as Andrew Embick, and Earl Wiggins. Because of the intimidating nature of many of the lines, the area has seen very limited development since, in spite of the enormous potential. The vast majority of the established routes are crack climbs, entirely unlike the uniform cracks of the Indian Creek variety, but of a more varied and technical nature. Due to the soft rock, bolts and other fixed protection are rarely encountered, but nuts and cams work well. There is also excellent bouldering, the approaches are short--at most fifteen minutes from the car--and the climbing season runs from February through November.

One note about local ethics:
The Malpais has traditionally been a 'ground up' area. What few bolts and fixed pins that exist were placed on the lead. Due to the soft nature of the rock, the wilderness area partially covering the major walls, and Acoma reservation, sport routes are strongly discouraged.

Getting There 

Drive west on Interstate-40 from Albuquerque to the Hwy 117 exit four miles short of Grants. Drive south on Hwy 117 for 4 miles until past the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook turnoff. The first few miles are part of the Acoma Reservation and marked 'No Trespassing' even though much of the area is public land (National Monument and designated wilderness). As one approached the largest natural arch in the state, a sign will mark the beginning of unrestricted climbing.

Climbing Season

For the All Locations area.

Weather station 19.2 miles from here

19 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',2],['3 Stars',5],['2 Stars',11],['1 Star',1],['Bomb',0]

Featured Route For El Malpais
Rock Climbing Photo: Approaching the Crack of Heraclitus from the north...

Crack of Heraclitus 5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a New Mexico : New Mexico, I-40 Corridor : El Malpais
(1) Begin on the face to the right of the crack and traverse into the dihedral at the 6-ft level (5.12-). Once established in the dihedral, have the rack & rope thrown up to you. Sustained climbing leads up a hand crack to an alcove below a roof (5.10b). Belay off a 5" cam or tube chock. (2) Stem and jam out the roof and make hard moves to gain the dihedral above (5.10c) then continue up the moderate but large crack to the back of a cave and an uncomfortable belay below a huge roof. (3) Trav...[more]   Browse More Classics in New Mexico

Photos of El Malpais Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: page three of Malpais feature from December 1976 -...
BETA PHOTO: page three of Malpais feature from December 1976 -...
Rock Climbing Photo: page two of Malpais feature from December 1976 - D...
BETA PHOTO: page two of Malpais feature from December 1976 - D...
Rock Climbing Photo: "1096" -one of the areas 5.11s follows t...
"1096" -one of the areas 5.11s follows t...
Rock Climbing Photo: Malpais basalt between La Vieja & the hiway - 15 f...
BETA PHOTO: Malpais basalt between La Vieja & the hiway - 15 f...
Rock Climbing Photo: Epitaph Corner
Epitaph Corner
Rock Climbing Photo: La Vieja (aka Mt Cosmic Debris)
La Vieja (aka Mt Cosmic Debris)
Rock Climbing Photo: Overdrive, 1st pitch
Overdrive, 1st pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: Strensuous Curve
Strensuous Curve
Rock Climbing Photo: Surfin' the Turf area
Surfin' the Turf area
Rock Climbing Photo: Easy approaches are the norm.
Easy approaches are the norm.
Rock Climbing Photo: Major climbs and areas
Major climbs and areas

Comments on El Malpais Add Comment
Show which comments
By Karl Kiser
Apr 3, 2008
The New Mexico Climber, a newsletter produced by Mark Dalen between at least 1976-79, shows many routes in the Malpais (at least 20). The climbs are on the cliffs 12 miles south of I-40 for several miles.

Early FAs were by Dave Baltz, Dave Dahrling, Paul Horak, Mark Dalen, Charles Ware, Steven Cheney, Davey Hammack, Rick Maleski and Merle Wheeler.
By Will G
From: Branford, Ct
Mar 1, 2010
Is there any good info on bouldeing in the area? Thanks.

By William Penner
From: The 505
Mar 1, 2010
Lots of very soft sandstone all around, but the best stuff we ever found was at the picnic area on the south end of the Narrows and just opposite that on the other side of the highway. The Dakota caprock comes close to the ground here and provides some fairly enjoyable climbing. This would never be a destination area though, even for those who enjoy obscurity.

There are tons of canyons to the south and east that might be worth checking out for more Dakota.

Good luck,

By Charles Vernon
From: Tucson, AZ
Jul 1, 2010
Hi, do any of you New Mexicans know anything about camping possibilities on the national forest land west of El Malpais N.M.? I.e., how's the accessibility (we'd be arriving pretty late), is it sketchy, etc? We're just looking for a place to crash quickly on the way to Albuquerque.
By Roberto
From: La Jolla, CA
Aug 3, 2010
My wife and i found a few boulder problems that might have been FAs, but we are not sure. Can someone let us know if these have been climbed before of not. i will update the routes.

Thank you,

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