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El Rito Traditional Area

Routes Sorted
L to R R to L Alpha
Big "E", The T 
Bring Me a Bucket T,S 
Cave Woman T 
Chile Verde T 
Commie Pinkos T 
El Faralito T 
Gnarly T 
Guillotine T 
Juniper Direct T 
Juniper Overhang T 
Packrat Dihedral T 
Pedernal Cracks T 
Refritos T 
Senile Superhero T 
Shiitake T 
Shoes for Industry T 
Swollen T 
Techo al Derecho T 
Weapons of Mass Construction T 

El Rito Traditional Area Rock Climbing 

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Location: 36.4158, -106.1975 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 15,002
Administrators: Aaron Hobson, Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Anthony Stout on Jan 20, 2006  with updates from Bill Lawry
You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
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Cody, Rachael and myself after completing Packrat ...


Continuing up the road from the sport climbing area, is a “100m high monolithic cliff that provides a good setting for traditional (gear-protected) climbing. Its attributes include: lack of crowding, good access, interesting and solid rock, generally good protection, and that very rare commodity: high quality climbs at moderate difficulty levels. This is the perfect spot for a beginning climber to learn multi-pitch technique, with plenty of exposure to motivate mastering the art of placing protection. These are the "El Rito Trad" cliffs.” (text copied from Gary Clark's online guide: )

See Gary Clark's online PDF guide for route details and an excellent topo.

Getting There 

At the NE end of El Rito, Highway 554 makes a 90 degree turn, turning SW or SE depending on your direction of travel. Forest Service 44 (FR44) continues off the pavement to the NE at this point. Zero your odometer and head up FR44.

Mile 1.2: Ignore the left turn onto FR248. Stay right.

Mile 3.7: Keep going straight on FR44, ignoring the left turn onto FR44A. At this junction is a parking area and some primitive camping near the trail head for the El Rito Sport Area. Keep going straight on FR44.

Mile 4.3: Drop down to the left road - FR44B, which is significantly less substantial and probably unmarked. After this, you will likely appreciate having high clearance and maybe four-wheel drive. Even so, with dry conditions and care, front-wheel drive vehicles with some clearance can typically drive FR44B.

In wet conditions or without a high-clearance vehicle, park as soon as practical on FR44B and hike the remaining ~1 mile of the road.

Mile 5.2: Do not pass a gate indicating private property. Instead, head right and up into a hilly "parking lot" ~20 yards before the gate. Ignore any initial fire ring and look for the fire ring on the more distant end the parking area. From that fire ring, the trad wall is roughly a quarter mile up a pretty good trail towards the SE.

Climbing Season

Weather station 5.7 miles from here

19 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',0],['3 Stars',7],['2 Stars',10],['1 Star',2],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in El Rito Traditional Area

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for El Rito Traditional Area:
Cave Woman   5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a     Trad, 1 pitch, 85'   
Gnarly   5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a     Trad, 2 pitches   
Packrat Dihedral   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, 2 pitches, 300'   
The Big "E"   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 2 pitches, 150'   
Senile Superhero   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 3 pitches, 330'   
Swollen   5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 130'   
Juniper Overhang   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 2 pitches, 300'   
Bring Me a Bucket   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Sport, 2 pitches, 300'   
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in El Rito Traditional Area

Featured Route For El Rito Traditional Area
Rock Climbing Photo: Moving into the optional-but-worth-it smooth rock ...

Packrat Dihedral 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b  New Mexico : El Rito : El Rito Traditional Area
P1: Follow the obvious dihedral on the right hand side of the cliff up to a bolted belay anchor under the right hand side of the large roof.P2: Turn the roof on the right and continue straight up to the top. Excellent....[more]   Browse More Classics in New Mexico

Photos of El Rito Traditional Area Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: El Rito Trad overview from Gary Clark's PDF guide ...
BETA PHOTO: El Rito Trad overview from Gary Clark's PDF guide ...
Rock Climbing Photo: A view of the El Rito trad area from a high point ...
A view of the El Rito trad area from a high point ...
Rock Climbing Photo: The broken gully/descent route on the left side of...
The broken gully/descent route on the left side of...
Rock Climbing Photo: The right side of the trad area.
The right side of the trad area.
Rock Climbing Photo: A (very obscured) view of the center part of the t...
A (very obscured) view of the center part of the t...

Comments on El Rito Traditional Area Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Feb 27, 2017
By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Jun 25, 2007
Gary Clark's excellent online guide to the El Rito Trad area has moved to a new location within the Los Alamos Mountaineers website. Enjoy!
By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Aug 6, 2007
Hey Brett...I always considered the rating system on MP to be a relative intra-area rating system. Indeed likening "Packrat Dihedral" to "Crest Jewel" is not something anyone would do. But as far as the El Rito Trad area goes, "Packrat Dihedral" is the gold standard there. Do you really believe it's deserving of only one star (have you climbed it?) or did you just rate it that way to bring it down from four stars. If the the latter is your answer, that's pretty silly.

And, to be fair, maybe I've have a misconception of the rating system and, in fact, we should be comparing the quality of routes between El Rito conglomerate and Yosemite granite.
By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Aug 6, 2007
A nice reply, Brett, thanks. I understand and see where you're coming from. And I do know that old saying about "assuming". Damn. :-)
By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
Aug 6, 2007

This topic has been debated (look in the forum in the MP-related issues section). However, there isn't a really clear consensus. Some judge routes relative to an area, some relative to the known universe. IMO, the problem with judging routes relative to the known universe is that its pretty impossible to know what a 4 star route is, relative to all routes in the universe, unless you've climbed all or many of the routes in the universe. In reality, everyone's universe is unique to them. Someone who has climbed 10 routes has much less experience than someone who has climbed 10,000. How many routes does one have to climb to be an authority on the value of 4 stars?

From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, it seems the only logical system is relative to each person and each area.

On the other hand, difficulty ratings are supposed to be absolute, so I guess quality ratings could go the same way, but only if you had an open-ended scale like we use for difficulty.
By Mark Mathis
Aug 6, 2007
Indeed, my quality ratings are intended to be taken in the context of the general region the climb is in. This was not my original assumption, but rather what I have gleaned from reading mountain project and in discussions with other users. For example, by rating the two climbs here with four stars as I did, I mean to suggest simply that they are among the best, for their grade, in this area. I don't assume that P2 of "Packrat Dihedral" is exactly "High Exposure", but it is certainly fun and, at least to me, exemplifies all that is good about climbing. The same can be said for any route I have rated as such.
By Mark Mathis
Aug 6, 2007
A more general perspective would be to say that the quality ratings are based on one's own experience. However, the beauty of this forum (or at least one appealing aspect of it) is that it aggregates the quality ratings (and the difficulty ratings, but those seem to be more objective). This feature makes it possible to come to a consensus on the quality of a route that is quite independent of any one person's subjective opinion. So, I would encourage you, who has necessarily much different experience than I have, to give the routes whatever rating you feel is appropriate. This will help the rocks to speak for themselves, so to speak.
By Anthony Stout
From: Albuquerque, NM
Aug 7, 2007
This is a great conversation. Both of you have made great points and I have enjoyed reading your opinions. One thing that comes to my mind, however, is that if you are giving star ratings based on all the routes in the world or all the routes that you have climbed, the vast majority of the routes in New Mexico would be no more than one or two stars. Because of this, the star ratings I give have always been based on each individual area.
By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Aug 7, 2007
Awesome words, everyone.

Taking George's line, "when I have only a few days to spend in a place like Eldo with lots and lots of routes, I'm only going to climb the most highly touted climbs in the area", this is the reasoning why I've always considered the star rating system here on MP to be intra-area--If I was from out of town and headed to the El Rito trad area for a day or two, I'd want to climb the best there. So my hope would be someone here on MP had rated the best climbs at El Rito trad area as "great" (3 stars) or "classic" (4 stars). I'd look for those routes and aim to climb those on my trip.

Sure, we could all just post a comment on the route's MP page saying, "this is the best route at El Rito trad" but if the El Rito Trad page at MP had tons of routes added to it, digging through all the route comments to find that comment would be tough. (El Rito Trad is a bad example here because there are only 15+ routes there but at places like Eldo, digging through all the MP route pages for the good comments would be a chore!)

Anyway, this has been a great discussion thus far. Thanks. (And, Brett, I apologize if I came off like an a-hole in my first response to you. I didn't mean that and consider myself a non-a-hole kinda person.)
By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
Aug 7, 2007
I agree totally with Tony's sentiment. This site would be far less useful if the routes in NM were quality rated relative to all crags in the world. A crag like the Tunnel would have all 1 or zero star routes with maybe a few exceptions. Of course, this would be useful in the sense that it would help out-of-towners avoid a marginal crag like the Tunnel, but for those of us with no other choice except to climb at the Tunnel, it would be pretty difficult to judge the best routes from the worst if they all got 1 star.

One potential solution that has been used in guidebooks is to give each crag a quality rating. So Eldo would be a 4 star crag, and Palomas would be a one star crag. You could reasonably predict that a 2 star route at Eldo will likely be better than a 3 star route at Palomas. However, I've experimented with making suggestions for improvement to the aristocracy, and I usually get the "USA: love it or leave it" argument. Touche!

As far as personal experience, what I like to do occasionally is look at the climbing experience of some of the folks that have posted rave reviews. If I see that RaDcL!mbr5.16j has given a route 4 stars, I will check out his/her profile and see if they've rated any routes I've done. If I discover that they found every route in Socorro to be 4-stars, I'll probably take their opinions with a grain of salt.

I agree as well that most people award far more 3 and 4 star ratings than 1 and 2 star ratings. I think some of this has to do with people's psychological outlook. I really like climbing, so its rare that I will not like a route even if its mediocre. And the sort of uber-climbing-nerds that spend hours debating topics like this on the internet are generally very enthusiastic. If my girlfriend took the time to rate routes, there would be a plethora of bombs in NM! But mostly I think the imbalance is due to the fact that most people seek out and climb the best routes. You can't (shouldn't?) rate a route you haven't done, and most folks don't go out of their way to do a route that looks and sounds like crap.
By Anthony Stout
From: Albuquerque, NM
Aug 8, 2007
My intention was not to sell NM climbing short. I certainly enjoy the climbing here and always look forward to more. I agree that there are some world class climbs around here. Enchanted tower and Questa are two named examples. However, I still think that if I had to compare my personal experiences in world class areas to the majority of climbs here in NM (and you are correct in suggesting even many places outside of New Mexico), most would be 1-2 stars. For example, trying to compare the Sandias with what I have climbed in the Wasatch Mountains, Yosemite, or Squamish; or El Rito to Maple; or Mentmore sandstone to Red Rocks, the new river gorge, or Indian Creek; or the basalt cracks around Los Alamos to those in Paradise Forks or the gorge at Smith Rock. You get my point. Those places would be where all my stars would go!

So, as monomaniac stated, making quality ratings relative to everywhere else seems to make them less useful. It also gives good credibility to the idea of giving quality ratings to each area. I will suggest that on the administrator forum. Not sure if it has already been suggested, but I will see what happens!

Those are just my thoughts,

By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
Aug 8, 2007
'monomaniac' wrote:
I've experimented with making suggestions for improvement to the aristocracy....

It's not that your suggestions aren't good or aren't heard...!

It's that I haven't had any time in the past year to work on the site. And the time I do have is lost to administrative duties (managing user accounts and pissing matches in the Wasatch ;) Hopefully this winter I'll find some time to go through the looooong list of improvements/suggestions/bugs and get 'em done. A number of other projects are wrapping up this fall, which should buy me some time.

Look at the bright side - the site doesn't crash :)
By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
Aug 8, 2007
Sorry Andy, didn,t mean to offend. I truly appreciate the quality and quantity of content on this site. If it weren't for this site, I would have to do work when I'm at my desk.
By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
Aug 8, 2007
Tony wrote:

"My intention was not to sell NM climbing short"

Good to hear. NM climbing is short enough already!
By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Aug 9, 2007
Monomaniac said: "If it weren't for this site, I would have to do work when I'm at my desk."

I know! That would suck. :-)
By drusch
Mar 24, 2008
Supplemental directions: To get to the trad area travel north on FR 44. At the intersection for road 248 stay to the right (the sign for 248 was in the middle of the fork and unclear which road was 248 and which was FR 44). Continue on FR44, you will pass spur road 44A on the left. Go about .6 miles further and you will come to an unmarked road on the left. This is the road to the trad area. Take this left and drive about a mile until you get to the gate mentioned in the guide book and park on the right (obvious parking area). Look for the fire ring on the southeast corner of the parking area and follow the cairns to the wall. The trad wall is east and south of the fire ring.
By Eddy Daly
From: Albuquerque, NM
Apr 15, 2009
Wow! A lot of talk about ratings and not alot about El Rito! I want to note that the road is NASTY in the mud. We were up there on Easter, in the snow, and the road was a mudbog! Any precip and you'd better have a good 4-wheeler for the entire road and clearance once you head up 44B.
Go wild,
By Terry Price
From: Mancos CO
Jun 16, 2009
Visited El Rito trad area for first time June 2009. Climbed Packrat Diedral and Chile Verde. This small and isolated crag combines solid and unique rock, at a moderate grade, friendly to the leader, in a way unlike any area I've previously experienced. Camped overnight at the base within a 3 minute walk of the crag and had the place to ourselves. All climbers simply must eat at the Mexican food restaurant in El Rito. If you forget to do so when you are there, I shall taunt you with memories of its wonderfulness when we meet in heaven. (I don't believe in heaven except on earth, so I am being overly dramatic simply for effect.)
By Jeremy Bauman
From: Lakewood, CO
Jul 21, 2009
Me and my partner climbed (I think) The Big E then Weapons of Mass Construction. We opted to simul-rap with two ropes from the anchors atop Juniper Overhang. On the way down We scoured the wall for the other rap anchors but could not find them anywhere. So we continued down directly below Juniper Overhang anchors till we reached a small ledge with two small trees aprox 30-40ft off the deck. We then pulled the rope and traversed climbers left and down some easy 5class scrambling. I would reccomend this option to anyone who is confident in their down climbing skills and wants to save some time assuming you can find the second rap station.
By Brett Kettering
Oct 4, 2014
A week ago while taking a new climber up Commie Pinkos I watched a T-Storm approach. Fortunately it broke-up before arriving and we finished the climb. It got me to thinking about putting a bolted hanger with a rappel ring up at the pitch 1 belay spots for Commie Pinkos and Gnarly so that if people need to bail they can do so without leaving any gear. Most of the other climbs have bolted belay stations.

I have communicated with Gary Clark, who established El Rito Trad. He said he doesn't feel like he should say since he's now in OR and not likely to ever climb there again. He suggested consulting with others who frequent the area. So, I'm consulting with you via this forum.

I'm glad to donate the hardware and do the work. I paint my gear so it doesn't stand out. I'm wondering if it would be confusing to people to see just one bolted hanger at each location, as they aren't intended to replace building your own multi-point belay station, but just be there in case you need to bail. I could put two bolted hangers at each location and people could choose to use them as a belay station or build their own.

Your thoughts and input?

By Bill Lawry
From: New Mexico
Dec 21, 2014
T-Storm approach ... got me to thinking about putting a bolted hanger with a rappel ring up at the pitch 1 belay spots for Commie Pinkos and Gnarly so that if people need to bail they can do so without leaving any gear. Your thoughts and input?


I am not a "local" climber but often make a pilgrimage to the area in late spring / early summer. In general, the cliff at the traditional area already offers a low-commitment introduction to multi-pitch. The routes are about as short of a multi-pitch experience as one can get (i.e., 2 pitches, sometimes 3), and the standard "descent" is non-technical (i.e., a walk off).

So the beginner leader already can stretch his/her wings with very little commitment without adding more bolts. Just be prepared to hang out at a belay ledge if caught by surprise by rain. For worse, a party can escape most belay ledges by rapping on a fixed single-strand rope. Recovering bail gear / rope later is a good exercise in itself. And / or one can learn to minimize commitment level in other ways when prudent. All these are good exposure for a beginner multi-pitch leader.

My vote is to not add more bolts.

Given that this area is well developed, many with an interest will not see this page for a while. Consider sending your suggestion directly to the Los Alamos Mountaineers who have been quite active in this area in the past (

Gary Clark's guide indiates P1 of one of those routes is 40 meters. If it is that long, one may not be able to reach the ground in one rap and pull the rope, even with a 70 meter rope.
By Ken Hamel
From: Bristol, RI
Aug 26, 2015
Just a general question.
Have never been to this area before, but the ratings seem within my ability(as ambiguous as ratings can be) : )

I did see mention of "High Exposure" in one of the comments. I just did that route at the Gunks this past weekend and found it relatively easy and certainly a lot of fun! Just for a comparison, what route might you compare to High E, loosely based on level of difficulty? Is that even a relevant question?

Thanks! Ken
By George Perkins
From: The Dungeon, NM
Aug 26, 2015
There are no climbs of that quality and steepness here.
By Ken Hamel
From: Bristol, RI
Feb 27, 2017
Visited El Rito(2nd time) on Tues. 2/21...the last 1/2? mile or so, was particularly challenging, even though I had a Jeep Compass. The combination of snow(melting/soft) and mud was something to navigate. Didn't want to damage the vehicle or the road, so took my time, but made it for some climbing. Going out was a little easier, but still required calculating and patience. Beautiful day though!!!

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