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City of Rocks & Castle Rocks

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June, 2005, Suzy and I finally made it over to City of Rocks, Idaho, as part of an early summer one week road trip. Unfortunately, a wet cold front came in the same day we did, so acceptable climbing weather was somewhat limited; however, we all know that even a bad day climbing, is better than a good day working. The shot below, looking north-northeast, is a pieced together panorama taken from the top of the Lower Breadloaves - Provo Wall.

Pieced together panorama shot of City of Rocks, taken from the top of the Lower Breadloaves - Provo Wall

Late in the afternoon at the end of a good day, we stopped at the Bath Rock parking area to get this shot looking north-northwest toward the Parkinglot Rock area: the area we're going to hit on our next trip.

City of Rocks - Parkinglot Rock area, as seen from the Bath Rock parking area

Wheat Thin (5.7), left, on Elephant Rock - North, was probably one of the most popular climbs we saw at City of Rocks. Even with a fair amount of exposure to the cold winds we had to cope with, this climb was never idle for too long.

While this was nowhere near as popular as Wheat Thin, Tripple Roofs, right, located on the Lower Breadloaves - Provo Wall, was one of the most challenging and sustained 5.7's we could remember. Although, a big part of the fun was just finding enough good protection without creating a lot of rope drag.

I found the granite crystals at City of Rocks to be more brittle and crumbly than I'm used to, so we climbed conservatively for most of the trip while I experimented with gear placement. I ended up depending heavily on Camalots in just about every crack, Aliens felt good in the scary shallow cracks, and Ballnuts set well in the tiny better-than-nothing cracks. Walking was a big problem with some of the cams, and since I was already spooked about the crumbly quality of the granite, I found it hard committing in the crux sections. By the end of the trip though, my protection tension easy up, and I started enjoying the climbs a lot more.

Climber on Wheat Thin, Elephant Rock, City of Rocks, Idaho Route view of Tripple Roofs, Lower Breadloaves - Provo Wall, City of Rocks, Idaho

With the weekend crowds rolling in Friday night, we really didn't want to spend our last day before heading home looking for free routes, so we took the 20 or so minute drive from City of Rocks over to check out Castle Rocks: an area that just opened up to the public in the last couple years. There's a fee to park at the Castle Rocks trailhead, and a moderate hike in, but we had completely escaped the crowds.

After finding my 3rd tick of the week, the 1st on my balls  :(  at Devils Tower in Wyoming, we geared up at the Crack House crag. We had heard that when Castle Rocks opened up, the First Ascents were done in some sort of half organized mad rush. The climbing grades looked reasonable from the ground, but with friction so damn positive and good holds everywhere, the ratings at the Crack House seems quite soft in comparison to some of the routes at City of Rocks, put up back in the 60's.

This shot of Castle Rocks was taken from the road east of City of Rocks early in the morning, about a mile or two from Almo.

Distant view of Castle Rocks, Idaho

This cool purple sunset, positioned behind Upper and Lower Breadloaves, was taken in June of 2007, from just west of the Bath Rock parking area.

Sunset behind Upper and Lower Breadloaves, City of Rocks, Idaho

On our August, 2009, vacation, Suzy and I, once again, came back to City of Rocks for 5 days of climbing. We camped just west of the Parking Lot Rock area and after setting up camp Sunday evening, we sat around after dinner checking out the area routes and climbers with our bonoculars. We were amazed at the never ending train of climbers on the classic route, Skyline, on Morning Glory Spire - right up through sunset. With beer in hand, I walked 50 yards up the road, away from the trees, for this shot showing climbers on Skyline (left) and Fall Line. Fortunately, after the weekend, things quieted down, and we practically had the whole place to ourselves.

West side of Morning Glory Spire, in the Parking Lot Rock area, as seen from the road

Area Guide Books

City of Rocks Idaho: A Climber's Guide

City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho, Vol. 15

Rock Climbing Idaho's City of Rocks (FalconGuide)
- Out-of-Print

Click for Almo, Idaho Forecast