Originally my friend, John Langston, and I were planning to climb Devils Tower in the fall of 2002, but when the weather forecast started turning funky, we began looking around for alternatives. The forecast for Grand Junction, Colorado, on the western side of the Rocky Mountains, looked a lot better, and since we had never climbed in Unaweep Canyon, we hit the road. Unaweep turned out to be just what we were looking for too: multi-pitch granite crack and off-width climbing, and no crowds. Although a good part of the canyon is privately owned, the Access fund obtained ownership of the Sunday, Fortress, & Hidden Valley Walls in the early 1990's. As we turned around at the southwest end of the canyon after our initial drive through, I stopped to get this shot looking out at Utah's La Sal Mountains.
We spent our first day climbing on the Sunday Wall. It has the longest routes of the three walls, and it's the first wall you come to on the approach trail. This picture, actually taken October 6th, 2007, shows the east side of Sunday Wall, with Hidden Valley Wall visible on the right. The Fortress Wall is back out of view between Sunday and Hidden Valley.
While we enjoyed the Sunday Wall, we were more impressed the second day climbing the Fortress Wall. We started with a two pitch climb called Nimbasus (5.10a). Pitch one was soon to be forgotten, but pitch two involved climbing a beautiful hand crack, starting out from under a roof. Our 2nd climb on the day was Renaissance (5.10d). John was leading, so he had the privilege of choosing the route. As we looked it over, I commented, "You'll take a fall on this one." That's all it took; he geared up and climbed it without a slip. He did it just because I said he couldn't - what a dick!
This shot shows the obvious identifying overhang of Renaissance, but what you can't see very well, above and left of the overhang, is one of the best, and thankfully short, 5.10 off-widths I've been on. Normally, I would consider an off-width of this difficulty something to have nightmares over, but I really had fun with this one.
John's casual traverse left under the overhang impressed me, and as it turned out, I was the one who took the fall.
In October of 2007, Suzy and I were visiting family in the area. The weather was poor, with a front moving through, but we got out anyway to scout out a few routes and get some pictures. This shot was taken from the base of the Sunday Wall, looking across at the beautiful fall colors on the southeast side of the canyon.
The Driggs Mansion ruins, further down the canyon, has a puzzling history. Apparently, the Driggs camped four years on the property, from 1914 to 1918, while the mansion was being built, but upon completion, lived inside for only a few weeks before leaving.
Note: The climbing guide book "Grand Junction Rock" was published in 1992, but to the best of my knowledge, no updates or additional publications on climbing in the Unaweep Canyon have been printed since. Curiously, even online sources only seem to duplicate the info provided in the out-dated and out-of-print guide book, with almost no additional routes listed.
Grand Junction Rock: Rock Climbs of Unaweep Canyon and Adjacent Areas
Rocky Climbing Colorado