The City of Rocks: Hot Town, Summer in the City, The granite is so niffty

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting burnt and gritty

The next line of the Lovin’ Spoonfuls’  song should go a little something like this

The rock is so niffty
How can I ever think of leavin’ the City

View of the Inner City. City of Rocks. Are you drooling yet? Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

At least that’s what was running through my head as I danced my way up the Classic Route on Lost Arrow loving the sheer exposure and sweet hold followed by sweet hold on perfect granite.  Mid-June, with no end of the Northwest rain in sight, my friend Teresa and I, and Maile the World’s Greatest Crag Dog, piled into Teresa’s car and drove until we out drove the clouds and rain.  It took 3 states. After 12 hours, 2 bags of m&ms, more tea and coffee than we can count and with Utah just in our sights we arrived at the legendary City of Rocks. It’s a virtual crag metropolis!

The City of Rocks is one of those magical places where the granite is perfect, the holds are sweet, the type of climbing varies as

Our awesome climbing crew. Myself, Teresa, Laurine, Aaron and Maile. Photo by Aaron.

much as women’s high heels, and there are more climbs than people. There are beautiful multi-pitch trad climbs with wicked exposure, awesome sport climbs with incredible views, crack climbs, face climbs, smooth rock, rock so coarse your hands bleed just gripping the rock, chimneys, clever stemming, there’s something for everyone.  There are good beginner climbs (though very few that can be top roped) and climbs for the most experienced climber (do you want eggs with that 5.13a this morning?). You could return to The City dozens and dozens of times and still not climb all the routes.  After months of rain and rain and more rain, Teresa and I were stoked to have found great climbing and sun! Maile was stoked for the Pika hunting, luckily they are quick and wiley. Pikas: 87, Maile: 0.

If you visit the City of Rocks MAKE RESERVATION IN ADVANCED! We went mid-week and the campground was still full.  Our secret tip for procuring a camp ground at the last minute is to go the day after it snows at the City of Rocks and buy a campsite from someone who is leaving.  We got lucky with the freak snowstorm. But in all seriousness, guidebooks advise reserving a camp spot no matter when you go and this is very good advise.

Outskirts of the City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

The campgrounds are scattered throughout The City.  There is no running water so bring LOTS, but there are outhouses and trash bins.  Also at Almo, there are a hot springs (you can shower in your swimsuit at the one shower at the hot springs) and a little restaurant/store which is also a great place to fill up large water containers.

The City of Rocks is so extensive and mammoth that a guide book is a must.  We felt like kids and candy shops with so many incredible climbs to drool over and far too few days.

Teresa, Maile the Wonder Dog and I pulled into the City around mid-day, grabbed our climbing gear and were at a crag faster than you can put up a pup-tent.  The beautiful rock was calling.  First up was Just Say No, a 5.9 sport route on Elephant Rock.  We connected with Aaron and Laurine, making for a great climbing crew.

Just Say No, Elephant Rock, 5.9 sport: For the lead, the start is a little hairy with the first bolt being a ways off the ground and the holds being sparse.  Got left up the large V-crack, there are good holds after that. Rap with two ropes or use a 70m rope. This a fun route.

Elphant Rock. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Just Say No, Elphant Rock. City of Rocks. Photo belongs to Genevieve Hathaway.

Then we headed to Parking Lot Rock to climb the 5.5 trad route Norma’s Book.

Norma’s Book, Parkinglot Rock, 5.5 trad: This crag is apply named since it’s located basically on top of a parking lot (or more like the parking lot is located practically on top of it).  Drive, dump gear, climb. Norma’s Book is a 1 pitch, 5.5 trad climb with bomber holds and fun moves.  The views from the top, like most City of Rocks climbs, are spectacular. The chains are located to the left of the route. This is a fun, fun route and a great trad route for beginning trad leaders.

Looking down Norma's Book, Parkinglot Rock. City of Rocks. Teresa's photo.

View from the top of Norma's Book. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Sunset over the City of Rocks is always spectacular. The beautiful colors and shows cast by all the monoliths add a whole new thing to marvel at while staying in The City.

Sunset over the City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Our first objective on our first full day was the Classic Route up Lost Arrow.  This is a unique rock structure with a wickedly fun, hanging rappel.  Lost Arrow is located in the Central or Inner City.

Classic Route, Lost Arrow, 5.7 trad: The Classic Route is a 2 pitch, 5.7 trad route up Lost Arrow.  On the 1st pitch, you climb along the ridge to begin the route, then stem up the chimney.  From there you go left, around the arete, up the exposed seam.  The belay is a hanging belay.  For the 2nd pitch, the route goes left, around an exposed corner, with a bit of a runout to the bolts at the top.  The views from the top of Lost Arrow are incredible.  You can see The City laid out before you stretching on and on as far as the eye can see.  The rappel is a fun, free-hanging rappel. For the rappel you need a double 60m rope.  This was one of my favorite routes at The City of Rocks.

Lost Arrow. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Us climber girls on the way to Lost Arrow. Aaron's photo.

Maile the Badass Crag Dog doing her badass crag dog thing. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

View from the top of Lost Arrow.  City of Rocks.  Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

View from the top of Lost Arrow. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Hanging rappel off of Lost Arrow. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

After Lost Arrow we headed back to Elephant Rock to climb one of my favorite routes with the best name, Pygmies Got Stoned, a 5.10a sport route.

The Pygmies Got Stoned, Elephant Rock, 5.10a sport: The Pygmies Got Stoned is a fun route; small but good holds and good friction moves. There are 8 bolts and then then chains. At the pinkish discoloration in the rock, stay right of the bolts and use the little cups, they are solid feet. This route wins best name for this City of Rocks trip.

Maile on Pike duty. Elephant Rock. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Teresa rocking the lead on Pygmies Got Stoned. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Teresa cruising the lead. Pygmies Got Stoned. Elephant Rock. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

After a fabulous day of climbing we headed to the hot springs to turn those sore muscles and fingers to mush.   Even after a hot day out in the City, the hot hot springs still felt great.  The hot springs consists of a large cool pool and a hot pool that’s as hot as a hot tub.  As mentioned earlier, there is also an outside shower here that you can use to shower with a swimsuit on.

Sun setting over the City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

We started the next day at one of my favorite routes at the City of Rock, Cruel Shoes.

Cruel Shoes, Stripe Rock, 5.7 sport: Teresa and I swapped leads on this sweet 3 pitch climb. 3 pitch climbs, lots and lots of bolts per pitch (bring lots of draws, 14),.  The 1st pitch is a little thin in the middle.  The 2nd pitch has bomber holds. 3rd pitch is a little run out, but not bad. If you rap Cruel Shoes you need two ropes; if you rap the 5.10c Poly-Stick-Em to the climber’s left of Cruel Shoes you only need one 60m rope, it’s 3 raps.  This was one of my favorite climbs at the City of Rocks.  It’s a long, fun route with interesting moves and great views of The City.

First pitch of Cruel Shoes. Stripe Rock. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Aaro rapping down Poly-Stick-Em, the route to the climber's left of Cruel Shoes. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Me leading the 2nd pitch of Cruel Shoes. City of Rocks. Laurine's photo.

3rd pitch of Cruel Shoes. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Poly-Stick-Em, Stripe Rock, 5.10c mixed trad and sport: You can top rope the first pitch of this climb, the 5.10c, if you rap this route from Cruel Shoes or Dike of Gastonia. Stay a little to the right of the bolts on this climb. The crux of the climb is lots of smearing just below the chains.

Laurine climbing Poly-Stick-Em. Stripe Rock. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Stripe Rock. You can see Cruel Shoes and Poly-Stick-Em in the middle of the crag. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

And then it was time to get our Tahitian on…

Bikini Candy, Tahitian Wall, 5.8 sport: 5.8 sport, 9 bolts + chains. Led this climb and it was a great lead!  The hardest move of the climb (unless you are a tall person), is the move off of the first bolt.  Put your left foot on the left knob, push up and go left (don’t follow the crack, it suckers you in, but it’s easier to stay left), there’s a bomber hand hold left over the rise, and place your right foot on a high knob just to the left of the crack.  There are lots of big jugs on this climb.  On the tin section stay right.  After the last bolt, move left to the chains.

Under lead climb under my belt. Bikini Candy, Tahitian Wall. City of Rocks. Photo belongs to Genevieve Hathaway.

Bikini Candy. Tahitian Wall. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Wonderbread, White Wall, 5.10a sport: 5.10a sport, a stout 5.10a.  The rock texture feels like sandpaper on your fingers.  It’s very sharp and painful to grip.   It’s a very different type of rock than what most of the City of Rocks is comprised of.

Fun boulder problem. Near the White Wall. City of Rocks. Photo belongs to Genevieve Hathaway.

For our last day of The City we finished our fabulous few days of climbing off right with a classic crag – Bloody Fingers.

A sign of a good climbing weekend. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

We teamed up with the Pikas and finally wore Ms. Maile out. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Twist and Crawl, Bloody Fingers, 5.8 mixed sport and trad: 5.8 mixed sport and trad, you’ll need two ropes for the rappel.  Another awesome route I led (Aaron was a rock star and placed the gear for me to clip). The 1st bolt is 25 feet from the ground, be careful getting to this first bolt.  Go left after the first few bolts, then right of the bolts.  For the crack we used 3 small TCUs.  There are chains at the top of the crack.

Twist and Crawl. Bloody Fingers. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

All smiles after a fabulous lead on Twist and Crawl. City of Rocks. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

New Toy, Bloody Fingers, 5.10b sport: 5.10b sport.  This route can be top roped from Twist and Crawl.  The climb has decent holds, but the route snakes around the rock.  The top gets pretty think.  Only a single rope rappel is needed for this route.

Adios City of Rocks, till next time...

After 3 days of climbing, our fingers were stiff and shredded, our legs and arms scrapped up, our brains spent, but our souls and hearts were singing from so many great climbs and great rock!  Your author’s vote is: Favorite climb – Cruel Shoes, Favorite crag – Lost Arrow, Favorite Name – The Pygmies Got Stoned, Favorite TR – The Pygmies Got Stoned, Coolest Rappel – Classic Route at Lost Arrow.  We were sad to leave the City.  Maile “Smiley Maile”  Badass Crag Dog was very sad to leave Pika-ville.  Both she and Teresa and I vowed to come back to the City of Rocks, sooner rather than later.  Though for very different reasons.  Maile had unfinished business with the quick and wiley Pikas and we had unfinished business with all the sweet crags and badass routes we have yet to climb in this vast rock metropolis.

City of Rocks, until next time….


~ by Genevieve Hathaway on August 7, 2010.

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