OURAY – With the complex geology of the region, rock in Ouray County is typically crumbly and unpredictable – not something normally associated with good rock climbing. Locally referred to as “San Juan choss,” the region’s rock rarely inspires anyone to want to climb on it. Nevertheless, local climbers with adventurous spirits have found some quality rock amidst the rubble. Locals Mike Farris, “Doc Joe” Alaimo and I headed out to check out one of the new walls recently. Here’s what we found.
One of the most accessible new climbing areas is right behind the ice-skating rink just north of Ouray. This new crag offers a range of climbs from easy to difficult. It’s a great spot for groups of varied abilities, families or kids’ groups. It has the easiest access possible – you park right at the base of the climbs. Climbing starts on a recently graded and wood-chipped user-friendly area, courtesy of the City Parks Maintenance Crew. It even has a public restroom right there.
Climbs on the cliff vary from the easier 5.4 level to the hard 5.11 overhanging routes. All routes are bolted with fixed anchors at the top. The rock is partially metamorphosed sandstone, so routes have varying rock quality. Some holds are sandy and ledges contain a fair amount of loose rock. For that reason, helmets are strongly recommended, and care should be taken to stay back from the base while climbers are ascending.
Starting from left to right, here are the climbs we checked out:
Dangling Participle, 5.9+: This route (farthest left on the wall) takes an imposing looking line up to a smooth face. The hardest moves are up high in the smoother rock. Think feet!
Dipthong, 5.8: Start just below the obvious bulge on the left side of the wall. Climb up and right around the bulge, with the hardest moves a few feet off the ground.
Dipthing, 5.7: just to the right of the previous, climb up past four bolts to the anchor. Watch for loose rocks.
Sesame Street, 5.4: The easiest climb on the wall, starts on ledgy rock and climbs past three bolts to the anchor. Great for kids!
Tepid Hummus, 5.6: Just to the right of the previous route, this climb starts at a fixed piton painted yellow and climbs past four more bolts to the anchor.
Further right on the cliff you’ll find the latest creations by local climbers, a selection of hard routes from 5.10 to 5.11, some of which were established in recent weeks. Thanks, guys, for all your hard work!
For more information visit: www.mountainproject.com/v/colorado/ouray_vicinity_rock/ouray_rotary_parkrink_wall/ or contact San Juan Mountain Guides in Ouray at 970/325-4925 (www.ourayclimbing.com/) for gear rental or guide service.