Member Trip Report

MEETINGS & ACTIVITIES    trip menu    search   calendar


Rock Garden, Colorado, Sport Climbing

June 13, 2003

Author:  Larry Earley

Trip Participants:  Larry Earley and Norbert Ensslin

The Rock Garden is located about 0.5 miles behind Penitente Canyon reached by a nice trail. It has the same type of rock as Penitente Canyon and there are almost 100 routes there most of which are bolted. Norbert and I drove up Thursday night and stayed in the Penitente BLM campground. We took the 20 minutes hike to the Rock Garden on Friday morning and had the whole area to ourselves for the day. There is a great warmup climb called Team Genital (5.6) with six bolts. It is a great climb. It is hard to find a 5.6 with thin face climbing with quality rock. It is a very low angle climb with the crux first move right at the bolt. We next moved over a few feet to try The Bottom Line (10b). This tricky climb has six bolts. The start is hard and the crux is between the first and third bolts. The climb is set on a left trending line of bolts on a face that leans left. You must climb up and traverse a step each move. It was THIN. Climbing was easier to the right of the bolt line. We then moved over to try FedEx (10a). This is another climb that does not go straight up but goes up and right. The moves were awkward but more positive than the Bottom Line. Norbert had a hard time with this one but I felt it was easy. Norbert missed a key foothold and had to use other smears which gave him quite a struggle. We looked at some 5.8 climb nearby but it was short and not too interesting.

We then moved across the canyon to look at Otto (5.9). It was ok but the start required one to climb up 4th class to a sloping ledge for the start. It had nice hueco climbing up three bolts to anchors. Maybe next time. Instead we went to another Norbert type THIN face climb. Ligneous Embracer (5.9) is a longer climb with nine bolts. Its a nice line. The crux is down low with hard clips too. It is technical so be ready. The start is harder than FedEx. This is a three star climb. Don't do this one if you are not a solid 9+ leader or are just not afraid like me. The second bolt clip is hard for shorter people too. I was told that previously some good LAM climbers backed off this start. After this one we took lunch. The Rock Garden is peaceful and has some strange rock formations. There are also some totally awesome 11s and 12s that will blow your mind. Blank faces with bolts and overhung blank faces with bolts. I wish someone would have been there to climb them but maybe no one can climb the 12s. There were about 30 different 12s most that were c and d. Also a couple of 13s.

After a break we tried Buffalo Chips (5.9). It is on a really odd shaped rock. The climb is ok but the rock at the bottom has several thin flakes ready to break off. The start is 5.7 and half way up the rock quality gets great and its 5.9. The top is quality but overall its only fair. Next to this one is Rock Mountain Oysters (5.10). The start is slightly overhanging with a crumbling flake. There were some rock pieces on the ground too. Half way up its nice quality face climbing to anchors. We hiked around a while looking at other routes. There is an easy 5.8 not in the guidebook near climbs 75-80 in Falcon guide Rock Climbing San Luis Valley. It looks ok but requires hiking in a lot of brush to start. We finished on a sandbag The Hanging Garden (10c). I stick clipped the first bolt which is 18 feet up. Norbert would try to lead this one. The crux was from bolt 1 to bolt 2. Thin climbing but steeper than the other 10s we tried. Also there was a slight lean to left at crux. It was definitely 10+ at crux. This 10c was much harder than several 10c climbs in Penitente Canyon. Norbert did well. The upper half of the climb is fantastic 10b/c climbing but watch out for the anchor. Norbert could pull one anchors bolt out with his fingers. He lowered to the next climbs anchor for the descent. I wisely did a toprope with both climbs anchors so I could get the quickdraws. The guide calls this one a great warmup climb. Well if you were moving on to the 5.12c/d ones right nearby I guess this one is a warmup.

For the hardmen out there I have a recommendation DOA (5.12d/13a). The guide calls this one the best climb in the canyon. The Rock Garden has several other moderate climbs and can provide 2 full days of climbing for solid 5.10 leaders.


Send your trip reports, comments, updates, and suggestions about this site to
Jan Studebaker

Website Design by Jemez Web Factory