Having spent the summer season in Canada and climbed several classic routes in Banff National park and the Bugaboos, some mellow rock climbing in the sun sounded pretty good. After waiting for the rain to stop in Canmore for more than a week at the end of the season, we leave the Rockies on August 25 - direction: City of Rocks. It seems like summer ended abruptly five days ago (as we were to find out later, it really did). Temperatures suddenly dropped on August 20 and it's been raining on and off in the five days since (and snowing on the high peaks). We think the season is over. We've lost hope that the North Face ice routes will get back in shape before the winter: after weeks of warm weather and severe rock fall, they are now receiving large amounts of snow and are starting to avalanche... too bad. Cannot really complain though, as we enjoyed exceptional conditions on the long alpine rock routes.
After a stop in Helena (Montana) to change the rear tires on the bus (ouch!), we continue south to Idaho Falls and make it to City of Rocks on August 27. This place is really in the boons! Beautiful area for sure. Really looks like a city of rocks: surprizing concentration of granite spires in an unlikely spot. Not sure about the climbing though. Quite reminiscent of Joshua Tree, or maybe also Tres Piedras, one of the local crags in northern NM. The spires are mostly small, so we're not sure we're so inspired.
We look around for a camp site (the place is packed for the weekend) and we finally find one available at the very end of the park (last site, #77). It's dark so we cannot see much but it seems like a good site, with extensive views to the valley to the Northwest.
Waking up the next day, we realize our campsite is downright gorgeous: quite isolated on a small shelf at a col, with incredible views. The place feels good. Weather is gorgeous: not a cloud in the sky. It's getting warmer by the day. Expecting hot temperatures by mid-week. Just amazing. Feels good to be back in the southwest. I think we've really grown to love the desert...
We spend the next couple of weeks climbing at the City. Below are our very subjective recommendations... You'll find lots of easy trad lines. The 5.9 to 5.10 moderate lines are somewhat lacking though. We also enjoyed a couple of bolted lines, even though we did not find too many in the 5.10 to easy 5.11 range.
Our subjective recommendations:
Favorite trad lines: "Skyline" (5.8) on Early Morning Glory Spire, "Batwings" (5.8) and "Tow Away Zone" (10a) on Parking Lot Rock, "Wheat thin" (5.7), "Rye Crisp" (5.8) and "Private Idaho" (5.9) on Elephant Rock, "Fred Rasmussen" (5.8) on the Shen, "Intruding Dike' (5.7), "Carol's Crack" (5.8) and Adolescent Homosapien" (5.8) on Upper Breadloaves, "Bloody Fingers" (10a) on Super Hits, "Another Jay Goodwin Route" (10c) on Decadent Wall
Really mellow multi-pitch bolted lines that might just give you the confidence you need to lead harder trad lines: "Raindance", a two pitch 5.7 bolted climb. Really mellow for the grade and very tightly bolted (the second pitch is almost ridiculously overbolted) - "Cruel Shoes", a very well bolted 3 pitch 5.7 (really straightforward climbing, the crux is starting the first pitch, just above the first bolt).
Other bolted lines that we enjoyed: "Too much fun" (5.8 - harder for people shorter than 5' 6") on Flamingo Rock, Endgame" (5.8) on Parkinglot Rock, "The Pygmees got stoned" (10a) and "Colossus" (10c) on Elephant Rock, "Fall Line" (10b/c) - a steep 3 pitch climb on the west side of the Early Morning Glory spire, "Morning Glory" (10d), a fun and technical 3 pitch climb on the same spire but on the east face.
While in Twin Falls: The downtown area is pathetic- completely deserted, as usual. Not even a single restaurant but the old movie theater "The Orpheum" is definitely worth the trip (even if the movie is so-so). The inside is spectacular. One of the nicest old theatres we've seen. "The Lamphouse" (another small theater just outside of the downtown area) has a nice collection of DVDs and also shows independent and foreign movies.
P.S. We also got to try the Five Ten Southwest shoes for the first time. We're really impressed with them: even though the sole is quite thick and stiff, they seem to smear really well! Something about the very flat front sole and solid foot support… feels really secure on marginal smears. And of course, when you need to edge, there's nothing better. Too bad they don't make them any more!
City of Rocks
|City of Rocks: countless granite domes...|
|...with gorgeous weather, great camping, and mellow climbing.|
|Lucie leading "Wheat Thin" (5.7), a great trad moderate.|
|"Rye Crisp (5.8)", another great pitch.|
|More granite domes.|
|Early Morning Glory Spire has a handful of worthwhile lines:...|
|...trad lines such as the classic "Skyline" (5.8, 2 pitches)...|
|...or harder bolted lines such as "Fall Line" (5.10c, 3 pitches).|
|Getting water at the hand pump.|
|Another shot of City of Rocks.|
|The area near Upper Breadloaves also has some great trad lines, such as "Intruding Dike" (see pic above), "Carol's Crack", "Adolescent Homosapien"...|
|Lucie leading Bloody Fingers (a great 10a crack) and..|
|...the rounded arete just to the right of it (5.8, bolted; Clay, a good friend of ours is following).|
|You'll pass through the city of Almo on your way in.|
|Almo has a general store (Tracy's) where you can buy a few essential things and take a shower.|
|Eric leading "Private Idaho" (5.9) on the west side of Bath Rock.|
|The City has also countless easy bolted lines (that we did not particularly care for...), such as the very popular "Endgame" (5.8).|
|Resting on the top of ?, home to the tightly bolted "Cruel Shoes" (5.7).|
|Beautiful sunset from our favorite site at the City.|