4-12-2014 by Ashley Coady Smith
It was 9:00am in Telluride as we drove away from the snowy box canyon. We were headed two hours west to dryer, warmer lands. Myself and Telluride Mountain Club Board Members, Dave Foley and Nate Smith, discussed our summer climbing aspirations while sipping on our coffee. We drove west along HWY-145 through Placerville, Norwood and Redvale, and then took a Left south towards Dove Creek on HWY-141. We drove until we came to the U29 Rd. sign, which is so small you will miss it if you blink. Luckily, there is a landmark of some old building across the street (the only building you will see coming from this way). Next, time this will be good to remember.
We drove 15 miles west on the U29 Rd., which is a dirt road with occasional pot holes. Eventually, we came to the brown recreation site sign that pointed us in the right direction (Left) on to the 16Z Rd. The road was an old uranium mine road and is best described as “rugged”. I was glad we opted to take the high clearance, four-wheel drive truck as we slowly dipped and bumped along the partially washed out path. We finally arrived to a hidden dirt pull-out/camping area (3.8 miles on the Left). There was another car there so it was for us to find. There are also some distinct campfire rings to help you locate this site that sits directly above the climbing area and looks over Big Gypsum Valley.
The weather was predicted to be partly cloudy and 70 degrees F, however when we arrived we were practically blown over by strong gusts coming across the Big Gypsum valley. It then started to rain and we thought our climbing plans were crushed. We waited out the fast moving storm and then put on our packs and headed for the climber access trail. To get to this trail, you head back out onto to 16Z Rd. (taking a Left out of the parking pull-out). You then walk about 100 yards until you see a small foot trail on the Left marked with some rock cairns. Follow this to the cliff edge until you locate the blue rope attached to a tree that will serve as you hand line down to the base of the climbing area.
There are three different climbing areas in the remote hanging valley off the 16Z Rd., offering over a hundred 30ft-50ft routes with grades ranging from 5.5 – 5.13 (and more being developed!). Approx. 40% of all routes are traditional and approx. 60% are sport.
We warmed up on the crag to the “Lookers” Left of the fixed rope line which offered some easier climbs to allow us to warm-up to the multi-toned sandstone that was full of knobs, small wacos and delicate crimps. After we all took a turn on various routes, we walked Right along the cliff band over to a wall that sits directly under the parking pull-out/campground area. Here, there was a very distinct 5.9 diagonal crack surrounded by a mix of 5.10 – 5.12 sport climbs. We climbed the routes in this area as another storm blew through and threatened our afternoon of climbing for the duration. After fighting high winds and monitoring the lightning in the distance, we didn’t end up getting in as many climbs as we would have liked, but nonetheless were excited about coming back to this awesome and super remote winter/spring/fall climbing area!