Crag Check: Window Rock East

Window Rock

A group of the team hangs out on the summit of Window Rock, as seen from the parking lot.

The Utah Climbing Club is an excellent environment for aspiring and experienced climbers to hangout with like-minded folks. Operated by Jenn Moore and Darren Knezek from Mountainworks in Provo, the club is a social hub of climbing that offers a little something for everyone, as well as world-class training from some of the most knowledgable climbers ever.

We recently took a trip to City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho, and it was my first time climbing in that area. The club went Thursday evening, and some people stayed all the way through into Sunday, but I was unable to commit for that amount of time, and instead, Taylor, Matt and I drove down late Friday evening.

A tent illuminated from within with the stars in the background

The Twin Sisters Group campsite was ideal for star-gazing. There isn’t much light pollution in southern Idaho.

I had expected a bunch of people to still be awake when we rolled into the campsite at about 11:00p, and although I was right, pretty much everyone had called it quits and were in their tents. Lots of little pockets of conversation, but no centralized socializing hub, so Taylor and I pitched the tent and settled into our unicorn blanket and called it a night. Before hitting the hay, I squeezed off a few shots of the night sky, and the image shown above was my favorite of the night. A lack of light pollution is something that must be exploited, and the stars were so incredibly bright. It was about midnight, and there was still the faintest glow on the horizon from the setting sun.

The next morning was as spectacular as the night sky; we couldn’t have asked for better weather. A nearly cloudless sky, coupled with moderate temperatures and sunshine all-day made for very comfortable climbing conditions. I was wearing my Iron Maiden: Killers shirt, and as a result, several people really wanted to listen to some Maiden to get pumped up after breakfast, and I’m always down for any opportunity to listen to my favorite heavy metal band.

Sunrise on the Twin Sisters

As the sun comes up, the incredible granite rock of the City of Rocks makes for a killer skyline.

The granite we climbed is some of the oldest rock in the United States, resulting from the uplift of the Almo pluton about 28 Billion years ago. The rest of the sediment eroded away leaving these impressive stone monoliths, bulges, and ridges, riddled with perfect cracks that take bomber gear better than any rock I’ve protected. Each placement was like a dream come true, and my belayers thought I’d won the lottery each time I popped in a new cam. The placements were just so bomber I couldn’t help but be stoked and want to share it with the world.

Climber places a small cam into a narrow crack.

Grant Gilbert, placing a #1 Ultralight TCU on Juniper Jam (5.6). This was Grant’s first-ever trad lead.

The first route I put up was a 5.5 climb called The Summit Route. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I took the wrong crack for the first move because there’s no way it goes at 5.5––more like 5.8+. Next was a 5.6 called Juniper Jam, which had some nice off-width hands at the start, with massive dishes in the crack for solid feet all the way to the last 20 feet or so, then it turned into a perfect finger crack with plenty of smearing face-holds for your feet. The last move was protected by a #1 Metolius Ultralight TCU, and it was one of the most bomber placements I’ve ever done. It’s always cool to put a really small TCU in knowing that it will definitely hold a fall. There are 8 routes under 5.9, and the west face goes all over 5.11, so there’s something for you, if you’re stoked on climbing rad granite in a beautiful location. If you hate going to awesome places, then the City isn’t your program.

If you’re a beginning trad climber, and want a crag to practice placements, I can think of no better place to get started. Next time you’re thinking of heading to a destination climbing zone, you should seriously consider City of Rocks. You won’t regret it. Ample shade, easy approaches, and excellent rock make the City a destination quite unlike any other.

On Rappel

Erik Peet on rappel after climbing one of the great routes.

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