In Grand Junction, the arid Colorado desert landscape is the ideal environment for outdoor adventure, and its towering red rocks, deep canyons and large boulders make this area the ultimate destination for rock climbers and canyoneerers. And with 275 days of sunshine per year, it means almost every day is the perfect day for climbing.
Jose Iglesias is an international climbing guide based in Grand Junction. He and Kris Hjelle are co-owners of Colorado Alpine and Desert Adventures, a rock, ice and big mountain guiding company.
According to Iglesias, both beginner and expert climbers will find something to challenge them in Grand Junction.
"You have granite, sandstone, big wall climbing, bouldering and a bunch of different cracks and towers. This is a peak location for climbers," he says.
Iglesias says the first stop for climbers of all levels should be the beautiful and vast Colorado National Monument.
Colorado National Monument is located south of I-70 between Grand Junction and Fruita. Here large jutting sandstone cliffs and towers rise from the canyon floor. At the heart of the Colorado National Monument is Independence Monument -- a massive sandstone tower that rises to approximately 500 feet. Iglesias describes this crack climb as similar to the world famous climbs in Indian Creek, Utah, with multiple routes.
"Just about everything here is crack climbing, with just a few limestone face climbing routes nearby. Everything is crack, adventure and sport climbing. There are also some bolted routes," he says.
At Independence Monument is the popular climb called Otto's Route. According to the website www.rockclimbing.com, Otto's Route is "one of the best beginner desert tower climbs anywhere." This route is often used for training and novice instruction.
Devil's Kitchen, also in Colorado National Monument, is ideal for accessing many different canyoneering routes. While not overly difficult for an experienced climber, the techniques of bouldering, scrambling, and rappelling will all be utilized in this area. One of the most well-known spots is the Lemon Squeezer, a very tight tunnel with a small opening to daylight on the other side.
Another great location for climbers to visit in Grand Junction is Unaweep Canyon on Highway 141. Unaweep is the only canyon in the world with rivers flowing out in two directions: east and west. It was named by the area's original inhabitants, the Ute Indians, literally meaning "canyon with two mouths."
Unaweep Canyon is lined on both sides with 25 miles of beautiful, solid granite cliffs, crags, boulders and cracks -- many of which are made available via Access Fund properties. This is a favorite spot for both traditional and mixed climbing. Unaweep also has many Dakota sandstone boulders, appropriate for every skill level, and enough isolated walls to keep expert climbers busy for weeks.
There are dozens of other climbs to explore in the Grand Junction area such as Sentinel Spire and Kissing Couple in the Colorado National Monument and the Cabin Wall in Escalante Canyon, 20 miles south of Grand Junction. Rough Canyon, a smaller sub-canyon in the Bangs Canyon area, also has some excellent rock climbing as well as some slot canyons for exploring