Ready for some warm, sunny climbing? Go here
Do I want to beat it or join it? That’s what I ask myself after Thanksgiving each year. It would be easy to get into Salt Lake City’s world-famous powder, but instead I choose—without fail—to pay my offerings to the climbing gods and travel to the nearest warm-enough climate.
Saint George, Utah, and Mesquite, Nevada, offer winter climbing destinations complete with limestone, sandstone, bolts, cracks, boulders and only the occasional breathtaking runout **VRG, cough cough.** Many of St. George’s crags are right in the city, like Chuckawalla, Crawdad Canyon and Green Valley Gap, and offer a plethora of moderate bolted routes. Who needs to suffer in the cold when most of them offer sunny-side options? There are even some great 12s and 13s at Turtle Wall if you’re interested in something short and powerful.
If you’re into a bit of pain and serious pull-hard, the options from there get increasingly … European? Who needs the indescribable beauty of the Ceuse Masif when you can rope up with a bunch of friends right off of Interstate 15?! All sarcasm aside, the climbing at the Virgin River Gorge (VRG) is, in this writer’s humble opinion, some of the best in the country. If you are willing to put your drive for peaceful ambiance slide, proud sends await you on classics like I Saw Jesus at the Chains (13a), so named for the aforementioned breathtaking slab runout at the top. Mentor (12b if you have all the moves memorized), was once said to be the best in the country of its grade, with a sassy leg thread-move. I, myself, am busy projecting Planet Earth (14a) and will withhold comment about how it has so far succeeded at showing me who’s boss. The VRG forces every climber, no matter how technically confident, to rise to a higher level and take all sorts of whippers along the way.
After you get slapped around on this quality limestone and await the re-decent of your terrified testicles, Black and Tan is right around the corner. From steep and powerful to vertical and moderate, the Woodbury Crags offer a welcoming relief, fit for the whole family. Just up the road, Welcome Spring and the Cathedral/Wailing Wall is the crown jewel of St. George. It combines aesthetics, a sense of wilderness, varied styles, bitchin’ views and of course, bullet limestone.
Moving farther afield, Lime Kiln Canyon near Mesquite is another prized gem. The main climbing wall, The Grail, boasts quality routes from 10a to 13+ including options to get yourself more than 35 meters high with some stunning two- and three-pitch extensions. Mantis (12c), the arguable classic among classics, runs up beautiful blue limestone and requires technical rock dancing and healthy endurance. One route, Honeycomb (12d), once housed a bee’s nest, and I always like to say, what’s good for the bee is good for the send. Homofaber (12d) has probably the best sequencing of any route in the canyon—a real treat.
If you’re more into falling on pads than through 25 feet of slack, Moe’s Valley is your spot. These pebbles get lots of sun to warm your heart and fingertips. Gription (V9) follows beautiful sloping rails while Indolence (V7) keeps you honest with its mix of jugs and crimps. Underbody (V4) tests undercling strength before it tosses over the lip. A few other notable problems are Israil (V6), The Fin (V6), The Swan (V7), Linder Roof (V9) and Show of Hands (V10).
Camping at St. George is beautiful and easy. Simply post up at the parking areas to all of the crags except Hurricane and VRG. For Hurricane camping, from the parking take a left onto 1100 West. This road will eventually turn into a well kept dirt road, which if taken long enough spits you out at the Grand Canyon. But there are many pullouts close by with striking views. The VRG can be tricky because it requires more of a commute to and from the venue. The most popular areas are Lime Kiln Road by The Grail and Cow Patty. The Cow Patty is off the Old HWY 91. Heading south from the VRG on I-15 take the Beaver Dam exit and continue North on HWY 91. Pick a pull off and enjoy the vast landscape filled with Joshua Trees galore.
Photos by James Lucas.