Las Conchas, New Mexico

Gateway RockBefore heading on our road trip across the US, Hana sent me a photo of a cool-looking cliff nestled next to a clear stream.  I wanted immediately to climb there, as the idyllic setting was just too nice to pass up.  We were lucky enough to hit up this great little crag when we were staying at Los Alamos, aftr finding a guidebook online.

Valles Caldera
Valles Caldera

To reach Las Conchas, we drove past the Valles Caldera, which is a serene grassland in the middle of the extinct volcano–grazed by cows and elk, and recently open to the public.  A little past this epic meadow, the road wound through some twists and turns and eventually deposited us at the tiny parking area right in front of the Cattle Call Wall.  The grass grew right up to the base of the wall, which rose about 50 feet above us.  The rock is hardened volcanic lumps spewed from the volcanic explosion millions of years ago.  It makes for interesting climbing, though very rough on the fingertips (like most volcanic climbing).

We ventured up a few 5.7s and .8s, enjoying both the rock and the sounds of the birds cruising through the meadow and forest.  Most of the routes’ cruxes were located right at the bottom, where the rock has worn away.  After muscling through these sections, the climbing is pretty straightforward, and well bolted–making an ideal playground for the beginner (or the “long-out-of-the-game climber!”)

Hana, on belay
Hana, on belay

After a few routes, we wandered over to Gateway Rock, which coincidentally was exactly where the photo I had seen earlier was taken.  The wall was about 80 feet, and right next to a “babbling brook” that wended through the green grass.  An amazing 5.7 cruised through volcanic pockets, tufts of grass, and fluting ribs, for all 80 feet.  This is a great route to give beginners some actual height off the ground, and no move is that difficult.  This, coupled with a ridiculously fun 5.10 (pockets, crimps, pinches) adjacent, makes for a nice mixed climbing ability wall.

After finishing off our tips for the day, Hana and I drove down to Jemez Springs to

Enjoying a cold one.
Enjoying a cold one.

enjoy a late lunch and some good beer.  There is some great looking rock throughout the Jemez Mountains, and sadly we didn’t have the weeks it would take to explore it all.  However, we did hit up the Spence Hot Springs a few miles back up the canyon road towards Valles Caldera.  It’s a bit of a hike, but we were rewarded with mountain views from an (almost) private hot spring.  There could also be quite a lot of bouldering back there, but the soothing, relaxing waters may make climbing seem like just too much effort.

Recommendations:  This is a great little crag for beginners, or those just wanting a beautiful area in which to climb without hiking far (the crags are maybe 10 minutes from the car at most).  The volcanic rock makes for all kinds of cool holds, and the proximity of hot springs tops off a fun diversion.

Enjoying the post-climb hot springs
Enjoying the post-climb hot springs

2 thoughts on “Las Conchas, New Mexico

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    1. It was a wonderful place–Hana’s friend told us that if we continued to follow the stream down, it turns into a very cool slot canyon–sadly, we didn’t have enough time to do so…but someday!

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