5 Reasons to Climb in Penitente Canyon This Weekend

Located in the San Luis Valley, Penitente Canyon is a small, beautiful canyon that offers the perfect autumn escape for sport climbers on the Front Range. The rock quality is superb and the south-facing crags make November one of the best times of year to visit.

1. The approach doesn’t suck. Do you consider long, grueling approaches the crux of your day? Here, you’ll be graced with short, flat trails that take you from the parking lot to your project within minutes. All of the climbing is concentrated, making it easy to move about your tick list throughout the day.

The mellow hike in.
The mellow hike in.

2. Camping with a view. The campground is onsite, well maintained and offers extraordinary views. There are single and group sites available for a nominal fee. Whether you send or flail, there is nothing more satisfying than drinking a cold beer and watching the sky transform into a cotton candy dreamland as the sun disappears behind the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

The Sangre de Cristos (as seen from the campsite).
The Sangre de Cristos (as seen from the campsite).

3. Photo ops. What do sport climbers love almost as much as sending? Photos of them sending. The rare geological formations provide amazing backdrops to make all of your friends who bailed last-minute jealous. A photo climbing next to the iconic Virgin of Guadalupe mural is a must.

Erik Warmenhoven flashing Los Hermanos de la Weenie Way.
Erik Warmenhoven flashes Los Hermanos de la Weenie Way.

4. The climbing is unique. The canyon rose from part of La Garita Caldera, the largest known volcanic eruption in Earth’s history that occurred about 27 million years ago. The result is volcanic tuft, making the rock grippy with awesome features practically made for climbing, including the plethora of dihedrals, arêtes and huecos that ripple throughout the canyon. Due to the nature of the rock, the routes aren’t the longest and the lower grades tend to be on the slabby side.

Jordan Schaefer sticks the dyne on Bullet The Blue Sky.
Jordan Schaefer sticks the dyno on Bullet The Blue Sky.

5. Access to hot springs and sand dunes. If you’re in the mood to treat yourself, there are two clothing-optional hot springs within a 40-minute drive of the campground. Taking a rest day to explore the tallest sand dunes in North America is also highly encouraged — Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is only an hour east of the canyon.

Tick List:
How The West Was Won   5.9
Captain America   5.10a
Tanks for the Hueco   5.10d
Shear Strength   5.11
Whipping Post   5.11a
Not My Cross To Bear   5.11a/b
Los Hermanos de la Weenie Way   5.11c
Dazed and Confuzed   5.12a
Bullet the Blue Sky   5.12c/d

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