City of Rocks, Idaho

A while ago I went to City of Rocks to climb some rocks (I’m a bit behind in blog posts, too busy doing things outside. Sorry. Sorta. But not too much). It was awesome. I’m pretty sure I kept saying that about every five minutes, how cool it was.

Because it was really cool.


Except it was actually pretty hot, as being out in the scrub in July generally is.

City of Rocks Idaho

So much fantastic rock, so little time…

From Mountain Project:

City of Rocks is a mecca of climbing, just over the Utah/Idaho border in rural Idaho. Varnished and pocketed granite is the name of the game here. The granite ages with an iron based varnish on it and when the varnish wears through, it forms pockets that wear faster than the varnish. The result is pockets with edges or just edges. The majority of the routes have mixed protection, so caution or knowledge is required as the bolts may stop halfway up the route.”

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I thought this tree was cool. And that dome in the background. Didn’t get a chance to climb it this time, but one of these days I will.

Of course I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures because I was too busy climbing rocks, and because I was too busy saying how cool it was (that took up a great deal of time), but here are a few.

City of Rocks Idaho climbing

I also really like that fence. I have a thing for fence posts, they way they look intrigues me.  I also like this quoteHas not much to do with fences– well, actually it does… Okay, we don’t have space for this here. Just read the quote.

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We drove the 4 hours from Jackson early Saturday morning, and as soon as we got there we climbed a 3 pitch route up Jackson’s Thumb, and then a longer 7 pitch route called Sinocranium up Steinfell’s Dome. A pitch is generally defined as a rope length, though this is a fluid definition, and changes depending on the route. For example, Sinocranium is 650 feet, which we did in 7 pitches. The route we climbed up the Thumb was about 500 feet, which we did in 4 pitches.

How this works (the quick version): one person climbs up, and clips into bolts on the rock. When they get to the anchor, or a place with more reinforced, much thicker bolts in the rock, they stop and the second person climbs up to join them. This way, you can climb up a huge rock face with just a 60 meter rope and not a lot of gear, because the second (the person who climbs up second, hence the name) removes the gear as they come to it, and the leader (the person who climbs first) uses that gear over and over on each pitch. At the end, all that is left on the rock are a few smears of chalk from their hands, and the bolts that are permanently in the rock.

There are different types of rock climbing, but we’ll get into those at a later date and time (don’t worry). What I described above is called sport climbing. There is also trad (traditional) climbing, which uses different types of gear so that you can climb up routes that don’t have bolts on them, but basically works the same.

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Climbing up Jackson’s Thumb.

After climbing all day Saturday, we were completely baked, having spent the majority of the day on exposed rock, slowing roasting/working on our awesome tan lines in the sun. That’s one of the main reasons why I climb, for tanning purposes (obviously). I love me some awkward tan lines. We then spent a long time trying to find a campsite in the park before settling in a nice (free!) spot on nearby BLM land.

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Jackson’s Thumb, the formation on the left, and Steinfell’s Dome, the bigger, taller bit. We climbed up the Thumb, and then also up the slabby section on the right of the Dome, that goes up through the overhang to the top.


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And here’s me with the sign!

Sunday we climbed only two different routes, but we each did them twice. They were called Skin the Cat and Bikini Candy (no idea how they come up with route names, but these are relatively tame in the climbing world). Both easy routes, but both super fun.

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Andy checking out Bikini Candy. (How often do you get to type that on a PG-rated site?)


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There were also cactus flowers all over the place. They were bloomin’ everywhere. This one has a beetle in it, which makes it even neater. The closet entomologist in me gets very excited about insects in flowers.

Can’t wait to go back!

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