Shelf Road-Cactus Cliffs

Clare in front of Cactus Cliffs

Ridgecrest local Tom R. recommended that Dennis & I check out Shelf Road. With it’s richly colored RED limestone cliffbands littered with bolts for climbing, we were assured to have a good time.

When I looked online, I found 81 routes listed, with lots available in the 5.10 and under range. Actually, there are 154 established routes at Cactus Cliffs with 90 routes rated 5.10 and below!!!

BLM Signage More Signage Hike through this gate down to climbing areas

I could barely contain my excitement, when we pulled up to the parking spot and the really nice BLM lady (Corey) pointed accross the canyon at our final destination. BUYAH, DISCO, VOILLA. All phrases appropriately reflecting my mind at the time.

Cactus Cliffs From Parking Area Dennis among flowers at Parking Area Clare Poses with Posies at Parking Area

It was sheer beauty. We hiked for about 30 minutes and we were there staring at this cliffband. There were so many routes, it was just unreal !!!.

Initially, we thought we were alone, so we scoured the base of the cliff looking for Alexi’s Route (5.5). Lucky for us, there were two young female 20 somethings TRing something fun on the right end of the crag. They offered to share their guidebook, but I opted to just ask about the routes in that alcove. Sure enough one of them *was* Alexi’s Route and we were at “The Green Pillars”.

Dennis Cleaning Alexi's Route Close Up of Dennis Cleaning

I have taken Dennis climbing for almost 4 years now, and just recently he mentioned taking a more pivotal role whilest we climb (other than belaying). So, I walked him through cleaning the anchor on Alexi’s Climb, and then he rapped off. He did great.

The second climb we did was called Ian’s Climb. It’s 5.7 and longer than Alexi’s climb. It has a neat little crack in a dihedral, and a fun move over a small bulge to get to the top. A very good beginner route, and so Dennis cleaned the anchors and rapped off again. See the picture below of him rapping.

Dennis Rapping

The third climb was a TR a little to the right of Ian’s Climb called Red Eclipse. It’s 5.10c or 5.9 depending on how you do it. Going straight up is 5.10c (sharp! little pockets on a steep face). Dennis did quite well on the face, until he got to the crux and then he went left back to the 5.7. I did quite well on the face, until the crux, then I traversed over to a right facing steep crack (5.9 called Solar E-clips). I didn’t have to hang (woo-hoo), so leading it seems within my ability next time!

Around this time of the day (2pm) dark thunderstorms approached us. We were nervous about climbing in the wetness-but Ann & Dylan recommended waiting things out. If a storm comes, it usually just lasts a little bit and then moves on. The young gals had left an hour ago, so it was just us and the elements-exciting.

I noticed the storm clouds were not directly overhead (they were surrounding Cactus Cliffs). So I started up Ol’ Four Seven 5.9+ with a bang of lightning off in the distance. The wind picked up and spittle was coming down, so I backed off the climb. We waited about 10 minutes and then I headed back up, water was only a mist now, and the rock was way dry. Soon, I was at the anchors, and Dennis climbed it clean.

The fifth route was a TR to the left of Ol’ Four Seven called Amiga 5.10c/d. It’s safely bolted with 5 bolts, and demanding for an aspiring leader. Fun route, I think I’d be willing to give it a whirl next time-but with the number of 5.10 climbs available, I’m not sure I’d want to go back to this alcove. Green Pillars are rumored to be a popular weekend crag and families purportedly set up camp there.

To cool down, we headed out in search of Crynoid Corner (5.7) ultra classic long crack. 10 bolts to the top, and super fun stemming/jamming all the way. On the way over there, we ran into a very fit sunburned Euro couple from Austria (NOT GERMANY!!!). The gal was trying to lead some 5.10 and backed off to let her sig. other finish the route. I asked to borrow their more updated version of the guidebook. Dylan’s is 7 years old now…and only has beta on 40 routes there.

We found the climb, and I literally RAN up the thing. So well bolted, I contemplated skipping some. At the top, I took a final look around at the beauty. A silent wish crept up inside me to come back here and climb some more of these classic overhangy featured well bolted routes. I wish I could just spend a whole week camping there! Shelf road is NOT a one day place. It’s at least a 2 day place, preferably longer.

Dennis climbed it with no difficulty, and cleaned the anchors. While he was cleaning, I chatted with the Austrians on their way out. They were super friendly, and were returning to Europe after a MAD trip here. They climbed in Utah (Canyon Country, Indian Springs?), California at Tuolumne Meadows (Regular route on fairview, West Crack, and Great White Book) & the Valley, and finally Castle Rock, El Dorado Canyon, and Shelf Road in CO.

Superstar! Dennis in front of Cactus Cliffs

They had purchased a guidebook for Shelf, but now after 3 days of climbing they had no futher use for it. Dennis gave them a 20 spot for it, and they were psyched. We wished them well on their journey home, and they did likewise.

The Dark Side The "Dark Side" takes over, Clare can't resist the Cheeze-Its!

Looking accross the canyon from “Cactus Cliffs”, we could see the “Dark Side” another cliffband where the climbs are a bit harder.

On the hike back to the car, I kept turning around to look once more at the cliffbands we were leaving. Promising to come back, and next time armed with an updated guidebook (if Dennis lets me borrow it!), for another fabulous round of climbing at Shelf Road.

View On Our Way Out

2 Responses to “Shelf Road-Cactus Cliffs”

  1. cyberhobo says:

    I knew you’d eat that place up! So glad you hit it.

  2. climbergirl says:

    We sent the guidebook back yesterday. Just so you know!