The Narrows is an area that has seen climbing activity for several decades. Your first impression looking up at the many fractured walls may be less than awe-inspiring. And indeed, there is a lot of choss here, but there are also several good walls on which the climbing takes place. The rock is a fine grained granite of some sort. The climbing is enjoyable and the setting superb. Most of the climbing here sees very little sun, making it a nice summer spot.
Harvey Carter and crew were likely the first folks to climb here, and the occasional old piton and sling are a testament to that. There are only a handful of trad routes here, and they probably climbed the obvious lines and moved on. Most of the routes are in the 5.8 – 5.11 range, with a few 5.13′s thrown in for good measure.
Given the fractured nature of the stone, it’s a good idea to wear a helmet, especially while belaying, and use some common sense when climbing here.
To get here, follow Hwy 133 south out of Carbondale. Park at the pullout for the Penny Hot Springs. Cross the road and find a trail that starts by a grassy mound in a wooded gully.
A sample of some routes:
The Health Issue, 5.11b
Climb the arete left of Chiroptophobia. Climb past three bolts to a thin crack above a block (000 TCU and/or tiny Stopper). Follow the crack (good small cams or nuts), shifting left around the arête a couple of times, clipping a lone bolt on the left side (easily visible from the base) which protects moves onto a ledge. Scramble up ledges to another bolt, clip it and move left into cracks. Follow discontinuous cracks, staying on the exposed arete, to two bolts and a two-bolt anchor. Seven bolts, medium and small nuts, 3 or 4 purple (00) TCUs, single rack of TCUs and C4s to #1. 35 meters, 70m rope required!
Gold Brick, 5.11d 50 meters!
Climb Jenga Buttress crack. From the anchors (clip with long sling), continue straight up (#.75 green C4 w/ long sling). Two bolts protect tricky moves through the first roof. Place a C3 (red and/or yellow), and a good big nut (long sling). Turn the next roof and enter the steep, exposed face that leans out over the Notch. Clip 3 bolts as you climb rightwards to the crack. Place a red and/or yellow C3, then a #1 (red) C4 to protect an endurance crux. Two or three long slings help with drag. Do not try to lower. This is a true 50 meter pitch. I would highly recommend this route. FA Jeff Jackson
Approach by heading to the Notch. Drop through and pass Red Faction. Just past Red Faction you’ll reach a short, clean, steep wall on your right with 4 routes.
Mojo (5.12b) 3 bolts
Climb the center of the clean wall. Short, but really good. Perfect rock.
Bumper to Bumper (5.12a) 4 bolts
Left of Mojo. Traverse left along crimpers to start. Alternatively, match in the distinctive slot and make a hard move to the sloping rail. This direct start is V6 or 7.
Biodynamic (5.13b proj) 6 bolts
Beyond Organic (5.11c) 7 bolts
Traverse the arête starting far left.
Kurt Albert Point (5.10d) mixed
This is the obvious triangular-shaped clean face/spire closest to the highway, visible from the Avocado Gully/Gash parking area. Park at the Penny Hot Springs pullout. Approach by heading to the Notch (see Narrows guide). Drop through and pass Red Faction. Just downhill from the Mojo wall, scramble up a short gully with a fixed rope and access the base of the face. Exposed belay. Climb the crack to 5 bolts and an anchor. Great position. Rack: Big nuts, single set of C3s and C4s to number 2 (yellow)