Main Elk

Most people know Main Elk is home to the Fortress. There are several other crags in the area, including the Pup Tent of Solitude, and Main Elk Creek. The amount of limestone in this area is overwhelming and if you’re willing to walk you could put up routes here for a long time.

From the town of New Castle, get on the Grass Valley Road as if taking the back way to Rifle. It’s simplest to go straight through the 4-way stop sign after you exit the highway, north up the hill, follow the road as it bends around west, and drive through the Castle Valley neighborhood for a mile or two.

After a bit this road hits a T-junction with the Grass Valley Road. Turn right and drive about three or so miles, passing the turn for East Elk Canyon, until you see the signs for Main Elk Canyon on your right. Turn right (north) here, then drive 5 to 6 miles, past where the pavement ends. Cross a bridge over the river and park in a big pullout on the left at a huge brown sign with info on the “Clinetop Sheep,” just as the road begins to climb steeply uphill.

Main Elk Creek

From the parking area, follow the same trail as the Fortress until you come to a BLM sign marking the trail, and it forks. Take the left hand fork down to the creek and then up through a break in the cliff band.

There are some striking routes here, with grades ranging from 10+ to 13. Many are long. The climbs are listed from right to left.

Fresh Fried Chicken, 10d, starts to the right of the obvious prow. Mashed Potatoes, 5.9, is the next route to the left and shares a start with the previous route, 2 bolts and a single set of cams is all you’ll need.

The two classic routes are the overhanging prow as you turn the corner towards the Pup Tent, Best In Show, 5.13a and Black Ball Retriever, 5.12c (black bolt hangers just left of best in show).

Further left are two short routes together, both good, 5.12a on the left and 5.11d on the right (up flake). Left again there is a decent 5.10c, Eight Days on the River, on the left wall of a big corner.

Around the corner from this is a long 5.12a or b, a lot like Ricochet at Rifle but with a harder finish. And finally way down on the left side of the wall is a 5.8 trad corner called Bushwacker which is supposed to be fun.

The Pup Tent of Solitude

You pass the Pup Tent on the way to The Fortress of Solitude. From the parking area, follow the trail across the hillside until it enters Hadley Gulch. At the old gate and fence, hike back down the cliff line.

This wall has become the premier spot to climb in the colder months, as it faces south and gets quite a bit of sun. The new guidebook is already woefully outdated, as there have been many new routes added and there are now over 50 climbs, from 5.7 to 5.12. See the complete updated topo below.

Dowload the Pup Tent Topo (pdf)

Locals Corner

Bulldog Creek Dog Walk (IV WI 4+)

Hayden Carpenter and Tom Bohanon recently repeated an obscure ice climb on the south side of Mt Sopris. Given a brief mention in Jack Robert’s ice guide, Bulldog Creek Walk is described as being 100 meters of WI 4. What they found was seven pitches of ice in a remote setting that makes for one […]

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