Rifle Arch

The Rifle Arch is a collection of large southwest facing sandstone slabs just north of Rifle on the Grand Hogback. The sandstone is of varying quality; you can find bullet proof black and brown varnish with incredible edges and pockets, as well as featureless crumbling white sandstone. Most of the newer routes are in the high quality varnish. With some slabs over 500′ high, the potential here for routes is pretty high.

To get to the Arch, drive north of Rifle on State Highway 13. Just past mile marker 7 is a pullout on the right; this is a well-used (and kinda trashy) BLM trailhead. Walk the marked trail about a mile or so to the obvious 500′ foot slabs on the right corner of which there is an Arch. While the trail takes you directly to the arch, you’re going to want to break off to the left on a very vague climber’s trail. The newer sport climbs are at the lowest black slabs to the left of the Arch.

This area is featured in the new Western Colorado Rock Climbs guidebook.

The “new” climbs at the Arch are well-bolted moderates (5.5-5.9). There are about six bolted lines, 90′ to 100′ in length. It is possible (and recommended) to pass the anchors to a large ledge with a tree and bolted anchors. From there you have two different 2nd pitch options. The line out to the right of the tree is presumably by the author of the lower routes. Bryan Gall bolted another line, Opcion Dos, heading up and to the left of the anchors. Both are pretty fun 5.9. From the anchors you can rappel back to the ledge with a stretched 70m rope, or with a 60m cord hit an anchor about twenty feet from the ledge. After pitch 2, there is a bolted third pitch (5.7) about 75′ that takes you to a large ledge. From here you can rap, descend a gully to the right which takes you to the Arch, or head up to the left for some more climbing.

From the upper ledge, you can find one of the older Mike Baker routes, Lone Wolf, 5.9. It is a line about 120′ in length in the brown varnish on good edges. Bolted solo on lead with 3/8 rawl rivets, Lone Wolf is a little “sportier” than the other routes. It requires two 60m ropes to descend or a 70m with a little down climbing. About a 100′ feet to the left is a gear line. Head up the right side of a whitish gully, past a ledge, to a left arching crumbling bat guano filled crack and chimney. There is two bolts in the chimney placed on lead. White Shit, 5.8R 160′ is not recommend, as the bolted anchors are in the white rock and likely removable by hand.

All the way back on the ground to the right of the new bolted lines is an obscure 5.10 gear line Icon climbed by Mike Baker. It heads up the corner system for three pitches to the big gully. It looks pretty bushy and crumbling.

To the left of these climbs is one more “new” bolted 5.5 cruiser. Above it is 450’+ of good-looking varnished rock forming a “mitten” which has anchors accessible from above. Possibly a project for the mystery bolter, it is begging for another multi pitch line…

To the right of the Arch is a gap, and then more slabs. These are much smaller faces. There is supposed to be a single pitch bolted 5.9, Boy Scout by Mike Baker.

Way to the left, as you pass by tons of unclimbed rock, is another multi pitch route climbed by Mike Baker, Leslie Henderson, and (dramatic pause) Layton Kor. Primavera is a four pitch 5.10 requiring gear. It heads up from the high point of the white slab to the left of a large cave. It is a difficult bush wack to the base from the BLM trail.

Leslie spoke of the first ascent a few years ago: “As Mike was way out above gear on lead, I looked over to Layton on belay. He wasn’t holding the rope as he smashed a bit of poison ivy with his hammer. I asked if he should be paying attention to what he was doing. Layton replied, ‘ If Mike goes where he’s at now, there’s nothing I could do about it with this rope!'”

Overall, the Rifle Arch is neat cold weather crag. It soaks up the sun and offers dramatic views of the Roan Cliffs and the Mamm Peaks. If it’s a clear day and your high up enough, you can pick out the peaks of both Capitol and Chair. So, if you like sandstone edges, warm sun, and great views bring the wife, kids, and dogs to check out the Arch.

Thanks to Bryan Gall for the info on this one.

(The BLM has asked that no climbing take place in the vicinity of the Arch itself due to the presence of an eagle’s nest.)

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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