As anyone who has spent a week outside Santa Fe knows, trends have a hard time finding traction in this city. That’s good for plagues like chain restaurants and big-box stores, bad for 24-hour gyms and specialty dessert fads. Unfortunately, rock climbing has mostly been beaten back by this aversion to development.
Despite a huge growth in the number of climbing gyms in cities and college campuses around the country, Santa Fe has only one facility that offers indoor climbing. But all is not lost! One of the city’s great advantages lies in its environment, which offers fantastic rock formations that lend themselves to climbing—everything from entry-level difficulty grades to some truly inspiring routes. So no more excuses: the Reporter is here to help you break into this sport or get back out on the rock. Climb on!
Just starting out:
Santa Fe Climbing Center, the city’s lone plastic dominion, is located off Early Street, near the Whole Foods Market on Cerrillos Road. The location isn’t obvious from the main road, so trust your GPS or instincts. Once inside, don’t freak out at the sight of the imposing bouldering cave. The extremely friendly folks working the counter will check you in and direct you to the beginner walls, located around back. The gym is small, however, and the easier routes can quickly amass a line. Given the risky nature of the sport, for your first time, thorough instruction is highly recommended. SFCC offers a variety of classes, according to age or skill level, a few of which take you outside. Bottom line, though this is a comparatively little gym, it’s our comparatively little gym. Get the beta at climbsantafe.com.
Gear is collecting dust in your closet:
If you began daydreaming of your long ago sends when reading the headline of this article, we’ve got a wake-up call for you. If you’ve got the gear, all you have to do is find the time—and climbing partners. You could head to the aforementioned climbing gym and make friendly, but maybe you’re craving more than a gym session. If you’re looking for a way to get back to the crag, the Los Alamos Mountaineers are your saviors. Every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the summer, from 5 pm until “sunset” (read: whenever everyone leaves), the LA Mountaineers host a top-rope party at various locations along White Rock’s cliff line. These incredibility hospitable individuals have come together with one purpose in mind: to share their love of rock climbing. Find the schedule at lamountaineers.org.
Regularly sending, but need new challenges and scenery:
You know what’s up, and none of the climbing-specific terms so far have thrown you for a loop. However, you also know that, as easy as it is to begin climbing in Santa Fe, you have to travel to find taller, harder lines—but not as far as you might think. Quality rock surrounds Santa Fe in places like Tres Piedras, for some moderate 2- to 3-pitch trad lines, or El Rito in Carson National Forest, thought to have the best sport climbing in New Mexico. Yosemite Valley these are not, but for a day trip, both sites are completely worth the 2- to 3-hour drive.
Sponsored, professional climber:
Hey! What are you doing in Santa Fe!? Listen, if you want to swing by the Reporter offices, we’re at 132 E Marcy…oh, no. I mean, if you’ve got world-class first ascents to put together, we totally understand. You know, good luck and all. ¡Venga!
Like anything else, rock climbing has developed its own language.
Here is a list of the terms you need to avoid sounding like a total gumby, as well as to understand this article.
ATC n: “Air-traffic controller,” belay device manufactured specifically by Black Diamond Equipment Ltd., often refers to any non-autolocking belay device
Biner n: Slang, short for carabiner
Belay n,v: To secure the rope while your partner climbs
Beta n: Information about a climb or climbing-related topic
Bouldering n: Gymnastic climbing on boulders or boulder-height outcroppings
Crag n,v: a small, usually single-pitch cliff with enough routes for a half-day, day or longer
Gumby n: An incompetent, bumbling or hazardous climber, not necessarily someone new to the sport
Plastic n: Indoor climbing holds and/or rock gyms
Pitch n: A unit of climbing measurement that remains open to fluid interpretation, though generally regarded as one rope-length
Route n: A specific climb
Send n,v: Any successful ascent of a climb. To climb without falling
Sport climbing n: Typically more gymnastic-style climbing, primarily featuring preplaced expansion bolts in the rock for fall protection
Top rope n: To climb with the rope anchored above
Trad n: Short for “traditional climbing,” once meant to refer to any situation in which the climber started on the ground and was lowered after every fall. Now more directly refers to routes that require the climber to place his/her own fall protection, or “pro”
¡Venga! phr.: Spanish for “Come on!” Yelled at tired climbers for encouragement on a route