Cochiti Mesa was, for many years, one of New Mexico's premier sport climbing areas. However, after the Las Conchas fire of 2011, the area has become a scorched wasteland and much, if not all, of the climbing has been destroyed. The glaring exception to this is the amazing, Indian Creek-style crack climbing of Capulin Canyon. Capulin Canyon has seen an explosion in newly established crack routes from around 2010 to the present. Otherwise, the description below is considered historical now. It is sad to see the end of an era. See the MountainProject thread here for more information. -- JH, August 2013.
Cochiti Mesa is one of the premier sport climbing destinations in New Mexico, though you would never know it by the crowds. At one time a destination crag for international climbing stars such as Lynn Hill and Todd Skinner, this once proud crag has drifted into total obscurity. The dramatic shift in popularity has more to do with a shift in climbing style than a lack of quality. Today's radsters want long overhanging jugfests, of which Cochiti has none. This is a crag for the '80s, an era dominated by climbers skilled on just-vertical walls. Highly polished technical skills and teflon tendons are the keys to success here.
However, if you're up for the challenge, Cochiti offers seasons worth of 4-star climbs in a beautiful setting, free from the tiresome "crag scenes" found at neighboring areas. Also, Cochiti Mesa proper is one of the few crags in the state where it is realistic and relatively safe to rig topropes for many of the climbs.
Eagle Canyon is in the shade nearly all day. Some climbs receive a bit of sun in the morning or late afternoon. This is theoretically a good summer crag, but you will probably want cool temps for any hard sending, in which case Fall/Spring is ideal. Cochiti Mesa faces west, and so receives shade until about noon. Best to do most of your climbing before the sun hits unless you can get in on a really cold day.
Cochiti is located in the southern Jemez Mountains, roughly between Albuquerque and Sante Fe.
To get there, take I-25 to exit 259, and follow signs to Cochiti Pueblo. You will pass a large earthen dam on the right just before entering the town of Cochiti. Continue through the town for a couple of miles, past a golf course on the right. Just after the golf course a couple of gated roads will appear with no trespassing signs. Then you will come to Forest Road 289. Turn right here. Continue about 4 miles for Eagle Canyon, and 4.5 miles for Cochiti Mesa proper. This is a pretty rough dirt road, not recommended for passenger cars. However, I regularly see such cars drive on this road. Use your own judgment. You shouldn't need 4WD, but clearance is a must. Also, this road is unfortunately closed during the "winter". It usually closes some time in mid to late December and re-opens in April or May, depending on snowfall. It's possible to call the Sante Fe National Forest for status. Its possible to hike in when the gate is closed, but it's a long, uphill hike.
Eagle Canyon parking is easily identified by the sign marking the "Dome Wilderness Trail". Park here but follow a climber's trail that branches off left from the Dome Trail within 20 feet of the parking area. The trail heads West for about 50 feet, then turns right and contours along a steep slope for several hundred yards, before turning left (W) into the mouth of Eagle Canyon. Continue up the mouth of the canyon for 5 minutes until the cliffs are visible on the left. Several poorly-defined trails lead up to various points along the cliff-base.
For Cochiti Mesa, continue past the above described parking area, over a hill crest, and down a steep, rocky section of road. About 100 yards after the road starts going uphill again, there will be a 90-degree turn to the right. Park here. On the left side of the road a faint jeep trail climbs up through a grove of trees. Follow this track for about 100yds to the cliff's edge. A short downclimb (less than 6 feet) will get you to the cliff base. There are about 30 routes on either side of the downclimb.
The Los Alamos Mountaineers have, with permission from the authors, posted Matt Samet's and Randal Jett's excellent "Sportclimbing New Mexico" on their website. The chapters for Cochiti Mesa, Eagle Canyon, and Jimmy Cliff can be found here
Vista Point Overlook, Cacti Cliff, and Disease wall chapters can be found here
See also: "Rock Climbing: New Mexico" & "Jemez Rock" guidebooks.
By Monomaniac Administrator From: Morrison, CO Jun 26, 2007
The access road is open, and currently in great shape. I suspect a 2WD could make it to Eagle Canyon pretty easily, and to Cochiti with a bit of effort. Conditions are quite good at Cochiti Mesa in the morning, particularly the South Cliffband which is staying shady till after 1pm.
I have to disagree with the assessment that this is a topnotch crag. Cochiti is abandoned for a couple of reasons, but one of them is definitely the mediocre rock - many of the pockets had turned into slopers already more than a decade ago. The bolts are sketchy as heck (though if they've been replaced by glue-ins, that's mostly taken care of).
It's definitely worth a visit, but it doesn't hold a candle to many other sport crags (Jemez valley stuff, White Rock, El Rito, Taos, etc, etc) in the area.
Having only been climbing for a few years now, I missed out on Cochiti Mesa’s “glory days” when people would travel from all over the world to climb there. That said, I believe that Cochiti is still a superb area to climb. I agree with Mono that Cochiti isn’t as much a victim of worn stone and questionable hardware (much of which has been updated/replaced thanks to Marc Beverly and others), but rather a victim of a change in what is popular in terms of climbing style. It is specifically that technical style of climbing – one where your feet are often more blown at the end of the day than your forearms – combined with the stunning setting and now very uncrowded nature that attracts me.
I also don’t think that the quality of the rock is any worse than some of the other more popular areas in the Jemez (don’t get me wrong, the rock is soft), but I have encountered way more rocks breaking off at Area 37, Las Conchas, Diablo, El Rito and White Rock than I have a Cochiti…in fact, I’ve never broken a hold at Cochiti– hell, just look at this picture from a few weeks ago at A37! Sure, the pockets can be pretty rounded, but that just makes it all the more gratifying to send there because you have to earn every route. It also levels the playing field a bit when you’re climbing with your 5.hard-jughaul-sending buddies who rely primarily on pull-up strength rather than technical prowess. So show Cochiti some love! We’re really lucky to have it so close…now just to convince the Forest Service to open the gate up already – I’m jonesin’ just thinking about it!
Eagle Canyon is a fantastic, magical place to climb.Something for everybody (at least if you climb 5.10). Many long, thought-provoking, sustained routes with good rock. Can actually CLIMB here beyond cramming 1-2 fingers into a hole, uncorking fingers and toes from other holes, and repeating until a tendon pops or the top is reached. Manhattan and Bananrama are great 5.10s, Maalox moment and the unnamed route right of Manhattan are stellar 5.11's, and Kona is a fun bouldery 12a. I can't wait to explore deeper into the canyon. Pockets, crimps, footwork, even resistance climbing on over-vertical rock... Don't come out expecting typical cochiti mesa routes. The setting is idylic, with trees and colorful cliffs, and stays cool on summer afternoons. Not a great place for dogs and kids, as the final scramble up to the cliff bases can be steep and bushwhacky.
Last time I checked, Banana Rama needed some bolt repair upgrades. Kind of sketchy. Good route though. Worth upgrading. There is great bouldering for the kids in the canyon bottom. It is even a great place to hang out and read a book.
Just went back to Eagle Canyon for the first time this year, and the trails up to the cliff bases are getting overgrown with scrub oak, etc. Also, seems like there's more loose dirt, which makes the scrambling particularly unpleasant. The climbing was still excellent, though, and worth the effort to get to. Wa3lt- the only route on which I noticed enough (presumed) erosion of features to cause problems was omdulation fever.
File this under '& Surrounding Crags.' Inclusion should not be taken as encouragement to visit this area where access, while unlimited throughout the 70s, is now restricted by the Cochiti Pueblo. Consider it, rather, an historical record of the heyday of Bland Canyon & the Cochiti Grotto ... youtu.be/JeXQb6Yq-cY
Doze, when did you try to head out there? I ask because apparently on Monday June 4th 2012 the order was signed to reopen the forest and on Tuesday, Bryan P with NM Crag called the forest service and was told that stuff was open but it would take a couple of days to get all the gates opened.