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San Luis Valley

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San Luis Valley 


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Location: 37.6947, -106.348 View Map  Incorrect?
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Administrators: Ben Mottinger, Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monomaniac, Kristine Hoffman
Submitted By: John McNamee on Feb 26, 2006
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Pair of bald eagles with Little Bear and Blanca Pe...

Introduction 

Spanning almost 8,000 square miles, the San Luis Valley is the world's largest alpine valley. The average altitude is 7,500 feet, so it can be very warm in the summer and very cold at night in the winter. With the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east and the Rio Grande to the west.

The San Luis Valley sits atop the Rio Grande Rift, a split in the crust of the Earth where the sides are pulling away from each other. If the Valley floor were excavated, bedrock would be down about 30,000 feet, making the bottom of the Valley close to 4 miles below sea level. Over millenia, the mountains surrounding the Valley have eroded away, filling in the hole with rock, sand and earth. Quite a few streams flow into the Valley, only to sink into the ground before they go very far.


Getting There 

This is part of the reorg of the Colorado site.

From the Denver Metro area, you can go US 285 West all the way into the valley. You can also take I-70 to CO 91 through Breckinridge to US 24 South to US 285.

From Grand Junction, you can take US 50 East to US 285 near Poncha Springs, then go south on US 285.

From Durango, you can take US 160 East to US 285 North.


Resources 

Camping is availabe at Penintente Canyon; however, it now costs a bit and has standard BLM regulations. Water is provided down the road from the climbing / camping area (another recent development - follow the signs), and the nearest 'goods' can be found at the 'La Garita Cash Store'.

There are a variety of small, charming B&B type accomodations throughout the valley, in Poncha Springs, La Garita, Del Norte. There are a smattering of motels/hotels in the area as well.

Alamosa is the largest town in the valley for supplies, etc.


Climbing Season


219 Total Routes


['4 Stars',22],['3 Stars',82],['2 Stars',84],['1 Star',28],['Bomb',2]
['<=5.6',7],['5.7',2],['5.8',6],['5.9',16],['5.10',45],['5.11',64],['5.12',49],['5.13',11],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',2],['V2-3',3],['V4-5',6],['V6-7',4],['V8-9',2],['V10-11',0],['V12-13',2],['>=V14',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for San Luis Valley:
How The West Was Won   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 1 pitch   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Inner Canyon
Captain America   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Entrance Area
Bucket Slave   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, Sport, 1 pitch   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Entrance Area
Jewel Of The Mild   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Inner Canyon
Breakdown Dead Ahead   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Inner Canyon
Tanks for the Hueco   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Inner Canyon
Whipping Post   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Entrance Area
Not My Cross To Bear   5.11a/b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Inner Canyon
Shear Strength   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 40'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Inner Canyon
Jabba the Hut   5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Inner Canyon
Los Hermanos de la Weenie Way   5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a     Sport, 1 pitch   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Inner Canyon
When the Whip Comes Down   5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Entrance Area
Forbidden Fruits   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Entrance Area
Dazed and Confuzed   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Inner Canyon
Los Hermanos de la Penitente   5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Inner Canyon
Bullet the Blue Sky   5.12c/d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b     Sport, 1 pitch   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Inner Canyon
Cassandra   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c     Sport, Chipped, 1 pitch, 60'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Entrance Area
A Virgin No More   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Inner Canyon
Colors Of Emotion   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Entrance Area
Sitting in Limbo   5.13+ 8b 30 X- 31 E7 7a     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Penitente Canyon : Penitente - Entrance Area
Browse More Classics in San Luis Valley

Featured Route For San Luis Valley
Cruxxin it.

Forbidden Fruits 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a  CO : San Luis Valley : ... : Penitente - Entrance Area
This route goes up a large orange wall just off the trail about 100 feet past the Colors of Emotion wall. This is the third route to the left, past No Regrets and Whipping Post. Face climb up the face between two cracks. The climbing starts out easy, and steadily gets harder to crux near the top....[more]   Browse More Classics in CO

Photos of San Luis Valley Slideshow Add Photo
Saw these locals hanging out just east of La Garita.
Saw these locals hanging out just east of La Garit...
Great Sand Dunes.
Great Sand Dunes.
Evening t-storm spattering the Sangre de Cristos in the San Luis Valley.
Evening t-storm spattering the Sangre de Cristos i...
A bit more.
A bit more.
Steve Mestdagh climbing at Penitente, photo: Bob Horan.
Steve Mestdagh climbing at Penitente, photo: Bob H...
Map of the San Luis Valley.
Map of the San Luis Valley.
GATORS IN COLORADO!?!?!? Gotta stop here if you have a rest day.
GATORS IN COLORADO!?!?!? Gotta stop here if you ha...
Not really new, but some more of the miles of 30-50' cliff lines. Lots of crap but some decent rock for sure.
Not really new, but some more of the miles of 30-5...
Fun at the Dunes, soo much to do.
Fun at the Dunes, soo much to do.
Great Sand Dunes NP, Colorado.
Great Sand Dunes NP, Colorado.
Breakfast Boulders.
Breakfast Boulders.
Surge Flow at the Great Sand Dunes, one of only a few places in the world where this happens.
Surge Flow at the Great Sand Dunes, one of only a ...
Comments on San Luis Valley Add Comment
Show which comments
By Scott Miller
From: Denver, CO
May 3, 2006

Hey, Honest mistake it's not often you meet a Colorado legend in the dark. Thought he was some bum trying to talk shit, "Yeah I wrote the guide book." Anyway, can't thank you enough for all the hard work Bob.
About the ticks, I've seen a growing number of them in the past few years. (Castlewood, Penitente, Boulder,and Summit County) I seem to be a magnet for them, just a little heads up to all with dogs and little ones. Nasty little buggers.

By Monty
From: Golden, CO
Feb 18, 2010

Dry Winter + Wet Spring = BAD TICKS!

By dyager
From: Fort Collins
Mar 8, 2011

Is mid to late May too hot to climb in Penitente Canyon?
Thanks!

By BGreen
From: Del Norte, CO
Mar 8, 2011

Temps are usually great in May. Shade/sun can always be found in the canyon as needed. Depending on the snowpack it could be windy in the afternoons into May. NOAA long term forcast is for continued warmer, drier than normal conditions.

By dyager
From: Fort Collins
Mar 9, 2011

Thanks, BGreen!

By Mike Howard
Administrator
Feb 8, 2012

Penitente Canyon Anchor Replacement & Trail Repair Weekend
Public Event By Bob D'Antonio

Saturday, May 12, 2012
9:00am until 7:00pm
Penitente Canyon, San Luis Valley, Colorado
Penitente Canyon Anchor Replacement & Trail Repair Weekend. This is for all climbers, hikers, or anyone who loves the Canyon and the work that volunteers and the BLM have done in the past. Show up and then get to work. Beer, Food, Bolts, Anchors, Tools and good vibes with be provided.... Come and show some love to this very special canyon.

https://www.facebook.com/events/312974882081877/?ref=ts

By Christy-Dale
From: Harrisonburg, VA
Jun 7, 2012

LOST at Penitente Canyon (6/6/12): blue camera attached to red case with brown 'biner on it. Was missing when we returned for it later in the day. Getting it back would mean a lot, no questions asked. Please message me - I'll obviously reimburse any return costs. THANKS!