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Elephant Butte
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North Gorge Route T 
Standard (West Fins) T 

Standard (West Fins) 

YDS: 5.3 French: 3+ Ewbanks: 10 UIAA: III ZA: 9 British: VD 3a

   
Type:  Trad, 1 pitch, 1100'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.3 French: 3+ Ewbanks: 10 UIAA: III ZA: 9 British: VD 3a [details]
FA: Unknown
Season: In any dry conditions
Page Views: 6,902
Submitted By: Brian C. on Feb 13, 2010

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (32)
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topo
Read about Anchor Replacement and Restrictions in Arches National Park MORE INFO >>>

Route Description 

Hike past Owl Rock and into the drainage on the south side of Elephant Butte. Look for a rubble filled gully leading up between two fins (see photos) and head up into it. As it narrows and ends, you will see a small fin that comes down. Climb the fin and continue up into the next meadow. Leave the meadow on the right and follow a bowl up as it steepens and dead-ends at a short wall. This wall is the crux and can be climbed on either the left or right side at about 5.3-5.4.

Once above the wall follow the steep sandstone down to the left until you see five bolt hangers that aren't visible from above. Rappel down and scramble into the lower valley.

From here, turn towards the summit and scramble up class 3/4 sandstone slabs up towards it. Angle right as you ascend and look sharp for a cairn marking a weakness in the upper cliffs. Once above the short cliff, climb up and find a short scramble that puts you on the summit plateau.

To descend: As you descend the slabs down towards the valley the first rappel put you in, aim for a small pinnacle straight below (see photos). Follow the gully next to the pinnacle down until it cliffs out. There are three old pitons that can be used for a final free hanging rappel down. From there simply hike down the gully, take a right and head back to the car and don't forget to smile about dodging the tourist crowds and climbing a seldom visited summit.


Location 

Park at the Garden of Eden overlook by Owl Rock.


Protection 

We had a 60m rope and some backup webbing for the two rappels.

The crux doesn't need gear but some people would appreciate a sitting belay from whoever will climb up without a belay.

Although the rest of the route is no harder than class 3/4 (if the easiest path is chosen), this route would be dangerous when wet. Also, people uncomfortable on steep sandstone slabs will not have a very good time.



Photos of Standard (West Fins) Slideshow Add Photo
The rubble filled gully is the key to this route on Elephant Butte.
BETA PHOTO: The rubble filled gully is the key to this route o...
The hard to see pinnacle straight down in this photo is the left border of the gully leading to the descent rappel.
BETA PHOTO: The hard to see pinnacle straight down in this pho...
from owl rock
from owl rock
The 3 pitons for with some old webbing for the final rappel.  They are old but all seemed very solid.
BETA PHOTO: The 3 pitons for with some old webbing for the fin...
On top of the crux.  The rappel anchors are just out of sight over the lip.
BETA PHOTO: On top of the crux. The rappel anchors are just o...
Looking back down the rubble-filled gully.  The short rib that needs to be climbed is visible coming out of the gully on the left.
BETA PHOTO: Looking back down the rubble-filled gully. The sh...
last rap has air
last rap has air
This is the first meadow.  The way to the crux is the gully leading up and to the right.
BETA PHOTO: This is the first meadow. The way to the crux is ...
This is the final scramble to the summit.  It's a weird class 4 move but not bad.
BETA PHOTO: This is the final scramble to the summit. It's a ...
This is the crux on Elephant Butte.  Some of us climbed it on the left and some went to the right.
BETA PHOTO: This is the crux on Elephant Butte. Some of us cl...
Us on Elephant Butte - 2009
Us on Elephant Butte - 2009
This is above the first meadow.  The crux is straight up the gully at the back of this meadow.
BETA PHOTO: This is above the first meadow. The crux is strai...
Getting close to the summit from the slabs.  The cairn marking the weakness in the cliffs is straight ahead.
BETA PHOTO: Getting close to the summit from the slabs. The c...
at last rap
at last rap
This is looking towards the summit from above the first rappel.  The slabs are what you must scramble up to reach the summit.
BETA PHOTO: This is looking towards the summit from above the ...
last rapp off of Elephant Butte
last rapp off of Elephant Butte
Comments on Standard (West Fins) Add Comment
Show which comments
By Zach Allen
Nov 8, 2010

Well worth doing. Spectacular views, and a fun little romp.

By paul bucher
From: moab, utah
Mar 15, 2012

what an awesome fun route! great view from the top. less complicated than you might think and easy to to find the decent. classic easy adventure. this is a must do! i would rather be cautious and call the crux 5.6. i can do 5.4 all day in hiking boots and i stopped and shoed up at the crux. i was alone and carrying a pack so it may have just felt harder than 5.4. some pro is possible but it's not going to be bomber. hope the topo helps

By paul bucher
From: moab, utah
Mar 26, 2012

did it again on 3/22/12 with dante. he agreed with the 5.6, this time i was able to pull the crux in my hiking boots but still feel the moves (all 3 or 4 of them) are 5.6 note; last time i fixed up the anchors and in this short time someone had removed all the bomber new stuff i left and replaced it with junk. bring cord or webbing for rap anchors! also this time we cut right at the slabs and dumped our rope at the base of the small decent tower and went up from there. saves a little bit of weight on the final part of the climb.

By Forrest L.
Mar 27, 2012

Paul, sorry to hear that.

We climbed it on 3/14 I believe, there was a nicely tied off cordalette around the pitons for the final repel, and a large nest of new and old slings for the first repel.

By Canon
Oct 29, 2012
rating: Easy 5th 1+ 3 I 5 M 1c

The short "5.3 section" is no more than 2 short moves of easy 5th class. My brother got up it in hiking shoes. Just bring a static line and some webbing for the raps.

By Brad Edwards
From: Grand Junction, CO
Apr 4, 2013

I didn't know what to expect when I read that there was a rappel for the ascent. Seemed backwards to me, but this was just a really good hike/climb/rappel/scramble with great panoramas and we didn't see a single person while we were there and there was some huge event in Moab that weekend. If you've got a few hours, do this. I'm taking folks real soon!

By Mark P Thomas
From: Oakland
May 4, 2013

Crux is thought-provoking but easy enough to do in hiking shoes. No real point in bringing pro on the climb, just a rope for the 2 rappels.

Fun route with some nice side canyons and squeeze chimneys to explore, and a great rest day detour. At a relaxed pace we were on the summit in less than two hours, and less than an hour getting out.

By Chris Bartram
From: Westminster, CO
Apr 17, 2014

How long are the rappels? will one 50m work or do i need a 60m?

By Pawel
From: NJ
Jul 11, 2014
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a

50m suffices. Have fun. Awesome awesome outing!