Imagine a canyon with towering, 200 foot, limestone walls tucked away into a secluded setting with gorgeous views of the front range. Now imagine this canyon located a paltry 15 minute drive from Garden of the Gods. Too good to be true? Go check out William's canyon.
Most of the development in the canyon so far has been limited to the east side on two distinct cliffs, Caveman Wall, and Greentuary.
Caveman Wall offers shorter to mid-length climbs on surprisingly steep and solid limestone. Most of the climbs here range from 5.11-5.12. On top of that there are two moderate climbs and a few more difficult routes for those who are actually good at climbing. This wall faces southwest and offered great temperatures on a 45 degree day with snow coating the valley and approach trail.
Stewart Green offered me the following information about the areas below: Greentuary, though I have yet to visit, has longer climbing on a wall containing a 5.11a, 5.11c, and a 5.12b. These routes push 100 feet long. Bring a 60m rope. This wall faces west.
The Shady Side has one climb at 5.11b up a steep dihedral to a roof. I saw this climb and would have tried it were it not in the shade(duh) and the ground coated with a foot of snow. The shady side, as implied by the name, is shady because it faces northwest. Go here on a hot day.
The Temple, which is the large, 200 foot cliff visible across the canyon from Caveman wall has one route. The first pitch goes at a chossy 5.8, the second kicks it up a notch to 5.13. The hangers have been removed from the second pitch, but it is still available to top rope. This awe-inspiring cliff faces east, and was in the sun most of the morning.
It is true that some of the rock is a little loose, so it is advisable to bring a helmet. However, this is not a reason to miss the opportunity to check this place out! My partner and I climbed six routes in the course of about 3 hours and I only kicked off a foothold once on lower angle, easy terrain.
For a secluded, sport climbing adventure, go check out William's Canyon.
Turn onto Rampart Range Road from the Garden of the Gods (just NW of balancing rock) and drive up this dirt road for 5 miles. Park at a nice pullout on the north side of the water/cell tower that is obvious from the road. It is advisable to have a car with high clearance and good traction, as this road can be rutted and/or icy.
From here, finding the canyon gets a little more difficult. Walk back along the road to the south. Once you can walk no further south along the road without turning to the east look to your right. There should be a hole in a fence you can duck through. At some point you should be able to see a large limestone cliff facing East. This is The Temple. To access Caveman Wall continue walking west along this path, in the general direction of the Temple. After a few minutes, you will come to a gradual turn to the left (south). Begin looking for a cairn appearing on the right side of the trail. When you are at the cairn go straight west over small scrub oak and begin down a reasonably well defined trail, continuing southwest. Continue down this trail until you are between limestone cliffs to your left and to your right. The cliff to your left(south) is shady side. The cliff to your right (north) is Caveman Wall.
If you missed the cairn you will end up walking due south along a dirt road (not RRR). At some point try to cut right, to the west and rejoin the trail, trending in a westward direction.
Clamber up a confusing sequence in the vicinity of the first bolt. There are a lot of hidden holds here, it just takes some endurance to be able to look for them on marginal feet. Clip the second bolt and chalk up before continuing up the awesome face above. The crux is below you, just survive the pump and you'll be at the anchor in no time....[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Definitely there are holds that break off. But (at least in the lower end of the scale=<5.11) I only had one hold break off on me. And that hold now won't break on anyone else. Maybe that someone won't have a hold break on them at all. Overall, the rock I was on seemed very solid, but again I can't speak for the 5.12 routes.
However, the Greens did climb these routes, so they had to have held at least one ascent. Also, how is this much different from the Garden of the Gods? I have broken quite a few holds there.
It's quite a bit different than GOG, because GOG is mostly slabby and this is consistently more steep. It's a LOT harder to 'pull down, not out' when it isn't slabby. My experience here was the same as Tzilla and R Magill. Not really worth the effort to come back a second time.
Easy to find, secluded, adventurous......but really the rock looks worse than it is. Knock on holds and bring a helmet for your belayer. Overall, I think its great to have some local limestone to explore. Just takes a little more balls!
Yes, more balls. Andrew Smith went through and rated every single climb with a bomb...which seems pretty silly. I honestly had a good time climbing here. Nobody should base whether they visit William's Canyon or not off of other people's experiences.
You're welcome, Jason T! We went there and pulled a boulder off that went all the way to the bottom of the canyon and almost hit a family. They were yelling at us from the bottom that it was feet from there son. The place is loss and not worth the experience that I had. And what's up with the V10 sarcasm?
Well, positive or negative, I am glad there is finally some discussion going on about good ol' Williams. My dad, Stewart Green, and I personally bolted all but two routes there and I firmly believe that Williams offers a fantastic, secluded, adventure-filled experience that any local should check out and give a shot. True the rock quality is not comparable to French limestone, but it's really not as bad as some people are making it out to be. Personally, even on the first ascents, I barely ever broke a hold. The rock is indeed no worse than American Fork or Rifle were in their developmental stages. Williams simply needs more ascents, although most of routes are quite clean already. So anyway, Happy Cragging! Don't listen to the fluff, get up there for some killer Colorado Springs sport climbing!
Retraction to follow: William's Canyon might be just fine. My one and only visit was about a decade ago, so it likely cleaned up in the meantime. Although I didn't care for the routes I did that day, they were only a few routes and therefore wouldn't constitute much of a sampling either.
You should probably not pay too much heed to my comments, but rather rely on people who have actually spent a lot of time there. If Phil and Ian and others are saying this is worthwhile, they are probably right.
Hi Guys -- Need to point out that Williams Canyon is PRIVATE PROPERTY and CLIMBING IS NOT ALLOWED, for several reasons. As you have noted, there are a million hikers below, the rock is rotten and crumbly, and it poses a very dangerous risk. There is no road in or out and emergency crews are not familiar with the area. All rescues are handled primarily by cavers.
This is a very sensitive environment and a lot of those holes you are climbing around by are nursery caves for threatened species of bats, as well as nesting sites for Pergrine Falcons, cliff swallows, and other species that nest in such isolated locales because they do not do well with disturbance. A well-intentioned climber can scare bats in torpor, causing them to wake up, fly in panic, and deplete their limited energy stores, which will result in their death by starvation before spring comes. Thousands of bats have been killed by accident this way.
Please be a responsible outdoor lover and climb elsewhere. I have been working with and managing this place for years with Cave of the Winds, and I am currently forming a volunteer group to help protect and preserve this beautiful canyon, in case anyone is interested. Please contact me to find out more!
For those of you that persist in climbing here, please keep in mind that the canyon is monitored, and anyone caught climbing will be prosecuted. We are serious about protecting this wonderful place.
I don't know about the bats.... but this quad shows william's canyon in Pike National Forest. Sure, to access you need to skirt private property but there is no reason to step onto the private property. www.cospringstrails.com/hikes/pdf/cascade.pdf
I'm not sure where in Williams Canyon the climbing is, but if you go to land.elpasoco.com/ you can see El Paso County land record maps. Schedules 7300000474, 7405200005, 7405216011 and 7300000052 are all private and cover the lower canyon. The upper canyon is forest service land (schedule 7300000189).
Comparing the parcel maps to Stewart Green's guide, I would say that at least some (a lot) of the climbing is on forest service land. Can anyone confirm based on the parcel maps?
I'm an idiot and can't make head or tail of what is going on in Mike's map. Does anyone else understand that?
Also, if it's forest Service land, would they go thru KSherwood? To me she almost sounds like a volunteer/manager for some environmental group trying to scare people away from climbing here, which isn't cool.
But I don't want to downplay the seriousness of the livelihood of endangered bats.
If you click on the link and search for schedule 7300000189 and then click to view the parcel map, you'll see the Pike National Forest parcel highlighted in yellow. You can click on other parcels to see who owns them. Compare the boundaries to, say, a topo map with the cliffs marked and there you go.
I'm not so worried that KSherwood is an environmentalist scaring climbers away - rather, it looks to me like she is mistakenly talking about a different area of Williams Canyon than where at least some or most of the climbing is. The lower canyon is privately owned, and known to have lots of caves (eg, cave of the winds). A group called the Williams Canyon Project works with the private landowner w/r/t conservation of the caves and bats, but to my knowlege they don't work on Pike National Forest land. Maybe they do but I couldn't find any programs or restrictions on the forest land.
Bats are very cool. We had a colony living in our chimney last year. Hopefully they take to the bat box we nailed up, once I put some excluder netting to keep them out of the chimney proper.
AH, ok. I didn't see that parcel map clicky the first time around. Judging from the hasty snip I took of Stewarts topo next to that parcel map.... It looks like most of the climbing is on National Forest land. However, I would by wary of climbing on The Temple.
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Also, I would like to add that there was very little use of features that a bat could reside in while climbing at the Caveman Wall. I cannot speak for the other walls.
The climbing was completely on external features, minus a shallow crack on one of the routes. Overall, there were not a lot of pockets, and I cannot even recall using a feature that would house a bat.
I am going to echo what Phil is saying here. Let's not get our sections of Williams Canyon confused. There is the lower section that starts in Manitou which has Cave of the Winds and some 50+ other caves in it which IS private property. Upper Williams Canyon (like that which has the Caveman Wall) does not have cave entrances (that I'm aware of). You can climb where there are bolts in the upper canyon without disturbing the bat population. Like Kristen said, climbing in lower William's canyon would just be stupid and you would probably agree as the rock disintegrates in your hands.
When Ian and I bolted the routes at Williams ten to twelve years ago, I consulted all the county and Forest Service maps to ensure that we were climbing in Pike National Forest. So, all of the current routes are north of the private Cave of the Winds property.
The boundary line does, however, cut through the middle of The Temple. The one route we top-roped and put most of the bolts in on The Temple is on NF land. Okay, I just looked at the county map and compared it to a satellite photo and it appears that The Temple is part of the private property, but there are no established routes on it anyway, so no worries there.
The boundary line on the east side of the canyon is around the corner and south from the wall just south of Caveman Wall. The rock down there is not as good as the upper canyon and there are no routes, so again--no worries. Nor do I know of any caves in the upper canyon. Could be some small entrances high in the cliffs but none on the climbing crags. So fellas, no problem climbing at Williams!
Whoa, did not mean to start WW3 and I apologize for not being clear about my concerns. Yes, part of Williams is private and part is USFS, and I am talking about the private part. I was very concerned about reports of rocks being kicked down around hikers, as well as the proximity to caves, and the recent rapid increase of usage in the canon as a whole. It's also of concern that most users access Williams via Cave of the Winds property. Climbing is allowed on USFS land, but not on Cave of the Winds property. Since the actual property line on the ground in the canon is not well marked and does not run along a straight line, it would be very easy to be confused. Hopefully this will be resolved soon.
I really appreciate the concern and care for the bat population, which is one of my main motivations. Bats don't live just in caves, but also in trees, cracks, or anything sheltered and high up, so yes, there are bats on USFS land. There are also cave resources.
While I am not a rabid environmentalist hell-bent on scaring people away from anthing, I am very focused on making sure that this area, both public and private, remains open and sustainable for all user groups (not just hikers or just climbers or worst scenario, nobody at all). I'm also not just making this stuff up -- there are several active organizations, public and private, that really care about this place and I am a part of that.
I apologize for starting such a heated discussion -- just trying extremely hard to make sure that Williams Canon will be around for a long time in the same shape that all of you appreciate.