BETA PHOTO: The Woodbury Road turnoff from Old US 91.
In critical habitat area for the Desert Tortoise
The Woodbury Road Crags are a collection of 3 limestone sport crags in the extreme southwestern corner of Utah, only a few miles from the Arizona border. The collective name of the crags comes from the road into the Woodbury Desert Study Area, in which Angus M. Woodbury and Ross Hardy performed the original ecological study of the Desert Tortoise in the 1930's and 1940's. In 1980 the Study Area was part of 35 square miles designated as "critical habitat" for the threatened Utah population of tortoises.
In 2006 a fire burned large areas of the Study Area, including the area surrounding the crags. Compare the photograph of Kelly's Rock in Todd Goss's Rock Climbs of Southwest Utah, 2nd Ed. with the photograph in Mountain Project.
Because the climbing areas are within designated critical habitat it is imperative that climbers respect the landscape, flora, and fauna. It is particularly important to be careful while the area recovers from fire. Desert areas are notoriously fragile and slow to recover from disruption because the arid environment means plant growth is very slow, and erosion is very slow to erase scars.
Note also that the crags are relatively remote. There is probably no cellphone coverage (but I forgot to check) and the nearest town of consequence (sorry Littlefield) is Mesquite, NV, approximately 20 miles away.
Two of the crags, Black and Tan and Kelly's Rock, are within a 5 minute walk of each other and can be reached with a low clearance, 2WD vehicle on a good quality graded road. The third, The Solstice, is about a half mile or so from the others and requires a high-clearance vehicle, or a short walk past a steep, loose section of the road. Note that route development is ongoing at the crags.
From Saint George: Take Bluff Street north to Sunset Blvd (the three-lane left turn at the north end of town). Turn left and drive 11.2 miles to the Gunlock turnoff. Bear left (don't turn towards Gunlock) and continue another 15.0 miles to the Woodbury Road turnoff on the left. (Note that these mileages are different from those reported in Rock Climbs of Southwest Utah. Different vehicles, I suppose). The GPS coordinates listed on this page are for the turnoff.
From the Mesquite or Las Vegas direction: From I-15 northbound exit at the Littlefield exit (exit 8, a few miles past Mesquite) and head north on Cane Beds Road. This turns into Old US 91 at the Utah border. The Woodbury Road turnoff will be on the right about 1.9 miles past the Utah border (according to Google Earth—I haven't recorded the mileages when I've driven this).
This route is named "k-8" because it originally was the eighth route from the left side. Now it about the 11th or 12th, so things have changed a little. Anyway, Todd Goss calls this "one of the best routes in Utah". Wow... strong statement! However, I am hard pressed to argue with him - I can't think of another one at the 11b grade that is as good as this. Great pockets and edges through a couple of roofs, everything but the kitchen sink on this line. ...[more]Browse More Classics in UT
A wildfire went through here in 2006. Most of the area is fairly well burnt up. At Kelly's Wall there is a fixed rope hanging off a project that is all charred and melted down near the ground. They might have to retire that cord...
Of course the climbing is pretty much unaffected, but the scenery and the camping are suffering a bit. Same thing for the Utah Hills area. In spring 2006, we camped near the Soul Asylum and it was pretty nice. That is all burnt to the ground now. You can still find camping, but you may have to camp in a burned up ashpit or go further out into the desert.
And I would also add that since it burned down, the red necks appear to have decided it is absolutely ok to trash the place. The road up to Soul Asylum is littered with trash and shooting targets and spent shells.
Camping up at Welcome Springs is still a possibility - the fire didn't seem to affect that quite as badly. Although when we went up there, it was packed full of campers (including some non-climbing rednecks with ATVs) probably because everything else is burned.
So in summary: - Utah Hills (Soul Asylum, the Diamond, Gorilla Cliffs,etc): burned to the ground. You can still climb there but scenery and camping situation is horrific.
- Woodbury Road (Black and Tan, Kelly's Rock): significantly burned, but more camping opportunity than Utah Hills. However, this area is pretty much sub-prime for camping in the first place - you won't get any trees or shade, other than some short Joshua Trees.
-Welcome Springs (Cathedral, Wailing Wall, etc): some burned up area, some camping opportunity, but expect to be a bit crowded.
This is a beautiful place to climb, easy access from Las Vegas, and solid, quality limestone. I greatly enjoyed myself here. Both Kelly's and Black and Tan seem to be getting close to overbolted right now-it would be nice if Mr Goss and his crew would try to make sure not to place bolts that you can reach and clip from other routes beside. At one or two spots on Kelly's I could touch one with each hand and one with my foot-maybe the routes would benefit from not being so crammed.
Seriously an amazingly beautiful area. Can't really tell anymore that there was a fire a couple years ago.
The rock is intensely sharp, so be careful, but its also a great place to climb when the weather is wet. Sandstone will be seriously weakened and most other rocks will be slick, but the limestone out here will still be climbable when its wet.
I also agree thats its overbolted. Many more routes now than are in the guidebook and its hard to actually tell which one goes where. Some of the routes are wandery so long draws might help.