Thursday, April 14, 2011

Los Hermanos Penitente

It was sad leaving the Creek, and all the friends we had met there, but after two weeks we were starting to feel the effects of continuous crack climbing. Gobies, Creek Toe and muscle fatigue were all taking their toll. It was time to move on.

While we were at the Creek we had heard talk of the Crackhouse, a small bouldering cave outside of Moab with the sickest set of roof cracks you've ever seen.  As we were leaving we decided to go in search of it with our friend Sarah. After a couple of hours of driving around in the middle of nowhere, and just as we were about to give up, we finally found it. It's definitely worth the hype. There are several completely horizontal splitter roof cracks, the longest running about 50 feet.  Despite it being a rest day I couldn't leave without at least pulling on.  Here I am at the start of one of the shorter cracks.

From there we headed to Colorado, with our first stop being some bouldering in Unaweep Canyon.  We had stopped there last fall during a rest day to check it out, and decided it was worth a return trip to climb some of the boulders.  Unfortunately mother nature conspired against us.

Despite how nice it might look, what the picture above does not capture is the 100 km/h gusts of wind that made the thought of bouldering laughable.  We reluctantly moved on.  We could use another rest day anyway.

Next stop, Penitente Canyon, a small sport climbing area nestled in the foothills of the San Juan Mountains, and bordering the impressively flat San Luis Valley.

Yup that's right, despite our normal aversion to clipping bolts we decided to suck it up and go sport climbing. The owner of the climbing gym back home mentioned this place to me when I was visiting over the holidays, and everyone we met who had been there had nothing but good things to say.  It's a small canyon lined with short cliffs of volcanic tuff, with a variety of pockets and edges making for some incredibly fun climbing.

It also has some unique history.  In the early 20th century a Catholic sect of hispanic men called Los Hermanos Penitente (the Penitent Brothers) lived and practiced their religion in the canyon.  On one of the prominent walls of the canyon they created a painting of the Virgin Mary.

With the combination of beautiful scenery, convenient camping, easy approach and fun climbing, we ended up spending quite a few days climbing and hiking.  I can see why Los Hermanos Penitente chose it as their place of worship.


  1. what, pray tell, is "creek toe"?

  2. Creek Toe is a horrible, excruciatingly painful, affliction of the pinky toe, caused by jamming your toes into .75 size Camalot cracks.