Approaches to Climbing Areas
Emerald Pools and Painted Canyon Sections
All crags in this section may be accessed from the campground via a cairned trail past a fire circle that leads to a large hoist crane at the top of the bluff. Follow the third class scramble to the right of the crane along boulders until you see The Butt on your immediate left. All of the following crags may be accessed through this approach into the canyon: The Butt, Candy Land, Gator Farm, Cheap Beer Odyssey, Fishing Hole and Painted Canyon. These crags tend to stay in the shade most of the day and offer the easiest approaches at the Continental Ranch. There are several good swimming options along this stretch of the canyon where getting out is straightforward.
The Butt (10 minutes)
The aptly named Northwest facing crag is the closest climbing to the campground with good shade and 15 climbs ranging in difficulty from 5.9 - 5.13. Top ropes can easily be set up from above on The Butt Crack (5.10) and all three Butt Nugget climbs (5.11+, 5.12- and 5.11+). The approach is roughly a 5 minute hike down from the campground. Approach the canyon from the Emerald Pools approach and the crag is immediately on you left.
Candy Land (12 minutes)
With Northwest facing walls and 8 sport climbs ranging from 5.8 - 5.10+ this crag is immediately downstream from The Butt. Approach the canyon from the Emerald Pools approach and walk a few hundred feet past the Butt Nugget boulder (river to your right) and arrive at Candy Land behind the first boulder field your come across.
Gator Farm (20 minutes)
With North West facing walls and 6 sport climbs ranging from 5.7 - 5.11, two TR climbs (5.6 and 5.8) and some boulder problems (no topo) the Gator Farm crag is the farthest downstream crag that is accessible from The Butt. Follow the approach to The Butt and hike a quarter mile downstream (river on your right) past Candy Land. After passing the boulder field immediately after Candy Land there is a clean section of canyon until you arrive and a smaller boulder field that is in the middle of the Gator Farm wall. These boulders have been climbed before, but no information was provided to us on the number or difficulty of these climbs.
Cheap Beer Odyssey (12 minutes)
Immediately upstream from The Butt and with North West facing walls, Cheap Beer Odyssey has 4 sport climbs ranging from 5.9 - 5.11. Approach the canyon from the Emerald Pools approach and walk a few hundred feet upstream from The Butt (river on your left). The crag is at this first boulder field. If you past the first river access point you've gone too far.
Fishing Hole (15 minutes)
Fishing hole has North West facing walls and 5 sport climbs ranging from 5.8 - 5.11. Approach the canyon from the Emerald Pools approach and walk upstream (river on your left) from The Butt past Cheap Beer Odyssey to the first river access point.
Painted Canyon (20-30 minutes)
Painted Canyon is the largest section of climbing and is the farthest crag upstream from The Butt. The crag has North facing walls with 22 sport climbs ranging from 5.9 - 5.13-. The climbs are spread out along a roughly 150 yard section of the canyon. Approach the canyon from the Emerald Pools approach and walk upstream from The Butt (river to your left) past Fishing Hole about half a mile. You will pass two river access points (the first being Fishing Hole and the second coming after turning North and passing a boulder field. After the second river access point you will see painted canyon across the river. This marks the beginning of the wall which continues for a few hundred feet. Follow the cliff line in the topo for orientation.
Weir Dam Section
The Weir Dam area has South facing walls and experiences full sun most of the day so bring extra water and extra batteries for your headlamps! There is no shelter from the sun so this area is best on cool days or early in the morning. Evening climbing here is risky because of the increased potential of getting lost in the dark on the way back. Please allow plenty of time to return to the parking lot before sunset. The walls are much taller in this section of the canyon so please bring 60m or 70m ropes and tie knots in the ends! It is imperative that someone in the group is able to set up a top belay for the last person exiting the canyon unless you plan on taking the long 3rd class scramble back to the auxiliary parking at the cabin. Weir Dam is on the other side of the peninsula from the campground and is accessed by driving from the campground about half a mile to an irregular intersection. Take a sharp right turn and continue down this road staying left at two more forks to arrive at the unimproved main parking area. For safety reasons, please be sure to travel in groups with two or more cars. Please try to leave room for other vehicles to come and go freely so that in the event of an emergency no one is blocked in. Again, for safety concerns and because of the remote nature of this area, please take two cars and notify an AAC event staff that you intend to access Weir Dam via this route and indicate the approximate times you expect to be down at Weir Dam. Access times will vary significantly based on the size of the party. This area has three access points described below:
1) 100' Ladder (50-70 minutes depending on size of the party)
There is a 100 foot ladder that was installed at some point many decades ago directly across from Weir Dam. The bottom of the ladder is intentionally not connected to the ground so that the structure can flex during the rare flash floods on the Pecos River. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Follow a cairned trail down and then left from the parking area towards the rim of the canyon until you find the top of the ladder directly across from Weir Dam. There is a rappel station here and it is highly recommended that you belay partners as they descend/ascend the ladder. You may also rappel into the canyon without the use of the ladder. Please leave the fixed rope threaded through the ladder so that people may exit the canyon with a top rope belay. Use a locking carabiner at the end of the rope with a figure 8 on a bight so that you can quickly pass the rope through the metal ladder at the small platform in the middle and reattach to your harness. Otherwise, you will have to untie and retie your knot on the platform to ascend the ladder. This should make sense when you see the set-up, but don't hesitate to ask questions or seek assistance with this! The last person will have to be top belayed out of the canyon. From the bottom of the ladder follow the weed whacked trail through tall grass with the canyon walls to your left until you reach Wire Wall.
2) Mr. Access 5.7 (60-90 minutes depending on size of party and route finding)
Rappel the route Mr. Access. Hike down from the parking area to the top of the cliff and hike along the top of the cliff downstream (river to your right) past the ladder mentioned above. Follow the cairns (stacked rocks) along the canyon rim, around a large drainage until you see a large wire cable that spans the canyon (marking the beginning of Wire Wall). Continue along the cairned trail until you reach the top of Mr. Access which will be marked with three large cairns immediately after a right facing dihedral with a large flake system. There is a ten foot exposed section after this dihedral that leads you to the anchors of Mr Access (5.7). Rappel the route into the canyon and consider leaving a TR on the climb so that in the event of an emergency others may exit the canyon quickly by climbing Mr Access and reversing the cairned trail back to the parking lot. The last person will have to be top belayed out of the canyon.
3) Third Class Approach from the Cabin (30-60 minutes depending on route finding)
Instead of driving to the main parking area above the ladder at Weir Dam, drive from the campground to the first intersection and take the second right (obtuse). About another half mile down the road take the only right turn and continue to the cabin. Be advised that low clearance vehicles will likely need to pull off early before the road gets too rough and hike in to the old cabin. From the cabin, follow a cairned trail West towards a large drainage (remember the canyon wall faces South). Turn North before the drainage and follow cairns around to the other side. Follow the cairns South West down a third or fourth class scramble into the canyon. This approach requires good route finding skills and could become very exposed if you get off route. You will enter the canyon down stream from the climbing with the Solarium wall on your right followed by the Arch and Wire Wall further upstream.
4) There is indication of a fourth class scramble that accesses The Planetarium on the topographical guides provided. This approach has not been cairned or accessed in many years. Please do not access the canyon via this 4th class approach.