World Class Climbing!
Years ago, Penitente Canyon served as a place of worship for a small sect of the Catholic Church known as Los Hermanos Penitente.
The Brothers Penitente, mostly Spanish men of deep faith and commitment, lived secluded from outside influences in the foothills and canyons of the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains. Living simply, they practiced their religion with a fervor few other sects could match.
Penitente Canyon named for its seclusion, has emerged as one of the states premier sport climbing areas. The area, which includes Penitente Canyon and the adjacent Rock Garden, Sidewinder and Witches Canyons have yielded as fine a concentration of high quality routes as any area in the region. Visitors to the area include local climbers and climbers as far away as France, Germany, Spain, Canada, and Japan. The area has been featured in Climbing Magazine, and two books written about the area describe the climbs.
This area is part of BLM's 7,529 acre Penitente Canyon Special Recreation Management Area. Development in the canyon has been made possible through the partnerships formed between the American Mountain Foundation, the BLM, and local rock climbers. Volunteers helped install wood and rock vehicle barriers to designate parking areas, campsites, trails and the construction of a permanent restroom facility.
With recent construction of a new campground on the ridge adjacent and south of the canyon, the lower campground has been closed and re-vegetated. Better facilities on the ridge make the Penitente experience more enjoyable. A fresh water well will be provided at the entrance to the area.
To get to the Penitente Canyon:
Travel north from Del Norte Colorado on Hwy 112 3.1 miles and follow map.
Travel north from Monte Vista on Hwy 285, 18 miles to
County Road G and turn left at sign. Follow the paved road until
you reach La Garita Store (they have great Hamburgers!). Keep
going a little bit further until you reach the 'Y. Take the south
road (dirt) and follow the signs to the canyon.
Click to enlarge Penitente Canyon Map below.
Some Sample Penitente Climbs:
|#1 - Handle With Care||5.11b||Unpredictable and loose rock. Four bolts.||FA: K. McLaughlin, Glen Schuler|
|#2 - Captain America||5.10a||Buttress, slot, slab, ledge. Three bolts.||FA: Jay Fredinburg|
|#3 - May-B-Nueve||5.8||Slab split by crack. Five bolts.||FA: Alex Colville|
|#4 - Mr. Breeze||5.2||Slabby buttress. Five bolts.||FA: Jack Hunt|
|#5 - Mr. Wind||5.7||Stem. Six Bolts.||FA: Mac Ruiz|
|There are over 300
Penitente Canyon and the surrounding areas. They range from beginner to advanced.
The geologic history of the area is quite interesting. It began 33 million years ago, during an active period of explosive volcanism. Large amounts of volcanic debris and ash were ejected from huge volcanoes in today's San Juan Mountains. In parts of the San Luis Valley, the ash covered the land in depths up to 1,800 feet.
Heat and pressure turned the ash into rock. This layer of rock eroded and cracked, rounding the rock edges, creating mystical shapes and hoo-doos.
Bureau of Land Management
46525 Hwy 114
Saguache, CO 81149
US Forest Service
1803 West Hwy 160
Monte Vista, CO 81144