How To Rock Climb In The Southwest

How To Rock Climb In The Southwest

Rock Climb

Desert Rock Climbing

So, you want to go rock climbing in the southwest? If you’re a climber you should be ready to go with the flow but a lot happens between the couch and the crag – especially in the southwest. You can usually expect the approach to be as challenging as the climbing, so it pays off to be prepared. The southwest is a magical desert, plateaued into mountains expanding into more land and canyons then the eyes can reach. The southwest is a mecca for rock climbing, but never be fooled by its beauty. It is some of the most adventurous climbing you will ever find. I have been trad climbing consistently in the southwest for over six years now and I have found a land that always challenges and mystifies me.

If you want to go climbing in the southwest you need to do some research and planning to get the best trip and summit out of it. The southwest is home to a variety of climbing opportunities – bouldering, sport climbing, trad climbing and aid climbing. But tread lightly in this sacred ground, it is an ever-changing world of sand, lava and rock.

Rock Climb

How To Prepare For Desert Rock Climbing

When I am climbing, I am exploring what the southwest has to offer and to be honest it has never disappointed me. If you want to climb the Southwest you need to be prepared for: an adventure every time, loose rock and vegetation, and a sunburn. The routes are not always well cleaned and there is generally a strange section or two. No matter how many times it humbles me, I always find myself craving to go back. So, what have I learned climbing in America’s Southwest? Here are six quick tips:

  1.       Always pack more water than you think. A minimum of 1 Nalgene to 1 Tecate
    2.       Always have a hat, sunscreen, sunnies and chums.
    3.       Pack extra chalk and extra calories.
    4.       Pack extra tape and a knife. Be prepared for a sufferfest
    5.       Pack a tank top, long sleeve, shorts, pants, down coat, and raincoat. The weather will change
    6.       Bring your standard desert rack.
Rock Climb

What’s On My Desert Climbing Rack

Finally! #6… The main question everyone wants to ask: What gear do you need to bring with you to climb the Southwest? Short answer: All of it. Bring everything you have and then go borrow a friend’s rack. It is not uncommon to read the gear suggestions on Mountain Project suggest the Standard Desert Rack. That elusive desert rack. What exact pieces does that mean you should pack? Everyone has their own opinion of what they think it is and depending on your ability level, where you are going and the season, the rack may change. I can provide you with my suggestion but in the end, you always need to be realistic with your ability and mindful of the necessary equipment it will take.

So, here is my usual desert rack:

  • Double set of cams (#.3-4) Triples if climbing above your comfort level
  • Set of C3’s
  • Set of wired nuts and stoppers (10-13)
  • Ten 60cm sewn runners
  • 4 locking carabiners
  • 12 alpine draws
  • 2 nut tools
  • 30 feet of 7mm accessory cord
  • 1 prusik
camping with kids

Use GuideGap To Plan Your Desert Rock Climbing Trip!

If it is not obvious yet, planning and getting some local insight to the Southwest can be extremely beneficial for any climber, whether you are elite or a novice. GuideGap is a resource that can help you prepare for your rock climbing outdoor adventure plan. The Local Guides are knowledgeable and experienced and give you convenience and confidence. Outdoor rock climbing in the southwest is a wonderful place to begin exploring. The landscape will always be jaw-dropping and the climbing will always be an adventure. 

About The Author: Jordan McLean

When she is not running her two businesses you can find her outside with her family. She has climbed, biked, surfed, skied, and camped all over the world while making Flagstaff her homebase for the last decade. You will typically find her climbing mountains, on ropes or a splitboard, with her husband. These days they are exploring more kid friendly crags in the Sedona and Flagstaff area with their toddler. Check out her company, which empowers women to explore the unknown, at: Goldenwaveconsulting

Below Is An Example Of A Completed Rock Climbing Trip Plan!


NO MORE SPENDING HOURS ONLINE searching for the “perfect” adventure


Since our guides do not physically go with you, a trip plan only costs $20-40!


Know your suggestions are coming from professionals

Save Time, Make Memories, Get Outside

Try GuideGap Now


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *