Day Trip to Shelf Road – The Gem Wall

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A few weekends ago, Christian, our friend Martha, and I headed down to Shelf Road for a day trip. While it was slightly late season, we figured if we found a shady wall we might be able to squeeze one last trip in. We decided to check out The Gem Wall, which is part of the Vault, for some 5.10-5.12 climbing.

For most people, you can chase the shade and climb at Shelf Road well into May, but I usually call it quits mid April because of the wildlife. The bees and wasps at Shelf become quite plentiful as it gets warmer and I’m not sure I want to find out what a trip to a Canon City hospital is like.

Anyways, it was a good call because weather was gorgeous, Gem Wall was quiet and we got in a solid day of limestone sport climbing.

Approach to the gem wall.
Hiking in to the Gem Wall.

Climbs of the day:

  • Chip off the old block, 5.9 – Really fun, polished climbing that’s well bolted and a little bit heady for a 5.9-10a leader.
  • Stress Rehearsal, 5.10d – I really enjoyed this one. It had cool, reachy moves to a thinky crux.
  • Pubic Zirconium, 5.11d – Super fun, techy moves on holds that are “just big enough” to get you through it. Flows nicely.
  • Ewetopia, 5.12a – I couldn’t get through the beginning crux, which was really long, dynamic moves to okay-ish pockets. Christian, and his +2 ape index, loved this one though. The bolt line splits above the roof. We went right, as the direct line looks significantly harder than 5.12a.

At this point, I was exhausted from my five days on of climbing, running and hiking, but Christian and Martha climbed a little while longer.

  • Flight Stimulator, 5.10c –  Cool movements on polished rock. Not the best bolt job and definitely heady for a 5.10 leader.
  • Fire it up, 5.10- – Christian and Martha both loved it. It has cool movement, more reminiscent of a typical 10ish trad climb, with lots of creative stemming and the occasional crack move.

The Gem Wall at Shelf Road

After climbing at the Gem Wall, I can honestly say it’s my favorite crag at Shelf, and I’ve climbed at most of them. The limestone was solid, the bugs were practically non existent, it was shady but you could easily move to the sun, there were great views, places to tie up Savannah Dog, and every climb we did was worth doing. I’ll definitely go back.

A note about getting to the Gem Wall. The signs at Shelf Road take you a very long, round about way to get there. The best way to approach is to follow signs for Cactus Cliffs. Once you get to the outhouse just down trail from Cactus Cliffs, you will see a sign on the left for the Vault. Take this trail and when you reach the top, go as far right as you can. That wall is the Gem wall.

To read more about the Gem Wall, check it out on Mountain Project!

Pubic Circonium, a 5.11d climb at the gem wall.
Martha on Pubic Circonium
Rock climber on limestone cliffs at Shelf Road - the gem wall
Christian on his final send of Ewetopia.
View of Cactus Cliffs from the Gem Wall.
View of Cactus Cliffs from the Gem Wall.

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