Popular due to its smorgasbord of routes and ease of access, the Grotto Wall area off Independence Pass has something for every climber's tastes: steep single and multi-pitch trad, intense sport climbing, and excellent bouldering.
The Grotto Walls climbing venue offers a fantastic assortment of granite trad and sport routes and intriguing bouldering problems that can keep you busy for a quick outing after work, all day or all weekend. Located on Highway 82 on the way towards Independence Pass, the Grotto Walls are a 9.3-mile drive from downtown Aspen and situated just off the highway.
What Makes It Great
The area naturally breaks into five zones with Lower Grotto Wall serving up the best climbing. The following is a sampling of what to expect, starting from closest to the road, Lower Grotto Wall to the 30-min approach required to access Third Grotto Wall. Before you head out, stop in at Ute Mountaineer for local beta from knowledgeable floor staff and to pick up the best guidebook to the area, Tom Perkins’ “Independence Pass Rock Climbing II.”
Lower Grotto Wall The premiere wall features 27 routes with plenty of cracks, grippy face climbs, dihedrals and overhangs. Bring a full rack for the aptly named Twin Cracks, the classic 5.8 two-pitch route, which serves up two parallel cracks leading to a roof. Cryogenics, a 5.11c, is the ambassador of Independence Pass climbing. For the first pitch follow the crack to chains above the first ledge and choose one of three routes that lay above for the second pitch: the 5.10c variation climbs along the left headwall, the classic 5.11c direct line through a veering rock on the right or straight up for 5.12a Yam Quesadilla.
Mecca Wall and Killer Pillar This area offers six more challenging options 100 yards to the right and uphill of Lower Grotto Wall.
Second Grotto Wall A 20-minute walk from the road lands you in a zone laden with long trad and sport routes. Here you’ll find the 5.9-rated Tits on a Bull. Start on a corner crack, traverse left, step over a short roof and set up the belay. On the second pitch, climb under a roof and veer right to finish with a chimney and crack climb.
Third Grotto Wall If your group is a mix of intermediates and advanced climbers, Third Grotto Wall is a great place to hang out. Located about five to 10 minutes past Second Grotto Wall, the two-pitch 5.9 Inner Worlds and it's neighboring Rocky Candy beautifully marbled, single-pitch 5.12a, appropriately named face climb, await climbers.
Who is Going to Love It
Independence Pass, and specifically the Grotto Walls, are renowned climbing venues. The vast majority of the routes are for advanced climbers, but Third Grotto Wall provides options for intermediates and experts. The area is a great place for intermediates looking to enhance their skills and observe methods of more seasoned climbers and for experts to find dozens of challenges.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Head east on Highway 82 out of Aspen. After driving for a little more than nine miles you will come to a very tight turn. The parking for the Grotto Walls is right at this turn. As soon as you get out of your car you will see climbers making their ascent on the steep walls that tower above.