Believe it or not, but Durango has its fair share of 9-5 working stiffs. And if you’re one of them, you know there are only a few hours of sunlight left after work to squeeze a few routes in. What you need is a quick drive and a short approach to the crag. That’s where Fume Wall comes in. Just as glamorous as it sounds, Fume Wall towers directly over US 550 about twenty minutes north of town, making it the closest lead sport climbing area. It’s loud and it’s not particularly scenic, but it offers eighteen routes between 5.6 and 5.12.
What Makes It Great
Fume Wall has next to no approach once you park in the small, gravel area off of CR 250. Walk through the tunnel which takes you underneath the highway, and the limestone crag is just up the 4x4 road behind a layer of scrub oak. Most of the routes are on the left side of the fence, but there are a few, new routes on the opposite side.
The 5.6 (Child's Play) and the 5.7 (Beginner's Luck) are an excellent spot to gain confidence leading outside for the first time. Fume Wall also sports a couple of 5.8s and several 5.9s in addition to a smattering of 5.10s, 5.11s, and a 5.12. Although there are many lower-grade routes at Fume Wall, many are stiff and heady. That said, it's one of the better crags in the area for new outdoor leaders.
Fume Wall is east facing and is therefore well shaded in the afternoon, but because of the scrub oak barrier, your belay will enjoy lots of shade even in the direct sun. This limestone cliff has been very popular, and some of the routes are polished. Some of the anchors have cold-shuts, so please be respectful of the hardware. If you want to toprope, build your own anchor.
Who is Going to Love It
Whether you're a workaday joe-schmo or the latest aspiring dirtbag in town, Fume Wall is an easy to access crag for all levels. Bring your kids to practice on the easier routes or drag along your officemate for a bit of afterwork climbing. Don't forget, you can always order food at Steamworks until 11:00, if you just have to climb one more route.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From downtown Durango, drive north on US 550. After 16 miles, take a right on CR 250. Round the bend and hang your first left into the dirt carpark. If you have a 4x4 vehicle, you can continue up the road to a closer parking spot. However, there are a couple of deep drainages in the road and you're likely to bottom-out if not careful. Low clearance vehicles should park in the first area.
Walk through the tunnel and up the hill to the climbing area.
Though Fume Wall sits on CDOT land, it is surrounded by private homeowners who have complained of noise in the past. Please be respectful, so that the greater climbing community can enjoy this wall.