What is it about new, undiscovered, or little known places that capture the imagination so quickly? Why is it when I try a research a place someone has posted a photo of, and I get next to nothing back I become a little obsessed? Constantly scouring the internet trying to find every sliver of information I can, no matter how small. Becoming more serious about climbing and searching for climbing spots has only made me worse, much worse. But usually I’m pretty successful in coming up with the goods, I’ll find a rabbit hole of links for backpacking trips, or guide books for scrambling routes, or hidden secret photo locations, but this time? I was drawing blanks. I’d find photos, yes, from a few climbers on Instagram, a few articles in Climbing Magazines and blogs, and one in the Albuquerque Local paper, naively but proudly tooting Roy’s horn “becoming the next great climbing location”. But could I find anything on routes? Not a sniff. Nothing on Mountain Project, not even the forums, nothing on any climbing forums, no routes, no problems, not even a coordinate. I was ever more intrigued; I had to find out more, and I had to go climb there.
I first read about Roy back in 2012, when Climbing Magazine published on its website a paragraph on a secret location in New Mexico that the locals were keeping under wraps, there were photos but that was it, just one paragraph. Back then I was still living in England, and wasn’t waist deep into climbing like I am now, so I thought little of it, and went back to reading about Mountain Biking in Wales and Mountaineering in Scotland. A few years later, 2015, when I was frequenting the US more, Roy started to come back onto my RADAR, but even then I’d still read about it and not pay it much attention, but the spark was I there, every time I saw it the itch grew. But I was in Colorado, had plenty to explore, and besides, I was being a dirtbag, I didn’t even have a car. I put it out of my mind and wnet back to doing whatever it was I was doing back then. Back to the present, and last year, December to be exact I seen the first in depth article on Roy, and that’s when the itch broke into a scratch. Climbing Magazine posted a full length article, with photos, and gleaming reviews of just how good this place was. Roy was real, and Roy was good. It was within reach.
My incessant searching finally brought me to a webpage for a guidebook on New Mexico Bouldering, a book that was in production by Owen Summerscales. It mentioned Socorro, the Ortegas, and thankfully Roy. That was it. We had our beta. One afternoon session in Morrison, I floated the idea of a trip to Roy and got some bites; we crewed up and set a date. I was excited.
I just want to say something. You may be reading this and be thinking I sound like a pretty good climber, researching spots, talking about new areas like I know what I’m doing. I am not. I’m a weekend warrior. I know good strong climbers, I climb at a gym with good strong climbers, I climb outside with good strong climbers, and mostly I take photos of them. But you’re not going to see me taking down double digit V boulders. But that’s how you get better; by climbing with stronger people, at places that get you excited.
We may have been pushing it a little close with the weather, it was already April and the temperatures were starting to rise, but we figured we probably still had a good few weeks, May/June would be the cut off for Summer, it’d be too hot from then all the way into October. We also figured that in reality we’d climb early and late into the evening and find shaded spots during the middle of the day, the usual way to do things. There was also rain in the forecast for Saturday night, so that should cool things down a little too. So after finishing work on Friday, because apparently I’m a real person these days and have to work, 4 of us crammed ourselves and all our gear into an old Jeep Cherokee, strapped some pads to the roof, and headed south. By the time we arrived it was dark and we couldn’t see anything that suggested Boulders, even in the fading light as we crossed the desert we didn’t see anything. We hadn’t been tricked? Had we dreamed about Roy? No, we hadn’t.
We were too tired the night before to set up the tent, so we just slept on our mats in our bags in the open. As the sun came up, we started to get small, inviting glimpses of what we had come to climb, but it wasn’t until we actually started to drive down into the canyon that we realised what was there. The night before and the whole 6 hour journey down from Denver, we had been pouring over the section in the guide booked for Roy, and eventually just before we got in the car in the morning we decided to just get to the first pull out and see what was there at the “Roadside Attraction” boulder. Driving down into the canyon on a steep rutted dirt road, you all of a sudden realise what is there, swathes of boulders, more than you can count or climb on in your life. There are also cliffs, cracks, overhangs, it’s incredible. This one weekend wasn’t going to be enough.
The boulders in Roy are both easy to find and hard to find both at the same time, and for the same reason; there are so many high quality boulders that you get lost looking at all of them and forget which one you actually want to climb. After unloading the car, and dumping the pads at the foot of some boulder, we got lost for hours just searching and exclaiming at all the chalk marks up some of the most aesthetic boulders we’ve seen. Incredible caves, small thuggy blocks, soaring flat pocketed highball faces, and tendon popping cracks – this was only the first place.
Soon enough we started to climb and after what felt like a few minutes it was already past midday, and we had climbed on 3 boulders, choosing our last one of the area as it sat in the shade. We had climbed on some incredible boulders and we were all feeling good, moral was high and we were sending grades we would usually struggle on back in CO; maybe it was the stoke? The atmosphere? Or the quality sandstone? Whatever it was, we were climbing, and climbing hard. After a lunch of sleep, trail mix and gallons of water we decided to move on to a new area. It took us a fair while to find it, using a GPS and a good sense of direction and after 45 minutes of running and driving around in the hot afternoon sun we had found it; once again we laid the pads down and got at it. Unfortunately by this point we had 2 problems; 1. We were very tired, a day of climbing hard in the sun really takes out of you, my forearms were shot and so was my skin, and 2. More ominously we had a really rather large thunderstorm approaching, and seeing as how we hadn’t set the tent up last night and slept outside, we’d need to head back before it rained so we could have somewhere dry to sleep that night. We all hopped on an awesome looking layback V4 jug out, but the latter of the above worries forced us to end early. Reluctantly we trudged back to the car and stuffed ourselves and gear back in and drove back to the campsite, spending the rest of the night watching the storm creep through the canyon, occasionally blasting us with short, heavy downpours. Desert storms are a great way to end a day.
Luckily the clouds, as menacing as they looked, didn’t end up dumping as much rain as they looked like they would, and we were greeted with warm dry conditions. With almost too much to choose from, and having spent last night sitting in the tent in the howling wind trying to no avail to choose a spot to climb we ended up almost just pointing at a page at random. Luckily we landed on what was described as a “Roy classic area, not one to miss”, the jumbles, how had it been so hard for us to choose with a name and tag line like that!? None of that mattered now. Breakfast was fraught though; I had rushingly packed my food supplies before the trip and hadn’t really thought of breakfast as existing, so I ended up having a rehydrated Kathmandu Curry pouch, and a couple pieces of “toast”. I had also forgotten coffee. I guess I was excited or something of the like. None-the-less I ate some food for energy and tried my best to enjoy it. Getting to this new area was almost as much of an adventure as getting to Roy. You take a series of contrived turns through metal gates past fields of cows in chain link fences until you end up at a “campsite” where it doesn’t look like you’re anywhere. So you get out the car and walk a 100 yards and then there it is; another finger of this hidden canyon stuffed full of boulders. It’s incredible.
The approach down is easy to follow but a little sketchy, and honestly even when you make it to the area it doesn’t get any easier to make your way around; it’s essentially a boulder field crammed into a small canyon. Giant car sized boulders stacked on even gianter car sized boulders. This area is a place where you need a lot of pads and in most places don’t really want to be taking much of a fall. I can’t imagine you’d get to a hospital within the same day. That being said we headed straight for a 30ft highball boulder called the Pig. The guidebook said it had “Many V0’s” on its west side so it seemed like a perfect place to warm up then scare ourselves on a highball. The lines up the high face of this boulder are incredible, beautifully aesthetic, and probably some of the best we climbed over the weekend. The one we chose starts on jugs and pinches and carries on like that until the very lip, where the only hard move is made to feel even harder by the fact you’re 30ft off the ground. After this we got some attempts on the Beautiful Pig, V6, right alongside it. We played around a little more in this awesome highball, trying some of the other problems, working the arête, and trying the other face climbs, but we eventually decided as it was our last day we should go and try as many of the high quality problems as we could. So we headed back down the canyon into the bed and the jumble of boulders to hunt out the next few problems. Actually before we left, we went and took a peak and one of the most awesome lines I have ever seen, an open project. A huge sharp egg shaped boulder is perched on the hillside, dotted with minimal desperate looking holds; it starts low and works through an overhanging section before cresting the lip onto the face, still overhanging, and continues up for what must be 20 feet. It looks terrifying and desperate all the way. Boulder problems don’t come more aesthetic than this.
After what was probably too much time looking at this boulder, we hopped back down into the boulder field and found, again, another amazing boulder, “Fun Bags”. We warmed up on a few nearby problems; a couple V1s, one which I’m pretty cure was called “Sarah Palin”. Fun Bags is a slopey crimpy dream. Incut slopers give way to ting crimp rails before eventually giving way to a slopey juggy top out. It also happened to be near another top level power rig, “TreeBeard”. We spent the rest of the day hanging out here, spending time working through Fun Bags, and then trying our best to power through TreeBeard, a super shoulder powerful boulder. Starting way low in a under-cling you do your best to get your ass off the ground and slap up through a series of slopers. It was hard.
As the sun started to crest over its peak into the late afternoon, and with the heat continuing to rise we folded up our pads, stuffed our packs and decided it’d be best to get back to Denver to get some okish sleep before work. Our plan for a fall trip was already taking shape.