Lime Kiln Canyon an Epic Experience — Gems in the Rough
The atmosphere in the Jeep was filled with excitement and anticipation as our chatter and laughter permeated the air while guides Todd Goss and Bryan Teaters told stories of their previous outdoor expeditions. Those stories only added to the enthusiasm already brimming within me from the prospect of exploring rock climbing routes in Lime Kiln Canyon on the Arizona Strip. There’s something about knowing that a whole new world of opportunity is about to open up to you that epitomizes the true spirit of adventure.
The jarring of the Jeeps’ tires as it dropped from the smooth pavement to the dirt and gravel-strewn “White Rocks Road” approximately 10 miles south of Mesquite, Nevada, immediately cast my attention forward—a scene I welcomed, as I drank in the beauty of the Virgin Mountains that towered ahead.
I was a little intrigued as to why Goss and a few other area sport climbers who pioneered the area christened it “the Grail”.
After reaching the small, undeveloped pull out, we hiked the quick, steep “approach,” or trail to the base of the climbs. When we reached the saddle just short of the climbs, a hush fell over the group. For a near-sacred, breathtaking moment, we tilted our heads back to take in the enormity of the grandiose, sweeping walls. In the midst of those towering escarpments we spotted Todd’s pioneering route; “Felicity,” which he first routed and climbed when he, Jeff Baldwin, Todd Perkins, and Lee Logston began exploring the canyon’s potential for climbs.
With my mind still racing, we hiked north, rounded the corner, and walked into a shaded portion of the canyon. The trees that grew between the massive canyon walls had dropped half of their leaves spreading vibrant fall colors all along the canyon floor. The crisp, fall air and the crunch and crackle of fall leaves underfoot set a kind of magical tone to the day.
We dropped our gear bags at the base of the climb, donned our gear and checked each other’s harnesses and gear to ensure everyone’s safety. Todd and Brian lead the two, side-by-side climbs, “Gyppo” a 5.11 rated climb, and “The Shocker” a 5.7 rated climb.
After Brian rappelled down “The Shocker” I pulled on my snug, familiar, “5-10” rubber-soled climbing shoes, and under Brian’s watchful care and trained eyes, fed the rope through both rungs of my harness, tied the figure eight knot, and called “on belay,” to ensure Brian was ready to assist me. Brian confirmed he was indeed at the ready, “on belay,” and it was time to climb.
The most amazing gift that day during my climbs was realizing not one solitary item from my usual 8-5 life had even entered my mind throughout the entire day. As soon as my fingers and toes touched the course, tacky, limestone, all other thoughts and concerns simply melted away. I was completely present—free to enjoy the simplicity of the beauty that surrounded me and the companionship, camaraderie and laughter of great friends. In those moments, all we felt was joy.
After topping out “Choss Buster” (5.10a) we decided to close out the day with our final climbs on “Mystery Companion III” (5.10a), and, ironically, “Office Party (5.10a). At the end of the day, what Goss had said for me rang true: “people are like air-fuel mixtures, they’re just looking for the right spark. For some that’s rock climbing.” To me, the best thing about BLM public lands is that regardless of the method or modality people use to enjoy the outdoors, there are always ample opportunities to step outside and rediscover and be grateful for the simple things that bring true joy and beauty into our lives each day. For me, that came from climbing Lime Kiln Canyon. For others, that may come from the pursuit of various things. But it’s wonderful to know we live in an area with such quick, easy access to enjoy public lands in a variety of ways.
Difficulty: According to the third edition of “Rock Climbs of Southern Utah,” by Todd Goss, Lime Kiln Canyon has as 95 sport routes, with route difficulty ranging from beginner climbs like those rated around 5.6 to intermediate climbs rated around 5.10 to advanced climbs rated near 5.12 to pro routes at “5.14a” and a little bit of everything in between. Most routes range between ratings of 5.10 to 5.11 ratings.
Seasons: Lime Kiln Canyon, managed by the BLM Arizona Strip Field Office, located approximately 12 miles south of Mesquite, Nevada, is accessible year round, but the most favorable and temperate climbing seasons are spring and fall.
Unique: According to Todd Goss, Paragon Adventures and an original “pioneer” of Lime Kiln Canyon, multi-pitch sport climbing like that found in Lime Kiln is not a common facet of the sport in the US. “Few cliffs big enough have the combination of features, access, and non-wilderness designation that permit this climbing style [of Lime Kiln Canyon].”