Ask most people about the climbing at the Virgin River Gorge and all they’ll talk about is the heinous hang located of the side of I-15. Chances are they’ll tell you, ‘I just couldn’t handle the road noise. That crag’s just not for me’.
Sure, spend a day climbing at the VRG and you’ll feel like semi-trucks are motoring through the inside of your skull, but the main reason most climbers don’t like climbing in the Gorge is they likely got shut down. Yes, the crag is literally on the side of the interstate, and the canyon can accelerate wind to hurricane speeds. It’s not the most pleasant place you’ve ever hung out, but it’s the climbing itself, not the hang, that turns most people off—whether they admit it or not.
Simply put, the routes at the VRG are flat out hard. The climbing has an old school character to it and you’ll encounter finicky conditions, insecure bouldery movement on small slippery holds, run out bolting, and routes that are just easy to fall off. All of this, however, is on some of the best limestone this side of the Atlantic. In my book, if you’re a climber’s climber, there’s no way to not show up at the VRG to take your beating, get humbled, learn, and become obsessed with repeating these historic test-pieces.
As far as the routes themselves, it’s hard to overstate just how important these lines were in the evolution of American sport climbing. Developed by the likes of Randy Leavitt and Boone Speed—cutting edge climbers at the prime of their career—the VRG was a proving ground of the 90s and these routes have more than withstood the test of time.
Necessary Evil, bolted by Boone Speed and first climbed by Chris Sharma in 1997, may be the main prize, but routes like Fall of Man 5.13b, Don’t Call Me Dude 5.13c, Captain Fantastic 5.13c, The Mentor 5.12b, Horse Latitudes 5.14a, and Planet Earth 5.14a are all still worthy objectives that mean a lot more than their grades suggest.
Pick any one of these American classics and you’ll be blown away by the quality. Just be careful; you may find yourself on the side of I-15 season after season wondering why you still haven’t sent. Don’t worry, though; you’ll be in the company of a dedicated crew of VRG veterans who love this place and understand what doing these routes means. See it through and you’ll not only have enjoyed some of the best limestone in the North America, but you’ll probably emerge a better climber for it.
climber - writer - photographer - coach - Wyoming