The Outdoor Junkie | All Blogs

Climbing the Palisade

By Ann Driggers

Bumping along a rarely used dirt road in the desert of the Dolores Valley, I cranked my head upwards and peered through the small window of the Jeep. A towering wall of desert sandstone loomed 2,000 feet above. Perhaps it was my restricted view that made the fortress of rock look impenetrable? Yet, a few minutes later and disgorged from the vehicle, the route up the Palisade seemed no clearer. The Palisade is a narrow fin of sandstone, an iconic formation which stands guard above the hamlet of Gateway. From every angle its appearance is imposing, but it can be climbed, so I was told.

The Palisade.jpg

Luke Reece of Gateway Canyons Adventure Center generously offered to show Chad and I the route, an old uranium miners trail which provides the only access to the summit. With Gateway guide Nick Kroger leading the way, the four of us set out across the desert, a mile from the base of the wall.

Headed to the Rib.jpg

Crossing several arroyos we headed for a rib of steep and loose talus which connected the valley floor to the base of the cliffs. We scrambled up the spine and after an hour and 1,000 feet of gain reached the wall, a more solid surface, albeit close to vertical. Despite our now intimate position, the way up was no more obvious. “If you can’t go there, it’s not the route” was Luke and Nick’s simple response to our questioning. In reality the route unfurled before us and our path through the labyrinth became clear as we went. No doubt because we followed Nick who traced the bold footsteps of the old miners up the rock face. Although more than half a century has passed since the original trailblazers forged their way upwards in search of riches, evidence of the intrepid miners abound. When the rock failed to give a solid foothold, they chiseled their own or hammered a piton into the soft rock. The route consisted of a series of ledges which we climbed and traversed. Though not technically difficult the climbing was exposed so we roped up occasionally. With the security of the rope, climbing was fun. We pushed our hands into cracks between slabs or smeared our boots onto the sticky slickrock, gradually making our way higher.


With no protection and the penalty for failure quite high, traversing the wall was a more nail-biting experience. As I tentatively inched my way across the smooth sandstone ledge, I forced the precipitous drop to the periphery of my vision and focused only on the placement of my feet.

Ledge Traverse.jpg

Adding to the pressure, the longest traverse was interrupted by the debris of a recent rockslide. The smell of sap from the broken limbs of pinions, still clinging to their improbable foundation, hung in the air. Fresh rocks and dirt were covered with a layer of green pine needles. With danger from above as well as below, we hurried through this section, and took the extra precaution of going one at a time, in case of another ‘incident’.

Rockslide Traverse.jpg

Two hours later we made the final climb of a bulbous rock face and popped out onto the top of the fin.

Topping Out.jpg

Expecting the crest to be flat and barren, I was surprised to find a desert garden in the sky, a combination of slickrock domes and crytobiotic soil scattered with pinions. Treading carefully we made our way towards the ‘point’, the summit of the Palisade as seen from Gateway. Here the fin narrows to about 30 feet wide.

Palisade Point.jpg

The exposed point generated wind gusts of 30 mph, enough to guarantee a tummy wriggle along the ground in order to peer over the edge.

Peering over the Point.jpg

The views were ample reward for our several hours of effort. Gateway was a long 2,000 feet drop below. The Dolores River glistened as it wound its way along the valley floor and sliced through the canyon walls towards Utah. Far in the distance the snowy peaks of the La Sal Mountains rose above the desert landscape. Clouds were building and a storm forecast to move in, so we quickly retraced our route. Traversing wet slickrock was not high on my list of preferred activities. Luckily the weather held off and the descent was as much fun as the climb. Arriving back at the Jeep seven hours after we left it, I stopped and turned to look back at the seemingly impenetrable fortress. Although I could now see where we had been, I marveled at the improbability of our route and at the fortitude of the miners who had pioneered it. It had been an outstanding day and one of the the most interesting desert adventures I have had in a long time.


Please Login or Register to leave a comment.

Such a steep climb must really be tough indeed for you and I value how you fought through and achieved the very difficult task. Anyways, I better go and get some research paper writer services to complete my research papers for me as quickly as possible.

It seems like your trip went really well. I would have always went to my essay and got myself an essay writer whenever I would go for such a hiking trip. They’d complete my research papers but it seems as though you’ve had fun on your own here.

Thanks for providing great infomation. i have bookmarked your post.
vmix 17

Find the best and latest Cellular Outfitter Coupons, Discount Codes and Special Promotions for shopping online.

GearBest coupons Save big on electronics and cell phone accessories

website design and Development Company encompasses many different skills and disciplines in the production and maintenance of websites.

Everything you ever wanted to know about car Sports Cars.Take a look at our selections for the best of 2017 and 2018.

It’s really pleasure to read your post.Thank you so much for writing such a nice post inflatable lounge dangers

I think my browser is old or not supported for the post, i cant seen any image, but i can read the text and i enjoyed the post you shared
Famous Tailors in Hong Kong Casio G Shock Watches UK Send Money to Foreign

Recent Posts
By Nic.Korte
Saturday, June 3, 2017

By Nic.Korte
Sunday, May 14, 2017

By Nic.Korte
Sunday, April 23, 2017

By Nic.Korte
Friday, April 7, 2017

Tech Education a Must for Tech-Starved Mesa County
By David Goe
Friday, March 31, 2017


734 S. Seventh St.
Grand Junction, CO 81501
970-242-5050; M-F 8:00 - 5:00
Subscribe to print edition
eTear Sheets/ePayments

© 2017 Grand Junction Media, Inc.
By using this site you agree to the Visitor Agreement and the Privacy Policy