Monsoon hopeful: Arizona's Mount Lemmon
Q: We had planned a climbing trip to northwest New Mexico and southeast Arizona but are worried there's nowhere open given the recent fires. We're looking specifically for top-roping spots. The skill level in our group ranges from amateur to intermediate, and maybe slightly more advanced. Is there anything left open in these states?
Virginia Girolami, Bluemont, Virginia
A: It may seem that the whole Southwest is ablaze, but there's plenty of parkland still open for recreation. For the most up-to-date fire closure info, call the Southwest Area Wildland Fire Operations hotline (877-864-6985) or go to www.fs.fed.us/r3/fire.
In New Mexico, head for the little town of White Rock, off Highway 4 between Santa Fe and Los Alamos. This is home to a dozen or so south-facing basalt crags that parallel the Rio Grande, offering up hundreds of routes from beginner to expert. For top roping, your best bet is the cliff below The Overlook, a well-marked vista off Meadow Lane (just past the school), high above the massive river. The 60-foot wall has at least 25 climbs ranging from 5.8 to a "test piece" most likely in the 5.14 range. Stop by Sangre de Cristo Mountain Works (505-984-8221) in Santa Fe for backup options.
The situation in southern Arizona is much more troubling-just about every park in the region will remain closed until the next decent downpour. Two areas worth beckoning the rain gods for are Mount Lemmon, just outside of Tucson, and Queen Creek Canyon, east of Phoenix near Globe. Both have thousands of routes, many of which can be top-roped. Sadly, both are closed for the foreseeable future. For updates and out-of-state alternates, consult the experts at the Summit Hut in Tucson 800-499-8696, www.summithut.com.