Rock Steady

Here we are, getting back to basics after all our worlds were interrupted by COVID-19. Now is the moment to get outside and reinvigorate a vital love of the outdoors. 

By Jay Foley     
Jay The Rock Climber, Photograph by Elijah Rael

There is no better way to reboot and return outside than joining one of America’s fastest growing sports, rock climbing!

You’re probably thinking “no way, too dangerous,” right? Well, rock climbing sure does have a reputation for being a risk-taker, daredevil sport. A lesser-known fact is that technical rock climbing is enjoyable and a safe outdoor adventure for people of all ages and fitness levels. Beginners can be led safely up a cliff the first time out. Here is how: 1. There is always a rope attached to you and an anchor above you. 2.

This anchor and rope can hold almost 4,000 pounds. 3. Once you reach the top or decide to stop, you simply sit back into your harness, which is connected to the rope, and slowly lower back to the ground. Accidents in technical rock climbing can happen, but are rare, and are almost always the result of carelessness, ignorance or lack of training, which, with quality instruction and professional guidance, are easily avoided. Fortunately, you are in Taos, and can find expert guides and safe beginner trips right here (more about that later). 

Photograph by Elijah Rael

The sport of rock climbing is actually nothing new. It’s been a recreational sport in Europe since the 1800s, and even a couple of the formations in Yosemite, Cali. were climbed by John Muir as early as 1869. Despite these early ascents, technical rock climbing in America only dates back to the 1950s, when Yosemite  and the Shawangunk Mountains in New York saw America’s initial foray into the sport. In the 1960s, these areas began to see extensive new route pioneering, and by the end of the 70s, became climbing meccas with international appeal. In Taos, climbers were only just beginning to tap into the climbing potential in this Northern New Mexico paradise at this time, but continue to find exciting new terrain today. 

These granite cliffs include several climbing locations in the Taos Ski Valley and the El Salto Del Agua land grant cliffs located directly behind the town of Arroyo Seco. The classic El Salto cliffs have been closed to climbers for the past 25 years but are set to re-open this summer and will be exclusively accessible through private guided tours with Mountain Skills Rock Guides located here in Taos. 

Photograph by Elijah Rael

Taos County contains miles of stunning rock climbing cliffs of all shapes and sizes, and there’s enough varied rock climbing to keep a beginner or veteran climber satisfied for a lifetime. The Rio Grande Gorge National Monument has several climbing locations with expansive panoramic desert vistas. The Sangre de Cristo mountain range features sweeping thousand-foot tall granite walls and cozy little cliffs nestled in pine forest among rivers and streams. Tres Piedras has some of the most pristine, yet easily accessible (a flat one minute walk from the car), climbing in the country. Now is the moment to get out and explore. There is no better place to enjoy climbing than to be immersed in the dramatic scenery and beauty of this unique area and fully experiencing the vital spirit of Taos.

Nervous about trying this potentially dangerous new activity? You’re in luck.
In Taos you can learn to climb with safe, professional guides on perfect beginner cliffs that start as easy as a flight of stairs. In fact, there’s no place better than Taos to learn to rock climb. If you have the gear and experience, you can venture off on your own to discover one of the hundreds of climbing routes developed in the Taos region, or hire a guide to learn new skills or find hidden gems. The nationally known outfit Mountain Skills has certified, friendly, and enthusiastic climbing guides that provide all the equipment, teach the basics and can get your group or family out for a once-in-a-lifetime outdoor adventure or guide the most experienced climber up the area’s longest most difficult climbs.

Photograph by Elijah Rael


Rock climbing was slated to debut in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, but was postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The debut was a success, and climbing has been granted a sophomore appearance for the Olympic medals in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. Speed climbing will be a separate event from the combined events of lead climbing and bouldering. Lead climbing involves going up a route with a rope used as fall protection. In bouldering, climbers move up shorter routes with gymnastic pads below for protection. It will be exciting to see these new Olympic events.

Photo By Elijah Rael