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Climbing Colorado Choss at Williams Canyon

Williams Canyon, a mere five miles from Colorado Springs, is a limestone sanctuary to escape the city ruckus. The canyon is lined with impressive cliffs up to 200 feet high. Ian Green wrote about Williams in the late 1990s: “As the sole limestone deposit in the Pikes Peak region, it is shocking that climbers did not stumble upon this phenomenon until I began bolting routes two years ago.” Ian noted that the “rock quality varies from chunky and poor to almost excellent.” He also wrote that “Almost all of the Williams routes were glorified choss piles that were refined into sport climbing masterpieces by intensive physical labor, grief, and sweat.” Over a couple years, Ian and I levered a few tons of loose rock off the cliffs with crowbars, and then equipped and climbed 15 of the area’s 17 routes. We said the area offered adventure sport climbing and was not for everyone, but instead a place for those who don’t mind a bit of loose rock, some long pitches, and no crowds. If you like manicured, well-traveled sport routes, it’s best to stick to Shelf Road. One of the best cliffs is Caveman Wall, a steep southwest-facing cliff with lots of sun and hard routes up to 5.13. Here’s a photograph from January 1998 of Ian cranking his route The Butta, a classic 5.11c route up an exposed arête.

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