Beta - Pajarito Gorge (3A II)

by Brett Kettering

Pajarito Gorge is a nice, short canyon with some very fun rappels. It is near the White Rock, NM climbing crag named The New New Place. There is another crag that is part of the upper band of the gorge called Pajarito Gorge. The New New Place is more frequently used. I have never seen anyone climbing at Pajarito Gorge.

This is a fun canyon that can be done in 2, 3, or 4 rappels. This canyon is normally rated 3AII. Occasionally there is enough water in it to give it a “B” rating. During the Monsoonal rains of September 2013 water was flying through this canyon and it would have been unsafe to be in the canyon during that flow.

If done in 2 rappels, the longest rappel is the first at ~270’, and the rope can be left to retrieve when you are done. The other rappel is ~70’. If done in 3 or 4 rappels the longest rappel is ~120’.

Getting to Pajarito Gorge is very easy and all on paved roads. Find the intersection of NM Hwy 4 and Rover Blvd in White Rock, NM. Turn south onto Rover Blvd. and go ~1.2 miles. The road will bend east at ~1 mile. Shortly you will come to Kimberly Ln. Turn right (south) onto Kimberly Ln. and go ~0.3 miles until it dead ends in a cul-de-sac. The GPS coordinate is N35.81256 W106.19946.

Gear-up and head west ~0.1 miles to the east rim of the gorge. You’ll need to decide if you are going to do this canyon in 2, 3, or 4 rappels. The starting point is slightly different for each descent path.

Descent Path 1 starts with a ~270' entry rappel at N35.81146 W106.19948 and concludes with either an ~70' rappel in the water flow at N35.81106 W106.19943, or a ~110' rappel from a small tree on far canyon left.

Descent Path 2 starts with a ~110' entry rappel at N35.81174 W106.20002, has a second ~120' rappel at N35.81141 W106.19990 (this puts you in the same location as the entry rappel for Descent Path 1) and the same concluding rappel choices as Descent Path 1. During heavy Monsoonal rains in September 2013, the small car-sized boulder in the water flow that was used as the primary anchor for this rappel was washed away. Yeah, we were astounded too. The primary anchor now is the bolted anchor on the RDC wall.

Descent Path 3 starts with a ~45’ rappel in the water flow at N35.81177 W106.20026 that will put you on a landing above a pothole that usually has water in it. After the Monsoonal rains of September 2013, there is now a large branch vertically into this pothole. You can stay up on the landing to LDC and down-climb on the far side of the pothole, and then rappel about 8’ more to arrive at the top of rappel 2. Or, you can swim the pothole, which may be cold, but is not difficult. The first person down can setup a guided rappel over the pothole. There is a bolted anchor on LDC installed for this purpose. The hangers are pointing back towards rappel 1. The hangers of the bolted anchor on RDC point down canyon and are there as rappel 2’s anchor. Rappel 2 is ~55’ at N35.81154 W106.19996 and takes you to the same spot that the entry rappel for Descent Path 2 does. From there you continue as described in Descent Path2.

There are two exit paths out of the bottom of the canyon.

Exit Path 1: ~200 yards down the water flow at N35.81071 W106.19904, exit canyon left out onto the rock field over the downed tree branch at the exit. Cross the rock field, heading slightly uphill along the way to the exit chute at N35.81063 W106.19850. Stay to the right in the larger rocks for easier climbing. You'll come to an obvious dirt trail that switches back and forth a few times to put you at the chute crest at N35.81079 W106.19820. At the chute crest turn left (north) and go to the backside of the large boulder at the base of the cliff band at N35.81102 W106.19822. Go between the large boulder and the cliff base, turn right (east) and walk along the base of the cliff band for a short distance, maybe a few hundred yards to N35.81158 W106.19793. Scramble up this short, steep section to the north again to arrive at N35.81163 W106.19806. Use caution, as there is a lot of cactus and loose rock. A fall could cause an injury here. At the top of the scramble turn right (east) again and follow the base of this cliff band for a couple hundred yards to N35.81183 W106.19797. Looking up (north), the sheer cliffs to the right are the New New Place crag. In the distance to the left you will see is a white "Dead Guy" graffiti painted on the rock. Head towards the “Dead Guy” graffiti. Head towards N35.81179 W106.19822. Spread out on the way up. It's not super steep, but there are large, loose rocks along the way. Make your way uphill and to the left (west) towards what will become about a 6' small climb out onto flat ground. The final 6' climb out has nice handholds and foot spots and puts you at N35.81175 W106.19838. Once up, just take the short trail back to where you parked at the end of Kimberly Ln. This route is shorter, steeper, and does not have well-established trails, but it takes <20 min. to get out this way.

Exit Path 2: Continue further down the water flow until it starts to open up. You will find the Red Dot trail crossing it. Exit canyon right, heading west. You go down the water line. Head west ~0.5 miles. You should see some Cairns here and there. You’ll come to an intersection where the Red Dot trail goes south down to the Rio Grande or north uphill to exit the canyon into the Pajarito Acres neighborhood. Go north and exit out to Piedra Loop. Turn right and walk up to Mariposa Ct. Turn right onto Mariposa Ct. and go down to just before the last house. There's a trail on the west side of that house that goes east back to the gorge water flow at N35.81185 W106.20094. Go down into the water flow to N35.81210 W106.20068 and turn right (south) back to the first rappel area. Then head east out to where you parked at the end of Kimberly Ln. This route is longer and has some steep sections on the Red Dot Trail. It takes about 40 min. to get out this way.