Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
An elegant smorgasbord on the City’s dreamiest spire
Rising from a surreal sea of granite domes, Morning Glory Spire stands proud at the heart of the City, calling out to climbers. Home to challenging routes like Brown Flake (5.10d), Power Tools (5.12c), and the 1960s Greg Lowe testpiece Crack of Doom (5.11c)—a spicy trad route that features face moves into a stellar crack—the spire also boasts one of the City’s most classic and aesthetic (read: popular) lines: Skyline.
Skyline’s first-ascent information remains a mystery, but climbers likely braved this striking line sometime in the mid-1960s. Aptly named, Skyline ascends Morning Glory Spire’s northeastern ridge for approximately 100 feet to the tower’s sloping, pocked summit, which is big enough to get cozy on with a couple of friends. From a distance, the route looks scary and steep, but sinker jams and horizontal cracks appear right when you need them, and the variety of moves will keep you constantly improvising.
To find the spire, head south through Almo (blink and you might miss it) and take a right onto a dirt road leading west into the City of Rocks. Continue for approximately two miles, past major formations like Elephant Rock (on the left) and Bath Rock (also on the left), to a parking area that drops to the east. Follow a well-maintained trail around the right side of Parking Lot Rock—an obvious and popular wall—into a stone labyrinth. Morning Glory Spire juts skyward just to the east; you’ll quickly see how the formation earned its other name, the Incisor.
Start at a stack of boulders at the foot of the northeast ridge (or skip the first 10 feet and scramble up to the west). Fun jamming on 5.6/5.7 terrain leads to a decent ledge at 40 feet; if you’re concerned about rope drag or want to develop your multi-pitching skills, pause here to bring up your partner. Otherwise, continue toward the summit. The route’s second section involves a delicate traverse to the east. Reach deep under a large, teardrop flake for a bomber undercling— key for gear and hand placements—as you tiptoe left toward a steep 5.8 splitter. The crack peters out after about 15 feet; now trend slightly left up the too-fun-to-be-true 5.6 face. While initially intimidating, this section protects well with small cams and nut placements. From the top, you’ll get stellar views into the Inner City and the far-off Stienfells Dome. Rappel with a 60-meter rope from the bolted rap station. Or, if you’re looking for maximum pumpitude, rappel to the chains above Fall Line (5.10c) or Strategic Defense (5.11c) and set up a toprope.
Guidebooks: City of Rocks, Idaho: A Climber’s Guide, seventh edition, by Dave Bingham (Falcon Distribution, 2004).
Equipment Shop: The Rock Café in Almo (208-824-5510) carries miscellaneous necessities like chalk, guidebooks, and beer. For a hearty meal, head to Almo’s Outpost Steakhouse (208-824-5577). Showers and wireless Internet are available at Tracy General Store (208-824-5570).
Season: Spring through autumn. This is high desert—snow’s always possible during the shoulder seasons.
Camping: The City is loaded with idyllic campsites tucked amid boulders and aspens. Choose wisely and you can climb or boulder in your campsite. Sites are $12 per night plus tax. Visit nps.gov/ciro/planyourvisit/ or call (888) 922-6743 to make a reservation.
Additional Information: City of Rocks National Preserve, (208) 824-5519, nps.gov/ciro/