Skylight Arête is a 3-pitch sport climb located in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. It is one of the most popular routes on the Pipeline Wall, a section of towering conglomerate cliffs at the head of the glacial valley containing the resort town of Telluride. This wall is situated north of the famous Bridal Veil Falls at roughly the same elevation, providing arguably the finest view of the Telluride basin.
SUMMARY: I climbed Skylight Arête with Giselle in early September of the year 2015, during Labour Day Weekend while we were driving around and climbing mountains in the San Juan Range.
7 SEPTEMBER 2015
Giselle and I arrive to the resort town of Telluride, set in the bottom of a gorgeous glacial canyon. We sip coffee at a Mexican patio before heading up the valley towards Pipeline Wall.
Two miles east of town, the road turns to dirt and begins a steep climb via a series of hairpin switchbacks. Tourists cluster at the base of Bridal Veil Falls, effectively causing multiple roadblocks.
The first switchback beyond the base of Bridal Veil Falls serves as our parking area at the base of Pipeline Wall.
The short approach to Pipeline Wall follows a trail that hugs the conglomerate cliffs. Along the way, we pass an old mining camp with a tunnel going into the mountain itself.
The view of Telluride from the base of Pipeline Wall is phenomenal, making us excited for the view that awaits us at the top of the wall!
So we reach the base of the Skylight Arête, assemble our sport-climbing gear (including 12 quickdraws for the long pitches), and begin the ascent. The rock type is conglomerate of surprisingly good quality, and the climbing is fun.
The true exposure of the arête comes with the second pitch, which requires a bold traverse to the right followed by steep 5.8 climbing. Halfway up this pitch lies the crux of the entire route: a small overhanging roof with limited handholds.
The most memorable segment of the route is the third and final pitch, which clings desperately to the Skylight Arête. The climbing is not as difficult as it appears from below, but the exposure is enough to thrill even the most seasoned of mountaineers.
As expected, the view from the top of Pipeline Wall is sensational. Towering cliffs guard the quaint settlement of Telluride, and we are able to trace the path of the dirt road as it switchbacks up towards us past Bridal Veil Falls.
In order to descend, Giselle and I rappel the adjacent 5.7 route in three full rope-lengths.
On the drive back down to Telluride, we take the time to appreciate Bridal Veil Falls up close.