Pipeline Wall via Skylight Arête (3-pitch 5.8 Sport Climb)

Panorama looking west down the Telluride valley from the bottom of Pipeline Wall.

Panorama looking west down the valley containing the resort town of Telluride from the parking area at the base of Pipeline Wall.

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.

Looking east along Main Street in Telluride. The Pipeline Wall is located roughly midway up the cliffs at the head of the valley.

Looking east along Main Street in Telluride. The Pipeline Wall is located roughly midway up the cliffs at the head of the valley.

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.

Looking east from the outskirts of Telluride. The waterfall in the center is Bridal Veil Falls.

Looking east from the outskirts of Telluride. The waterfall in the center is Bridal Veil Falls.

The first switchback beyond the base of Bridal Veil Falls serves as our parking area at the base of Pipeline Wall.

This is the closest parking to the Pipeline Wall, which is the lower set of cliffs behind Giselle.

This is the closest parking to the Pipeline Wall, which is the lower set of cliffs behind Giselle.

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.

Panorama looking east from an abandoned mining camp at the base of Pipeline Wall.

Panorama looking east from an abandoned mining camp at the base of Pipeline Wall.

Old mining tunnel located at the base of Pipeline Wall.

Old mining tunnel located at the base of Pipeline Wall.

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!

Panorama looking west down the Telluride valley from the bottom of Pipeline Wall.

Panorama looking west down the Telluride valley from the bottom of Pipeline 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.

Giselle following Pitch 1 of Skylight Arête.

Giselle following Pitch 1 of Skylight Arête.

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 author leading Pitch 2 of Skylight Arête with Bridal Veil Falls in the background.

The author leading Pitch 2 of Skylight Arête with Bridal Veil Falls in the background.

Looking down Pitch 2 of Skylight Arête, with Giselle belaying from the ledge.

Looking down Pitch 2 of Skylight Arête, with Giselle belaying from the ledge.

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.

The author leading Pitch 3 of Skylight Arête.

The author leading Pitch 3 of Skylight Arête.

Giselle following Pitch 3 of Skylight Arête.

Giselle following Pitch 3 of Skylight Arête.

Giselle following Pitch 3 of Skylight Arête.

Giselle following Pitch 3 of Skylight Arête.

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.

Panorama looking west from the top of Pipeline Wall. The town of Telluride sits in the bottom of the valley, on the right side of the photo.

Panorama looking west from the top of Pipeline Wall. The town of Telluride sits in the bottom of the valley, on the right side of the photo.

Alone on the (Pipeline) Wall, looking down west at the town of Telluride.

Alone on the (Pipeline) Wall, looking down west at the town of Telluride.

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.

Giselle at the base of Bridal Veil Falls.

Giselle at the base of Bridal Veil Falls.

Vertical panorama of the author at the base of Bridal Veil Falls.

Vertical panorama of the author at the base of Bridal Veil Falls.


 

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