local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 public meetings

 previous edition

 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info
 classifieds info
 internet info
 sun valley central
 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs
Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Friday, July 23, 2004


Bingham is Idaho climbing pioneer

Climbing author releases new on Castle Rocks

For the Express

The only thing better than finding paradise is finding another one next door. For decades the City of Rocks near Oakley has been a choice destination for rock climbers who come for the sculpted slabs of granite that reach several hundred feet into the sky above pristine creek valleys filled with groves of rare mountain mahogany and pinon pine trees.

Dave Bingham scales a face at Castle Rocks along a route in his new book. Courtesy photo.

Valley-based climber and guidebook author Dave Bingham compiled the first "City of Rocks Guidebook" in 1985. What started out as a wire-bound, hand-drawn guide has evolved in its seventh printing into a thoroughly detailed and illustrated guidebook by a pioneer Idaho rock climber.

This year Bingham published a new guide, "Castle Rocks, Idaho: A Climbers Guide," which explores Castle Rocks, a high-desert preserve of sage, juniper and towering granite cliffs adjacent to City of Rocks.

"The guide books have evolved along with the evolution of the City of Rocks as a climbing area," says Bingham.

Once a crossroads for traders on the California Trail, the City of Rocks area was discovered by the international climbing community in the 1980s, ultimately leading to its designation as a National Reserve in 1991. Bingham was there from the beginning, pioneering many routes himself.

"Thirty years ago there was no uniform management at the City of Rocks. The hodge-podge of parcels were privately owned, interspersed with Forest Service and BLM land. The place was getting abused by four-wheelers. People would chainsaw trees for firewood. One grove of mountain mahogany was reduced to a mud pit."

Bingham, a native of Vermont, came to the Wood River Valley for the first time in 1978 as a cross-country ski racer. He began climbing at age 14 while on summer forays into the Adirondack Mountains of New York. He first began exploring the City of Rocks in the early 1980s. Today he owns a business and lives in Hailey with his wife Amy and their two daughters.

"In the early days there was a kind of ‘anti-guidebook’ movement," he says. "It was thought that if you supplied too much information, you would ruin the adventure. Now, people want to know as much detail as possible."

A climber takes on one of the enormous towers in the Castle Rocks State Park. Courtesy photo.

Bingham’s early guide book contained 100 climbs. With increased climbing and exploration over the years, the book has grown to include over 700, most of which he has climbed personally.

"Climbing has always been about exploration for me. All these years I have gone to the City of Rocks, I have driven past Castle Rocks in the distance and said to myself, ‘wow, what about over there!’"

Climbers from around the world have long been eager to explore the privately owned ranch two miles northeast of "the City." Dominated by an even more impressive string of enormous rock formations, Castle Rocks has been strictly off limits to recreationists, until recently. In 2003, the working cattle ranch was purchased by the Idaho Parks and Recreation Department in collaboration with the Access Fund, and The Conservation Fund and dedicated as Idaho’s newest state park.

"Castle Rocks, Idaho A Climber’s Guide" details over 200 climbing routes in this exciting area, which is relatively unspoiled and unexplored. According to the guide, Castle Rocks "has a back-country atmosphere that rewards the adventurous."

According to Wallace Keck, superintendent of Castle Rocks State Park, both climbing areas were established in partnership with traditional uses of grazing and hunting. "Revenues from grazing operations combined with a motor vehicle pass will finance the park maintenance operations."

This past weekend Castle Rocks celebrated "Ranch Fest 2004," which combined climbing, and gear demonstrations with horseback riding, barbecues, and an arts and crafts fair.

"Castle Rocks has been a great example of how public agencies can work together with conservation groups to protect a unique environment. An example of good bureaucracy," Bingham said.


City of Ketchum

Formula Sports


Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.