I've heard lots of good things about climbing at City of Rocks National Reserve in South Idaho - well-erode granite provides some good holds. I'm still a beginner in outdoor climbing. Just purchased my own set of gear and went out climbing. My friend and I were about the same level so we would take turn lead climb. (We both had no experience in lead climbing before, not even indoor.) Before this trip, my level was 5.9- lead climb.
The third one we did is a pretty well-known scary climb, Scream Cheese 5.9 Sport, 1 pitch, 70'. It was scary because the slab at the top. The first bolt is at the edge of the base so you already feel the height (prob 40’) from the beginning. The wind was blowing when I climbed which made everything more scary. The handholds were actually not bad until the 4th bolt even though there was runout between 3 and 4. Then my happiness disappeared after that - no handholds at all. I was there 10 min or more going left and right trying to find a hole. Still nothing. Out of desperation, I place my right hand on a shallow crimp, left hand on the surface, slowly pull myself up and my feet incrementally moved up. I was hoping there would be other handholds after that part. Nope. So I kept moving up right and realized the bolt was at my left side. Without knowing the fact that anchors were just few feet above me, I was trying to traverse to clip the bolt (don’t do that on the slab, bad idea.) Then I slipped (and screamed)! My finger was ripped off and bled. Got some minor scratch on my right arm (fall on slab is never fun). Then it rained on me…
My partner lowered me down. Rested for a while, looked at the rock again and found out the location of the anchors. I was so mentally exhausted and wanted him to go up finish the route. He insisted me to go up again complete this project. I sincerely didn’t want to face that fear again. But I wrapped my bleeding finger and went up again after it dried out. It was still hella scary. This time I skipped the last bolt, just went straight up to the anchors. THANKS GOD I did it!!
My partner top-ropping climbed up and said he would never lead climb that it was the scariest climb ever! I agree it took a lot of mental strength. I did it but I do not want to do that again.
At the next day, we were both mentally tired - Scream Cheese took a huge toll on us. We only did one 5.9 which is not on the Mountain Project. (We did find one 5.10a and 5.9+ but didn't want to do it.) I led this one. The handholds were quite good until the last bolt. I was not the only one struggling. My friend couldn't figure it out, and the next climber was stuck there too.
City of Rocks is very stunning. It's full with interesting formation. It's definitely worth going regardless climbing or not.