The Box Canyon recreation area is located just west of Socorro off of Highway 60. The tallest peak in the recreation area was recently named after local climber Bertrand Gramont.
Russell Huffman| El Defensor Chieftain photos

The tallest peak in the Box Canyon recreation area has been named Gramont Peak to honor the legacy of a local climber.

Bertrand Gramont was a geology graduate student at New Mexico Tech in the mid to late 80s and a climber that created significant climbing resources in the Box Canyon recreation area that are still enjoyed today.

“He definitely had a significant, huge impact on the culture of climbing locally,” said Scott Roberts, New Mexico Tech’s climbing team coach, climbing instructor and rock-climbing recreation coordinator.

Roberts never had a chance to meet Gramont, who died in a car accident in New Caledonia, France in 1996, but some of the climbers who mentored Roberts were mentored by Gramont. Some of the routes Gramont put up on cliffs in the recreation area are Roberts’ favorite climbs.

Locally, Gramont was an early innovator in sport climbing.

“He took it from the more traditional trying to climb a feature, whether it’s a peak or a crack or a corner or something like that, to climbing specifically for the inherent difficulty of the line,” said Roberts.

That means increasing difficulty standards, but also safety measures. The protection in sport climbing is already pre-installed, which increases ease and safety, and allows for a more gymnastic approach to the sport.

For those climbing resources to exist, someone has to put them in place, and Gramont was the rare climber interested in developing and establishing climbing resources.

“Anything that somebody’s going to climb, somebody has to go develop and establish that,” said Roberts.

“It’s the rare climber willing to go put in the effort to do it, but it also takes a rare climber with an artistic and aesthetic eye to see the potential in a virgin cliff and be like, ‘Yes, this is worth the effort, not just for myself, but other people are going to add on to this,’” said Roberts.

Roberts shares that interest in developing climbing resources with Gramont, having established a great deal of the local climbing himself.

Despite its proximity to the city of Socorro and Highway 60, views in the Box Canyon recreation area make it feel isolated from civilization.

Without climbers who are passionate about developing climbing resources, there wouldn’t be such a strong local climbing culture.

“There wouldn’t be the impact on New Mexico Tech that rock climbing’s had. There wouldn’t be the economic impact that Socorro’s had,” Roberts said.

Gramont helped create the local climbing culture flourishing at New Mexico Tech today.

“I feel that the people that are psyched to motivate other people and to help develop climbing areas and to develop climbs, that they’re definitely the reason that the sport has taken off in such a dramatic way that it has,” said Roberts.

Sport climbing made its Olympic debut in 2020, and Roberts has been amazed to watch the sport grow since he began climbing at 10 years old.

“I started climbing when I was 10. There’s no way I could have had the climbing career I’ve had if I hadn’t been mentored by people who wanted to see me succeed. Whereas now, it’s commercialized.”

While there are more climbing educators, the increase in climbers has been so dramatic that not all of them receive the kind of mentorship that imparts the ethics of the sport and how to respect climbing resources in the wild.

“Historically, the entry into this sport was based on mentorship to a very good degree,” said Roberts. “That’s kind of been lost with the influx of just how many people are climbing, and a lot of them are climbing gyms.”

Roberts has been working to get the peak named after Gramont, to honor his legacy as a climber and mentor, for roughly a year. While the name has been approved by the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the recreation area, the project to posthumously honor Gramont is not over.

Many of the details around Gramont’s life and death are difficult to track down, and Roberts would like to confirm his date of death.

“He was a French national, and he died before internet was even a thing, so a lot of this information is pretty difficult to try and trace back,” said Roberts. “I’ve been working with people from across the world. I’ve been trying to get the French government to give me more information, and I’m currently working on creating a small biography that I can contribute to a small guidebook that me and a partner are working on.”

The peak named for Gramont is the highest point in the Box, with an elevation of 6,046 feet. With the labor of local volunteers, the BLM began building a new trail to the summit in the summer of 2022.