pcreveling Author

Climbing Close to Home

As Utah finally decides to change its mind, and the weather begins to warm up, there begins a whole new season of rock climbing. This is the climbing Utah is known for: multiple pitch routes with unforgettable vantage points, boulder problems that will haunt you and also reward you, or class sport routes with a crux that include just about everything you can think of. Want to know the best part? The majority of these locations are within a half-hour driving distance. You can commonly find a group of climbers leaving after work at 5 p.m. who are still getting some laps in before sundown.

Little Cottonwood Canyon

One commonly sought out place to climb is up Little Cottonwood Canyon. The majority of these climbs are trad, or traditional, routes. If you are up for some world class crack climbing, this is the place for you. The difficulty of the routes will cater to the first timer, and it can also cater to the most advanced veteran dirt bagger. There are hundreds of routes to choose from up and down the canyon that will help fulfill your heart’s desire. The rock type is almost all white granite with a couple of areas that are limestone. My personal favorite area to climb is up Gate Buttress, which is about one mile and a half up the canyon. These climbs go from 5.6c at Schoolroom to 5.12c of Bloodline for the more classic routes in the area.

Getting there: Get off I-215 at 6200 South. Then, follow signs for the ski resorts. After that, follow Wasatch Boulevard for a few miles, and the road will directly lead up the canyon.

Climb difficulty: 5.6c to 5.12c

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Big Cottonwood Canyon contains another popular upward climb. Similar to its neighbor, Big Cottonwood also has hundreds of routes up and down the canyon catering to every skill level. This is the first place I ever went rock climbing outdoors. Ever since that first time, I’ve known there was no leaving this sport. The rock type is quartzite, which makes the rock more slippery and more difficult to climb, therefore it is mostly used for sport climbing. There are also a wide variety of trad routes as well. But don’t be fooled, this rock has many holes and holds in a wide variety of shapes and sizes which make this canyon an epic location to climb. My favorite locations are up near the slips or along Challenge Buttress. These areas are home to several multi-pitch trad routes or various sport climbs.

Getting there: Take I-215 to the 6200 South exit, then follow the ski resort signs for Big Cottonwood Canyon. You will reach the base of the canyon within a few minutes from exiting the freeway.

Climb difficulty: Varying

American Fork Canyon

The other main canyon to climb in northern Utah is through American Fork Canyon. American Fork is better known for its intermediate to advanced sport climbing. It is also home to some of the most difficult routes in the state with ratings of 5.14c. There are many 5.9c routes for those who are looking to explore the canyon for the first time. This canyon is also a great location during the hot summer months as most of the crags are shaded with plenty of trees, or they are hidden deep within the canyon. This will keep your belayer nice and cool while you conquer the crux of the project you have been working on for weeks. Keep this one on your list of classic climbs to scale this upcoming summer.

Getting there: I-15 to the Pleasant Grove exit. Then, follow along Highway 92 straight into the canyon.

Climb difficulty: 5.9c-5.14c

These are a few of the most popular areas to climb during the summer months in northern Utah. There are many other places to consider, too; but these three canyons should definitely be on your list. After all, there are enough routes within them all to keep you busy for a lifetime.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Moab: the Mountain Biker’s Mecca

Moab is home to some of the highest quality mountain biking trails in the country. About four hours southeast of Salt Lake City, over 100 miles of trails sit, begging to be explored. From short tracks just over a mile to overnight rides taking you deep into the desert landscape, you will likely leave addicted to the red rock landscape. Break out that dusty bike of yours, give it a shine and tune up, and dirty it up with some red mud.

If you are new to mountain biking but are looking for a little bit of a challenge, ride the 20 miles of Klonzo trails just north of Moab. Drive two to three miles along Willow Springs Road toward Arches National Park to find the seven Klonzo trails. They range in difficulty, but they are geared toward intermediate riders. Ride along petrified sand dunes with a stunning backdrop of the La Sal Mountain Range.

For the skilled and technical riders, the Porcupine Rim Trail needs to be on your Moab itinerary. It includes everything you love about mountain biking: tight edges along cliff sides, stunning scenery of red rock in a vast desert landscape, and fast single-track drops coupled with ledge drops. Most importantly, there is only 1,000 feet of elevation gain over the entire ride. The 15 miles of exhilarating terrain will take you about four to six hours to complete, depending on how many stops you take for photos. Or, start in Moab for a 34 mile out-and-back.

The Whole Enchilada, located at Burrow Pass Trailhead along the La Sal Loop Road east of Moab, is one for the record books. Originally designed to be an entire loop, the trail now boasts about 25 miles, and it helps to have a shuttle car. This is no walk in the park. Anyone who has been to Moab before knows that the hill climbs and the descents are not to be taken lightly. If you find yourself walking some of the technical portions of the ride or to cross a couple streams, don’t feel too bad. Tricky spots shut down some of the best riders. Nonetheless, weaving between sandstones and lush forests keeps riders coming back hungry for more.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Peter Creveling

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Old School Navigation

Learning to survive in the wilderness is a skill many outdoorsmen and women brush under the rug. We think we’ll never get lost, our equipment will never fail, and if we   ever injure ourselves, it won’t be more than a scratch.

Navigation is essential in wilderness preparedness, especially since Google Maps doesn’t work when you are 15 miles away from the nearest trailhead in the middle of the San Raphael Swell. This spring break, learn how to find your way with these three tips.

FOLLOW THE STARS

If you are hiking with the stars in the northern hemisphere, the best tip for navigation is to look for the North Star, aka Polaris. Locate the Big Dipper, one of the more recognizable constellations. If you look at the opposite side of the handle on the Big Dipper and draw a straight line using those two stars, you’ll find the North Star. It is the brightest star on this line and is about three fist sizes away. Find south using Orion, following his belt straight down to the horizon when it’s vertical in the sky.

READ A COMPASS

While compasses all point North based off of the magnetic pole in the northern hemisphere, they can also be used to accurately point you in any direction. Using a combination of the compass needle, the compass housing, and the orienting arrow, any direction is possible. For a magnetic compass, this is done by rotating your compass housing until the direction you are looking for is lined up with the direction of travel arrow. Keeping these all fixed, rotate yourself until the compass needle lines up in the direction of north within the compass housing. With both of these aligned, you will have the correct direction of travel.

INTERPRET A TOPOGRAPHICAL MAP

Topos give you an accurate three-dimensional representation of the lay of the land in two dimensions, so keep these tips in mind when reading one. Every point on the same contour (wavy) line has the same elevation. One side of a contour line is uphill and the other is downhill, based on the distance between those lines. Contour lines close to form a circle or they run off of the map. The area inside the circle is almost always higher than the contour line. This helps gauge the elevation gain or loss on a mountain pass trail. It lets you know how much work it will be to go one mile in direction X compared to direction Y. Now that you can read contour lines, try to correlate them to physical features around you, such as peaks, valleys, or waterways.

Once you have these skills, you are set to navigate almost any terrain. The best part? No batteries or charging required.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Peter Creveling

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How to: sharpen your knives

It’s always good to have a sharp knife. The better condition your knife is in, the easier it is to work with. Maintenance of your knife is important to keep you safe and preserve the life of your knife. Here are the three main stages of sharpening a knife.

The first stage is for heavy sharpening: when your blade is very dull or has damaged edges. This is when you use a coarse grit sharpener. Keeping the blade between 13 and 16 degrees, stroke the knife blade first across the grit. Repeat this process on both sides of the blade until the shape becomes a sharp “V.” When your blade gets too thick after repeated wear and sharpening, you know it’s time to retire that one. A thin blade is better than a thick blade.

The second stage is medium to final sharpening. This is for touching up dull blades. The sharpeners used in this stage can be a diamond sharpener or a natural sharpening stone, either of which can be used wet or dry. The steps to sharpen your knife in this stage are the same as stage one.

The final stage is fine sharpening a shaving edge. Sharpening fluid is a must in this stage. Use light strokes on both sides of the blade to remove any burrs left behind from the previous stages. The knife should be razor sharp after this stage. A razor sharp blade is necessary for the most efficient cutting with a minimum applied force. Remember that a sharp knife is a safe knife. Applying additional force to a dull blade is when injuries can occur.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Peter Creveling

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Back to Basics

Back-coun-try ski-ing: (adjective) A. the kind of skiing where you don’t have to keep behind ropes or bounds of the resort; B. the kind of skiing where you don’t have to wait in line for a chair to get up the mountain; C. the kind of skiing where you can get some of the longest powder runs of your life, repeatedly. Most importantly, backcountry skiing is defined by high risk for a high reward. The avalanche control work that keeps resort skiing safe isn’t repeated to the same extent in the backcountry, meaning you need to go in prepared for worst case scenario.

The best way to familiarize yourself with backcountry skiing is to take a class. You’ll learn how to read terrain, understand the basics of snow mechanics, and recognize the warning signs nature gives you. Snow is complex — but it does have characteristic patterns. These classes teach you how to recognize these patterns and know when a given snowpack is stable or not. The Utah Avalanche Center and the University of Utah both offer classes, and workshops take place frequently around the valley.

For gear, renting is your best option when breaking into the sport. There is no need to get top-of-the-line skis with the lightest boot combined with the thinnest touring pants possible: yet. You can find cheap gear online, but the most essential equipment is (hopefully) not for purchase: a touring partner. Although they may cost you a burger or drink to convince them to go with a noob, it’s worth it if they save your life, or vice versa. Other essentials include a beacon, shovel, and a probe. In the event of an avalanche these are your first line of defense for survival. If you get caught in an avalanche, you will appreciate your touring partner being equipped to dig you out. Avalanche airbag backpacks are also becoming a common part of the avalanche safety set. These packs deploy when you pull a lever, helping to keep you toward the surface of the snow.

With the instruction and the gear, you’ll need a place to go. Step one is always to check the avalanche report on the Utah Avalanche Center’s website to see current danger ratings, recent avalanche activity, and what kind of terrain to look out for based on weather patterns. For your first couple times out in the backcountry, seek low angle terrain in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, such as Grizzly Gulch or Mill D. Once you get there, it never hurts to dig a pit to evaluate the snow. It’s a lot of work, but carving your own line down powder no one has touched all season is worth every step of preparation and uphill skiing.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Explore the Wasatch in Winter

Utah is well-known as a prime winter skiing destination, but it has so much more to offer.

To discover the natural scenery at this time of year, scout out some of the frozen waterfalls that dot the state from up north in Layton down to the deserts of Zion National Park. Provo Canyon has some of the closest falls. The famous Bridal Veil Falls, which has the luxury of an easy approach with a parking lot right at the base is also a popular ice climbing destination due to its numerous routes that vary in difficulty. Another frozen waterfall to explore is Stewart Falls, located near Sundance. The falls split into two tiers as it towers for over 200 feet. At just over four miles, this is a moderate hike. As you ascend to the falls, stop and take in the surrounding scenery — a stunning panoramic view of the valley below with snow blanketing the cascading mountains.

Another iconic frozen waterfall to venture to is Donut Falls up Big Cottonwood Canyon. This is a great hike for beginners; it sees plenty of traffic through the season, making it easy to walk along the hard-packed snow. Although it may be an easier hike, don’t let that deter you from throwing on your snowshoes to make the trail even more enjoyable. Donut Falls isn’t completely frozen, nor tall enough to ice climb, but its natural beauty is worth the trek up the canyon. Seeing the water rushing over ice covered rocks is truly breathtaking.

Up north, find frozen falls in Adams’ Canyon in Layton. While more difficult, the view along the entire trail makes up for your lack of breath. The trailhead starts on the benches of the valley, which serves as a great vantage point of the city and is far away from the inversion.

Snowshoeing to frozen lakes, such as Red or White Pine in Little Cottonwood Canyon or to Lake Blanche up Big Cottonwood Canyon, are also great winter activities. They all have several hundred feet of elevation gain ranging over five miles of terrain. Snowshoes and poles are a must as you scale the steep terrain. The still lakes are incredible as frosted mountains tower over you. Make your trip longer and enjoy the sun setting on the mountains during an overnight trip. Be sure to dress appropriately, since temperatures at night can drop to dangerously low numbers.

If you want to venture away from the busy Cottonwood Canyons, Snowbasin Resort and North Fork Park are excellent alternatives. Snowbasin (one hour north of Salt Lake) and North Fork Park (an hour and 15 minutes north of Salt Lake) both offer over 20 km of groomed trails maintained almost daily. At North Fork Park, the south trailhead has a spot to grab warm drinks, snacks, or trail maps.

So, those without a ski pass this year, rejoice! There are plenty of adventures to be had in the Wasatch during these winter months.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Casey Hyer

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How to: Start snowshoeing

Utah is known for its wide range of hiking opportunities up and down the Wasatch Front, and these don’t disappear in the winter months. If anything, the frozen waterfalls and snow-topped pines add even greater beauty to the hikes. Snowshoes help make winter hiking possible, so here are some of our tips for those strapping on snowshoes for the first time.
Prepare for the weather — look up weather conditions in advance. Wear layers that can easily be shed. As you get moving, your body will heat up. I usually bring two light jackets and a wind breaker. I also wear the same snow pants I go skiing in, as well as a good pair of snow boots. Don’t forget to bring gloves and a hat. If you don’t have snow shoes of your own, you are in luck. Renting gear from Outdoor Adventures is only $15 for the weekend. If you don’t have snow boots, it will be an additional $12. However, the total price is about $10 cheaper if you only rent for a single day.
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One of my favorite places to go snowshoeing is in Millcreek Canyon, just past where the road is blocked from Nov. 1 to July 1. About halfway up the canyon, the unpaved road is the perfect hike for beginners. The canyon also offers dozens of hikes off the main road ranging from one to three miles and up to 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Another great location to snowshoe is Jeremy Ranch. Fifteen minutes up I-80 from Salt Lake, the Porcupine Creek trail is flat for eight miles.

Photos by Peter Creveling

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Insider’s Guide to Brighton

The 80-year-old resort has more than 1,875 vertical feet of skiable terrain that caters to a wide range of skier abilities. Located at the top of Big Cottonwood, the resort is only 35 minutes from the Salt Lake airport and offers some of the cheapest lift tickets in the Cottonwoods.

Patrick Kolbay, a PhD student in biomedical engineering, is currently going through training to become a part of the Brighton Ski Patrol for this upcoming season.

Q: What kind of people go to this resort?

A: We definitely get a large variety of people ranging from park lovers to families. If you know where to go, Brighton almost always has pockets of powder days after the storm.

Q: What’s it like working there?

A: The employees and management are absolutely awesome. When I first joined the ski patrol I was told I’d be joining a family, and that’s absolutely the case. Everyone has each others’ backs and we’re there to help people. No attitudes, just good times.

Q: So, is the job as good as everyone thinks it is?

A: It has its pros and cons. We do have to be up at the resort hours before they open, and while it may seem like all we do is ski around in our patrol jackets, there are times when we spend hours of manual labor maintaining the resort or alternatively hours of boredom waiting in the patrol shacks. That said, we do get to take a few turns before the public gets access after storms, and helping those who are hurt is always rewarding. It’s a mixed bag, like most things, but all in all I love the job.

Q: Any stereotypes of ski patrol that prove true?

A: We can definitely seem like wet blankets a lot of the time, but that’s because we’re legitimately worried about everyone’s safety. After you see some of the accidents and what can happen when a body hits a tree at 30 miles per hour, you definitely become more cautious.

Q: What are some secrets to the resort?

A: I’ll keep the best runs a secret for myself, but I can say the trees below Snake are definitely underrated. Night skiing is also a great time to get some turns in without much competition when it’s nuking.

Q: Backcountry powder or groomers? Park rat or speed demon?

A: Definitely backcountry powder and speed demon.

Q: And after a long day boarding/skiing, where do you fuel up?

A: The best deal is the Porcupine Grill at the base of BCC. Don’t bother with any of the entrees, just get the nachos from the appetizer menu with added black beans. That thing will feed four people no problem for like $7.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Kiffer Creveling

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Find Adventure at Farmington Bay

Eighteen thousand acres on the Great Salt Lake of underrated, adventure-filled territory — that’s Farmington Bay. Whether you’re bird watching, mountain biking, kayaking, or hiking, this wildlife sanctuary is a must-see. Watch baby ducks take their first flight in September or snowshoe along a frozen trail in February. Although the open water is too salty for fish, it is home to invertebrates such as brine shrimp and brine flies, which serve as a feast for migratory birds in the fall.

There are two main loops to hike — a short one and a long one. Both loops offer opportunities to view wildlife at every corner and a rarely seen view of the Wasatch mountain range. The short loop is a little over six miles along a flat dirt road that is closed off to cars. The big loop is about 10 miles through the marshlands of the bay area. Both loops are open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily from the beginning of August to the end of February. The short loop is closed from the beginning of March to the end of July to allow for bird nesting. Only certain parts of the bay are open year-round, so it is important to check online to see if any changes have been made. The bay is also open to recreational use such as kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. Floating along the Salt Lake, you’ll get views you can’t get anywhere else. Plus, the vast size makes you feel as if you could paddle forever.

If you end up here during the beginning of August and September, bug spray is a must. In the winter, dress warmly because it can get windy.

p.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

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140 Ways to Climb Maple Canyon

Maple Canyon is one of the most unique climbing destinations in Utah. The texture of the cobblestone rock is like no other place in the state. Just two hours south of Salt Lake, it’s the perfect destination for a weekend stay. With a variety of climbs and numerous locations to explore throughout the canyon, it is a great place to test your ability as a climber.

Climbers can camp near the crags in the huge canyon, but campsites need to be reserved in advance before the end of the season in October. This is the perfect spot for large groups, and amenities like single-family sites, walk-in tent sites, and picnic tables with fire pits make it easy to plan last minute. Ephraim is about 15 minutes south of the canyon, and is great place to stock up on food and supplies before spending time at the crag.

The main attraction of Maple Canyon is the 140 climbing routes ranging from 5.4 up to 5.14. The best places to start would be on Pipeline or Orangutan Wall. Pipeline has a great selection of short but steep routes while Orangutan has a variety of longer climbs. The best time of the year to go is during the summer months and the beginning of the fall. In October and November, it can get cold at night, but this is one of the best times of the year to be outside in Utah as the leaves begin to change and the days aren’t unbearably hot. The majority of the climbs offered in the canyon are single pitch sport routes, but there are a couple of multi-pitch routes. If you don’t get there before the snow comes, don’t sweat it. Maple Canyon also has a variety of ice climbing routes. The best times of the year for ice climbing range from December to the beginning of March. Keep in mind that you will have to skin up or hike to the climbing route as the campsites are closed down during the winter months. The majority of the ice climbs are single pitch, but there are a couple of multi-pitch climbs as well.

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Daniels

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Daniels

If you’re not big into climbing, Maple Canyon itself is stunning enough to go camping for a couple nights to experience its cobblestone cliffs. There are campfire rings, wildlife viewing areas, biking, horseback riding, as well as a couple hikes to explore throughout the canyon. There are three hikes to choose from that range from three to five mile loops branching out from the center of the canyon that feature small caves and waterfalls through the Box Canyon hiking trail. The Maple Canyon Loop trail will be great during the fall season to see the leaves changing because the trail takes you through and out above the canyon and overlooks the valley below.

Whether you are a seasoned climber who has traveled all over the world for climbing or someone who is just looking for a vacation from the Salt Lake Valley, Maple Canyon is definitely a location for your list. Its close proximity to Salt Lake will keep you coming back multiple times a year to experience all that the canyon has to offer.

DIY Trip

DAY 1: The first day is spent packing and getting to Ephraim, Utah, which is the nearest town to Maple Canyon. Pick up all the supplies you need for your stay and anything you might have left at home. You can leave later in the day since the drive only takes a couple hours. Next, make your way back towards the canyon and your campsite.

DAY 2: Today is spent climbing many of the crags the canyon has to offer. I recommend starting out at Orangutan Wall or going to Pipeline.

DAY 3: Today will be a break from climbing and a day spent exploring the rest of the canyon. I recommend hiking on the Maple Canyon Loop. This hike is 5 miles long, so be sure to take your time. There is no need to rush!

DAY 4: Today is spent rock climbing in Box Canyon. These climbs are longer but they offer a couple more challenging aspects such as large overhangs. Plus, the approach through Box Canyon is something you can’t pass up. Today can either be your last day in the canyon, or the next day. It depends on your stamina and how long you are able to keep climbing.

p.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

Photos courtesy of Lindsay Daniels

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