climbing

Technical Slot Canyons for the Beginning Canyoneer

Just like with most adventure sports, canyoneering only gets better the more difficult it is to get through the canyon. While hikes through slot canyons are beautiful, they can’t compare to rappelling down one or having your partner help you climb over a stuck rock. A technical canyon is the best version of an adult obstacle course nature has to offer us, and one of the most adventures fun found anywhere. For those just getting started, however, it can be intimidating or even dangerous to drop down a canyon far above your skill level. Here are five canyons that are perfect for an amateur’s first few descents.

Blarney Canyon

This is a two for one canyon; there’s an East and West Blarney Canyon and both are great for those wanting to practice their natural anchor building skills. There are no bolts, but the canyon is well trafficked and natural anchors are bomber and easy to find. Both have medium sized rappels and moderate down climbs. Using a hip belay allows for less skilled down climbers to get some good practice safely. The canyons are located near Hanksville and are not difficult to find. Route finding is similarly easy, but it is exposed and, like all of Southern Utah, can be brutally hot in the summer. Either hike in early in the morning while it’s still cool or do the canyon at night (Note: not recommended if it’s your first time descending it). Either branch of the Blarney offers all the fun of a big, fully technical canyon without throwing anything too difficult in your face. No permits required.

Diana’s Throne

THE canyon for first timers. Located just outside Zion, this route is short, sweet, and extremely beginner friendly. The technical section only lasts a short while but offers a sampling of common canyon obstacles. Everything is bolted, making it very easy to safely maneuver every downclimb and rappel. Three big rappels mark the start of the slotty section, but a more vertical descent hides a bit farther down the canyon. The approach and exit are fairly well marked out and the canyon is not terribly hard to find. Footprints paint the way there. Around the exit to the canyon are a few, bigger offshoots that can hold fun rappels themselves if proper anchor building tactics are employed. No permits are necessary as the land is all BLM.

Yankee Doodle Hollow

Intimidating, then simple and sweet. Yankee Doodle starts with a big 130-foot rappel off the side of the canyon to the floor. It is partially overhanging, meaning you’ll be free floating at least part of the way down, but it’s anchored with bolts so there’s little chance of your anchor not holding up. After that initial rappel, some down climbs and slotty section will follow, but you won’t be rappelling again. It’s a one and done deal, making it great for those who want to try out a bigger descent. The canyon is located off the Leeds Exit (22) of I-15. There are no permits needed.

Keyhole

Perhaps the most heavily trafficked, and most common beginner canyon Zion has to offer. The canyon has just one, small rappel (30 feet), but offers multiple sections of good downclimbing and a classic cold water Zion swim. Break out the wetsuits for this canyon even if you’re doing it in July; water down in the depths rarely sees the sun and seldom heats up. Like others on this list, the canyon is short and should only take a few hours to get through. This canyon is so iconic of good Zion canyoneering that it has its picture hanging behind the permit station in the Visitor’s Center, which you’ll be able to admire while picking up your mandatory permit.

 

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Keeping Little Cottonwood Clean for Future Generations

Rock climbing is one of those sports where you often get a lot of ridicule and backlash from surrounding communities and local politicians. Rock climbers are often seen as those who have no concern for the surrounding environment as we scale walls. The truth is quite opposite, however. With my many years of rock climbing experience under my belt, I have seen nothing but people who are the most conscious about the preservation of the environment, and more specifically, rock climbing itself. In Salt Lake City, you are bound to find these types of people everywhere you go. It is a blessing when the city of Salt Lake and its inhabitants find a way to give back to the rock climbing community. Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has formalized a relationship with the climbing community to secure almost 600 climbing routes and almost 150 boulder problems in Little Cottonwood Canyon, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Previously, the area now secured for rock climbers was privately owned by the Church with no access to climbing for almost 60 years when routes were first ascended. The area that has been recently opened is in the Gate Buttress, one of the most popular climbing areas in the canyon, and one of the most popular climbing areas in the state.

Personally, Gate Buttress is one of my favorite crags to climb due to its plethora of crack climbing routes with a wide range of route difficulty. Climbing routes range from anywhere between a rating of 5.7 all the way up to the 5.12 range. There are enough routes to cater to all climbing abilities, from the climber having their first outside experience to the seasoned veteran who knows all the climbs better than the back of their hand.

The best part about this relationship is the security of the area is open to the public for years to come. Future generations will be able to climb these walls just as those did before them for over a half century earlier.

In my years of going to Little Cottonwood, I have seen nothing but respect for the canyon by my fellow climbers. For example, I have seen several groups who have finished a long day of climbing hiking back down with backpacks full of trash to help clean up the area. I know of groups forming together online to meet up on weekends to perform trail maintenance. Keep in mind that this is all purely volunteer work and out of the kindness of their hearts to help see the preservation of the area and the sport. This being said, now that we as a climbing community have been granted the security of this world class climbing from those higher up, it is now our duty to help grant that security for the future.

In my honest opinion, I am not concerned. The climbing community has shown their support for the area, not only in Little Cottonwood Canyon, but also in all areas throughout the state for many decades. I am confident that this support will continue on the road ahead.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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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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Non-Technical Slot Canyons for the Adventurous Day Hiker

Utah is home to some of the most unique and amazing geological features in the American West. Nearly every other license plate in the state has a picture of Delicate Arch on it, and the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon and Goblin Valley are famous enough to warrant millions of Instagram posts. Perhaps most unique of all, and most seldom explored, are the thousands of slot canyons specific to Utah. While many require rappels and pothole escape techniques, there are still some that will take your breath away without requiring any technical skills. Here are a few of my favorites.

Little Wild Horse

Located six miles west of Goblin Valley State Park, this canyon separates you from the crowds of people swarming around the hoodoos next door. The hike is an 8-mile (four hour) loop. It occasionally has water running through it, but the water rarely rises above knee deep, so a good pair a wading shoes are all that is needed. Any major obstacles are avoidable and down climbs are easy. Overall, this is a sandy bottomed, mostly dry, kid-friendly slot canyon perfect for beginners or day hikers.

Beta: http://climb-utah.com/SRS/lwh.htm

Peek a Boo and Spooky

Due to their popularity, hiking these canyons feels more like an adult Disneyland than traversing around southern Utah’s desert. Nevertheless, the slots are absolutely stunning and the hikes are not long. While Peek a Boo and Spooky can be done separately, the best way is to loop them. Hike up Peek a Boo and, upon exiting, follow the cairned route east to the top of Spooky. Scramble down Spooky and return to the main concourse area where both the trailheads meet. The canyons are located about 26 miles down Hole-in-the-Rock road near Escalante, UT. Take the 4WD, high clearance Dry Fork Turnoff and follow it left to Dry Fork Overlook where the trails begin.

Beta: https://utah.com/hiking/peek-a-boo-slot-canyon

Moonshine Wash

Back in the days of prohibition, this canyon was used to hide an illegal distillery, remains of which are easily located in the canyon. Thus, the name Moonshine Wash. The canyon itself is a classic, tall slot. It’s located in the San Rafael Swell near Green River, so expect some solitude. At times, it requires deep wading, but all the down climbs are secure and simple. A competent hiker should have few problems completing this canyon. An old sheep bridges spans the top of one section of the canyon, making for an iconic photo op, and plenty of primitive camping is close by.

Beta: https://www.roadtripryan.com/go/t/utah/robbers-roost/moonshine

Egypt 3

This canyon pushes the “non-technical” description. It has potholes that require partner escapes, exposed down climbs, and advanced route finding. A GPS is highly recommended for this canyon. Yet, the rewards of completing Egypt 3 make it worth it. As soon as the hike begins, you are greeted by a stunning cliff drop-off of a few hundred feet. Traversing left, you see the massive Egypt Canyon begin to form. Eventually, you’ll drop into it via a bonus side canyon and begin to experience huge slotted walls and long, tight squeezes. This is an extremely narrow canyon, often needing 100-150 yard squeezes with packs held in front. There is a single rappel at the very end of the canyon, but it is optional and can be avoided. Unless you have experience canyoneering, do not do the rappel. The exit hike is very exposed and extremely hot. It would be easy to get lost walking back. Bring beta, a map, compass, and GPS with way-points to safely and enjoyably complete the canyon.

Beta: http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/images/stories/PDFs/Escalante/HoleInRock/Egypt.pdf

*Canyoneering is a dangerous sport, even for non-technical routes. Many canyons are remote and not often traveled. An accident could mean serious trouble. Nearly all require exposed hikes in/out in hot desert sun. Bring lots of water, usually at least three liters each. Have plenty of options for route finding. A GPS is preferred, but a map, compass, and good beta should be brought every time. Be careful, well prepared, and practice good LNT.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Carolyn Webber

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Modern Day Expeditions

Today it’s near impossible to step foot where no human has before. It seems that the golden age of exploration has been trickling out since the last fur trappers and government surveyors found desk jobs. While expeditions on the scale of Lewis and Clark are few and far between, that does not mean there aren’t still people out there exploring wild places. Here are three modern day expeditions that you can follow from your computer screen this year.

Everest No Filter

Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards are no strangers to Everest or mountaineering. Two years ago they launched #EverestNoFilter to document their first attempt to reach the top of the world with no supplemental oxygen. Cory succeeded while hypothermia forced Adrian to turn around. A year later, however, Adrian shattered the record for the fastest ascent of an 8,000 m. peak. It took him exactly two weeks from the time he stepped foot out of his home in Tahoe to the time he stepped back in. This year, he switched his training and diet and is ready to reach the top without supplemental oxygen.

Both Cory and Adrian will be posting snaps to the main @EverestNoFilter account. With constant posts thanks to satellite technology, you’ll get a near live view of what it’s like to live in base camp, climb the mountain, and (hopefully) reach the summit.

Pole2Pole

Mike Horn is one of the rare modern day explorers. He sets out on his expeditions with the goal of completing something nobody else has done. He’s racked up a list of the most ridiculously impressive feats, like swimming the entire Amazon River, following the Arctic Circle across the Earth during winter, and circumnavigating the world using only human power. Now, he intends to once again circumnavigate the globe solo, this time vertically. He will cross both the north and south pole on his expedition, using a combination of off-roading, sailing, and skiing to reach his destinations. He set off about 150 days ago, and has already crossed the south pole, but is headed through New Zealand on his way up north.

Instagram is the best traditional social media to follow Horn on. He posts daily when possible. His website, mikehorn.com, has an interactive map that shows where Mike currently is, where his support boat is, and every location he uploaded.

Riding Wild

Aniela Gottwald grew up with a love of the wilderness. Her father routinely took her on seven hour hikes through the forests and mountains and her mother taught her everything there is to know about horses. Starting this Spring, she plans to traverse over 4,000 miles accompanied only by her two recently broken mustangs and one wolfdog. Her route follows the Pacific Crest Trail through the U.S. and continues two to three months past the trail’s end to the Sacred Headwaters in Canada.

Her goal is to raise awareness for wild mustangs in the U.S., whose populations and habitats have been steadily declining since Americans first settled the West, and the Sacred Headwaters, which lack any governmental protection and are being developed for mining. Ultimately, Aniela hopes to make a documentary of her travels in order to raise the most awareness for her cause. Follow her on social media or check out her website at ridingwild.com.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.co

 

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Adventures to Get Over Your Post-Ski Blues

Even though this year record-breaking storms have been pummeling California endlessly, ski season here in the Wasatch is coming to an end. It’s always hard to say goodbye to the best snow on earth, but the ‘Satch still provides plenty of opportunities for adventure if you get out and look for it. Here are just a few.

Boulder Little Cottonwood

Switch from stuffing your feet in ski boots, to climbing shoes. Both Cottonwoods boast no shortage of trad, sport, and even top rope routes to work on. However, Little Cottonwood holds the crown when it comes to bouldering. Follow the road up the canyon for about 1.3 miles before reaching a parking turnout on your left to reach Gates Bouldering. Most of the routes are just a short walk from the car. If you’re not a serious climber, then bouldering is a great place to start. Check out Mountain Project to find a few problems for your skill level. Plus, Outdoor Adventures rents crash pads for $6 a day.

Longboard Provo Canyon

Provo Canyon is the Goldilocks of roads to longboard. It’s mellow enough to keep control the whole way down, but steep enough to keep you going. The best way to do it is to set up a car shuttle. Park one down canyon at Nuns Park and pile into the other to shuttle up to Vivian Park. Hop out and enjoy the 25-minute coast back down to the bottom car. Repeat if desired. Beware that there is a 15 mph speed limit for all riders. Local authorities have considered banning boarding altogether here from the number of people breaking this, so please keep it in control.

Shoot the Tube

Nearly every Salt Laker drove over this adventure all winter long during their hurried dashes to catch some pow at the resorts. Located literally underneath I-215, Shoot the Tube offers an adult version of those classic, inflatable water slides. Finding it is not hard, just head down Foothill until you can see Suicide Rock (the one off to the left covered in graffiti). The tube starts in the bottom of that little canyon. Grab some inflatable tubes, a GoPro, and a couple friends to welcome in the hot desert summer. Be careful to pay attention to water levels.

Climb the Pfeifferhorn

In winter, the Pfeifferhorn (known as The Little Matterhorn), offers one of the best technical mountaineering experiences in the Wasatch. Most of us do not have the skills, gear, or know-how to not end up swept away in an avalanche. That’s why summer is the perfect time to tackle this most iconic peak. Drive your car up to White Pine Trailhead in Little Cottonwood Canyon and enjoy the climb. Plenty of people tackle the peak in a single day, an out and back trip of about nine miles, but you can also camp at Red Pine Lake for a more mellow day. Either way, the view from the ridge is amazing.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Hannah McGuire

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Conquering Peaks: Becoming a Mountaineer

Ever heard of Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, Reinhold Messner, or Jon Krakauer? These are the men who helped define mountaineering, the sport of climbing tall mountains. Each stepped foot on the tallest mountain in the world — Everest. They were united by the desire to summit mountain peaks, a feeling that drives all mountaineers.

To launch my own mountaineering career, I decided to start locally.  With a climbing colleague, we set out to tackle Broad’s Fork Twin Peaks last June. Although the elevation of 11,329 feet is nowhere near that of the breathtaking elevation of Everest (29,035 feet), we were faced with challenges.

After reading previous mountaineers’ advice on which route to take on Mountain Project, we decided to start at the S-curve in Big Cottonwood Canyon. We discussed the equipment needed to go on this expedition — sunglasses, sunscreen, hiking poles, crampons, a mountaineering axe, a probe, a beacon, and a shovel. We were forced to bail on our first attempt due to a snow storm, so the next time we began before the sun came up on a cloudless day.  The hike was straightforward on a dirt trail for about 3.5 miles until we hit the snowfield. We were both instantly blinded by the ivory blanket reflecting the sun.

We pulled out our glacier glasses and continued the ascent. Shortly after we stepped onto the snow field, the steepness made it difficult to keep our balance. We switched from hiking poles to the mountaineering axe and strapped on crampons. When mountaineering, there is often no trail to follow. Instead, you must assess the terrain and find the safest way up.  We saw previous slide paths from avalanches and made our best path zig-zagging through them.  The soft snow made it so we were postholing, meaning each step brought us waist-deep in the snow.

We made it to the ridge, cautious with each step between the 2,500-foot drop-offs on either side. Then, we began the final ascent, approximately 500 feet to the summit.  The closer we got to the peak, our hearts were pounding knowing we were almost there. At last, we summited East Twin Peak and gaped at the impeccable view. While catching our breath, we took our crampons off to walk around on the peak. Once we saw the other peak tantalizing us 528 feet away, we decided to finish the job.

We walked slowly on the thin knife blade of a ridge and enjoyed a break on the other peak. While taking photos, we heard a roaring sound echo around us, which sounded like a locomotive steaming by. It was an avalanche that broke loose on O’Sullivan peak a half-mile behind us and crashed down in the valley below.  That was our cue to exit and make our way back down the long and tedious descent.

Once we reached the open snow field, we could glissade down using our axe to self-arrest as we sped down. We removed our snow gear and stepped back onto the dirt trail, a few miles from our cars. At the journey’s end, we got in the car and looked back up toward the peak, neither of us believing the amazing climb we just endured. After mountaineering to the top of my first peak, I understand the desires each of those wild peak baggers have. Mountaineering is an addictive sport.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com 

Photo by Kiffer Creveling

Corrected from “These are the men who helped define alpinism, the sport of climbing tall mountains.” on 4/12/17.

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Coping With FOMO

I ran into my buddy at the climbing gym the other day. He was planning a weekend trip to Arizona to kayak, and this was the first I had heard about it. He didn’t even think to invite me, and perhaps with good reason. I had my own plans to canyoneer in Hanksville, Utah with my UExplore class.

Most of the time, I think taking eight outdoor education classes in a single semester was the best decision I made since coming to college. But sometimes, I realize that while I’m practicing rappelling with my classmates, my buddies are out kayaking. While I’m learning quinzee construction in the Uintas, my friends are shredding eight inches of fresh powder at Alta. While I’m topping out on my first ice climb in Ouray, Colorado, my dorm friends are splashing around in the Subway in Zion National Park. Yes, it’s a little ridiculous to regret missing kayaking with your friends when you’re descending a canyon with other friends, but it’s hard to avoid; Utah is jam-packed with opportunities to have wild adventures. And the FOMO — the Fear Of Missing Out — can be all too real. Just look at the steady stream of ski hills and climbing routes inundating any outdoorsy Instagram feed.

Should we, as “outdoorsy millennials,” plunge headfirst into every random outdoor sport that comes our way — even if this means we won’t necessarily become expert or even proficient in any of them? Or should we focus our energy exclusively on one or two of our outdoor passions, sacrificing new and novel opportunities in other venues? There’s really nobody to tell you how to enjoy the outdoors, and moreover, no perfect recipe to balance your professional and academic careers with your outdoor passions. Sometimes, when you enjoy climbing,

mountaineering, canyoneering, skiing, ice climbing, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking, it’s a struggle to live in the moment — to fully appreciate the slope you’re skiing or the slab you’re climbing — because you’re so ensconced in indecision, in fear of missing out on other adventures. And don’t forget that finals are coming up and you’ve got a paper due Monday and you really should be studying. So how do you balance it all?

First of all, still go outside this weekend — even if you have seven papers due Monday. It’ll keep you sane. There’s no “recipe for recreation,” so go out and build your own adventure. Take eight UExplore classes if you want to — or maybe take two — or maybe take none. Let yourself be fully swept away when you’re kayaking and let climbing completely rock your world. Personally, the best means I’ve found to really live in the moment outside is to push myself as hard and as far as I possibly can. I want to be sure I am fully appreciating, exploring, and living in whatever space I find myself. There’s no use thinking the grass is greener or the peaks are higher somewhere else.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Claire Simon

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Get a Job Outdoors This Summer

Birds are chirping, flowers blooming, and the stress of finals and unsolved summer plans grow with each passing day. Yes, spring is finally here. As students around campus scramble to bump their grades up just a few more points, the professional world is gearing up for the summer season. Entry-level jobs pop up faster than wildflowers, and the good ones are taken just as quickly. If you’ve ever considered working outdoors, get your resume. This list will convince you to snag that summer dream job.

Explore More

Melting snow and warmer weather unlock an entire realm of Utah activities. Peaks are begging to be climbed in the Wasatch, trails ridden in Moab, and canyons descended in Zion. While you can (and should) jump at these opportunities during your off-days, you will discover all the hidden nooks and crannies of these places, squeezing every drop of adventure from it. You get to spend way more time rafting down rivers or climbing rock faces and you’ll get paid to do it!

Add Some Spice to Your Resume

Eventually, college will come to an end and the years of work we put toward a degree will hopefully go to use in an actual career. On that day, we will be reduced to a paper of accolades stacked in with hundreds of others. Having an interesting summer job on there, like Kayak Guide or Vineyard Assistant, will set your sheet apart from the others. Plus, it will open the door for you to share a sweet story and connect with your employer.

Mold Your Job to Your Liking

Anna de St. Aubin landed a job on a local farm last summer. Her daily duties involved everything from feeding goats to selling vegetables. Each morning, “[she] woke up early, made coffee, and watched the sunrise,” and every evening she would time her chores, “so the sun would be setting just as I was finishing milking, so I could watch the bats come out.” This is a whole lot better than waking up to a screaming alarm and bussing tables until it’s too dark to see outside.

Live Outside

While there’s always an allure to showers and a soft bed, there’s hardly a better experience than weeks on weeks of camping. Backpackers pay no small amounts to go do it all around the world, but finding a job that lets you camp for the season means you’ll be the one filling their pockets rather than emptying them. If your goal is to dirtbag through life, make your mom proud and earn cash while doing it.

Pro Deals

Loving the outdoors means you probably love gear too. All of the greatest recreational opportunities require a boat load of expensive equipment, most of which marks well beyond the salary of a college student. As a guide, or affiliate of a guide company, companies will set you up with deals to get everything cheaper. They know that clients will see you use it and be more likely to purchase that brand over another. Score garage sale-like deals so you can adventure on.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Chris Hammock

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Kick off the Climbing Season in the Valley of Zion

Ice and snow are sliding off the canyon walls, exposing those projects you’ve been dreaming about all winter. Rock climbing season is here. It’s still March though, an indecisive month that can toss rain, snow, or 65 degree temps at you with a shift of the spring wind. Yes, the Cottonwoods have missed you, but escaping the mountains gives you a better chance of escaping that random snowstorm that will kick you off your project. Switch granite slabs for limestone crags overlooking the expansive Great Salt Lake. Come to the Valley of Zion.

It sounds exotic, but don’t worry, the classic, scratch-your-head names climbers give to walls await you. Choose from Blob’s Your Aunt, Blob’s Your Cousin, Blob’s Your Nephew, or Blob’s Your Uncle. Most are single-pitch sport routes that are a lot longer than you initially expect. Since the majority of climbs are in the 5.9-5.10b range, it’s the perfect confidence booster to launch a new rock climbing season.

Warm up on Blob’s Your Uncle, just above and to the left of the parking area. Greg’s Bear Hug and Drunk Monkey are some favorites, but there’s not a climb here that won’t give you varied climbing and some exposure. Just remember to bring a lot of quickdraws, since 10+ bolts are common. The climbs are side by side, making it a great cragging spot with endless views of Stansbury Island and the near-constant lull of trains passing along the salty desert.

Head over to Elysian Fields after you’re warm, a four-pitch sport climb classic never exceeding 5.9 difficulty. The views along the way are stunning.

Camp for the night and check out Blob’s Your Aunt, another easy crag with a large collection of routes. If you want to try out more difficult, shorter climbs, go to Cannabis Crew Wall. You’ll need to check out “Utah’s West Desert” by James Garrett for a full list of climbs in the area.

Once you’ve had your feel of the valley drive back toward Grantsville to explore South Willow Canyon. The West Desert is the perfect weekend climbing spot not too far from Salt Lake, but with different terrain to feel like you went somewhere.

Photo by Andre Romero

Get here:

Drive west on I-80 past Tooele. Take exit #77 and a side road to the base of the climb. Four-wheel drive required. Hike up a short trail for a quarter mile.

Camping:

From I-80, take exit 84 to get to Stansbury Island. Since the land is owned by the Bureau of Land Management, you can pretty much camp anywhere. Just remember to leave no trace. The sunsets and sunrises over the lake are unreal.

Packing List:

Sport climbing gear (at least 14 quickdraws)

Camping gear

Warm layers (It’s the desert — it gets cold)

Fire wood and camping food (fires are permitted on the island)

c.webber@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Ana Shestakova

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