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climbing

Epic Picnicking

Growing up in Utah really helps you to appreciate the outdoors and the incredible opportunities just past your doorstep. The possibilities for travel within this state alone can take more than a lifetime. The question for any individual adventurer then becomes, how do you make these commonly enjoyed places more unique? My spin off answer to this question is to have a picnic, and epic picnic, at every location you visit, either figuratively or literally. Take your stereotypical red and white table cloth, woven straw lunch basket, and deli sandwiches and create your own picnic table in the most epic places possible within the wilderness. Make each and every experience your own.

One such epic picnic experience is peak bagging. Yes, you might have to carry a little extra weight to bring up all those picnic items, but hear me out, the experience alone will stay with you the rest of your life. I can speak from experience. I hiked King’s Peak, and what I remember most is carrying a tripod in my right hand and a subway sandwich in my left for miles. Was it difficult? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Am I insane? Most likely. Now, I have a great story to tell each time about how I hiked the highest peak in Utah, and I have the photos to remember the experience.

Another option is to take hiking to a new level. I recommend getting into mountaineering. This sport is truly breathtaking, and I’m not just talking about the lack of oxygen once you get above 10,000 feet. Mostly, I just feel like an astronaut walking on the surface of a foreign planet with the coolest glacial glasses known to existence on my head, ice crampons on my feet, and an ice axe in my hand. When you mountaineer this way, it is just you and the mountain. Let me tell you, once at the top of a peak after hiking through a glacial field, a delicious sandwich is one of the best tasting meals you’ll ever have. This was another epic picnic I have notched into my experience belt.

These are only two examples of  the “epic picnics” I have created for myself. I challenge you to create some of your own as well. You might be struggling at the present when trekking through the desert, but it is the memories you create along the way that matter most, and adding a picnic, to any already epic adventure, is a great way to make it even more so.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Bouldering Rockstar Alex Puccio

The history of bouldering is comprised of amazing feats initially thought impossible. The sport is made up of a wide variety of people, brought together by a similar love for sheer rock and tough holds.

Professional rock climber, Bouldering World Cup winner, and eleven time National Champion, Alex Puccio, is one such person. Raised in Dallas, Texas, Puccio, two months shy of 29, has been climbing more than half her life. At this point, her reputation precedes her.

“I started climbing at a gym called Exposure,” Puccio says. This indoor gym near where she grew up led to a youth competition circuit where she competed until turning 16, at which point she was legally able to enter adult climbing circuits.

“When I was 16, I competed in my first adult national bouldering series, or comp,” Puccio says, “And I actually won it, which was a big shock and a surprise to me.” What some may have thought a fluke, Puccio proved to be a matter of skill and strength soon after, she says. “Every comp, or at least 95 percent of the comps that I entered for adults from that first comp, I won.”

Puccio’s skill is not limited to the gym, either. She’s also conquered multiple V14 boulder routes, a level typically ranked in the “Elite” echelons of bouldering, and considers herself more of a boulderer than a sport climber overall. She explains she got into sport climbing first because, “When I was younger, I had to mostly sport climb because in the youth competition circuit” — a level of climbing competitions for those 18 and younger — “there wasn’t any bouldering,” she says. However, once she found bouldering, she says, “I naturally loved bouldering because I think I’m a more powerful athlete and I develop muscles just genetically like really easily, so I gravitated to the powerful side of climbing, and really loved it.”

Videos capturing Puccio’s sport climbing and outdoor bouldering are stunning to watch. When she’s moving, Puccio makes incredible jumps, grabs, and upside-down holds look easy as she scales sheer rock faces and steeply angled walls. Analyzing those same sections later, even having seen Puccio make her way through, it is hard to believe any upward movement would be at all possible.

Despite major injuries — like a torn ACL and MCL and, even scarier, a herniated disc affecting her spinal cord, taking place within a year of each other — Puccio earned her eleventh National Champion win this year, in February at the downtown Salt Lake City Salt Palace. Though as a result of that second injury, she says, “I think I have slight loss of range of motion, and some of the muscles in my neck get kind of tweaked or cramped,” she adds, “Other than that, I don’t notice that much.” In fact, injury seems to have been motivating for Puccio, who says, “I did my first competition about three and a half months [after surgery for the herniated disk], and went with expectations of just climbing and seeing how it went, and potentially backing out if I felt scared or not ready, and then I ended up winning the comp and I ended up winning every single comp after that for the next five months.” 15 professional competitions. 15 wins. Post-major spine-related surgery.

Ever improving, Puccio will no doubt maintain a strong presence in the climbing world. If you spend time in Orangeville, Utah’s Joe’s Valley during fall and spring, or Little Cottonwood Canyon, you may run into her. Of Joe’s Valley, she says, she and her boyfriend “love to go there for climbing outside. It’s a beautiful sandstone rock and really fun to climb on.…Little Cottonwood Canyon’s right in our backyard, basically. It’s a really good climb. Most people don’t travel really far [to get there], so if you go there, it’s pretty small and scarce, but there are a lot of classic lines, and a lot of classic boulder problems … and sport climbing. It’s definitely a nice area to have just to go local and to not have to go very far.”

c.koldewyn@wasatchmag.com

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

Cover photo by Kiffer Creveling.

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Wasatch Winter Mountaineers

Through each season, the peaks of the Wasatch transform with the elements to take on a radically different façade,

Courtesy of Jonathan Scott.

and during the period of snowfall and cold, this range is an entirely different beast. While the notion of climbing to the apex of one of the many cloud-carving goliaths seems intimidating and prohibitive to most in the valley during the summer, doing so while the Wasatch is encased in snow is downright unimaginable. For some impetuous local mountaineers, however, the endeavor is exhilarating, sublime, and worth the struggle and risk. If you’re an individual with a bit of cardio, grit, and interest in learning, surmounting one of the glistening peaks in the winter is merely a matter of will and determination.

Sports like this, of course, are contingent upon connecting with a community; knowledge is often best passed-down by a mentor, as it is not wise to approach these expeditions alone (particularly on one’s first attempt). While social media may be among the modern practices keeping people either indoors or buried in their smartphones, it has served as an incredible mechanism for bringing together like-minded folk from all walks of life. This sport is no exception.

Courtesy of Tanner Maxwell.

While many local groups have existed long before the induction of social media in contemporary consciousness, platforms like Facebook have played an essential role in uniting and organizing mountain junkies and their activities. The most prominent and active among them include the longstanding Wasatch Mountain Club and the accurately named Wasatch Mountain Wranglers, collectively comprised of 7,375 members (the latter having the most at 5,502). Each group routinely organizes a variety of expeditions into these mountains throughout the year, serving as an inclusive environment in which locals at any level of practice can get connected with exhilarating trips, as well as experienced, knowledgeable, and passionate mentors.

Over the course of the past few weeks, I reached out to some of the impetuous Utahns to determine just why they do it, what it takes, and what advice they may have for newcomers. At every level of expertise, these determined individuals all have something that drives them to these peaks.

Nicole Frazier Condie is a lifelong Mapleton local, mother, self-proclaimed mountain-lover, and is relatively new to winter mountaineering. She explains that while she has spent her entire life treading the slopes of the Wasatch, she has found recently that “the winter brings a gift: a quiet extreme. You experience this rush while at the same time you feel so at peace —  safe but not safe at all. It is an absolute juxtaposing experience. Its beauty is truly something straight from Narnia.”

Courtesy of Nicole Frazier Condie.

This quiet extreme is something Condie came to learn most profoundly on her perilous group expedition up South Thunder Mountain (11,154 feet) last March. While the weather had fared well for her group throughout the day, Condie says “the wind changed dramatically up after 10,500 feet to 50-60 mph gusts. One smaller woman on the team was actually lifted and fell from the wind during the last push to the summit. As sharp ice flurries burned past my face I worried that the wind would pick up one of those large pieces, sending me over the edge. But I pressed on, unable to see or hear the others in my party.” Despite the treacherous conditions, including — at one point —  making a wrong turn  toward a precarious ravine and later having to learn how to glissade with an ice axe on-the-spot. Condie persevered nonetheless, leaving her with the sense of accomplishment.

Courtesy of Nicole Frazier Condie.

“I really had done something. I really lived in that moment. Something beautiful truly awoke in me,” she says.

Each individual capable and driven in winter mountaineering seems to develop their own intimate relationships with the mountains and motivations for climbing them. Joe Butcher, an experienced mountaineer and Kaysville native, affirms his motivation for climbing “really is spiritual.”

“I enjoy being reminded how small I am in the grand scheme of things. I also enjoy the difficulty, and training my mind with the fortitude to overcome some of the most difficult obstacles I have ever encountered. My experiences in the mountains have provided me with the wherewithal to endure many other trials in my personal life,” he says.

Jonathan Scott, a Utah County native and active all-season mountaineer in the Wasatch Mountain Club, finds himself drawn to these peaks in winter due to the sublime challenge they hold.

Courtesy of Jonathan Scott.

“[In the winter] there are more variables that make it more difficult, but also more rewarding, like solving a 1,000-piece puzzle as opposed to a 100-piece puzzle. I like challenges, and the winter offers that for me,” Scott says.

Scott urges newcomers not to shy away from the challenge, however daunting it may seem.

“Don’t be so afraid of a winter objective that you don’t try it,” he says. “Just like when you project a boulder problem or climbing route outside of your current abilities, start at the bottom and work your way up the mountain, even if it takes you 10 times.”

Tanner Maxwell is an avid Wasatch Mountain Wrangler and photographer. He finds a sublime aesthetic and self-actualizing potential on these ridges.

“Solitude and incredible beauty that can only be found in high places in the winter is what drives me to the Wasatch in the winter months,” Maxwell explains. “Challenging myself and setting summit goals is what keeps me sane. There is no place like the mountains, and seeing them firsthand in all types of weather and seasons is what makes it worth undertaking. I feel like I better myself when I am up there.”

Courtesy of Tanner Maxwell.

Each of these practicing winter mountaineers had their own perspectives on the greatest risks associated with the mystifying sport and tips to ensure a safe and positive experience, but one thing that remained consistent in their responses was that avalanches are among the greatest possible dangers. One must always be mindful of conditions on the mountain — to “know before you go,” if you will.

Mike Gibby, a well-seasoned climber and mentor figure in the Wasatch Mountain Club with dynamic experiences both domestic and international, claims that the ideal conditions to keep an eye out for are “low avalanche danger, snow consolidation, cold weather — to help stabilize the snow — good visibility, and no wind.” It is ultimately best to pick a cold, clear day and push-off as early as 2 or 3 a.m. This is such common practice in the sport that it has been named an “Alpine Start.”

Gibby also advises aspiring winter mountaineers to recognize that safety must be taken as the primary objective, and to always “be prepared to turn around if conditions change.”

Other potential dangers associated with this sport are dehydration, exposure to the elements, snow and ice hazards, like melting cornices and snow bridges, and, of course, involuntary sliding and falling.

Regardless of outdoor experience level, potential newcomers to winter mountaineering are encouraged to 1) begin by practicing in shorter and less precarious winter hiking locations to familiarize themselves with the equipment and conditions, 2) take at least one avalanche course, 3) develop a habit of assessing snow-levels on the Utah Avalanche Center site, and 4) acquaint themselves with people well-experienced in the practice, like the Wasatch Mountain Club and Wasatch Mountain Wranglers. It is also important to 5) be transparent with yourself to ensure you have the composure to lead your body up such an icy mountaintop. Aside from a firmly level and clear head, the essential equipment for winter mountaineering largely depends upon conditions, but the basics include:

Courtesy of Jonathan Scott.

>ice axes

>crampons

>full-shank boots

>many layers (top and bottom) for varied conditions

>multiple glove layers

>water with freezing prevention methods

>helmet

>sunglasses/goggles

>gaiters

>trekking poles with snow-baskets

>snowshoes or skis with climbing skins for the approach

>short, mountaineering, or climbing rope depending on route

>avalanche safety equipment (like a beacon, shovel, and probe)

>knowledge of weather and avalanche conditions

Courtesy of Tanner Maxwell.

While you don’t necessarily need to break the bank when attaining equipment, particularly while you are still uncertain whether or not the sport is for you, you should always err on the side of quality equipment, since cheap and unreliable gear can either ruin your day or even cost you your life. It is a general rule of thumb that any gear you will trust your life with — this includes ropes, harnesses, carabiners, etc.— should not be bought for just this reason.

Though virtually any snow-covered peak or route can be taken on with sufficient gusto and preparation, some of the most popular and appraised are the Pfeifferhorn, the Everest Ridge, and Timpanooke routes on Mount Timpanogos, South Thunder Mountain, White and Red Baldy, Lone Peak, Mount Olympus, and the Tripe-Traverse goliaths: Dromedary Peak, Sunrise Peak, and the Broadsfork Twins.

Stay safe out there.

Title photo courtesy of Tanner Maxwell.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

 

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PRT & U

Have you ever wanted to try a cool recreational activity, but didn’t have the knowledge, equipment and/or money for it? Well, you’re in luck. Our beloved University of Utah offers credit and noncredit classes in a wide range of activities. They are listed under the “Parks, Recreational, and Tourism” or PRT section of the current semester’s class schedule. Among the classes offered are opportunities to take a weekend long trip to Zion National Park to learn landscape photography, or discover the basics of outdoor rock climbing, and that’s only the beginning of it.

While classes are offered fall, spring, and summer semesters, types of classes can vary depending on the season. The search acronym PRT within the semester catalog can be followed by a few different letters: L for land, S for snow, and W for water. This allows students to narrow down what kind of recreational sport or activity class they want to take. Most classes will cover the cost of food and most equipment. Some classes require camping, which means you’ll need to bring camping essentials like a sleeping bag, pillow, and tent, while classes like Pistol Marksmanship do not require camping equipment. Make sure to read the class description so you know what you’re getting yourself into, though don’t let concerns about equipment keep you from going as any outdoor equipment you don’t have can be rented from Outdoor Adventures in the Student Life Center for cheap. For classes that require electronics (like nature photography), students are able to check out cameras and other equipment through the Marriott Library via the Knowledge Commons. One other thing to keep in mind is travel, as all PRT classes require students to make their own way to the class rendezvous location.

This fall semester, I decided to take Rock Climbing I. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it turned out to be the most fun I’ve ever had while taking a college class. Offered for one credit or noncredit, this class met just once for two hours, to go over the syllabus, discuss class procedures/expectations, and plan for needed equipment before meeting up in Veyo, Utah where class actually began. Unfortunately, students had to find their own way down to Crawdad Canyon. Nick Rushford, our instructor, suggested carpooling to save money on gas and provided a sign-up sheet for just that purpose. Though it seems awkward to drive 4.5 hours with random strangers, it turned out to be refreshing to speak to new people.

A week after our mandatory meeting, it was time to pack the car up and head to Veyo. There, we learned the fundamentals of outdoor rock climbing. All equipment was provided (including helmet, harness, ropes, etc.), except for climbing shoes. The class lasted three days, starting on a Friday and ending that Sunday. For those taking the class with credit, the only additional requirement was to pass a short quiz and write a short essay due a few weeks later once class ended. I highly suggest taking advantage of the PRT classes because they’re fun, you can get credit for it, you get to learn about something you’re actually interested in, and it’s a whole lot cheaper through the University than through a third party. Get out and explore.

a.duong@wasatchmag.com

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Bouldering in Bishop

Rock climbing in Happy Boulders in Bishop, CA with Nik, Trevor, and Jill on Sunday, November 6, 2016. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

The time has come for regular climbers to plan their annual fall trips. With Utah getting cold fast, your best bet is to look elsewhere for thrilling climbs. One place I’ve taken to venturing to is Mount Whitney in Bishop, California.

If you have not, Mount Whitney is the highest summit in the contiguous 48 states, standing at 14,505 feet, and it is located one hour south of Bishop, California. The drive is long if you’re coming from Salt Lake City, about eight hours if you go through Nevada, so make sure to have some playlists ready. After reaching the Nevada-California border, you’ll begin to see some of the highest mountain peaks in the lower 48. They are crested with white snow and sit atop the horizon. The best place I recommend stopping for food is at Erick Schat’s Bakery for fresh Dutch bread and treats before heading out to the camping spot known as the Pit. Of course, you should make sure you already have supplies for your climbing expedition.

The Pleasant Valley Pit Campground, located 8 miles west of Bishop on Highway 395 is the perfect campground and is relatively inexpensive. The cost will set you back $14 per night with a maximum stay of up to 60 days. That is, if your body can handle that long of a trip. The view from the Pit is stunning. You’ll fall asleep directly under the stars while looking at Mount Tom, which towers over you at 13,652 feet. Most of the fellow campers in the Pit are also climbers looking to either boulder or climb in the Gorge.

Rock climbing in Happy Boulders in Bishop, CA with Nik, Trevor, and Jill on Sunday, November 6, 2016. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

Owens River Gorge, about 11 miles north of the Pleasant Valley Campground, is the perfect place to work sport climbing routes. With over 577 climbing routes, including both sport and traditional, the possibilities are endless. I recommend heading to a few routes in the Holy Trinity crag in the Upper Gorge. Routes range from 5.9 to 5.12 with excellent protection. The routes will almost be shaded from the daytime sun since they run next to the river in the gorge. Pick Pocket, 5.11a, was my favorite route. It is easily noticeable because of the specific chalk holds that have marked the path up to the bolts 60 feet off the ground. Other notable climbs in this area that are a must are Triple Play cliff, great for warm ups, and Gorgeous Towers, awesome crack climbing, especially on Wacked Scenario 5.10b. You will absolutely love this crack.

After you’ve finished climbing in the gorge, head back up to your car and drive north to take a dip in the Crab Cooker hot spring 20 miles northwest. The Crab Cooker is located on your way to Mammoth, a classic California ski resort in the Inyo National Forest. The hot springs have adjustable temperature settings with a wrench to turn the valve. Once you’ve relaxed in the hot spring, head back to camp and catch some shut-eye before bouldering the next day in the Happy Boulders area.

When you wake up the following morning, get a well-rounded breakfast and head due east about 4 miles to the Happy Boulders for another exciting day of climbing. The only bouldering I had done prior to this trip in Bishop, California, was in a Salt Lake City gym. After bouldering outside in Bishop, I finally understand the desire to boulder — it is so much more fun to be outside with friends, climbing on real rock. The thing about bouldering is that there are so many different routes to climb it is unbelievable. In the Happy Boulders area alone, there are 481 marked routes. One climb I would put down for the record books is Monkey Hang V3, which starts out with an unbelievable Gaston hold, a technique where you push against holds instead of pulling on one to gain leverage, and a foot hold. While keeping your hands placed on the starting hold, you swing your body around to latch your feet on the top edge of the boulder. Once they have been placed, carefully reposition your body to mantle (a move where you push and flop like a beached whale) up over the lip to finish the route. You will be breathing heavily after completing this route, but you will feel like a champion once reaching the top.

Rock climbing in Owen’s River Gorge near Bishop, CA with Nik, Trevor, Jill, Felix, and Kristen on Saturday, November 5, 2016. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

As always, climb with friends in case of an emergency, and remember to take the proper equipment such as sun screen, clothing, and food. Document your adventure with a camera and tell others about the awesome area in Bishop. On your drive back home, I suggest stopping by Erick Schat’s Bakery for some cinnamon pull-apart bread to enjoy in celebration.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Conquering the City of Rocks

Have you heard of the City of Rocks? Just think a city — but with rocks. The City of Rocks National Reserve in Southern Idaho lives up to its name. It is a city of rocks that rivals New York City, only with natural rock structures. With well over 449 established rock climbing routes (traditional, sport, aid, and bouldering), this is a destination location for any climber looking to work on granite projects.

The City of Rocks is located northwest of Salt Lake City, approximately 166 miles away, or a three-hour drive. Head north on I-15 and make your way towards Boise, but turn off before you hit the Idaho border at Exit 5, then head west towards Almo, Idaho. Watch the speed limit as some of the towns you’ll pass through might have the fuzz just waiting to make the rounds. There are a few campgrounds inside the City of Rocks National Reserve that will cost you $12.72 per night, but you can also camp on the BLM land south of Almo by 2 miles.  Once you pass the cattle guard, take an immediate right, and there will be a few camping spots.

After climbing in Little Cottonwood Canyon for the past two years, I was really excited to try some new rock when I visited. I had heard that the City of Rocks had some special granite rock that was unlike the granite in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and the rumors were true. The granite in the City of Rocks is so grippy, it felt as if you could walk up anything.

Our group headed to the Drilling Fields to work on the Lost World to practice sport climbing. We first got on Tourist Season — a 5.7— and the 5.8 just to the left. The site proved an excellent beginning to a climbing trip to the City of Rocks to work on foot placement, filled with excellent holds and bolts not too far apart from one another. Next, we worked our way over to the other end of the Lost World to climb. There’s Friction Afoot (10.b) and Contra Friction (5.9). Both were excellent climbs to work on slab climbing and foot placement.

Our favorite route in the City of Rocks we climbed was The Drilling Fields (11.a). Brian Smoot, a veteran climber who has established a ton of climbing routes in the Salt Lake area, led the climb to get our group on top rope so we could each take a stab at the 100-foot route. From jugs to crimps to heel-hooks, this climb contained them all. Don’t let the length of the route scare you, because once you are on the wall, it will seem as if you are in your own world and that each bolt is your goal. Only when you reach the top you’ll realize how high off the ground you are. You’ll finally catch your breath as your belayer lowers you to the bottom, looking up to see what you just accomplished.

If you have climbed all the routes in the City of Rocks that your hands can handle and still have not finished climbing, just 5 miles north of the City of Rocks is Castle Rock State Park with another 239 established climbing routes: trad, sport, aid, and bouldering. To reach Castle Rock State Park, head back towards Almo and continue north. Once you get to the park, you will need to pay the $8 park entrance fee before proceeding. Here, we climbed in Hostess Gully — West Corridor on the back side of Castle Rock.  This was a great place that had morning shade for Zinger — a three pitch 5.8 route — to work on rope management.

The approaches are very easy with 15 minute hikes that are moderate in difficulty. Climbing is on all sides of the rock which allows climbers to avoid the direct sun in morning/afternoon. Keep in mind that the most important thing in rock climbing is to be safe. Wear a helmet, and always check to ensure that your safety equipment will hold. With that in mind, I encourage anyone who wants to increase their skills in rock climbing to head to The City of Rocks, because it is an excellent location to boost your confidence.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

 

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A Different Outdoor Adventure

I’ve always loved the feeling of going fast, whether it be repelling quickly down a 180 foot crevasse or driving down a desolate stretch of desert highway. Now, as we enter into the peak of climbing season, I’ve started to combine my passion for climbing with motorcycle riding.

There’s nothing like sitting on an engine, gripping your handlebars, wind whipping against your body, and ground passing beneath your feet. Motorcycle riding is an environment of the senses, and if you’re into nature, hiking, or any sort of outdoorsy activity, motorcycles are a great way to extend this lifestyle.

It’s pretty cool to hop onto a machine that demands every ounce of your attention. You become more aware of your surroundings, the smells in the air, and the outdoor temperature. There is no other way to put it; riding is full of fun and adrenaline.

It really doesn’t matter what kind of motorcycle you have. Whether you ride a vintage cafe racer or an Enduro bike, keep pushing yourself and think of new ways that you can enjoy the hobbies and sports you love.

My preference is an Enduro 650 CC bike, which gives you the option to ride on highways or take on some challenging dirt roads. REI is the perfect store to purchase any compact, light-weight gear you might need to strap on your bike. I prefer Enduristan Monsoon 3 for saddle bags, a tank bag, and dehydrated food when I go on long adventures. It’s true that we live in a time where comfort is often our first priority — with a bike, you don’t get that luxury. You only have room for the essentials. But don’t worry, you can still have that perfect trip. Just avoid packing everything you think you might need, and instead plan to pick things up along the way or restock things you do have as they get low.

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

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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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