Thursday, July 26, 2012

Schoolroom, LCC, UT

5.6 Trad
5 pitches

Schoolroom is one of those routes I have always heard about but I never made it to, until yesterday.  5.6, should be easy right?  Depends.  Depends on the rock type and the style of climbing.  5.6 on featured quartzite or limestone is a free solo.  5.6 on granite up a featureless crack can be tough.  At least for me.

Schoolroom is located on the Gate Buttress in Little Cottonwood Canyon.  The route starts 50 feet to the west (left) of bushwhack crack.  This route is appropriately named.

Pitch 1 climbs a juggy, messy crack and then traverses along a horizontal flake.  Make sure you protect the traverse for your partner.  Belay at the bottom of the big crack.

Pitch 2 climbs this steep hand crack with no face features.  Power through and traverse right out of the crack before the small overhang.  Great protection and a fun pitch.

Pitch 3 climbs a nice finger crack with lots of face features on either side.  Move up and to the left.  Downclimb a bit to a belay spot in the middle of some bushes.  Lots of fun.

Pitch 4 climbs an off-width crack up a dihedral towards the giant Schoolroom roof.  I struggled on this pitch.  This was my first true off-width and I can't say I am a fan.  Before the roof, traverse to the left to large evergreen tree (little to no protection on the traverse, but not very steep)

Pitch 5 climbs a gully with lots of big cracks and holds.  Belay at the dead tree/log on the left.

Schoolroom taught me plenty of things:
I need to practice crack climbing.
I strongly dislike off-widths.
I am not as good a climber as I thought.
I don't plan on going back anytime soon.

Buckskin Gulch and Coyote Buttes (The Wave)

Trailhead: Wire Pass Trailhead

My brother and I wanted to do a slot canyon, so why not the longest and most dangerous slot canyon in the world, during the summer monsoon? 

Buckskin Gulch.

Buckskin gulch is located about 40 miles east of Kanab, Utah near the Arizona border.  The Wire Pass trailhead is right next to the wide wash that eventually carves down into the Navajo sandstone and forms the narrow, deep, inescapable slot canyon.  The slot has wider sections where safety is a possibility, but only a few spots actually allow escape.  The first spot is 11 miles down the gulch!

We arrived Sunday evening and we decided to wait until the morning to enter the gulch as we didn't know if we would find a suitable and safe camping spot.  So we made our way to The Wave (permit required).  The hike to the wave is approximately 2 miles but it can be difficult to find your way.  

We made our way to the wave along the scenic route through the Coyote Buttes.  A lot of fun scrambling allowed us to get great views of the surrounding desert landscape and cool sandstone erosional shapes.  We came across several pools of standing water, a cool wash that was still saturated with rain water and several areas of quicksand.  

We reached the Wave around sundown and spent over an hour taking long exposure shots at this cool formation.  When we decided to go back it was pitch black.  The cloud cover and the sliver of a moon present that night, prevented us from being able to see the "trail."  With our flashlights we meandered around the butte back towards the trailhead.  At one point we felt completely turned around and helpless.  Luckily I brought my GPS with topo maps and we found our way back to the trailhead.  

*I rarely get turned around or lost and I spend a lot of time in the outdoors and the backcountry.  I was surprised how easily we were turned around.   
Lesson learned: Always bring a GPS and know how to use it.  

In the morning, we made our way down the wash and into the slot canyon.  Within the first mile, the wash narrows into a canyon 5 feet wide and over a 100 feet high.  This portion meanders down until the intersection with the true Buckskin Gulch canyon at 1.7 miles from Wire Pass.  There is an escape option here in case a flash flood is imminent.  

We made our way through a series of narrow and wider portions about 7 miles down.  Some scrambling over boulders and flood debris will be necessary but no rappelling.  We turned around at noon, due to afternoon thunderstorms in the forecast.  Dark clouds overhead and thunder was not a good scene for us at 1 pm in the middle of a long, narrow section, but we made it out just as it started to rain.  This was a great trip.  I would love to go back and hike from the top to the bottom (usually 2-3 days).  


Friday, July 20, 2012

Mt. Regan, Sawtooth Range, ID

Mt. Regan
Class 4 exposed scramble
Elevation gain: 4200 ft
Distance: 13 miles roundtrip
Route: Southeast Ridge

On Tuesday morning, I soloed Borah Peak in 4 hours, and made the 2 hour drive to Stanley, Idaho- the gateway to the Sawtooth mountains. I stopped at the local climbing shop, asked around for a cool place to hike in to. I was referred to Sawtooth Lake.

Next I went to the ranger station, south of town and bought a topo map of the Sawtooth Wilderness, found Sawtooth Lake and naturally looked for nearby peaks. I was in luck, Mt. Regan at 10,190 ft, is one of the highest peaks in the range and is right next to Sawtooth Lake. I chose the Southeast Ridge route, which is a class 4 scramble (no belay necessary....barely).

I started at the Iron Creek Trailhead Tuesday afternoon with my overnight gear and headed up to the base of Mt. Regan. I passed Alpine Lake and arrived at Sawtooth Lake in about 2 hours. What a beautiful lake and location. The north face of Mt. Regan looked very intimidating with lots of snow and steep ridges.

Mt. Regan north face

I traversed along Sawtooth Lake to the south and dropped into the next drainage and camped at Lake 8271 on the east side of Mt. Regan. I set up camp and got to bed early.

At 7 am I left my camp and scrambled up onto the ridge. Once on the ridge, I just followed the easiest path up the ridge until the summit wall. I reached the summit wall in an hour. There is no walk-up from the summit wall.  I moved right (east) into the crack system and scrambled/climbed onto an exposed ledge. The ledge itself is actually an intrusive mafic dike (black in color) within the surrounding granite (white/gray) and forms a nice walkway along the eastern face of Mt Regan. Follow this ledge up and down until you come to an obvious gully on the northeast side of the mountain. The gulley was a bit sketchy with loose rocks and scree underfoot, just be careful and move on up 150 ft to the summit. I reached the summit at 8:30 am.

The Sawtooths are unbelievable. The range reminds me of the North Cascades, with less trees and no glaciers. There are peaks everywhere, calling your name. If you really want to experience the Sawtooths, give yourself more than 24 hours :)

Borah Peak, Lost River Range, ID

Borah Peak
Class 3 scramble
Elevation gain: 5,262 ft.
Roundtrip: 7 miles
Route: Chicken-out Ridge

Borah Peak, at 12,667 ft above sea level, is the highest peak in Idaho. It is part of the Lost River Range which resembles a high Nevada basin and range mountain chain. In fact, the Lost River Range and Mt. Borah were uplifted and continue to rise just like the Wasatch Range of Utah, the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho and almost every mountain range in Nevada. A magntitude 7.3 earthquake in 1983 caused the Borah segment of the Lost River Range to rise 7 feet in less than a second. A similar earthquake could strike the Wasatch Front and cause millions of dollars in damage at any moment.

The hike to the summit of Borah Peak is short but very steep and in some sections, very exposed. I arrived at Borah trailhead on Monday evening in the middle of a typical afternoon thunderstorm. I set up my tent and read a book until it got dark. The peak didn't look so far off. I set my alarm for 5 am.

At 5:30 am I was on the trail and moving pretty fast. I passed a group of hikers in the trees on the way up and I had the rest of the hike up to myself. The trail goes essentially up a wooded drainage, gains a rocky ridge where the trees become sparse, then follows the ridge up the peak to the south. I reached chicken-out ridge in 1.5 hours and I was on the summit in 2.5 hours at around 8 am. The views of the range are excellent to the south. To the east you can easily see the Lemhi Range and to the west you can see the Sawtooths.

I made the hike down in 1.5 hours. 4 hours roundtrip. Down just in time for brunch and my drive to the Sawtooths.

*I wouldn't say this is an easy hike, but is definitely short, especially for a western state high point.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Open Book, Lone Peak, Wasatch Range

The Open Book
5.7+ Trad
4-5 pitches

The Open Book is the easiest technical rock route on the summit wall of Lone Peak and that is where we went. I scrambled up Lone Peak from Bell's Canyon two years ago. I remember seeing the Lone Peak Cirque and the imposing granite walls and I wished I had the skills to scale a wall like that.

                                         The Open Book Route (5.7+) on the Lone Peak summit wall

Two years down the road and now I do. I rounded up two buddies and we headed up to the cirque via Jacob's Ladder with all our overnight and climbing gear. We started at 7 am on Thursday morning. We reached the meadow at 10 am as it started to rain. It took 5 hours to blow over (it hadn't rained in Utah for over 40 days). After the rain stopped we continued on to the cirque. More thunderstorms blew through as we set up camp in the cirque. We hoped that tomorrow would bring better weather.

We got up at 5:30 am to clear skies but it was cold. So we took our time as the sun warmed up the rock. We scrambled up to the wall and began rock climbing at 10 am.

Pitch 1: Luke led the first pitch up an easy dihedral and up fun, horizontal flake to a nice belay ledge. Billie followed and cleaned. I climbed up last.

Pitch 2: I led the next pitch through the awkward chimney cracks. This pitch was weird. The cracks are not big enough to fit inside but not small enough to jam your hands or feet. Awkward climbing took us up to a little ledge below the fluted cracks (Avoid an oversized day pack on this pitch, we had to haul a pack).

Pitch 3: Luke led this excellent pitch. Fun climbing on great face features and a series of interconnecting cracks. The last portion of the pitch follows two vertical parallel cracks. Pull out the bear hug.

Pitch 4: I led this pitch up an oversized chimney to an overhanging chockstone. I placed a #3 cam underneath the block and pulled over. Very fun pitch.

Pitch 5: The Belly Roll Variation. 5.7+. Instead of scrambling directly above you 50 feet to the summit, we climbed to left up and over a difficult mantle by mistake. Stay right and don't bother belaying. Speed is safety.

The climb took us 6 hours. Way too long. I suspect it would have taken us 3.5 hours with 2 climbers.

After 5 minutes on the summit, I felt static electricity on my exposed forearms. I warned the others and we hoped off the summit like "Billie" goats. It began to hail as a small storm swept through. It cleared, we fetched our things and hiked off to the ledge between the summit wall and question mark wall, where we found rappel rings. A double rope (60 m) rappel will easily take you to the cirque floor.

I regret starting late and taking a long time. Avoid the mountains in the afternoon.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

West Slabs, Mt. Olympus

West Slabs
5.5 Trad
9-10 pitches

The West Slabs route is a classic due to the sustained climbing(9-10 pitches) and its enticing north face. The north face of Mt. Olympus is the obvious mountain face seen from I-215 in the Millcreek area and from all of Salt Lake City. The approach is a 1 hour hike/scramble up to the face.

The route begins at the top of gully at the lowest point on the slabs. The first 100 feet or so is messy but once above the shrubs and easy scrambling, the route follows fun, clean, quartzite slabs and dihedrals for several pitches. If you are on route, you will find an occasional bolt or sling. The last couple pitches, we simul-climbed due to the easiness and to shave time. We reached the top of the route in 3 hours from the base of the slab.

The amount of gear depends on your comfort level. There were several pitches where we placed only 2 pieces of pro for 60 meter pitches! Usually a #.5 or #1 camalot. Be prepared to build your own anchor. Trees are always a nice option, but some pitches end on bare rock. We brought doubles in cams .5-3 and doubles in stoppers. This amount of gear is unnecessary but came in handy when we simul-climbed near the top.

Looking west from about half way up

Topped out on the West Slabs route

The rappel route descends a gully to the right(west) of the route apex. There are slings on trees. If you have 2 ropes it will save yourself some time. Bring a 70 meter rope or you will have to down climb between rap trees(not difficult, but not worth it). After a couple rappels, hike down to the right gully to reach the base of the climb and hike out.

Outside Corner, BCC

Outside Corner
5.7+ Trad
3 pitches

Outside Corner is an arete climb in Big Cottonwood Canyon with lots of fun exposure. The route follows the main corner (arete) above the geology sign ("remnants of an ancient sea") near the big curve before the Storm Mountain Area.

This route is VERY fun and offers some challenging, exposed moves. The route is 3 pitches and fairly sustained in difficulty. This was an instant favorite for me, despite the proximity of the road.  Bring approach shoes up the route for the descent.
Looking down from the top of pitch 1

Pitch 1 climbs the arete and a small chimney and more arete until you reach a BIG ledge.
Pitch 2 climbs the arete and around and up an exposed face to a big ledge with an overhanging rock (you will see an old piton and webbing)
Pitch 3 climbs up to the right onto the face from the belay station and is VERY exposed and very fun. Be careful with rope drag as it is easy to wander on either side of the arete on this pitch.

Steort's Ridge, BCC

Steort's Ridge
5.6 Trad
3 pitches

Steort's Ridge is located in Big Cottonwood Canyon on the south side of the road just before the Storm Mountain campground. It is one of several climbs on the Dead Snag wall and is a Wasatch classic according to

I climbed this route years ago before I even knew what a cam was. I climbed it again this week on wednesday afternoon. This is a great route for beginning trad climbers and it is super fun! This route is shady in the afternoon and offers either a scramble walk-off or 3 rappels from established anchors.

On third pitch, near the top of the route