Above It All: A Short Guide to Sport Climbs Along the Wasatch


Now that ski season has ended, anxious athletes are looking for their next adrenaline fix. Fortunately, they don’t have to look far. Most of the great climbs are located just down canyon of the world-class resorts. So grab your gear and head out from the climbing gyms you’ve been hiding in all winter, outside the days are longer and the opportunities endless.

Climbing is one of the most eco-friendly sports around, but you still have to drive a car up the canyons to reach the routes. Reduce your impact by filling a car with your friends and carpooling to your climbing destination.

There are many epic spots near Salt Lake that cater to all experience levels and enable climbers to gain confidence in their abilities. They also serve as a meeting ground for the growing rock-loving community here in SLC. Before you hit the road, pick up Falcon Guide’s Rock Climbing Utah’s Wasatch Range, a.k.a. The Climber’s Bible. You can also take a look at mountainproject.com for the lowdown on killer climbs and location information.

For those just getting comfortable with leading sport routes, an array of opportunities exist that will help you reach your maximum potential. The following areas are laid out with route names and difficulty (per the guidebook).

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Just a short drive from the city, BCC offers some spectacular beginner terrain to hone your skills. Most of the climbs have straightforward approaches and are easy to locate.

    Dogwood Area

  • Take Me to the River (5.7) Smooth quartzite rock offers some excitement and the holds are laid out quite well. Top roping is also an option if you want to get a feel for the climb before leading it.
  • On the Skids (5.8) A step up from the previous climb; this route involves careful foot placement and attention to detail.
    Challenge Buttress

  • Sweet and Low (5.6) A quick, juggy, and sometimes dirty climb. This route is not the best first lead, but a good third or fourth.
  • Hollow Man (5.9) One of the four-star climbs in BCC, and my first lead climb in the Wasatch, this is an entertaining route that leaves you with a good forearm pump.
    Salt Lake Slips

  • Thieving Magpie (5.7) This clean, simple route will build stamina and confidence.
  • Entre Nous (5.8) With a slick finger crack and several jugged holds, this route provides technical moves and a good view from the top.
  • Witchhunt (5.10a) If you want to step it up a bit, this short, pumpy route will max out your novice status and move you into the intermediate realm.

Ferguson Canyon

Located next door to BCC, Ferguson has great short, shaded climbs for beginner to intermediate leaders.

    Cathedral Wall

  • Monogamy (5.7) A solid, horizontally cracked wall with some jugs. The bolt placements here are a little funky, which makes for an interesting climb.
  • Nuptial Vow (5.8) A similar climb that’s next to Monogamy. Both of these can be top roped until you get comfortable.

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Long known for its classic trad climbs, LCC still has a place for those who prefer bolted routes.

    Hellgate Cliffs (Melting Mud Wall)

  • Los Crodos (5.8) This route provides some great limestone climbing. The rock can be a bit crumbly sometimes, and the billygoats that roam around the top of the cliffs sometimes dislodge small rocks that come over the edge. A helmet and keen wits are strongly recommended.
  • Pogo Punk (5.10-) Again, good limestone holds with a spectacular view down canyon.
    Lisa Falls

  • Fleeting Glimpse (5.8–5.9) Spectacular granite features next to a magnificent flowing waterfall make this a great summertime spot. The friction on certain days is unbelievable.
  • Flee Flicker (5.7) Closest to the falls, this route has a tricky start but eases up after the first bolt.

Rock Canyon

Outside Provo lies a well-developed, yet desolate, piece of prime climbing real estate. The area is expansive and encompasses a multitude of routes from beginner to expert.

    Galaxy Area (Milky Way Wall)

  • Gemini (5.8) Good warm-up route with solid rock and obvious moves.
  • Milky Way (5.9) A signature climb of the wall that provides a good learning environment.
  • The Right Stuff (5.10a) This route will challenge your technique and leave you feeling pumped.

The opportunity to get out and enjoy the endless selection of climbs along the Wasatch Range is a gift that should be shared with everyone. As you build your climbing resume there are literally thousands more places to explore, and hopefully this short guide has given you a starting point. Get out there yourself, and see what it’s like to be above it all.

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About Author

Jenny Willden is the Managing Editor of Outdoor Sports Guide and a self-proclaimed gear and grammar nut. She's a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association and the Adventure Travel Trade Association. A lover of adventure and travel, she's happiest when riding horses or snowboarding in Utah’s mountains. Follow Jenny’s exploits on Twitter @jennywillden or Instagram @jlwillden.

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