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Climbing:  Big Cottonwood Canyon

There are many crags to climb in Big Cottonwood Canyon, quartzite is the rock climbed for pretty much the entire canyon. The quartzite lends itself well to climbing, most routes have very positive holds and solid protection. There is a good mixture of bolted and traditional climbs in the canyon.

If you want a complete description to the climbs in the canyon be sure and purchase Rock Climbing Utah's Wasatch Range (Book) by Stuart & Bret Ruckman

The following are directions and short descriptions to some of the more commonly visited crags. All mileage figures are taken from the informational sign at the beginning of the canyon.

Dogwood CragThe Dogwood Crag is located 1.0 miles from the sign. The crag has about 12 different routes, the routes on the Western edge are the most popular. The approach to the area is practically non-existent, in low water times you can merely hop rocks over the stream.

Penitentiary WallThe Penitentiary Wall is located 1.3 miles from the sign. This crag is located above the Ledgemere picnic area, a nice lunch and a bit of climbing can be a great weekend day diversion. There are numerous gear routes on this wall, ranging from 5.7 to .12a R. Climbs and Punishment is the most obvious climb from the road, this climb is 5.9 and ascends the obvious crack splitting the largest face. There are a number of 5.7’s that can be well protected, this crag is a good area for the new leader.

Beachball CragThe Beachball Crag is accessed by a short walk to the East from the Ledgemere picnic area. This crag features a number of shorter routes that tend to be in the moderate to easy range. All of the routes can be walked off from the top.

JHCOB Wall2.2 miles from the sign lies the “Jesus H. Christ on a Bicycle Wall.” This wall has some of the best moderate traditional climbs in the canyon. Highlights not to be missed are the Outside Corner, and the Second East Face.

Salt Lake SlipsShortly after passing JHCOB you’ll come across the Salt Lake Slips, this crag is located 2.3 miles from the sign. Once parked walk to the North down to the stream, in springtime there will be a rope strung across to do a tyrolean traverse over the raging river. If you are going there late season you can usually hop across the stream on rocks. This is another popular crag, besides a few other routes there are four bolted routes that see high traffic. The Italian Arete, Entre Nous, Thieving Magpie, and Roll the Bones all range from 5.6 to 5.8+, it is common for crowds to gather here. Please use the established trails and bring your trash back out with you.

2.5 to 2.6 miles from the sign there are many climbing possibilities, to the South Dead Snag Wallis the Challenge Buttress area, Standard Ridge, and the Dead Snag area. The Dead Snag Wall holds a number of multi-pitched traditional routes. Steort’s Ridge is one of the best 5.6 routes in the canyon, historic and exciting, this is a can’t-miss route.

The Storm Mountain picnic area is located 2.6 miles from the sign and is to the North, this area holds a multitude of bolted and naturally protected climbs. The picnic area is popular and does indeed have some nice places to eat a pre-climb lunch. Bring some grillables and the fixings, cook your dinner or lunch and then hit the rocks. Harold Goodro first ascended the crack that bears his name in 1949, today, Goodro’s Crack still is a formidable lead at .10c. Six Appeal is located adjacent to Goodro’s Crack and is a fun bolted 5.6 route. There are several other moderate bolted routes and several moderate gear routes along the “Island” massif. The Flake is a fun 5.5 route that rises above the amphitheater in the back of the picnic area, expect great protection and fun climbing.

StratagemAt 3.4 miles from the sign you will come across the Stratagem bouldering area. This is a small area located next to a black fence, there are quite a few variations to a little bit of terrain.

One of the more popular climbing areas is located 4.1 miles from the sign, the S-Curves area is chocked full of sport routes. The most difficult route in the canyon is located at this crag as well, Dog Eat Dog was first climbed by Jonny Woodward and is rated .13d. This route climbs out the large roof obvious on the lower wall. There are many bolted routesS-Curves on the lower wall in the .9 to .11d range, this is definitely the place for the advanced sport climber to head to. There are a large amounts of climbs located on the Upper S-Curves as well, to access these hike East along the lower wall and ascend the talus/rock field at the far East end of the lower wall.

There are many other places to climb in the canyon detailed in the Ruckman’s
guide, I hope this whets your appetite for them.

Nearby Area:

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Additional Resources




Utah Atlas and Gazetteer

Climber's Guide to American Fork/Rock Canyon

Classic Rock Climbs No. 1: Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Climber's Guide to Devil's Lake

Rock Climbing Utah's Wasatch Range (Book) by Stuart & Bret Ruckman

Mountaineering : The Freedom of the Hills  

A Climber's Guide to the Teton Range (3rd Edition)

Desert Rock I : Rock Climbs in the National Parks

Desert Rock II : Wall Street to the San...Desert Rock: Wall Street/San Rafael Swell

Desert Rock III: Moab to Colorado National Monument

Selected Climbs in the Desert Southwest: Colorado and Utah

Rock Climbing Utah (FalconGuide)

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