Sunday, September 7, 2014

Potential New Routes in Bells Canyon

Climbing in the Wasatch dates back to the early 1930’s and beyond. These early pioneers were known for their bold ascents with limited protection and even more limited footwear. These days however, most climbing is mundane in comparison, the routes are documented, the equipment has become almost indestructible, and the training required to reach that level of aspiration exhibited by those audacious climbers of yesteryear, can be easily accomplished 5 miles down the road in your local climbing gym.

This is the new age of climbing, and I have no complaints. However, with great advancement comes difficulty. There is no more low hanging fruit, at least not within 5 miles from a city of a million people. But if you’re persistent, resilient, and a little imaginative new routes can be found every day.

Disclaimer: I’m not claiming any of these routes as first ascents (at least not until I get your full input, which I’d gladly welcome). Also every route was completed in alpine style, no bolts were placed (the only one that really needed them was the slab and that was TR’d), and every anchor was a big fat pine tree (kind of nice that every routed ended in a groove of those). If you’re feeling chippy I’d gladly give out beta on the location of all of these. We found nothing on any of these routes as well, no old hardware, no old slings, etc. Our only sign of any activity was an old piece of rope we found about a half mile from our first crag. We obviously attempted to put up routes that weren’t contrived, nor just plain weird.

Granite or more specifically Quartz Monzonite runs rampant in our beloved mountains and Bells Canyon is no exception to this. I had my first experience with Bell’s early on in my skiing career, where we loaded up on our heaviest touring equipment (this was before my light is right epiphany) and tried to ski Thunder bowl in early June, needless to say we were way underprepared and barely made it to the first meadow before dark. However, if you’ve ever been up there you know there is plenty of rock, and every time since that I’ve returned, I’ve admired, scoped, and been observant for future/new alpine lines. 

It was this that drove Mark and I up to the higher Bells area this Saturday where we explored, attempted and completed several moderate routes.

Mark walking through the upper meadow.

We stumbled upon a nice slab not far from the main trail and figured we'd try our luck on some of the cracks present there.

Our first route.

Easy jams, feet for days (5.5-5.6 ~50 feet)

We then TR'd the slab adjacent to the main crack system.

Ok smears, bulges+crystals if you can see them, no good hands at the crux. (5.9 ~50 feet)

We then continued upward following one of the many streams to an area that exhibited quite a bit of potential. This area was probably a half mile or so from the main trail.

Our route w/lines. A solid 40 feet of handjams leads to the 1st roof which is easily liebacked (very reminiscent of Gordon’s Hangover), to another roof, which was deceptively gritty and flared. (5.9-5.10 ~120 feet)


Mark tackles the easy jams

Onto the second and much more insecure (think kitty litter) roof

The 1st roof, it's hard to tell but the flake left of the purple sling was bulletproof and really fun to wail on. 

Our last route of the day. 15 feet of laser cut locks brings you to a great hands roof which is easily dispatched with proper footwork. (5.9-5.10 ~35 feet). Standard Wasatch route, you’d wish it were 100 feet longer.

Mark onto the tight jams.

The end

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Drowning in a Sea of Granite.

My annual Yosemite trip is complete, my fingers are trashed, my body is weak, and my pride has been humbled. I think I spent too much time in the desert to be properly prepared for the idiosyncrasies of granite climbing, but we all got problems...

We left for our trip on Sunday morning. Post Speedgoat 50k shenanigans almost left me in the hospital due to dehydration but a rally on Saturday night had us ready to go by Sunday. We camped outside the park that night and entered on Monday with warm weather and roaring waterfalls (an anomaly this time of year).

A nice summer storm turned on all the faucets.

Monday we spent introducing Mark to the park. Here he is leading up Jamcrack (5.9), one of my personal favorites as far as access and aesthetics go. 

Since the falls were running  we went over and went up Super Hands (5.8).

Me leading

More of the same

Dancing in a sea of granite.

Mark gives it a go as the tourons look on.

Chesy climbing

Mark pulling through on Conductor Crack (5.10d)

Sewing up Chruch Bowl Tree (5.10a/b)

Mark heads up the 1st pitch of Center Pillar of Frenzy...we both thought this was a serious 5.9.

El Cap from the base of Middle Cathedral

Mark cruising up the first pitch of After Seven (5.8). We rapped from the tree at the top of the 1st pitch and went over and played around on Nutcracker. 

Chesy on the alt start to Nutcracker (5.9) the only pitch we did. This was my lead I lost my footing several times at the crux, luckily a nice ledge arrested my fall every time.

Looking up at the 3rd pitch and 3rd roof of Commitment (5.9).

Mark pulling through...I thought the second roof (at the end of the 2nd pitch) was way scarier, less protection/ more ledges to hit. 

Essential Half Dome pic

Essential Travis and Chesy pic

Mark leading Grant's Crack (5.9)

Me leading Stone Groove (5.10b)

One more of the same

Chesy coming up Lunatic Fringe (5.10c)

Pulling through on great fingers.

One more of the sequence.

Mark follows my trail of blood on Moby Dick (5.10a)

Chesy does the same

Two idiots rounding out the trip on Pine Line (5.7)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Poison Spider to Golden Spike

 Last week I reignited my blinding obsession with the desert. So this Tues. Todd (Curza lawyer) convinced me we should go down south over the weekend for a relatively long run. A simple internet search through the irunfar database led me to the Poison Spider Jeep Trail. I was vaguely amused, compounded with a 60% chance of thunderstorms I really had no desire to stray too far from the Wasatch. But Todd was persistent and he’d never been to Moab nor any of the southern deserts and got me to accompany him.

As it happens too often my trepidation was completely unwarranted. We started off at the Poison Spider Jeep Trailhead, temperatures were perfect with a light rain falling, right alongside the canyons of the Colorado and the Colorado itself, we climbed 800 vert and then were on glorious slickrock for roughly 10-15 miles, which we took to further to the Golden Spike trail to round out our round trip distance at about 20 miles.

Most of the trail we had largely to ourselves, and when encountered the 4x4's and modern dune buggies provided both entertainment and motivation, as most of the passengers were constantly cheering us on as we passed. On that note if you're in any shape whatsoever I strongly suggest doing this as a run as online somewhere it says traveling by 4x4 takes roughly 10 hrs we were done in a leisurely 4. 

 Todd starting out

Sandy running through various oasis' 


The Corona Arch off in the distance (dead center of the's hard to see) (those are railroad tracks far below)

 Small canyon exploration


Jeeps negotiating some pretty hairy terrain