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

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