Little Cottonwood Rock Climbing Guidebook

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Little Cottonwood Rock Climbing
by Tony Calderone
Wasatch Front Bouldering | Big Cottonwood Climbing | Ferguson Canyon | Wasatch Wilderness Climbing | Wasatch Bench Climbing

Twenty minutes from downtown Salt Lake City lies the largest concentration of rock climbs in Utah. The true gem of Wasatch rock climbing. Little Cottonwood Canyon Rock Climbing!

Little Cottonwood Canyon is located within the Wasatch-Cache National Forest along the eastern border of the Salt Lake Valley, where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Basin, roughly twenty miles southeast of Salt Lake City, Utah.

The canyon is a popular sightseeing destination and is a glacial trough carved by an alpine glacier during the last ice age, approximately 15,000 to 25,000 years ago. Albion Basin is famous for wildflowers and is one of the most photographed areas in northern Utah. Rare and endemic plant species are found in the area. Mountain goats inhabit the surrounding mountains.

Recreational activities in Little Cottonwood Canyon include hiking, camping, fishing, mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, and backcountry use. There are two resorts in the canyon, Alta and Snowbird, providing both summer and winter recreational opportunities. The Utah Native Plant Society often conducts wildflower walks at Albion Basin and in other locations in the canyon. The paved portion of the road is approximately 8.3 miles from the base of the canyon to the top with an average grade of 9.2%, making it a popular road cycling challenge.

The lower third of the canyon is strewn with quartz monzonite outcroppings, mostly consisting of smooth steep faces. Local climbers informally refer to the rock as granite, which is a close relative.

Approaches involve parking along the road and hiking up through scrub oak, talus fields and large boulders.

Face climbing is the predominant technique, typically using a mixture of pre-placed bolts and cracks for protection, but there are many notable pure crack climbs as well. Most routes are 200-600 feet long, but routes of over 2,000 feet in length exist.

There is a long history of local community groups climbing in the canyon. Some notable groups through the years include: The Wasatch Mountain Club, The Alpenbock Club, The Steinfell Climbing Club and University of Utah climbing classes
The historical representation communicated herein endeavors to be an accurate picture of what happened in the past without sentimentality. This style of presentation necessarily risks hurting the feelings of those in the present. It also focus on facts and steer firmly away from assumptions, conjecture or opinion… which is always biased. You may find this approach to be of a decidedly old-fashioned style that lacks the snarkiness more common in modern works.

Consider, as you climb, that the rock was not nearly so clean of vegetation, flakes, dirt or massive loose blocks. Many of the earliest ascents were done without the aid of topropes, power drills, spring-loaded cams, sticky rubber shoes or harnesses. And ropes and bolts were not infailable.

Some of the most tame approach trails we saunter up in a few minutes today used to be far more time-consuming and energy-draining just a few decades ago. Consider, also, that guidebooks were far less informative or did not exist at all.

One of the worst errors of the present - not just ours, but any present - is its tendency to condescend toward the past, which is much easier to do when one does not seek to grasp the nature of its challenges as they presented themselves at the time.

This small book is, in part, an effort to counteract that condescension and remind us of how remarkable were the achievements of those who came before us. May it lead you to reconsider what is routinely called “progress” and recognize that humility is more a byproduct of conscious living than a whole-cloth creation.

This work is offered as a contribution to the making of Wasatch Climbers. As such, it is a loving endeavor as well as a scholarly one, without losing sight of what there is to celebrate and cherish in your achievement.

With Sincerity,

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Go to web preview to see the sectors and routes included in this guidebook.

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