Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Little Cottonwood Ice

Little Cottonwood Canyon has always been one of my favorite areas to climb - it's the main reason I moved to Salt Lake City in the first place. The oppurtunities for grueling cracks, techy slabs, and long alpine faces are unparralled. There is pretty consistent ice climbing, on the north facing side, but this year the weather has been just right to form up some rarely and never-before forming ice routes on the south facing side as well.

While there are hundreds of FAs still waiting to be done, one area in particular, the Black Peeler Buttress, has yielded the most quality new rock and ice routes in the last year. A few weeks ago my good friend Rick Vance and I spotted a never seen before ice smear high up on the main part of the wall, and put ourselves to work:

Pitch One: Climb a low angle ice smear up to the headwall and belay on some old bolts from a summer rock route. Very moderate climbing, but unprotectable in the conditions that we found. In thicker conditions, solid pro may be able to be placed. (WI3ish, ~150 ft.)

Pitch Two: Climb very thin ice and rock up a vertical step to get to the beautiful smear dripping down the corner. Climb the thin, engaging, slightly run out smear up to a sheltered alcove. A few stubbies can be placed toward the top of the pitch, and you can get some rock gear at the bottom. Save a #3 camalot, for the belay. A new #4 or an old 3.5 would work even better. An AMAZING pitch - great exposure and position! Same as pitch one: in thicker conditions this pitch would offer very solild pro. (WI 4+, M6 R, ~100 ft.)

Me on the second pitch:

Rick following:

Pitch Three: Climb a few feet down and right and make some balancy mixed moves to reach the hanging smear. Commit to the vertical ice and climb over a steep bulge to the top. We left a few slings around a bush on top of the buttress. It's not very sustained, but bouldery. (WI 5, M6 ~100 ft.)

Pitch Three variation: From the belay, climb straight up and over an overhanging rock step with a few patches of ice and frozen moss. M6.
Third pitch:

Thicker ice would make the route easier and safer, but in the conditions that we found we rated it WI5 M6 R. It's one of the most fun ice routes I've ever done.

Descent: Make two double rope raps back to the base of the route.
Gear: Set of cams from #.4 to #3 Camalots, stubby ice screws, 5 pins. Two 60 meter ropes.

In another area of LCC, the Waterfront Buttress, there's an existing route called Cold Duck. In the past few yars, it's formed up very, very thin. Here's a photo from about a year ago:

This year, it's huge (relativley, at least...)!!

Long story short, it's been an incredible year for ice in UT, and with the weather forecast looking as it is, it'll probably stick around for a while yet.

Chris Thomas

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