Photo courtesy of erica.thelineberrys.com
Utah Canyoneering: Logan Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon and Maple Canyon
Every year, my husband and I try to plan a multi-day trip to a new area that we haven’t been to. This year, my husband’s parents decided to fly the whole family out to Yellowstone for a week of vacation. It was awesome – we rented a huge house in Montana, and spent a week wildlife watching, flyfishing, geyser stalking, and marveling at the fantastic scenery. When that trip was over my husband and I, being the opportunistic cheapskates that we are, decided to take advantage of the prepaid plane ticket to Salt Lake City, and get some climbing in. It didn’t take much convincing to get some friends, Norbert and Manuela, to meet us out there for all the fun as well! Our first two days were spent in Logan Canyon, which was a logical stop on the way down from West Yellowstone. We rolled into the Wood Camp campsite in the pouring rain, and set up our tent in a mudpit by the (wildly flowing) river. Things were not looking good for climbing the next day. However, the next day dawned cloudy but not rainy, and since the boulders at our campsite were dry, we decided to go exploring. We got warmed up at the Kentucky Fried Penguin Wall, since it was right along the road. It started raining on us a bit, so we got back in the car and hit up Fucoidal Quartzite (careful how you say that…), since a few of those routes would be protected from the rain by a big roof. It cleared up and things quickly dried off about 30 minutes later, and turned into a beautiful day! Monday morning dawned a spectacular day, without a cloud in the sky! Our destination today was the Betagraph Wall, a smaller wall that sits higher up in the canyon, with several really high quality lines. We had the wall to ourselves all morning, and were joined by a nice band of brothers later in the afternoon. Both the views and the climbing seemed even better than the day before! LOGAN HIGHLIGHTS – Drilling in the Dark (5.7), Illusions (5.10a), Cushions (5.10c), Babalishes (5.10d)
The middle part of our trip was spent in Big Cottonwood Canyon.Day 1 ~ Outside Corner, w/North Face variation, 5.7
Pitch 1 – Steve led the first pitch, a fun wandering crack system that wandered up and out to an arete, and up to a ledge. We saw Norbert and Manuela driving up as we were just getting started. They spent the day at the Salt Lake Slips, where our line was in clear view all day. They were thoughtful enough to check on us throughout the day, and document our progress via photos.Pitch 2 - Short, but sweet. I scrambled up a series of broken crack systems til I got to a giant ledge. After Steve came up, we decided to take in the views with a snack break, since the ledge was so big.Pitch 3 - I was really proud of Steve for leading this pitch. The crux was 15 foot hand crack right off the belay. It felt pretty stout for the grade, but he was able to stick with it and get thru it clean. Right as I was starting up, we got passed by a free soloer, who to be honest was giving off somewhat of a snob vibe, but to each his own.Pitch 4 – I took this pitch, and decided to go for the exposure on the N. Face variation, rather than heading left to stay on the East Face. As it turns out, Steve stopped to belay a little early on the last pitch, which I noticed when I had climbed about 30 feet and saw a bunch of slings in the obvious “cave belay” spot. It was then that I realized that Steve had forgotten to hand off a lot of my slings, and I had forgotten to give him back his nut tool (since mine was stuffed in the car after our sport days in Logan). I kept going a bit, and when I realized how much farther I needed to go and how many nuts I was placing, I figured I better stop and bring Steve up so we could make the switch. I built a semi-hanging belay near an alcove of sorts, and Steve followed up.Pitch 5 – WOW, was this pitch exposed!!! The climbing was fun, and pretty sustained. There was more loose rock than I thought I would find, but it was easily avoided. I found the gear to be a little more sparse than I would have preferred, but the gear I had was really solid. I kept moving up to what I thought would be a good gear stance, only to find a flare or a seam. I managed to get some really good gear in before moving out over the exit roof sequence.Descent - Now little did we know that this would be the real crux of the day. We both looked all around on the summit in every direction, finding not the slightest trace of a trail. After a lot of bushwhacking, we decided the safest option would be to take the “path” of least resistance –the low angle west face dihedrals that we could butt scum down relatively safely, that led to over an hour of slowly scrambling and sliding down steep scree. The guidebook wasn’t kidding when it had said to be careful of snakes on the descent – at least one of the rocks I stepped on rattled LOUDLY!Day 2 ~ After all our hard work yesterday, we wanted a nice relaxing day today, so the 4 of us headed over to the Storm Mountain Picnic Area for a casual day of plugging gear. Lieback Crack, 5.5 Pitch 1 - What a nice relaxing climb this was! The crux on this pitch was the first 30 feet, and it felt pretty stout for 5.5, but from then on, it was an easy, straight shot to the belay ledge. Manuela didn’t want to lead it, so Steve trailed a rope up. Not sure why it was called “lieback”, b/c none of us really did any layback moves – it was all face climbing with a jam here and there.Pitches 2 and 3 – Steve didn’t feel like leading today, so I stayed on the sharp end and linked the last two pitches together. Nice, casual romp to the summit with great gear. The summit was beautiful, and gave us a great view across the road of our line from yesterday, and best of all, the walk off was both obvious and easy.
We ended our whirlwind trip with a couple of days in Maple Canyon. What a crazy place! The climbing at Maple Canyon is probably the most unique climbing area we’ve ever been to. The rock is a conglomerate embedded with pebbles and rocks of various sizes. The routes are difficult to read from the ground, and require a lot of endurance to onsight, since you never know what kind of hold a cobble is going to be until you grab it, so you end up spending a lot of energy trying to find the right cobbles to use. However, b/c of all the cobbles, we discovered that Maple is also a place that rewards good footwork. No matter how hard it might be to hang on searching for good cobbles, you always had really good, obvious feet. I for one thoroughly enjoyed the climbing there, and felt like it agreed with me, for a while anyway…MAPLE HIGHLIGHTS – Your Little Sister (5.10a), The Big Kahuna (5.10b), Taking the Bullet (5.11a) And if I could do an “unhighlight” section of Maple Canyon, I would have to choose “Hit Man” (5.11b). Nothing against the route – I loved pulling the low roof, and was doing fine with the techy stuff, but then things started to fall apart at the 4th bolt. I could get to the bolt, but for the life of me, couldn’t get it clipped. I took one whipper (but not before dropping a quickdraw into the creek below) and tried to get some juice back into my forearms. I figured that after I rested a bit I’d be able to get the bolt clipped using the same sequence…unfortunately I was wrong (I think 5 days in a row of climbing was catching up w/me), and I took a 15 footer that would have been routine except that when I came back into the rock I bashed my right knee into one of the sharp cobbles above the 2nd bolt. It obviously hurt, but didn’t feel like I did anything “bad” to it – but after over an hour when it was still gushing blood, we decided that a few stitches might be in order, so Steve drove me 20 miles north to the podunk town of Nephi (while I felt sorry for myself and ate an entire bag of Skittles). The verdict was that while I thankfully didn’t do any ligament/tendon/bone damage, the cut was really deep - into some nerves, and all the way into the bursa. So after a local anesthetic and 5 syringes worth of irrigating, I exited the clinic with 4 stitches on the inside, 4 stitches on the outside, a drainage tube in the middle, a splint, bandages, some antibiotics, some painkillers, and a blue pen that says “Nephi Medical Center” on it. To say it was more than we had anticipated would be an understatement.
So…closing thoughts – What can I say – It was a fantastic trip, full of adventure and excitement! We were truly blessed to do an activity we love in such a spectacular setting with friendly people we enjoy being with. Of course I wish I didn’t hurt my knee, but compared to all the reasons that could land you in the hospital on a climbing trip, my reason is really rather trivial. I didn’t make a questionable mental error, my equipment didn’t fail, my belayer was paying attention - nothing out of the ordinary happened other than my knee being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I could have just as easily gotten the same or worse injury hiking along the trail earlier in the week, or in a car wreck on the way down to SLC. When it comes down to it, it’s nothing more than a deep flesh wound, which I am very thankful for. I am also grateful that God allowed it to happen on Day 5 and not Day 1. Our bodies get scuffed up sometimes, and if I have to get hurt, I’d rather have it happen while I’m out there living life than doing something dorky at home like falling down the stairs. And who knows, I may even get a pretty bad-ass scar out of it…
To see more from Erica Lineberry visit her website: erica.thelineberrys.com