Backyard Backcountry


West Slabs (III 5.5), Mount Olympus Rising to 9,026 feet straight out of the backyards of Olympus Cove’s multimillion-dollar mansions, Mount Olympus, with its sheer, intimidating north face, is one of SLC’s most striking peaks. Far below, the cityscape tests the confines of the Great Salt Lake Valley, threatening to contribute more tarnished air to the city’s fabled inversion layers. The West Slabs is a favorite afternoon solo, long enjoyed by many an SLC hardperson. However, this 2,000-foot quartzite slab can also be pitched out, with adequate protection and nice belay ledges (bring long runners and be prepared to craft anchors). If your calves haven’t totally cramped up, round out your day with a blocky half-mile of knife-edge ridge running to the true summit of Mount Olympus, an oddly flat, pedestrian perch that contrasts sharply with the daunting Nordwand.


The Eleventh Hour (III 5.8), Sundial Peak, Big Cottonwood Canyon Rising above the turquoise alpine waters of Lake Blanche, the jagged sawtooth of Sundial Peak dominates the hanging valleys and basins of the Twin Peaks Wilderness. This bad boy, a 10,320-foot mountain that’s seemingly crafted for postcard photos, boasts a triangle-shaped summit that stands proud amongst its loftier neighbors. A well-maintained trail winds its way up through stands of aspen and birch, crossing potable mountain streams on route to the ever-tempting Lake Blanche, three miles up the Mill B South Fork trail. This is a great place to scope the Eleventh Hour, a series of stunning dihedrals up Sundial’s imposing northeast spine. The adventure starts near the top of the first pitch, where the corner slams shut, forcing you onto the face. Two more pitches with thin gear take you up through dihedrals and arêtes. Climb fast and climb smart (the ledges are laden with loose rock), and watch as the shadow of Sundial Peak races through the valley until alpenglow consumes the range.


Arm and Hammer (III 5.10- A0), Middle Bell Tower, Bells CanyonArm and Hammer is hands-down one of the Wasatch’s absolutely classic lines. Located just past West Bell Tower, this aptly named formation is the middle of three prominent granite towers (or “bells”) that flank the north side of this textbook glacial valley. Arm and Hammer houses one of the wildest and greatest 5.8 pitches anywhere — the Zion Curtain, a paper-thin granite sheet that’s more of a tear in the stone than a flake proper. The pitch is protected at its top and bottom by a single bolt in each locale; gear on this 60-foot layback pitch is optional — there are no guarantees that it (or the Zion Curtain) will hold. Think “light” as you savor the deep tenor boom of this funky feature, which comes to life as you gingerly bump and prod your way upward. Next, you’ll be served a fine selection of thin slab climbing, fingerlocks, hand jams, and chicken wings on the remaining two ropelengths. Two tension traverses — one at the start of pitch two, the other at the beginning of pitch three (which access the Zion Curtain) — give the route its A0 rating, but hardpersons can tick it free at 5.11c.