Climbing in the Wasatch – Best Places To Climb, And My Favorite Routes – Part 1

There is no doubt that Utah is a complete climbing mecca. There is so much rock in Utah to climb that it’s sort of unreal how much there is that can still be developed. Even areas of Utah that were developed in the 90’s are still seeing new routes added weekly in some areas. It’s amazing living in the Salt Lake Valley and growing up in Utah Valley being surrounded by mountains and beautiful canyons. I grew up in Orem, and spent many days as a kid in the mountains either hiking or mountain biking. I didn’t find climbing until I was 14 years old and The Quarry Indoor Climbing Center was built walking distance from my house. That building helped shape the rest of my life to this point. I remember those days like it was yesterday. 
The Wasatch range of Utah is an amazing range of canyons and peaks. The canyons of the Wasatch hold some of the bet climbing in the country, and in the 90’s, American Fork Canyon was kind of the birth place of steep limestone sport climbing. A lot of respect goes to those that put a lot of money and time into developing American Fork Canyon. But American Fork is only a sliver of what all of these canyons offer. 
So I have put together a short list of my favorite places to climb and some of my favorite routes to climb in these areas. Some of these are on here simply because of the personal connection that I have with the area for various reasons. But either way it is still amazing climbing any way you look at it. No matter how hard the route is, how long it may be, it doesn’t matter, climbing is climbing. 
In no specific order here are some of my absolute favorite locations and routes. 
– Rock Canyon: 
I love this canyon probably more than any other canyon in Utah and Salt Lake valley’s. Looking out my front window growing up, the view is of Rock Canyon. There are so many things about this canyon that I love. The best part of the canyon for me is that it requires hiking, and cars to be left behind. This is a big deal for me because I like to have climbing be a destination for me. 
Rock  Canyon is really neat because of the rock. The front of the canyon is all quartzite and has some really great trad routes found on it. Above the Red Slab wall is the Ed and Terry wall. Ed and Terry has some awesome cracks that are fairly mild climbing, that are also pretty long routes. The exposure is awesome and the view is just as good. 
After about a mile or so the rock goes from quartzite to limestone. The limestone of Rock Canyon is my favorite limestone to climb on. Some of my favorite routes i’ve ever been on or done are on Rock Canyon’s limestone. The jewel of this canyon is an area called the projects. The approach is rough, and steep, but so worth the quality of rock and climbing that is found at this section of walls. A route called Curb Job is one of the better routes that I have had the chance to climb. A stout and bouldery 5.12c it’s not very long. It is one of the more rewarding 5.12’s that one could get on. 
In the front of the canyon there are quite a few multi pitch routes that are all sport, all bolted. I recently went to climb all 9 pitches of a route called Cosmic Space Dust Lasers, which you can read more about here. The quality of the rock really isn’t the greatest. However, it is some of the funnest climbing I have done in rock canyon. This is something quite unique in the realm of sport climbing. Rock Canyon has several multi pitch routes that are mostly 3 pitches or more, in fact Rock Canyon is home to a peak called Squaw Peak that has a 22 pitch bolted line that climbs 1900 vertical feet of limestone. Insanity!

– American Fork Canyon:
I have spent some of my earliest days of climbing in American Fork. Before I knew what the Hell Cave was, I was climbing with my brother and some friends near the Hell Cave and I went off by myself up the trail and happened upon the cave. I was in complete awe of the area and that people actually climbed there. Over the next few years I spent a good amount of my time climbing in AF at the Hell Cave. It is one of the most powerful places I’ve ever climbed. Let face it, climbing is hard! Ha! Oddly enough one of my favorite routes in that area is Half Acre, a really great 12a that is powerful at the bottom and pumpy jug climbing to the top.

The routes that get the most traffic in the Hell area are undoubtedly the best routes in the area. With the cave being a huge part of the powerful steep climbing that American Fork is known for, Burning (13b), El Diablo (12d), Malvado (13a), Hell (12d/13a), Inferno (13b), and a whole slew of other really hard routes, Hell cave is the place to be for hard, powerful, steep climbing.

Another of my favorite areas in AF is the division wall. One of the most climbed walls in the canyon, it has some of the best 5.12’s in the canyon. Liquid Oxygen, 12a,  is in a way a test piece for the canyon. I had never been on the route until a year ago. For some reason I just never got on it. However, it is an excellent route, and defines American Fork pockets through and through.

It would take far too long to talk about all of the great routes in American Fork Canyon, but it is some of the bets climbing in Utah by far for sport climbing.

Rock Canyon and American Fork Canyon are my ultimate favorite areas to climb, and hold a lot of sentimental value to my climbing history. Stay tuned for part two of Climbing in the Wasatch.


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