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Little Cottonwood Canyon
"Are you are crazy"? is
the first response I hear from family and friends when they discover that I have been ice
climbing. But to me it would be insane to waste a beautiful winter day sitting on the
couch, watching football, eating chips and drinking beer ..... Now that would be crazy!
the fact that it is easy to scare the snot out of yourself, ice climbing has to be one of
the most beautiful of the mountaineering disciplines. Everything is always fringed with
icicles as a rainbow of color dances through.
is totally addictive and more fun than a tramp on a Saturday night.
The biggest fear an ice
climber has is that their significant other will discover exactly how much money was spent
on gear. Ice climbing is a sport that requires some expensive gear, so bring your VISA.
You will require plastic boots, crampons, ice axes, ice screws and a weatherproof shell.
This is in addition to much of the normal gear carried by a rock climber. Ice climbing
takes place below freezing, sometimes well below, so dress accordingly.
climbing season in Little Cottonwood Canyon generally runs from mid December through late
February. The sport of ice climbing is a challenge to rate because conditions can change
by the hour, the day, and certainly by the year. When ice climbing, it is extremely
important that you know how to read the ice because your safety depends on it.
Cottonwood Canyon is home to the famous Great White Icicle and Scruffy Band, which both
form reliably. Scruffy Band is one pitch with abundant variations - lots of possible
routes. The Great White Icicle is reliable and crowded. In a year with good ice conditions
additional routes also form in the canyon.
If you are
interested in learning this sport it is probably best to find someone or hire a guide who
knows what they are doing to take you out the first few times. Make sure that the
"more experienced" people you go out with are experienced enough to know what
they are doing. Ice has hazards like pillars and curtains collapsing that require
knowledge to evaluate.
From I-15 in Sandy, Utah take Exit #298 (9000 South) and head east on
Highway 209 (9000 South) for 6.9 miles at which point Highway 209 Y's into Highway 210
(Little Cottonwood Canyon Road). All mileage in this canyon is measured from this
intersection. The intersection is identified be a huge flashing message board on the south
side of the road and a park and ride lot on the north side of the canyon. The park and
ride lot has a restroom.
Trailheads are located on the main road in Little Cottonwood Canyon. This is the same
canyon where the popular ski resorts of Snowbird and Alta are located. Any vehicle can
access the trailheads during good weather. Snow tires, chains or four wheel drive are
required in the canyon during winter.
200 feet WI3-4 II
The route begins at the parking lot
at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon (N40° 34' 22", W111° 46' 33").
Scruffy Band is the first granite crag on the south side of Little Cottonwood Canyon and
is easily visible from the parking lot. From the parking lot cross the road and hike east
on the Temple Quarry Nature Trail for 200 yards and than cross the river and route find
your way to the bottom of the climb (N40° 34' 12", W111° 46' 27").
Scruffy Band consists of three ice
flows. The area and climbs are usually just referred to as Scruffy Band but if you want to
get technical the actual route called Scruffy Band, rated WI3-4 and 200 feet long, is
located in the center of the three ice flows. The ice flow 100-feet to the west is called
Scruffy Right, rated WI4 and 200-feet long. The flow 100-feet to the east is called
Hanging Pillar, rated W15-6 and 110-feet long. Descent from all three routes is to hike
and downclimb to the east or rappel from one of several trees. This is one of the more
popular ice climbs in the area and is often crowed on weekends.
Great White Icicle
650 feet WI3 II
From the Y-Junction at the mouth of
Little Cottonwood Canyon drive up canyon 1.9 miles and park near the old power plant on
the right (south) side of the road. (N40° 34' 16", W111° 44' 33"). From where
you park it is possible to walk 75 yards up the road and view the route. The entire route
is visible from the road.
Walk behind the old power plant and
cross the bridge over Little Cottonwood Creek and join the Temple Quarry trail. Hike west
on the Temple Quarry trail 40 yards to a small trough that heads south. Follow the trough
to the base of the Great White Icicle (N40° 34' 08", W111° 44' 31").
The first pitch ascends a 50 foot
apron. The second pitch is a long gully. The third pitch climbs over The Bulge. The fourth
and final pitch is the crux and surmounts the headwall. Descent involves traversing to the
west and sliding down a gully to the base of the route. This is probably the most famous
and popular ice climb in the Salt Lake area and is always crowded.
Canyoneering the Great White Icicle
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