Little Cottonwood Canyon

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Little Cottonwood Canyon lies within the Wasatch-Cache National Forest along the eastern border of the Salt Lake Valley where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Basin, roughly 15 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah. The canyon is a popular sightseeing destination and is a glacial trough - ("U" shaped canyon) carved by an alpine glacier during the last ice age approximately 15,000 to 25,000 years ago. The Albion Basin at Alta resort in the canyon is famous for wildflowers and is one of the most photographed areas in northern Utah.Fact|date=February 2007 A number of rare and endemic plant species are found in the area.

The Salt Lake Temple was built by blocks of quartz monzonite Mormon pioneers quarried from the Little Cottonwood Stock near the mouth of the canyon. [] Mountain goats inhabit the surrounding mountains. []

Activities in the canyon

Recreational activities in Little Cottonwood Canyon include hiking, camping, fishing, mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, and backcountry use. There are two resorts in the canyon, Alta and Snowbird, providing both summer and winter recreational opportunities. The Utah Native Plant Society often conducts wildflower walks at Albion Basin and in other locations in the canyon. The road is approximately 8.3 miles from the base of the canyon to the top with an average grade of 9.2%, making it a popular road cycling challenge. []

Rock climbing

The lower third of the canyon is strewn with quartz monzonite outcroppings, mostly consisting of smooth steep faces, some up to several hundred feet high. Local climbers informally refer to the rock as granite, which is a close relative to quartz monzonite.

The earliest recorded climbing activity dates from the 1930s, when Harold Goodro put up some routes before shifting to predominantly climbing on the quartzite of Big Cottonwood Canyon and elsewhere. Many of the major routes in Little Cottonwood were established in the early 1960s by the Alpenbock Club, some in conjunction with well-known visitors including Fred Beckey, Layton Kor, and Royal Robbins. The Lowes - George Lowe, Greg Lowe, and Jeff Lowe - came to prominence through the rest of the 60s and early 70s. More recent climbers have pushed the standards to the highest levels, establishing several 5.13 routes.

Access can be a problem. On the north side, the "Church Buttress" above the LDS Church vault, and the Black Peeler Buttress, are on private land and not legally accessible, as are parts of the south side. This still leaves some 20-odd named buttresses and gullies available for climbing, mostly on the north side. Approaches involve parking alongside the road and hiking a short distance up through scrub oak, sometimes scrambling through fields of enormous boulders.

Face climbing is the predominant technique, typically using bolts and cracks for protection, but there are many notable crack climbs as well. Most routes are 2-4 pitches in length, with walkoffs involving still more scrub oak.

The highest-quality face routes are to be found on The Fin, an almost-featureless expanse high above the canyon. Its route The Dorsal Fin (5.10d) is a classic of the Wasatch; first ascended by George Lowe and Mark McQuarrie in 1965, the bolts of this four-pitch were all drilled on the lead.

Perhaps the most popular is the Gate Buttress, whose 80+ routes include the aptly-named Schoolroom (5.6), a five-pitch route requiring a wide variety of techniques, along with routes ranging up to 5.12a in difficulty. Below the buttress and near the road is the Gate Boulder, a popular gathering spot shaded by large trees.

The Pfeifferhorn is one of the highest and most enjoyable peaks to climb in the Wasatch. The view from the summit is certainly one of the best of any peak in the range. The peak is almost always climbed from the Red Pine Lake area, a ten mile roundtrip climb that gains 3,700 feet. The peak was named after Chuck Pfeiffer, a Wasatch Club leader from long ago. [ [ Pfeifferhorn Trip Report ] ]



* Bret Ruckman and Stuart Ruckman, "Wasatch Climbing North" (Chockstone Press, 1991, ISBN 0-934641-39-0)

External Links

* [ Alta Ski Resort]
* [ Snowbird Ski Resort]
* [ Utah Native Plant Society]

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