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Climbing in Cypher's Backyard

September 15, 2023 20 view(s)

Climbing in Cypher's Backyard

Cypher is based out of Sandy, Utah. We are lucky to live so close to many different climbing areas around Utah in general, but specifically in Salt Lake County. In this blog, we will go over the climbing areas that are pretty much in Cypher’s backyard.

Photo by Emily Trombly

Located in the Wasatch Range are Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon. Many people may be aware of the Cottonwoods for being the home of popular ski resorts, but they are also home to many climbing crags.

Mountain Project is a great resource to use when looking for new crags or specific routes/problems. The crags and routes are submitted by users from all over the world and volunteer admins manage and organize everything. Climbers can submit photos and reviews of routes to benefit other climbers who come to that area in the future. There are currently 295,222 different routes posted from 68,799 areas all around the world.

Big Cottonwood Canyon has over 1,000 different climbs, with a mix of single pitch and multi-pitch. These climbs are primarily on quartzite rock and are mostly trad and sport. A popular spot is the Salt Lake Slips. While there are only a couple handfuls of routes in this area, they range from 5.6 sport to 5.10+ trad, making it a great spot for anyone. I took my friend to the Slips for her first time climbing outdoors, and it was a perfect place for a beginner. We also had an employee climb night at The Slips this summer. My first time climbing a multi-pitch was a route called Addis Ababa, a two pitch 5.6 sport climb. This was a great beginner multi-pitch climb. Another classic multi-pitch in Big Cottonwood is Outside Corner.

Photo by Emily Trombly
Photo by Emily Trombly

Little Cottonwood Canyon is full of granite rock, and according to Mountain Project there are over 2,000 different climbs. Over 40% of these are boulder problems ranging from V0 to V13. One thing that is so great about bouldering in Little Cottonwood is that there is a large range of spots to boulder. One popular spot, Secret Garden, is located right at the base of the canyon. Mountain Project describes this area as “the home of some of the hardest problems in the canyon, classic moderates, and a few projects that will make the first ascensionist famous for sure.” This area really has something for every level of boulderer. As you drive up the canyon you can find an abundance of other bouldering spots, some with a short approach right off the road, and some that are more secluded. A few notable areas are the White Pine Boulders, Gate Boulders, and 5 Mile Boulders.

Little Cottonwood is also home to some great trad climbing. The steep granite walls of the canyon are lined with traditional classics that also serve as historical testpieces to some of the early advancements in North American technical climbing. For decades, local legends have left work for the day and made the short drive up the canyon to plug cams and slot nuts into the beautiful walls of bright granite rock. The style tends to be a mixture of scary slabs and flared cracks systems, although the abundance of routes allows numerous splitter cracks and sporty-overhangs. Some of the more popular areas include the Gates Buttress and Crescent Crack zone, where you will find famous names like Beckey, Lowe, or Smoot attached to classic routes with grades for all levels of climbers. It should be noted that many of the routes were put up before modern grades were developed, so many routes under 5.9 can feel sandbagged (difficult) for those familiar with grades in other areas.

And not to be forgotten, but the Wasatch also has its own ice climbing scene. Many first time ice climbers will venture up Little Cottonwood canyon to climb the Great White Icicle, a local favorite. On good years, numerous other climbs will form near the mouth of the canyon which allow intrepid locals to scratch and swing their way up some icy granite veneers just minutes from where they work or live. Even the neighboring Big Cottonwood canyon has the odd backcountry ice flow, or rare roadside dribble to accommodate those crazy enough to strap sharp things to their limbs and climb in cold conditions.

Photo by Kylie Fly
Photo by Kylie Fly

Make sure to always Leave No Trace whenever you go out climbing so that we can keep these areas in good condition for many more years of use. Pick up any garbage you see and pack out everything that you pack in. (#trashfromtrails) Check out regulations for the area you plan to go to. For example, dogs are not allowed in either Big or Little Cottonwood Canyon, so if you climb here, you'll have to leave your pup at home. Look at the weather and make sure it won't be a danger to you or the rock for you to climb. There are some types of rock that should not be climbed when wet. Sedimentary rock like sandstone and conglomerate should be avoided when wet because they absorb moisture. Climbing on these types of rock when wet can cause distruction. Igneous and Metamorphoic rock like granite, quartz, and volcanic rock tend to dry fairly quickly and are okay to climb when wet. 

Finally, be safe and have fun! 


Do you have a favorite spot to climb in the Salt Lake area? Leave a comment below.

Going out climbing? Tag us in your adventures on Instagram @cypherclimbing


Some information in this blog are from Mountain Project, Sender One Climbing, and local friend of Cypher, Evan Watts.

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