Belay Specs Blog

This blog has less to do with Belay Specs and more to do with our employee's climbing and outdoor outings.  We'll talk about exciting news about Belay Specs but we'll talk much more about the trips we've taken and the places we've checked out.  We'd like to share some of our experiences in the hope that they inspire you to check the areas out for yourselves. If you read about an area or activity in one of our posts and have questions on beta, route recommendations or anything else, leave a comment and we'll try to fill you in.

A little over a week ago winter started in Utah with a storm that dumped 40" of snow on Powder Mountain near Ogden but the past week has warmed up and given us a few more days of glorious climbing weather. With all of Saturday free to go climbing, I decided to go do something special. A few of our customers from the Salt Lake City area had mentioned that Arm and Hammer (5.11c or 5.10a A0) in Bells Canyon was their favorite route and after looking at some pictures I was convinced to give it a try. My ever ready partner Buddy was game so he picked me up this morning at 9:00 am and we headed towards the parking lot.


Bells Canyon is just south of Little Cottonwood Canyon but much quieter since there isn't a road running up it. The trail head for Bells is just off Little Cottonwood Road just east of it's southern intersection with Wasatch Blvd. The trailhead parking was pretty full and as we hiked we encountered lots of folks out for a hike, taking pictures of the sun rising over the valley and a guy who had been fishing in the reservoir about a mile up trail. After passing the reservoir we only saw a few others on the trail as we headed up canyon through the trees.


Bells Canyon is named after the rock formations on the north side of the canyon that look a bit like bells. We were aiming for the Middle Bell and after an hour and a half of hiking we found ourselves directly across from it. The climbers trail is pretty obvious as it splits from the hiking trail and heads down to the creek. After scrambling through the boulder field, we found a flat spot below the base of the route and racked up.


To get on Arm and Hammer, you must climb the first pitch of Ellsworth-McQuarrie Route (5.7). The pitch climbs a corner system out a couple roofs and through a short awkward chimney section. I had to slip off my summit pack and drag it below me as I slowly made my way up. A bolt 20 feet up the chimney was a welcome sight since the .75 that I'd managed to place was a bit shallow. Coming out of the chimney I cruised past an anchor for a very thin face route and onto a second set where I set up a belay.


When Buddy got to the anchors we discussed our options for the second pitch and quickly agreed that the 5.11c slab traverse looked impossible so we opted for the "tension traverse". Neither of us had done such a thing before but the webbing hanging from a bolt gave us an idea of what to do. Buddy down climbed the angling crack until he could get a small foot and work his way onto the face. A bad left sidepull let him set up and then lung for the sling. After clipping the bolt and a little more dangling from the webbing he traversed left to a crack and scappered up it plugging in three C3's and wishing he had grabbed the nuts. Following the pitch required the same balancy lung for the webbing and I found the bolt for the direct variation to make a great foot hold. After the crack the pitch climbs a subtle arete on thin holds. Another lung was required to get to a good edge and then  cruise to the anchors where the curtain awaited me.


Undoubtedly the most memorably and interesting feature of Head and Shoulders is the Zion Curtain. The curtain is a thin detatched flake that runs for 50 or 60 feet up the face. From the top of the third pitch you traverse left and slightly down until you can step up and clip a bolt. From there you can either apply some Van der Walls forces to do the 11c traverse  or get lowered a few feet and run across the face to obtain the flake. I decide to swing for it and on the second go I grabbed the flake and scrambled up to another bolt that allows the second to pendulum to the lower part of the flake. Safe at a bolt, Buddy busted his camera out and took some shots while I contemplated how sane climbing such a thin flake was.

Zion Curtan Start scaled

I plugged some #1 and .75 Camalots as I went up the crack but I suspect they would blow out the flake if I fell on them. Luckily the climbing is pretty easy as the flake is so positive and it didn't break under body weight. I got to the anchors and brought Buddy up, watching him grin the whole way up.

Zion Curtain 2 scaledThe forth pitch starts up a dirty pillar of sorts with poor protection and then gains a great hand to finger crack before turning a small roof. Buddy cruised it and I was pleasantly surprised by the crack after the unenjoyable start. I wandered up from the belay to find a way to the summit and, after a long down climb, went up a gravely crack and belayed Buddy up off a tree. We went down the backside of the formation and then around to it's east side where a steep gully descent through scrub oak and 2 foot deep piles of leaves brought us back to our packs. We quickly packed up our gear and half hiked, half jogged to the car so Buddy could make his dinner plans in time. A great day and a great adventure.


After my last trip to Maple in June I was excited to get back and explore more cliffline and some harder routes that the area had to offer. My buddy Ryan is always pretty psyched to get out and this weekend was no different. He managed to swing a half day of work on Friday so I picked him up around 11:00 am in Provo and headed south for Maple. A little more than an hour later, we were driving up the canyon road looking for the Wiper Wall.

Wiper Wall is a relatively recent development and is literally a stone’s throw (or a pulled, falling cobble) from the road. The routes here are vertical to gently overhanging and long. The wall also gets excelent shade from mid-morning until late in the day. The length, angle, shade and approach make this a great place to get in some milage on a half day of climbing.

We arrived and had the crag to ourselves. We ran up Jackknifed (5.11a) to warm up. The route was a bit tricky off the ground but quickly moved between great holds. Some amazing holds took my breath away; they were huge jugs and I was sure the would blow apart in my hands at any moment. We found surprisingly little loose rock however and felt ready for out next challenge. The Hitchhiker (5.11d) is one of the more well known and unique routes here simple because it is so long. The note written in chalk at the base of the route states 24 bolts but there are actually 25 spread over 36 meters of climbing. I started up, skipped the useless low first bolt and, after clipping the third bolt stared into the vertical face above. A long reach got me established on the wall and a few moves and a bolt later I was worried if the route would go down today. After I struggled through a couple small holds, I clipped the 5th bolt and things eased up. I continued up to a ledge and stared up at the chains. I realized quickly that these were mid-route anchors for folks using a sub 70m rope. The route seemed to go on forever but the climbing stayed moderate at only about 5.10-. I was pretty excited to clip the anchors only a foot below the top of the formation. Ryan unvieled a brand new, shockling yellow rope and tied in for his ascent of the route. Afterwards we talked and agreed that the route’s length was it’s only standout feature. It’s a great route to do once but unless I’m looking for a training pump, it is unlikely that I’ll get back on it.


 We were feeling warmed up and excited to get on something a little bit harder so we scooted around the corner to Beaten Into Submission (5.12a). I started up the route with 15 draws and high hopes of sending. It didn't pan out but the route was pretty fun. After watching me struggle near the end, Ryan knew what to expected and this, combined with his superior fitness, carried him to the anchors. Rather than getting back on Beaten to get further beaten, I put up Never Go Left (5.12a) at the right end of the cliff. This route seemed pretty tough for the grade and I was beaten down by this one instead. We decided to call it for the night and head to camp.

After leveling out my car on some big rocks we hiked up Box Canyon to check out the climbs. We kept going past the routes talked about potential routes on neat formations, although the bolting ban would have to be lifted for anything new to go up. We turned around at a waterfall that we deemed imprudent to climb up and headed back to camp.

Subaru up on Rocks


Salt Lake can get pretty hot in the summer but the Wasatch and Unita ranges offer excapes from the heat. It was 95 in the town today so we packed up the car and drove to Albion Baison, just above the town of Alta at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon. With a paper guide from IME in hand, we hiked towards Cecret Lake looking for the clifflines described. The hike to Whipper Wall is maybe 20 minutes but we passed it and headed up further to Cecret Lake. The trail was busy with folks enjoying the day but as we walked around the lake, the crowds disappeared. We walked around the lake counterclockwise and found a trail traversing up the hill towards a shady cliff above the lake. The wall is easily identified as it is directly above the large talus field on the south side of the lake.

We got to the wall, drank some fluids and put on a layer. At 10,000 feet in the shade, the temperature was comfortably cool and refreshing. We started on the right side of the wall on a pair of routes. Alana was my rope gun today and she headed up the left of the two, a 5.9+ called Black Hash. The rock had a wet spot down low but otherwise conditions were great. The route was a good warmup but didn’t offer much of a challenge. We stepped right to Green Budy (5.10a) route and Alana headed up. This route had a definite crux but Alana made quick work of it and I found it a fun little challenge. We moved left down the cliffline to another pair of routes that shaired a set of anchors. We made quick work of both routes and moved on to the hardest route on the wall, Cough Your Off (5.10b), which climbed through a small rough and around a corner. Alana did a great job of making the route look easy. We finished up the day and wall with The Kind (5.10a) a nice arete route on the left end of the wall. We hiked out pysched about comign back up to the area during the summer to get out of the heat.


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