American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Utah, New Routes on the Thumb, Little Cottonwood Canyon

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1965

New Routes on The Thumb, Little Cottonwood Canyon. Since the first ascent of the Thumb’s south face, it has been felt that a much more direct route to the summit was possible. On July 3 Royal Robbins and I climbed unroped up a low-angle shelf to where the rock shot up vertically. The first pitch went free for a few moves, then required direct aid for four pitons and finished free via cracks. From the first belay point, a smooth granite slab, 15 feet wide, blocked the way. Climbing straight up from the belay, the leader was able to get in a pin head down under an overhang. Thus protected, he passed the 15-foot section by a scampering pendulum swing to a rib on the other side. The lead continued for 80 feet of difficult free climbing to a comfortable stance. An exciting move over an overhang then led to extremely hard finger-tip climbing up two small slanting cracks. A moderate pitch was then climbed to the intersection with the old south-face route. After ascending the large chimney of the previous route, we made a variation by climbing the rest of the chimney. Then low-angle slabs led to the summit pinnacle, where Royal made a brilliant lead of the many-times tried west crack. We used 25 pitons, of all sizes, four for direct aid. (NCCS IV, F9, A3.) A graceful S-crack slices the smooth granite of the Thumb’s south face. From the canyon floor, Steve Ellsworth, Mark McQuerrie and I could not judge the width of the crack and so on August 2 we filled our rucksack with every available bong bong to be prepared. About 300 feet of climbing were needed to reach the S-crack. Difficulties began immediately as the first pitch went up the side of a giant flake. Bushes increased the climbing problems, but a semi-hanging belay was soon reached 150 feet up. Above, it looked as if we should have to use direct aid up a wide crack requiring 6-inch bong bongs. Since we had only two for the 80-foot crack, Mark courageously set out to climb it free and soon was solving the repulsive problem by a scraping arm and knee jam. He reached a large ledge but the bottom of the S-crack was still 30 feet higher. While contemplating a bolt ladder, we saw a thin crack to the right, leading high enough to allow a pendulum to the crack. After tedious work, Steve finally reached a microscopic hold that gave access to the crack. After entering the crack, we found our large angle and bong bong selection adequate. Climbing mainly on aid, but sometimes free, we followed the crack for 250 feet to its completion. Near the top, it flared badly and our 6-inch bong bongs barely gained purchase. We had to tie off the corners so that the leverage would not pull them out. I finally stepped onto a good belay stance. From the top of the crack, we climbed the south chimney and slabs to the summit. No bolts and 45 pitons were used. (NCCS IV, F7, A4.)

Ted Wilson, Alpenbock Climbing Club

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