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North America, United States, Utah, Devil's Castle, New Routes

Devil’s Castle, new routes. Devil’s Castle is the beautiful, rocky, majestic mountain above Albion Basin, located near Alta ski resort in the Wasatch Mountains. At nearly 11,000', the 700-800' north face remained unclimbed until 1988 when James and Franziska Garrett first ventured onto it. Until that time, the questionable rock and lack of clean, continuous crack systems deterred climbers from venturing onto the Rockies-like limestone. They began by following a prominent black streak on the lower half of the face. From a midway ledge, they encountered challenging route-finding and loose rock. They made their way up to the rocky summit in seven pitches, placing no bolts. Their route, the Black Streak (5.10), became popular. In 2001 I had a look at the half-mile-wide wall to the right. In two attempts Jonathan Smoot, Glen Henshaw, and I established the second route on the wall in eight pitches (5.11). We narrowly escaped disaster when hikers above started knocking down loose rocks.

Five more routes have since been done, two of them in 2007 (Shadow of the Blade, 5.10d, Brian Cabe and I; Portable Darkness, 5.9+, Cabe and Matt Scullion). Because of loose-rock danger, all of the routes have pitches that were retrofitted with bolts or were rappelled and drilled. Much cleaning has helped improve the quality of the climbing. These adventurous routes attract traditional climbers longing for cool summer temperatures, the beautiful alpine setting, and the mental challenge of multi-pitch route-finding. Pitches range from typical runout limestone face climbing to overhanging, bolt-protected pump fests. Quiche eaters need not apply. The easiest route, Portable Darkness, is 5.9+. All of the routes are well worth doing.

Brian Smoot