Climbing in the Uintas
July 2, 2008
The swift development of rock climbing in the Uinta Mountains east of Kamas has route-starved climbers in Park City salivating for more than 400 routes spread over 20 different areas.
Only a couple of hours from Park City lies a bounty of climbs for the novice to the most skilled climber. Swift waters at the base of Utah’s tallest peaks make the Uintas intimidating for even the most seasoned weekend warriors. But above them, in mountains that rise above 13,000, feet is the best rock climbing in northern Utah.
The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway stretches roughly 60 miles from Kamas east of Park City to Wyoming. Within an hour of many trailheads on the Mirror Lake Highway exists a plethora of bolted climbs rated from 5.9 to 5.14.
A 25-minute hike leads climbers to crags at the base of 12,000-foot Bald Mountain, a dome-like peak west of Mirror Lake. Within 45 minutes most climbers can reach routes in Murdock Basin.
The best climbs in this area are on the Good Medicine Wall — situated about 28 miles east of Kamas — where in July you may need to belay your friends while standing in snow.
If the wall gets too crowded, warm up on Crescent Moon or Peyote Trip, a 5.8 and 5.9 on Last Stand Wall.
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According to the book "Uinta Rock: A Guide to Climbing on the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway," Last Stand sits roughly 50 meters right of Sun Dog, a 30-foot, 5.8 sport route that consists of four bolts.
"[Last Stand Wall] offers a good range of climbing for the day," the guide states. "Your warm-up projects and warm downs can all be found right here."
A climbing trip to the Uinta Mountains is not complete without cragging at Cliff Lake, says Charlie Sturgis, a climbing guru in Park City.
Situated high above the valley floor, routes at Cliff Lake are 60 to 90 feet long, according to the "Uinta Rock" guide. "Make sure you bring a rack, as even the sport lines can use supplemental gear," the guide states.
Park at Trial Lake trailhead and hike east toward Long and Island lakes to a metal sign for Cliff Lake, the guide states. Approaching routes from Cliff Lake could take 30 minutes, according to the book by Nathan Smith and Paul Tusting.
Local climbers praise quality quartzite in the Uintas where summertime temperatures are generally 20 degrees cooler than the Wasatch Front. The quartzite/granite mix in the Uinta Mountains provides climbers with rock that has the look of sandstone, according to Smith and Tusting. Many routes in the Uintas carry ratings under 5.10 and are suitable for beginners. Sturgis recommends an area called Stone Garden, which is roughly 30 miles east of Kamas on the Mirror Lake Highway.
With a 5.7, 5.8 and 5.9, Stone Garden also boasts some of the steepest climbs in Summit County, according to Smith and Tusting.
Sturgis guides climbing trips from White Pine Touring at 1685 Bonanza Dr. in Park City. For information, contact the store at (435) 649-8710. For directions to the Kamas Ranger District of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest contact the district at (435) 783-4338 or visit http://www.fs.fed.us/wcnf/kamas.