A crisp morning in Salt Lake City with a projected high of 45 degrees typically means only one thing to climbing locals, a day in LCC. This is the acronym the community has assigned one of the city’s outstanding nearby crags known as Little Cottonwood Canyon. Although it may not be considered a world-class destination, it is by no means the worst place to have as a backyard playground. An extensive climbing tradition, forged by some of history’s boldest first ascensionists, run-out slabs, and splitters cracks make the canyon a perfect training ground for aspiring granite ninjas.
The day started at the local gear shop, aptly named “The Gear Room SLC,” where I was able to recruit two local ninjas for a day out on the rock: part owner of The Gear Room, Kevin Gmitro; and their second best employee Madison Goodman. I like to joke that I’m a better employee than Madison, only because it’s blatantly obvious I’m not. The three of us went back and forth for a bit on what we wanted to climb as Kevin voted for cracks, Madison proclaimed his love of bouldering, and I chose sport climbing. In the end, we decided to pursue all three vastly different climbing disciplines.
Before we packed our bags and embarked on our journey towards what we affectionately call “Little Yosemite,” Kevin asked what shoes we were bringing? To our surprise, we all selected the Altura as our weapon of choice due to its versatility and performance on granite. We then proceeded to make fun of ourselves for matching, dubbed ourselves ‘Team Altura,’ and made a bee-line for the canyon where we would continue our training. Our hit list included a variety of classics that would test us in all three of the climbing disciplines.
First up was a test of the weird and wide, as we hiked up to two of the canyons entry-level off-width test pieces, ‘Firestarter’ (9+) and ‘Burner’ (5.10). Now, those grades may sound somewhat casual; however, give your ego a few burns on those two combined with another wide classic called ‘Certain Death’ (5.8+), and you’ll start to ponder the sandbag you just received. To be fair though, this doesn’t really qualify as a “sandbag” if you aren’t questioning why the 5.8 gets a “+” grade while you’ve got three number sixes and two big bros attached to your harness. After racking up, I sat back and watched Kevin and Madison arm-bar, heel-toe-cam, and grunt with beauteous ease as they floated both wide cracks.
As we continued on with Kevin’s crack fetish, we ended up a short hike away at one of the most popular routes in the canyon, ‘Bongeater’ (10d). Defined by glorious hand jams up a splitter crack, which culminates with an overhanging off-width pod at the top, this route is patiently awaiting its next victim. Fortunately, Kevin and Madison were equipped with solid technique and a bomb shoe, and the crack’s attempt at facilitating some airtime was thwarted, for now. After dabbling in the dark arts for a few hours, Madison became adamant that we grab pads, and head up the canyon for some bouldering.
A two-minute drive brought us up to an area known as the “Gate Boulders” where an even shorter one-minute hike delivered us to the base of a classic problem known as ‘The Round Room’ (V6). We constructed our landing zone, got psyched, and proceeded just to stare blankly. “Where are the holds?” asked Kevin. “This looks impossible,” replied Madison. After a few minutes of palm smears and testing our shoes on miniscule foot smears and crystals, we began to unlock the cryptic beta.
We were all impressed with the smearing and edging capability of the Altura, as well as the rubber’s ability to stick to the rock like Velcro. It almost felt like cheating as we all stretched beyond what felt like our body’s maximum capacity, to stab the elusive crimp that would unlock the top-out. Unfortunately, we jokingly decided that all of us dabbed on the top-out and would have to return for the send another time. Before our arduous hike back to the parking lot, we decided to session a nearby problem, which included some relaxing inverted off-width climbing. With a stiffer sole and a high-top feature for ankle protection, it seemed as if the Altura was designed for this problem. Unfortunately, with our weak cores and lack of pads, it seemed that we weren’t.
By now it was already 4:30 pm, and it was apparent old man winter was beginning to make his presence known, as the days were growing shorter. We were all beginning to feel the fatigue the invert problem had unleashed upon us. Despite the odds being stacked against us, we knew that our day in LCC wouldn’t be complete without some sport climbing. We rallied back to the cars, and then onto a 15-minute approach up the notorious “Green A Gulley” to our sport-climbing objective.
“All Chalk No Action” (12a) is just like it sounds, and is a short but fierce 20-meter contender for one of the best sport routes in the canyon. With the light fading fast, we all put our speed climbing skills to the test and raced up the immaculate line of holds. A series of razor-sharp crimps, delicate edging, and smearing are required if you want to clip the chains. Despite the intense fatigue in our forearms and the soul-sucking exhaustion from being in the cold all day, ‘Team Altura’ was able to eek out one last climb.
Our psych level was redlining as the sun crept beyond the horizon, summoning the stars as well as the end of our day. Sometimes you really can’t even write a story that does the experience justice, but I’m sure you all know the feeling–the feeling of a perfect day, with the perfect people, in the perfect place. A day in LCC.