Sundial Peak and Lake Blanche are a classic hiking destination for many people in the Salt Lake Valley. It’s a short, 20 minute drive and a rewarding 2 hour hike to the lake, but the views are spectacular. It is easily in the top 3 most esthetic hiking destinations in the Wasatch.
Having said that, Sundial peak is a big reason why this hike is so beautiful. You come up over the ridge and the peak dominates your view. It towers over the lake, triangular and resembling a Sundial (hence the name). It is the center of a large basin and is a lone pinnacle above the lake.
There is an amazing route directly up the north face of Sundial peak, aptly name ‘Eleventh Hour.’ The route is 3 – 5 pitches, 530 feet and 5.8 technical climbing.
To get to the route, you edge around the lake’s east bank along some slabs and down across a small stream. You turn left past the stream up a low angle slab and into an opening between some trees and below a large boulder field. Continue up the boulder field, following some cairns to the base of the wall.
We started climbing the first pitch about 25 feet east of the arete on the north face. There is a lone tree that sticks out of the blank slab about 3/4 of the way up the pitch. The climbing is steep 5.7 with tricky protection and is nearly the entire ropes length to the large ledge at the top. Kirk led this pitch, following the path of least resistance up the blocks, over a few small roofs, past the lone tree to the belay ledge.
We walked along the large ledge to the base of the second pitch. Rated 5.8, this pitch is supposed to have the technical crux move for the whole route. Kirk started up this on lead as well. The dihedral starts as a third class scramble until you hit a Y at the top. Move left onto the face and follow a broken crack system up and right into the dihedral where you have to make an insecure, dynamic move to a big hold and mantle up onto the ledge. Another 5 feet to the next large ledge is where you belay.
I followed Kirk up this pitch and took the lead for the next pitch. This is my favorite pitch. It goes at 5.8 as well and starts by following a finger crack up a blank slab towards a large roof. The crack moves horizontally to the right and straight up a steep dihedral to the right of a roof. At the top of the dihedral is a relatively large ledge that you can belay off of, but I continued right around the arete and up a series of blocks to another ledge. From here it’s just 15 feet over some large loose-looking blocks to the top of the main section of climbing. I set up a belay and Kirk followed to where I stood.
You can walk along this ridge and go right to finish the last 50 feet of 5.6 climbing, but we went left to the standard descent off of a large tree. Two rappels with a 70 meter rope got us to solid ground. Some easy down climbing put us back in the scree field and we hugged the edge of the cliff back to the base of the climb to retrieve our packs.
We sat at the base enjoying the achievement we had just accomplished while eating some snacks and drinking water. We started the hike back toward Lake Blanche where we had seen so many hikers come and go from our vantage point on the wall.
Soon enough, we passed the lake, giving our extra water to some hikers in need. We made our way back down the beaten path to the paved trail along the creek leading back to the road and our car.