In the spring of this year, I began rock climbing on gear. Mixed within the learning, the fear, and the failed attempts, I have been lucky enough to tick off quite a few classic Wasatch climbs.
Steurt’s Ridge is a sharp, north facing arete in Big Cottonwood Canyon. It is quartzite and provides 3 pitches of pretty awesome climbing. I have now gone up this route a few times. Originally, I followed behind a friend, but now have successfully led each pitch. I feel that because of this, I now I am able to post about successfully completing the route and can give a short summary on it.
The route is just east of the popular sport climbing “Challenge Buttress” crag. From this crag continue on the trail as it turns east. It winds through the forest for another few minutes and a smooth, northeast facing slab will appear on the right. If you start going up a scree / boulder slope or hit a stream, you’ve gone too far.
The first pitch is a slab with some easy climbing features that leads just along the left side of an arete to a notch in a long narrow roof that splits the face horizontally about 40 feet up. This is the crux (5.6) of the first pitch. Pull the roof and you are on a small ledge. Climb the face as it slowly gets less and less steep until you hit a large platform. This platform is big. Like you could fit a few cars up there.
The true second pitch stays far right and close to the arete on the right. There are a couple climbs that go straight up from this ledge including “Jigs Up” and “East Dihedral.” Both of this climbs are 5.6 too, but the true second pitch of Steurt’s is as far right as you can go. You’ll follow a crack system that slowly widens to fist or larger so a #3 sized C4 is good to have. This crack disappears and you are back on easy climbing until you hit a small ledge with cracks about waist high that are great for building an anchor.
Above this ledge is the slab of the third pitch. The face slowly steepens and the arete on the right sharpens. You climb this face past a bolt. On the arete there is a notch above the bolt. This is where I cross over around the arete onto the more southwest face. This face is steep, hard to protect, and has some great exposure, but the climbing remains 5.6 and after a few moves up this side of the wall you are able to cut back to the southeast face and get some good gear in again before reaching a large tree / bush thing that is great for an anchor.
Most people say that the 3rd pitch is the crux, but I found that each pitch has its own little crux. The first is the small roof, the second is the wide crack section, and the third includes the slabby moves around to the exposed side of the arete.
The descent is through a notch in the rock behind the tree and along a ramp to chain anchors with three rappels. If you go a bit further, the ramp turns into a bit of a 3rd class, exposed down climb to a gully with another set of chain anchors. This second anchor only requires one rappel to the ground but is slightly more of a hike back to the base of the climb.
This route is really great with easy climbing. It was one of my first multipitch leads on gear.
A few words of concern, though: If you are learning to climb on gear and you have been spending time in Little Cottonwood practicing placements, Steurt’s ridge requires a lot of nut placement and ability to read rock quality. My first 2 attempts up the first pitch resulted in me down climbing and bailing because quartzite gear placements are much trickier than granite. That doesn’t mean there is no gear. It means that it takes a good eye to stay safe on the first and third pitches of this route. Once I developed that eye, the route was a cinch. Before that, it felt insecure and unsafe.
Just a word of advice that I wish I had before giving this climb my first attempt. But that’s all part of the fun right?. Safe climbing!!