Little Cottonwood Canyon, just outside of Salt Lake City, has been my climbing home for the past five years. This canyon is filled with slabs of quartz monzonite, a granite imposter, split by gullies of steeper faces. The stone is objectively not the best. The foot chips are a bit too crispy and the cracks too flared for most tastes, but it was mine to love. Consistent practice in this canyon brought me up from being a 5.10 leader to establishing a new threshold of route difficulty in the canyon.
In an era of gym climbing intensity and training on “the boards”, the art of outdoor practice is underrated. This practice occurs beyond the games of ticking a route. This deliberate practice relies on familiar terrain, repetition, and real stone. One’s home crag, as scrappy as it may be, is a most underrated tool in performance rock climbing.
Redpointing a route is just one portion of my process in the home zone. There is much to learn by continuing to repeat a route, striving for perfect execution. I find that top roping especially reduces distraction - one can focus on understanding the limits of friction, minute as optimal angles of a smear, with no other stressors. Many of my days up Green A Gully in LCC were spent top roping already sent routes to build a technique base for the next peak performance challenge.
These local outings of course involve limit climbing as well - a home crag is the perfect venue for a long term project. Ease of access allows attempts to be arranged around ideal conditions, frequent repetitions for familiarity, and proper rest at home. Top roping again becomes a useful tool. Every one of my hardest LCC ascents began with a solo rappel inspection or solo top rope sussing of moves. With enough time exploring sequences, the most dire of features can be distilled into workable movement.
My total engrossment in local climbing has brought me more meaning than I would have found in traveling for ascents, though travel is often more glamorized. Our global reset over the past year has helped me realize the weekend warrior mentality, traveling for sends, can push climbing into the realm of a motorsport. These changing sentiments also brought on a move that would pull me away from Little Cottonwood, towards the fresh venues of Flagstaff, AZ.
In reflection of my time in Little Cottonwood, it is clear that mileage on local stone was the single largest factor in my success on big walls and far away projects. My LCC chapter closed with a near perfect capstone, onsighting the 5.13 crack of Fallen Arches in one giant single pitch. I had been saving this onsight challenge for the right moment, but didn’t expect I would be tying in below the pitch with an imminent move only weeks away. Our local crags may be a bit scrappy, but they are our own. I will forever be a hyper-local.
The Wasatch Granite Tally