Fear at first sight / Photo: Eric Scott Russell
Because my goal is to send some of the scariest and hardest problems of my life this year, there really is no better place to start than Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC). For those of you who have never climbed in LCC, it’s a whole different world of climbing. The rock is primarily quartz monzonite. Most people just call it granite because it looks, feels, and acts very similar to granite, but a bit more quartz gives it less features and a slipperier structure, and that changes how everything gets climbed up there. Currently, the hardest known route in LCC is in the high 5.13 range. Until now that is…
Somewhere up in Little, beyond the boulders and trees, nestles a fifty-foot boulder with a bolted line that could potentially be the first 5.14 route in LCC. “It’s a beautiful boulder,” described my friend Victor, one of the madmen who had the vision to bolt this line. “but the landing would kill you, or break the majority of your bones if you were to take a fall.” He is one of the few that actually knows of its existence.
Checking out beta on a rainy day with Max / Photo: Eric Scott Russell
For months I had been searching for the project to start my year off, and it wasn’t until I spoke with the Victor that I found what I had been looking for. “It’s one of the best lines in the canyon: a crimpy face climb. And none of us could send it,” he continued, “I wanted it to be the first high 5.14 in LCC!” At this point I must have been smiling from ear to ear because he laughed when he saw my psyche. Then he added, “It’s an open project,” and like music to my ears, he said those magic words and I couldn’t wait to see it for the first time.
Hiking in / Photo: Eric Scott Russell
We were hiking in its direction the next day. I felt my pace quicken through the knee-deep snow because I was so amped. We could see the boulder looming in the distance before it disappeared under the mass of pines. After a few minutes of slipping and sinking in the snow, I caught sight of the dark mass through the trees. I paused for a minute just to stare at this massive boulder. Featureless, streaked with bright green moss, and surrounded by jagged boulders, I realized I found that unclimbed project I had been looking for to start my year of insanity.
Three shiny bolts juxtapose its dirty appearance, and between those bolts exists some of the hardest climbing I’ve come across. Dime-sized crimps, off-placed underclings, thin sidepulls, and featureless feet make up this massively challenging project. The moves straight off the ground are insanely hard with a foot and hand match straight up to a thin rail. After that, steep climbing heads up to a desperate heel hook and a micro crimp high above.Then, from what it looks like, a sloppy rail finishes it off in an even steeper section. This route has all of these difficult holds without any feet; it’s going to take smearing to the next level.
Talking over the risks of blowing a clip and decking / Photo: Eric Scott Russell
The crux, without a doubt, is going to be clipping the second bolt. Not only will it be the most challenging, but it’s also the most crucial part of surviving the climb. If I were to miss the clip, I would deck without a question. To add to its intensity, the ground is covered with large jagged boulders, tree branches, and everything that no climber would want to deck on. A massive boulder rests behind it that I would definitely smash into. Not only will this project require a lot of power, but it also needs that special touch of delicacy that you really can’t find anywhere else except LCC.
This route is going to be perfect for me to project. I have to admit, at first I felt intimidated by the movement, but after sitting in the rain marveling at all the tiny holds, blank feet, and runout bolts with my friend Max I now feel it’s possible. It’s one of the scariest routes I’ve seen, and that’s simply beautiful to me because this year is all about pushing my fear on very hard climbing.
I’m very thankfully to have a great gym to train in. I stay there late into the night after I close up shop to work on pain and push my own level of fear in preparation for this project.
The movement on it is big, the risk is huge, the climb is technical and beyond challenging, and I’ve never been this psyched to get started on such an epic project.