|Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps
BETA PHOTO: A panoramic picture of the San Rafael Reef from t...
See Photos below text to get an idea as to the various crag sections. There have been about 200 routes put up from about 200' to 2000' which add up to all most 70'000 ft of climbing. Some with very easy pitches, some up to 5.12 and many with long runouts. Climbers used to slab climbing should find the grades about right, others who are not may find some of the runouts quite entertaining. Overall the rock is fine to excellent, although you will at times encounter a few soft spots but that is all part of the Reef experience.
Many of the routes climbed so far have great summits that overhang the back canyons by about 400', so often the descent is back down the ascent route. These longer climbs are more like mountaineering routes and allways seem to give great views and lead one into very unusual rock formations. A recent article in a climbing mag called the area The Sandstone Alps which seems a fitting analogy.
As was already mentioned, many pitches are runout. Cam and stopper protection is sometimes available and pro bolts are usually on pitches that are at least 5.7. Many pitches are close to 200' and often only 3 points of protection are all that will be found. It is advisable to carry a drill and a couple of #1 angles or 4" bolts in case one gets too far off route. Also carry extra slings to back up old webbing on the rap anchors and maybe bring a 3/8" spanner incase you need to tighten bolts.
All the routes on the slabs and on the steeper side canyons were put up on the lead, ground up from natural stances.
On most routes the leader carried not only a drill but also a small rack. On some routes the leader climbed without the drill and at times a belay was not found ( a firm 1895 stance was taken!) until the arrival of the second with the drill.
So due to the difficulty of drilling on the lead, sport minded climbers may find the bolts are somewhat few and far between.
Recently though, some well protected short and multi pitch routes have been climbed that will give newcomers a chance to get used to the rock and grades without too much runout stress!.
What you have to remember is that the Reef is a magical area but the climbing is not for everyone and thats a good thing. If you want an adventure and get away from the crowds this might be the place.
NOTE. The crags are set up in alphabetical order starting from I-70 and going south along the Reef.
For Crags A thru F park at Little Spotted Wolf Canyon.
For Crags F thru K park at Uneva Canyon.
For Crags K thru P park at Three Fingers Canyon.
For Crags Q thru U park at Two Fingers Canyon.
This very large sandstone slab formation is located about 13.1 miles west of the Green River exit on I.70 at mile marker 147. The entrance to this well-maintained dirt road is 10.4 miles from the Price 191 exit and 2 miles past the Route 24 exit to Hanksville. Here one will find a wire gate. Go through this, and immediately turn left and go under the interstate. The section under the interstate can be sandy and a much easier entrance to get onto the good dirt road is from a gate on the opposite side of the interstate. With a car this entrance is recommended.
The dirt road then parallels the slabs for about 6+ miles. The approach to the slabs from this road takes anywhere from 20/30 minutes of easy walking. However climbs near Three Finger Canyon, Little Spotted Wolf Canyon and Uneva Canyon trail heads are much closer to a parking area.
These are the three main parking places to the various climbs.
The Little Spotted Wolf area is a pull off on the right about 2.1 miles from I.70, Univa Mine Canyon area is a right turn about 3.2 miles from I.70 and then a short 4x4 1/4 mile to the canyon trail head. It's about 6.1 miles from I-70 to the Three Fingers Canyon turn off, then about 2 miles of high clearance/4 wheel drive to the canyon entrance.
NOTE. The Hanksville road (Rt 24) is usually in much better shape and more convienent for Three and Two Finger Canyons. Take the Rt 24 Hanksville exit off I.70 and drive 7 miles just past a mile marker 153 thats on the left of the road. The dirt road is on the right and starts very straight then curves right (north). Drive the road for 4 miles to the small BLM post on the left..this is the 2 mile road (best with high clearance/4 Wheel drive) to Three Fingers Canyon.
To get onto the Two Finger Canyon road, which once found is an easier drive than Three Fingers ie possible with two wheel drive.
From the Hanksville road entrance drive 2.4 miles to unmarked road on left, follow past pond on flat rock through trees then left (south) to obvious road up the hill. The road then flattens out and is an easy drive to its end..about 2 miles. This area now has many routes both in Two Finger and south to One Finger and then beyond to the final slab of End Game (U Crags).
Other climbs are also to the north of Two Fingers (Q Crags). The Mile and a Bit Traverse that starts at Three Fingers also ends at Two Fingers.One of the nicest areas for good rock and great slab routes is L crags (Sinister Slab area)
Browse More Classics in Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps:
Featured Route For Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps
Day of Endless Chocolate
: San Rafael Swell
: ... : E Crags (DBC Canyon)
This is a link up of the 3 main routes on Death by Chocolate buttress. Makes for a great day out with much more interesting climbing at a consistantly higher grade than DBC. Fairly well protected too.Start up the big left facing corner of Endless Journey. Belay with cams half way up the corner or if confident, simul climb the last 80ft or so to the top of the corner. 5.7+ 300ftMove up 20ft to a bolt, clip the locker and downclimb past the belay untill you can step right on to a face. Some cool m...[more] Browse More Classics in UT
|Photos of Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps Slideshow
BETA PHOTO: This might help you find your way around. It also...
"Bouldering" near the base of the Eastern Reef Sla...
Lance, alone at last, establishing another face ro...
On our way to "Death by Chocolate"
Ross and Potter new routing on the slabs.Don't wor...
Lance topping out a new route he established groun...
THe Reef looking south
Climbers on FA The Hollow Men 5.9. Three Fingers C...
Sunrise looking towards the La Sal Mountains
Sunrise view east of Three Finger Canyon
One of The Swells local residents. This guy was n...
Belay fixing hidden crag.Photo Andy Ross
Geology of San Rafael Swell. image credit: Kelsey,...
BETA PHOTO: A) End Game.5.7 B)Peuterey Ridge.5.7.C)Its Only Ro...
BETA PHOTO: A) Two Finger Canyon. B) Three Finger Canyon
BETA PHOTO: Poto taken from the Hanksville Road entrance.A) En...
Lance Bateman .Paul Ross on Heliotropism 5.12.
. The Innominate. 5.12 .Little Spotted Wolf Cany...
Climber rapping off after FA of The Innominate. 5....
BETA PHOTO: Looking towards K-Crag area and to the South
BETA PHOTO: Looking towards Crags F and G area
BETA PHOTO: Looking towards Crags L,M and N .Three Fingers Can...
BETA PHOTO: Looking North
|Comments on Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps
|By Ryan Brough|
From: Arvada, Colorado
Nov 26, 2006
As of 11-25-2006, the dirt road was washed out in several locations. I'm not sure how often or when this road is graded, but I would consider it "impassable" for a car. Even after filling in the ruts with rocks and dirt, we bottomed out in my brother's Subaru. A high clearance 4x4 will speed up your approach to the routes substantially.
Oct 28, 2007
Agree it does need some reorganization , but if you do read ALL the info the area's are separated by the three approaches, each climb mentions which road to hike from . Also most of the good routes have photos of the whole crag with the line of the route marked.It is a massive area and even we get confused with where we are and what we have done. Eventually we will have a more comprehensive guide to the area .I must point out that not all the routes that have been done down there are on Mt Project.It is very different compared to most desert climbing which more often than not are towers that are easily recognised.Its a pure adventure area ,and you will usually not find other climbers to consult with as is often the case, for example on sport route crags or the Cottowood canyons.Just keep going you will learn even if like us its often the hard way!!. The main dirt road has now been scraped and is car friendly. Four wheel is still advised to drive the whole distance (about 2 miles) to the mouth of Three Fingers, also the short road (1/4 mile) to the Univa trail head. The first pull off for Spotted Wolf (Death by Chocolate area) is car friendly. Good luck
|By Andrew Gram|
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Oct 30, 2007
I can separate the routes out by trailhead - sound good?
|By Ben Folsom|
Oct 30, 2007
That would be great! I have everything pretty organized in a book I have made, and if you need any help or information, let me know.
From: Chiloquin , OR
Nov 6, 2007
Hey, Lance and Ben: I think we met you guys out at the swell at the end of October... Ned and I headed back out there last weekend and we were having trouble locating the Road to Mecca. Is there an old pallet at the start of the wash that you approach on? Is the Death by Chocolate route visible south of where you park the car? We headed up the wash, wandered around a few and then cut across to the base of the swell. The canyon we were in appeared to be more than class 4 scrambling. That would be awesome if you could turn us around to the right direction. Thanks, Errin. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Nov 9, 2007
Yes Pallet where you pull off Yes Death by Choc very visible . The Slot canyon approach has a struggle up a V groove etc . There is a different but more complex approach detailed in Road to Mecca that avoids the 4th class approach.Road to Mecca is very easy but fun...
From: Chiloquin , OR
Nov 12, 2007
Thanks Paul, good to know we were in the right place then. I just wanted to confirm that. We find it a little difficult to navigate in the Swell. Next time we head out there, we should be able to get in there. The scramble up just looked more tough than class IV so I thought we might have been in the wrong spot. Since there isn't any snow it may be sooner than later. Thanks again.
|By rob bauer|
From: Golden, CO
Apr 28, 2008
[revised] I enjoyed the climbing, my climbing partner of 20+ years was freaked out a lot, with cause. I bought a 60m rope just for the trip. It turns out hat my new rope was 15 feet short! Measure your ropes before you go because you need 200 feet ropes! To be fair, the author did suggest a bolt kit "if we got too far off route," but I was on route and still had some 100 foot runouts. (This is sandstone after all.) I'd bring a bolt kit and in retrospect wouldn't have felt bad putting a couple of bolts on every pitch, for those who may follow. [Not everyone who chooses 8's and 9's is a slabmaster.] The problem is you don't know where to put them until you've climbed it.
I would normally never think of adding bolts to a finished climb and wish that if the leaders had been low on bolts that they had suggested placements for those who followed. I did that(suggest bolt placements) on Creature Comforts, in the 'Platte. I was ok with the runouts and single bolt anchors (I hammer my holes), but didn't think others would be. It worked out well enough since I suggested where they ought to go (I didn't want 5 more bolts per pitch or anything). I do believe that there are "statement climbs" on which the runnouts are a big part of the climb, but those are frequently at a high grade where regular people won't get sucked in. I expected 50 foot runouts, but going 200 feet with one piece of gear and not making the anchors isn't "Trad," its soloing. (Care to make a few suggestions before somebody goes up there with a box of bolts and a Bosch and really screws up your beautiful climbs?) I did notice the hard climb in Uneva canyon had lots of bolts.
PS: We rap'd and made every rap anchor with what turned out to be a 185 foot lead rope and a 200 foot 9 mm rope.
Apr 29, 2008
See comments on the Mercury route...
|By brian wilson|
Apr 29, 2008
If I may ask for you to look at the comments on Runout Ridge and get some feedback that would be great. Thanks for your time.
|By Charles Chace|
Nov 27, 2008
Thanks for the Beta! We'll try for that on Sun/Monday.
|By Catherine Conner|
From: Phoenix, AZ
Sep 2, 2009
This looks like soooo much fun and beautiful, been wanting to go since last year. I'm planning to check it out this coming March 2010 spring break. Anyone who knows the area, want to climb with me? I'll be out there.
|By Dan Monroe|
From: Colorado Springs, CO
May 16, 2010
Went there a couple of weekends ago (May 6th-9th) for our second time. The first time was a year ago also in May. We met Lance the first trip and Lance & Paul this second time. They are really great guys putting up some really fun lines. The risk vs reward at The Swell is high. When you get to the top of some of the longer lines you feel a great sense of accomplishment. I also like that the climbs are technical requiring mostly good footwork not just a lot of upper body strength.
|By John Peterson|
Nov 19, 2012
This shows the turn from I-70:
The driving directions on this page are accurate - just keep your eyes open since this isn't a marked exit.
The road is normally passable in your car but I haven't been there recently. At worst, it's only about 40 minutes extra to hike from I-70 to Little Spotted Wolf.
Nov 24, 2012
Best to have 4 wheel drive to get to Three Fingers Canyon. The first wash can give problems to two wheel . Its about 30 mins walk from the wash to the canyon.Little Spotted wolf parking is easy with two wheel.
Nov 25, 2012
Where does Eardley Canyon fit in here? Z? Went there and found a few pre-established lines and put up an easy slab two pitcher with ~1000 foot scramble to the top of the reef.
Nov 26, 2012
I know I'm arguing with the expert here, but I think Eardley is about 3 miles south of one finger... Please correct me if I'm wrong. Looking at the pictures, Eardley (according to Nat. Geo.)/Two finger just doesn't match up. Is this right: SWELL MAP PIC
Nov 26, 2012
Sorry your right... Your in Straight Wash/Eardley Canyon further up the road... Z Crags... I see what you mean !! Good one