The Standard Thumb
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Deep in the trough
This is one of the longest free routes in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Start in the corner gully below an ugly chimney on the lower, west side of the buttress.
Pitch one:This pitch is usually soloed, and in most guidebooks it is not considered pitch 1. However, the climbing is 5.3/5.4 ish and a fall could be devastating. So for safety's sake I will call this pitch one. Do not climb the chimney. Work up and right in cracks, then move back left into the main gully (having bypassed the chimney.) Be carefull of loose rocks. Move up the gully until you can't go any further.
Pitch two:Two options to start, either climb up and right in cracks then traverse left to a fixed pin, or climb up the gully further (sometimes really wet)and move right up the corner to the pin. Approximately at the pin you are going to climb the chimney/offwidth above to your left. Above this is a two bolt anchor. Caution, loose rocks.
Pitch three: (I did not climb this pitch... I followed the Indecent Exposure Variation.)Climb up the loose gully, Caution! Loose rocks. Belay below a big slot? Use your best judgement.
Pitch four: (I did not climb this pitch... I followed the Indecent Exposure Variation.)Continue up the slot/gully/crack? until you reach lunch ledge. Belay on lunch ledge.
Pitch five:Traverse right crossing to the east end of lunch ledge (4th class) to a belay stance at the ledge's end. You can belay at a solid bush.
Pitch six:This seems to be the pitch most people like to talk about. It is definitely unique. Climb up and right in cracks thru a small overhang/roof and into the obvious granite trough. You are gaining some exposure and the valley is spread out below. Small placements in the bottom of the trough are definitely possible. I found two number four camalots to come in handy on this pitch, although they are not needed. Work your way up the trough to a two bolt anchor on your right.
Pitch seven:Climb the easy, secure (you would have a hard time falling out), not very protectable (scary looking to some) 5.6 chimney above. It is kind of miserable if you are carrying a pack on a hot day. Some recommend climbing on the right edge of the chimney and stemming across, instead of squeezing your way up. Whatever feels comfortable. Belay above the chimney on a nice ledge below the formation called the "ear."
Pitch eight:You can continue up the chimney above (5.7R) and move right, or you can traverse to the right from the ledge (5.5)up and around the bulge to belay in bushes.
Pitch nine:(5.2) Work your way up the gully to your left until a big drop is seen on your right. The thumb formation is above you.
Pitch ten:Climb up and left across the big slab on easy terrain until you come to a dirt path/trail. Belay in trees.
Hike up to the ridgline to the left (northwest) of the thumb itself. (No need for a belay here really...you are walking through bushes, etc.) You can leave gear at this ridge. During the last pitch you will climb up and rappel back down returning again to the same spot.
Pitch eleven:Step across the gap from the ridgeline over to the thumb formation. Before you do this, look for the obvious old black bolt on the northeast side. Step across grabbing big holds, place some gear to back up the bolt and gingerly stand up so that the bolt is by your waist. Reach up and grab the summit ridge, friction up with your feet and mantle onto the top. Walk across to the summit bush and belay. Enjoy the view, rappel from the bush, hike back up the ridgeline and over.
Descent:Only one rope is needed for these rappels.
You want to end up in the second gully to the east. There seem to be a couple of variations at first, here is the way I went... Drop down from the ridgeline into the first gully (you will see a trail going down.) Before you get to the end of this gully you are going to hike left and up a little bit to a notch (to the northeast) downclimbing/rappeling into the next gully to the east. I noticed a cairn. Hike down this gully until you come to a bolted rappel at the top of a big slab. Follow this gully down and then moving to the right...stay to the right of the slabs down thru the gully to possibly one last rappel (depending on your willingness to downclimb the slippery 30 feet)... and down until you reach the approach trail.
It should be noted that you do not end up at the base of the climb. So if you are planning on leaving your packs at the base, before the climb, you want them at the bottom of Plumb Line gully, by the base of Plumb Line wall.
Bring lots of water and sunglasses. The granite slabs get pretty bright in the sunshine.
In my opinion this route is barely two stars... it is definitely worth doing once. I would do it again with certain friends, but it isn't really that classic overall. It is just a nice opportunity to climb a cool formation, and spend the day climbing 11 moderate pitches.
Standard trad rack is fine. Two #4 camalots come in handy on the trough pitch.
Takin off on the off-width
The supposed 5.6 squeeze chimney.
Jonny Wilson rappelling from the top of the Trough...
BETA PHOTO: Showing the walk off descent route from the summit...
By Ryan Brough
From: Arvada, Colorado
Nov 2, 2007
There are two big rappel bolts at the top of the Thumb (east-facing side) for an easier rappel from the top of the summit pitch.
By Spencer Weiler
From: Salt Lake city
Jun 10, 2008
The east face of the summit has a fun splitter crack that goes from hands to fingers which ends on a decent ledge with two bolts, a variation we took after not being able to locate the bolt. It's steep but has good pro. Maybe 5.9. It was my favorite pitch of the climb.
From: Small Lake, UT
Oct 5, 2009
The summit pitch bolt is still missing, seems like it was pulled and patched. Weird.
Do this route if you've done everything else on the Thumb and you really want to go back up there. It's a nasty grunt.
By Charlie S
From: Ogden, UT
Oct 22, 2011
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Much harder than anticipated. Might have had something to do with wearing a backpack. Only made it halfway. Went right past the lunch ledge thinking "that doesn't look like the ledge in the topo...." Oops!
Will have to get up there again some time now that I know where I'll be going.....
When you get to the lunch ledge, it's really a lunch ramp! The Ruckman guidebook makes it look flat...it's not. The start of the trough pitch is up a corner dihedral to the east.
Don't go back into the bushes and up the corner. Nasty, dirty, marginal protection.
Apr 12, 2013
Is this route can be climbed between April 20 and May 4 this year ?
Any snow left at the summit and the descent ??
By Garret Nuzzo-Jones
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Oct 17, 2013
I found this climb to be miserable. However, others might not. Here's a quick way to determine if you will like this climb. If you like the start of the second pitch of Crescent Crack and wish to do that style of climbing for a long period of time, then you will like this climb. If thrutching is not for you, then spend your time elsewhere.
By Kai Larson
From: Sandy, Utah
Nov 10, 2013
Unpleasant climbing, followed by an evil descent.
Goes to the top of a cool feature. That's the only reason I can see to recommend this route.
Sep 28, 2015
This route needs some love. The squeeze/chimney section climbs much better than you might think, cool stances and thought provoking, not really a grunt if you're comfortable with granite chimney technique.