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The Fin

Utah > Wasatch Range > Little Cottonwood Canyon
Access Issue: Gate Buttress Area Recreational Lease: Climbs on Church Buttress above vault remain closed Details

Description

What an awesome, aesthetic crag! I first hiked up to climb The Fin in 1985, wearing my 2nd-hand Fire's. After topping out, I couldn't even fathom that Lowe and McQuarrie ascended this in hob-nails back in 1965.

Although on private property (which creates a long approach) it is well worth the half-day outing to experience some of the most beautiful granite LCC has to offer.

The lines to the top are exposed, run-out, and challenging, the easiest of which is 5.10b/c, but the competent leader will find some truly inspiring climbing.

Please respect the landowner's wishes and approach from far up-canyon (see directions), and be extra carefull not to send rocks hurtling downward towards the road and parking area below.

Getting There

The falcon guide has a good description, but you'll likely get lost in the bushwhacking like everyone else, so I'll paraphrase it here:

Park 0.9 miles up canyon from the neon sign. The Fin is directly east of the LDS Church archives road. This road is strictly off-limits, so bushwhack towards a gully that descends just west of The Fin.

Thrash towards the point where this gully meets the parking area (staying out of the parking area of course), and it is here that you join an actual trail. Hike up this gully until you reach a gravelly flat spot just past the second of three stands of large Box Elder trees (approximately 100 feet up from an enormous boulder).

Behind the flat spot is a large, low-angled corner. Scramble up the corner about ten feet, then traverse up and right, passing mahogany trees to the ridge. Turn the ridge and walk up slabs for about 50 feet until a traverse through some small oak brush brings you to the bottom of another set of slabs. On the right side of these slabs, a brush-filled corner is topped by an old, gnarled pine tree.

Scramble up to this corner on knobs, then follow the corner up to the base of the climbs. Stepping out of the corner into the brush on the left is unpleasant, but much easier.

Routes from Left to Right

5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 8
Hook, Line and Sinker
Trad 6 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13
 2
Educated Idiot
Trad
5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
 14
Lyin & Cryin
Trad 3 pitches
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b R
 56
The Fin Arete
Trad 3 pitches
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c R
 6
Dark Horse
Trad 3 pitches
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
 50
The Dorsal Fin
Trad 4 pitches
5.12a/b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6a
 8
The Lateral Fin
Trad 4 pitches
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b A2-3
 5
The Ventral Fin
Trad, Aid 4 pitches
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
 1
Fins and Needles
Trad
5.12d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b
 1
The Gills
Trad 5 pitches
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R
 14
The Wave of Mutilation
Trad 4 pitches
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
 2
Men of Mayhem
Sport
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 7
Hand Drills Suck!
Trad
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b R
 7
Other Intentions
Trad 5 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 3
The Pabst Schmear
Sport
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 3
Fish For Brains
Sport
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
 13
Wasatch Harlem
Trad
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
 2
Angry Elf on a Shelf
Trad
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Hook, Line and Sinker
 8
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad 6 pitches
Educated Idiot
 2
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13 Trad
Lyin & Cryin
 14
5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad 3 pitches
The Fin Arete
 56
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b R Trad 3 pitches
Dark Horse
 6
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c R Trad 3 pitches
The Dorsal Fin
 50
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Trad 4 pitches
The Lateral Fin
 8
5.12a/b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6a Trad 4 pitches
The Ventral Fin
 5
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b A2-3 Trad, Aid 4 pitches
Fins and Needles
 1
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b Trad
The Gills
 1
5.12d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b Trad 5 pitches
The Wave of Mutilation
 14
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R Trad 4 pitches
Men of Mayhem
 2
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport
Hand Drills Suck!
 7
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad
Other Intentions
 7
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b R Trad 5 pitches
The Pabst Schmear
 3
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Fish For Brains
 3
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Sport
Wasatch Harlem
 13
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Trad
Angry Elf on a Shelf
 2
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b Trad

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Photo/Topo of the SE face of The Fin.  (This has corrected FA info).
[Hide Photo] Photo/Topo of the SE face of The Fin. (This has corrected FA info).
These are the second group of box elder trees.  There is a flat gravel area right behind them, and the ramp up starts just behind the rightmost tree in the group.
[Hide Photo] These are the second group of box elder trees. There is a flat gravel area right behind them, and the ramp up starts just behind the rightmost tree in the group.
The views from anywhere on the buttress are amazing. Here from the top of P3 on the Fin Arete, looking at the Thumb.
[Hide Photo] The views from anywhere on the buttress are amazing. Here from the top of P3 on the Fin Arete, looking at the Thumb.
Pick your poison -- Fin Arete, Dark Horse, or Dorsal.
[Hide Photo] Pick your poison -- Fin Arete, Dark Horse, or Dorsal.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Stan Pitcher
SLC, UT
[Hide Comment] Awesome climbing on the Fin! If you're needing some extra adventure, you can climb the ridge directly to the base of the climbs in about 3 or so pitches.

Also a nice link-up is first pitch of Fin Arete and then work right from the belay to join the 2nd pitch of Dark Horse with its stellar arete climbing!! If you have time, you can rap from there to the base of the Dorsal and do the first pitch on TR if you're a chicken S#it like me!

The third pitch of the Dorsal is one of the best 5.8 pitches anywhere! Mar 17, 2005
[Hide Comment] This is the best stone I've seen in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The rock on the prow is that perfect orangish granite that you see on The Exum Ridge on the Grand. It really doesn't exfoliate at all. Even the more standard LCC whitish granite down lower is quite clean.

The guidebook gives a particularly bad description of the approach and descent. If the description were better, it's actually quite a fast approach and descent for LCC.

A few tips might help out:

1) Go up the trail that starts 50 feet East of the gate to the church vaults. After 50 or so feet, there is a cairned trail that takes you, without much elevation gain or loss, all the way to the base of the gully on the West of The Fin. At that point you can look straight down and see the parking lot for the Church Vaults. If all you see is road and no parking lot, you haven't gone far enough. You can occasionally get a glimpse through the trees of Lizard Head and the Fin. Don't turn up too soon. There is only really one pathway off it, a well-beaten trail that cuts uphill AND BACK EAST AROUND A BIG BOULDER. I think it goes to Lizard Head. Don't take this, but continue West and you'll quickly realize you're still on the same trail you've been on. Despite the description in the guidebook, this is a pleasant, fast trail with minimal bushwhacking. When you get into the gully West of the fin, continue upward for just a few minutes, past the huge boulder on the left (looks bigger from below than above), and to the second group of box elder trees (I didn't know what they were, but they're a little taller than the scrub oak) to a flat area on the right side of the gully. See the photo. This takes ~ 18 minutes from where you parked. You'll notice a 3rd class ramp heading Southeast, with a cairn at the beginning of it. This is the place to leave your pack.

2) Go up the ramp, all the way to the Southernmost arete of the buttress, then continue third classing up slabs back North. The description gets vague here and tells you to traverse, but it doesn't say which way. I assure you it isn't to the left. That's where we got lost (but in the process found a good alternate approach.) If you traverse right, there's a corner that looked to be about 5.6 that looks pretty doable. I didn't see anything I would call 3rd or 4th class, but perhaps we just needed to look a little harder. If someone could post a picture of this part of the approach, it would be helpful. At any rate, it's not to the left, so keep looking right.

3) The alternate approach is useful if you don't mind gaining a little more elevation than necessary, doing a very quick, short 5.6 pitch with some exposure, and a 100 foot rappel down to the base of The Fin. It has the advantage of much less scrambling, and you get to leave your shoes and pack right where the rappels come back to the ground. You basically ascent the descent trail, which means going up the canyon another 200-300 feet or so past the gravelly flat area with the ramp, then cutting East toward The Fin on a well-trodden, but scree-covered trail. This is the descent trail from The Fin, and the approach to the Intensive Care Slab. After passing Intensive Care (it'll be a beautiful tall slab on your left) you'll come to a headwall, with a chimney/lieback on the right side. If you go down (a bit Southwest) to the right about 50 feet from the Chimney (which is about where the rappels off The Fin end, you'll see an ugly groove with a tree at the bottom of it, and a right-trending crack 30 feet up it with a small tree growing out of it. If you climb that groove (perhaps 5.6, protects with #1 and #2 camalots), then follow the right trending crack, you'll end up at a big chicken head with several slings on it. You can rap off that, 100 feet down toward the base of The Fin. This also allows for a nice inspection of the cruxes of The Fin Arete's first pitch.

4) The descent is easily found, just 30 feet up and left from some tiny bushes I wouldn't belay off of at the top of The Fin Arete. There are two nice bolts with chains. This is about 185 feet from the last anchor on The Fin Arete, which is another 40 feet up from the Dark Horse anchor at the base of the prow. The first rappel is 100' and lands you next to a bush and a horn/chickenhead, which are slung to provide the second rappel. You can also downclimb this section, but it is far easier to just rap it since it is between two raps. This rappel is 100' plus 5 feet of downclimbing (no big deal) to a ledge with anchors. The final rappel is ~80 feet. If you did the "alternate approach" I detailed above, your shoes are 50 feet down and left from you. Otherwise, hike right and down a scree-covered trail for about 10 minutes back to your pack. When you hit the main gully, you'll have to stay right in it as well or you'll be cliffed out. Apr 11, 2012