Type: Trad, 600 ft, 6 pitches, Grade III
FA: Les Ellison, Russ Jacobs 1979/FFA Drew Bedford, David Casey, Ron George, Karen Kelley 1985
Page Views: 24,786 total · 138/month
Shared By: Anonymous Coward on May 4, 2004
Admins: Andrew Gram, Nathan Fisher, Perin Blanchard, grk10vq

You & This Route

164 Opinions

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Access Issue: Private Property now at the entrance to Bells Canyon. Details


An amazing route. This is the route with the famous "Zion Curtain". Killer route, great exposure, and nice belay ledges. Ellison had a damn good eye. Make sure you do the pitch above the "Zion Curtain." Go to the small tree, don't traverse left into the gully, at the end of this pitch. If you do traverse, you can lower off some junk chockstones. This route deserves loads of stars!!! this route is free climbed at .11c or aided at 5.10a AO


Standard rack up to #4 with a few extra #.75 and #1 cams for the "Zion Curtain" pitch.


One of the better routes I've ever done in the Salt Lake area. The exposure is great, its a sweet sight of the valley, and the rock is really clean up until the 4th pitch. The gear on this route takes everything, and the pitches are long so gear up.(5.10a A0) Nov 20, 2005
john gilchrist
sLC, utah
john gilchrist   sLC, utah
mmm mmm good I wouldn't like to fall on anything placed in the curtain May 3, 2006
Nathan Fisher
St George
Nathan Fisher   St George  
The fourth pitch climbs a hand crack above the anchors above Zion Curtain, and continues for a while until it hits a roof, then it goes left at the roof and gains the tree.
This wasn't all that clear for me today, so I thought I would clarify.
Great route, didn't get to do the slab above the tree, and on the post Zion Curtain pitch, we traversed right (by accident) and ended up in the 5.10b chimney of Butcher Knife. Nice!! Got to the 5.10c roof and traversed on the runout slab, missed a bolt protecting the 5.10d roof move of Cymbals of the Sun, and made it back in a very circuitous manner to the now obvious hand crack. Doh!! May 19, 2006
Smog Lake City, Utah
Arie   Smog Lake City, Utah
Pitch five (second above the curtain) was super gritty and fairly insecure, but relatively easy (we hung right above the belay). Belay at another tree and scramble to the summit pinnacles. The hike off to the east gully was easy and beat rapping the route (there is one 20ft rap/batman in the gully). This could save dragging a second rope for the raps albeit bringing shoes can be a drag). Although I initially argued for the rap, I'd now take the hike-off any day. Cheers. Oct 16, 2006
Tony said,"Start: The 2-bolt/chain belay on the spacious ledge atop the 1st pitch of The Ellsworth-McQuarrie Route.
Pitch 1: Immediately traverse 25 feet down/left (5.11c) using a 5-foot long stainless-steel cable on a 3/8" bolt for protection or pendulum (A0) on the cable to grab a flake (A redundant 1/4" bolt can be removed here). Climb up terraced ledges to a thin (5.10a) face protected by two 3/8" bolts (2 redundant 1/4" bolts can be removed here). Belay at a 2-bolt [short chains] station (A redundant 1/4" bolt can be removed here). The pitch is about 130 feet long.
Pitch 2: Immediately traverse 30 feet left (5.11c) using a 3/8" bolt for protection or pendulum (A0) from the bolt using your rope (A redundant 1/4" bolt can be removed here). Grab the Zion Curtain flake. Back-up the 1/4" bolt at the bottom of the flake with a solid cam in the crack immediately left. Climb the flake. Back-up the 1/4" bolt at the top of the flake with a solid cam in the crack immediately left. Belay at a 2-bolt/chain station (A redundant 1/4" bolt can be removed here). The pitch is about 150 feet long.
Pitch 3: Climb 150 feet straight up a shallow dihedral, a hand crack and left around a 5.8 roof to a bush growing from under a detached flake. Do not climb into the gully to the left. You could find yourself stranded up here with stuck ropes. Belay at a 2-bolt [short chains] station immediately right of the bush.
Pitch 4: Climb 70 feet right & up a flakey slab to a bush. Belay at a 2-bolt/chain/rap-hanger station immediately left of the bush. "

Wait, I don't get the new bolt count? Are the 3/8's new and the 1/4's from the fa?

Thank you for clarifying the pitches after the curtain. I got sucked left when I couldn't see the anchors on the right. myopic again. Jun 19, 2007
gr3vans Evans
Seattle, WA
gr3vans Evans   Seattle, WA
Who added the 'wire' at the pendulum?

...weird. Aug 3, 2007
Stan Pitcher
Stan Pitcher   SLC, UT
I believe the original 4th pitch does goes left into the chimney with the 'junk' chockstones. From here, you can do a 5th pitch by stemming off the belay to reach a thin crack that traverses right to a hand crack. From here you can continue past the new bolt anchors (at tope of 4th pitch of Butcher Knife/Cymbals) to another newly bolted anchor next to a mahogany and just below the ridge crest.
This is a good pitch (5.8) but the rock is a pretty gritty.

A comment about the 'redundant' bolts. I don't understand why retro-bolters are not removing the original bolts and using the same hole for the new bolt? The new bolt at the pendulum is about a foot further to the left than the original and could not have been drilled there on lead. That foot makes the pendulum easier, changing the character of the climb. In that case, I was glad the 'redundant' bolt was left so I could do the pendulum as the FA party did!

Thanks to whoever added the upper rap stations and gave extended life to the trees! You can get down with a single 70m. Nov 5, 2007
Awesome route! Great exposure, fantastic views, and excellent rock (until the last pitch at least).

When I return I'll bring the following rack:

1 set of nuts, a single set of camalots thru #4 with an extra #2 & #3 each for the "Zion Curtain" pitch. Jul 9, 2008
Boissal .
Small Lake, UT
Boissal .   Small Lake, UT
Enough praise has been given to the lower pitches already, so I won't go there. It doesn't get better than the Zion Curtain if you keep going, but the pitch above it would be a 5 stars classic if it was on any other route. Spicy climbing up a dihedral to a finger crack that opens into a long hand crack, putting you under a roof. That section is quite long a gobbles gear so if you're planning on tackling the roof (traversing left under it that is) make sure you have at least a #2 and some .4 and .5 left, otherwise you'll be very sad.

If you're short on gear or on nerves like I was, get on the original pitch by traversing left in the gully to a sling anchor around blocks. Interesting geology in there... Chimney up until you get to the finger crack, traverse right onto the slab if you're feeling burly, or use my now fixed #1 nut for yet another tension traverse that gets you to the dihedral formed by the slab and the roof, then climb up to the anchor.
The last pitch goes right for some unnerving slab moves (is that foot gonna disintegrate before I rip out that flake?) leading to easier but slippery ground until you reach a 2 bolt anchor and then scramble to the summit.

From there take a walk east to where the ridge gets pretty narrow and take a look in Little Cottonwood. That's right, you're about as high as the Pawn! Keep going east until the ridge drops then start climbing again then pick the least heinous way down the gully, staying close to the buttress to the east. The handlines are gone but 2 short raps from solid sling anchors and some fairly heinous bushwacking brings you back to the packs.

Gear: 1 set of nuts and micros, cams up to #4 with doubles from .5 to 2, maybe a third .75 for the curtain. Sep 15, 2008
Tyler King
Salt Lake, UT
Tyler King   Salt Lake, UT
Great Route. It might be blasphemy to say this but I liked the 4th pitch a bit more even than the Zion Curtain!!! (gasp). Do as Boissal recommends and make sure you save at least a number 2 for the roof. Also put on a long runner. After you have gone around the roof move on to the slab and go to the right of the tree(there is another hand crack directly below the tree) and flip the rope over the top of the roof rather than around it. Run it out to the anchors if you can or you may be lowering to clean all of it so you can pull the rope up... May 24, 2009
Seems like a mechanical engineer could figure all that out WHILE on lead. (he he he) May 24, 2009
Wasatch Back, UT
drewford   Wasatch Back, UT
That consensus grade has got to be for the A0 version. Don't short change yourself. P2 is awesome at steep, fun 11a/b. May 29, 2009
Bad Sock Puppet
Bad Sock Puppet  
A fun route! If you think the slab is hard on this one than do Cymbals of the Sun. The Zion Curtain definitely makes it worth it but sadly you shoot up it within 30 seconds. You almost want to rappel and do it again.

You can reach the ground with a double rope rappel on 60m ropes from the belay station right before the curtain. Jul 26, 2009
Tim Wolfe
Salt Lake City, UT
Tim Wolfe   Salt Lake City, UT  
Yeah, its 5.10 A0, or 5.11 slab. The Zion curtain has to be done by anyone who is looking for the most classic pitches in the Wasatch. Jun 28, 2010
your mom
Reno, NV
your mom   Reno, NV
Good Route, fun climbing all around. Gear on the zion curtain is laughable but its a stellar pitch.

If planning to do summit pitch, bring extra webbing/cord for rap of shrub. We didn’t want to weight the shrub so the 1st climber down climbed (while on belay from above) about 30 feet to rap station and the 2nd down climbed while being belayed from said rap station. Great View though.

1st tension traverse wouldn’t mind new webbing as well if doing the A0

If rapping from the top of the shared Ellsworth-McQuarrie first pitch / belay station for beginning the 1st tension traverse with double rope, (using tenesmus route description) Make sure your rope runs climber’s/looker’s right of the tree to avoid major pain in ass rope issues. Jul 24, 2011
BJB   Texas
Great route. Really glad we went out to do it before leaving Utah.

Most things have already been said, I'll just add a few things I wish I had known before hand:

Approach: Once you get into the part of Bell's canyon that has the tall granit(esque) towers, they get a littl bit hard to see, and it's not the easiest thing to figure out which granite tower is the middle one. Arm and hammer is found on the thrid granite tower. don't count the tower of quartzite (looks like Rock Canyon's Bad Bannana's) that proceeds them.

Pitch 1-2: Straight forward dihedral pitches. If you want to link these two you are going to need some seriously long slings on your first pieces.

Pitch 3: I didn't realize the transition off of the tension traverse would be so hard or that the protection after it would be so bad. The moves that involve letting go of the tension traverse and getting on to the ramp are probably 3 tenuous 5.10 moves. I was able to get a little bit of gear in on the ramp but i don't think it would have held a fall which made the section pretty dangerous for a follower. Someone will probably clarify how to do this better and you should listen to them if, like me, you'd never done a tension traverse before today.

Pitch 4: brilliant. Straightforward pendulum.

Pitch 5: I got off route at the end and found myself in that gully with a lot of chock stones. You want to head to the tree that is hard to see until you are pretty far into the route. Look up to the next section of the wall and you will find it.

Descent: be careful while hiking back through the boulder field. We got down in between some of the boulders and almost stepped right on a rattle snake. Stay up on the tops. Aug 7, 2012
Alec LaLonde  
A few notes:

1) Go to the top. As others have mentioned, pitch 5 is excellent. The view into LCC ain't bad either.
2) If you find the uppermost rap anchors (see tenesmus comment), rap the route with two ropes. The descent gully is heinous, especially without any hand lines.
3) The first tension traverse would be pretty difficult if you are short. I am 6'1" and had to dyno to grab the fixed sling. Shorter people would need to do a few 5.10 slab moves to get there. Nov 5, 2012
Kurt Howes
Kurt Howes  
What a stellar route! Pitch one (felt like I was in Yosemite), the Curtain and the pitch above the Curtain are money, making nearly 400 feet of goodness. P1 and P2 can be linked without issue using several runners, still bringing the recommended rack in above comments. I recommend long pants for the chimney on P2, and for the bushes upon descent. Don't let the tension traverse and pendulum scare you off; they're mellow. Crux to me were the slab moves just before the belay for the Curtain. Take a look "behind" the Curtain for quite a laugh; but just don't fall and potentially break what is one hell of a great pitch, and yes, the pitch after is just as good. I think if you have a super thin and light second rope then rapping the route might be preferred, especially if you dislike steep, gravely bushwacking descents. Route is easily visible from trail once you ascend to a perpendicular vantage, straight across from the route. Side trail is marked by cairns. Slightly old school rating so prepare for some demanding 10.a. About 8.5 hours car to car without dilly dally. Jun 16, 2013
A must do in the Wasatch! The 1st and 2nd pitch can be linked pretty easily. The 3rd pitch (1st pendulum) has a long sling on it. The pendulum into the Zion curtain didn't have any slings on it anymore.

All anchors are fixed with nice new big bolts.

I would recommend climbing Arm and Hammer, then rap down and climb the last 2 pitches of Butcher Knife for a good day.

The leaves are changing so it's time to go climbing! Sep 22, 2013
Spencer Weiler
Salt Lake city
Spencer Weiler   Salt Lake city
Turnoff is 2.8 miles from N. Bells Trailhead. You should be directly south of the route when leaving the trail.

Did this route today, so do yourself a favor, and bring 3-4 #1 camalots for the curtain. the first 60 feet take only this size minus some rare #2 placements, so bring a couple extra and plug away the stress while you lieback this gem. Maybe the flake is expanding, shrinking, or other's memories are poor, but disregard the earlier posts to bring extra of any size other than #1 camalot.

A #4 camalot is pretty helpful though not mandatory for the squeeze on pitch 1.

Pitch 5(the last one) is pretty horrible. Just expect it. The walkoff is just as bad. Just expect it. Oct 27, 2013
Turn off is noted by a clear climbers trail on the left that puts you facing the climb. This occurs as the main trail begins to make a sharp right turn (almost a u-turn/switchback-ish). The last pitch was horrible and not recommend. Rock crumbles under your feet all over the place. I placed a cam, tugged on it, and watched the rock around the lobes disintegrate. The rap down is straightforward and quick (about 30 min.) Oct 26, 2015
Mike Marmar
Salt Lake City, UT
Mike Marmar   Salt Lake City, UT
Excellent route. The free moves coming off the first tension traverse are thin and quite spicy. I fell on those moves and slammed into the dihedral, but landed well and didn't quite break my ankles.

If you don't do the last pitch, you can rap the route in two raps with 2 70m ropes. One rap to the base of the zion curtain pitch, one more rap to the ground. Sep 18, 2016
Matthew Colemere
Alpine, UT
Matthew Colemere   Alpine, UT
Nothing new to be said about the quality of the route, as it's an amazing route in an even more amazing setting. We went off to the left at the end of pitch 5 to the belay in he gully instead of up to the bush. This brought some really fun moves up the initial slab on pitch 6 on a very thin seam, but everything after that was that terrible gritty stuff. Worth it to get the views on top in my opinion.
From the bush on top, one rap to the anchors next to the bush on top of the roof, then a double rope rap to the bottom of the curtain, then another all the way to the ground. The first double rope rap was close with our 70s so knot those ends. Jun 12, 2017
cdawg lion
cdawg lion   BeaUTAHfull
Route info: The SMC bolts at the start and end of the zion curtain have a little play to them. How has the last one not been updated with a newer bolt before the few slab moves? Also if raping down the zion curtain and going to the lower rapel, bring a knife to replace the sunbaked tat. There are only 2 hangers, no chains/gear.
BTW: 3 #2s would be nice on the zion curtain Aug 26, 2017
Charlie S
Ogden, UT
Charlie S   Ogden, UT
Route description:
Walk up the approach gulley as high as you're comfortable.

Pitch 1: Ellsworth-McQuarrie route pitch 1. Loosely follow the dihedral using the face too. End at older, slightly rusted but still good anchors (100ft).

Pitch 2: Ellsworth-McQuarrie route pitch 2. Squeeze into the chimney, grovel, round the bulge and follow the dihedral the rest of the way to the next set of good, shiny anchors (80ft).

Pitch 3: Down climb 15-20 feet and then begin to traverse left. If you are aiding, take the high bolt/sling and swing over to the features which finally open up. If you are freeing, take the lower bolt. Imagine holds, friction, and whatever else it takes to make it. The mantle to the first bolt is heady but not the crux. Hang on and keep paddling until you are rewarded with reasonable holds marking the end of the crux. Continue up to a weird mantle, a slightly easier mantle, and then an easy mantle ending at the pedestal belay. 100ft.

Pitch 4: This is the reason you're here. Free (11c) or pendulum left on to the Zion Curtain. Protect where you can, realizing that the cams are probably useless. How long will this flake be there? Make joyous moves until the curtain ends, clip a bolt, make a few slab moves and end at a bolted anchor (100ft).

Pitch 5: Continue straight up into a crack that widens and then closes. Follow the obvious weaknesses until you get to the handcrack. At the top, traverse left on to the belay in the corner (not recommended) or go straight up and end at a tree with an anchor next to it. You can end here or continue up the "choss runnels" to the top. 130ft.

Descent with a 70m: From the anchor station next to the tree, make a short rappel to shiny ASCA anchors right above the roofs of Butcher.
Rappel from the roof anchors down to the next shiny ASCA anchors in a corner.
Next stop is nice anchors to the right, which are the launch point for Dire Direct. If you've knotted your ends (you should!), make sure they don't get stuck in the dihedral below you. Alternatively, swing over to the top of the Pedestal Belay.
Rappel to the top of the 2nd pitch anchor for Ellsworth. Watch your rope when you pull.
Rappel to the top of the 1st pitch anchor for Ellsworth. Again, watch your rope.
Last rappel and you're in the approach gulley. Sep 20, 2018