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Penitentiary Wall

Routes Sorted
L to R R to L Alpha
Cell Life T,TR 
Climb and Punishment T,TR 
Climbs and Misdemeanors TR 
County Lockup T 
Deception TR 
Jack the Ripper T,TR 
Jailbait T 
Life Sentence T,TR 
Minimum Security T,TR 
Possession T 
Rehabilitation T 
Repeat Offender T 
S&M / B&D T 
Speed is of the Essence T 
Sticky Zipper T 
Tax Evasion T 
Three Strikes T 

Penitentiary Wall Rock Climbing 

Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Location: 40.6221, -111.7634 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 11,389
Administrators: Andrew Gram, Perin Blanchard, grk10vq, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Adam Broadbent on Dec 29, 2001
You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
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BETA PHOTO: 1) Rehabilitation 2) Deception 3) Life Sentence...


All routes are trad and are on the finest quartzite rock. There are many moderate routes that are fantastic for the beginner to intermediate climber (5.7-5.9+), all offer protection that is superb and plentiful. On the more demanding routes (5.10R and above) the protection is small and a little tricky to place, but secure once fitted correctly. Most routes follow obvious cracks and all have some sort of rappel at the top (bring some ditch webbing in case the old rap anchors are crusty). The area is best in the summer, but can be climbed in fall (snow permitting). Not much for camping offered nearby, but for the truly determined camping is allowed anywhere within a quarter mile from Big Cottonwood river, no fires.

Getting There 

This crag lies on the south side of Big Cottonwood Canyon, above the Ledgemere Picnic area. Drive 1.4 miles past the neon sign at the mouth of the canyon, park at the camp or along the road to avoide paying a $2 fee that is enforced during the summer. To get to the crag, walk across the bridge into Ledgemere camp and head east (left) until an obvious high traffic talus slope presents itself wandering up the south side of the canyon. Follow the loose talus for two hundred yards or so, then break left (east) into a gully, (blue spray paint marks the mouth of the gully thanks to some obvious losers) . The routes are on the north facing wall, spread along it for a hundred yards or so.

Climbing Season

Weather station 1.1 miles from here

17 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',0],['3 Stars',3],['2 Stars',10],['1 Star',3],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Penitentiary Wall

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Penitentiary Wall:
Climb and Punishment   5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 50'   
Jailbait   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Penitentiary Wall

Featured Route For Penitentiary Wall
Rock Climbing Photo: Rx

Jack the Ripper 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Utah : Wasatch Range : ... : Penitentiary Wall
On the right side of the Life Sentence slab is a thin edger's dream. This beautiful route climbs micro edges 6 feet left of the arete with no pro until about 18 feet off the ground. Here the pro (micro) starts, but the climbing gets a bit more technical. Very thin, very balancey, and a couple of razor blade holds that cut at your fingertips. A very enjoyable route. :) The climb eases and the gear gets better higher up, as Life Sentence joins back into this route. An easy (5.8) finish awaits...[more]   Browse More Classics in Utah

Photos of Penitentiary Wall Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Left to Right Sticky Zipper 5.9+ Climb and Punishm...
BETA PHOTO: Left to Right Sticky Zipper 5.9+ Climb and Punishm...
Rock Climbing Photo: newer bolt anchors
BETA PHOTO: newer bolt anchors
Rock Climbing Photo: Penitentiary Wall w/o lines
BETA PHOTO: Penitentiary Wall w/o lines

Comments on Penitentiary Wall Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 6, 2016
By Nathan Fisher
Jun 27, 2004
Actually, camping is permitted as long as it is "more" than "1/2" mile from the road.
By Charlie S
From: Ogden, UT
Aug 27, 2012
Note that there are two bridges! If you park across from the picnic area and cross the bridge there (up canyon), this is the WRONG BRIDGE. It's apparent that many a climber has taken the talus field behind it and ended up wandering around for nothing.

Use the down canyon bridge, next to the pit toilets (where the regular parking is on the south side of the road). After crossing the down canyon bridge, go left, and follow that obvious talus field.

If you take the up canyon bridge, go right after crossing, not straight across to the slope.
By nschweitz
May 17, 2013
Latitude: 40 37 19.7 N

Longitude: 111 45 48.7 W
By Garrett C
From: SL,UT
May 15, 2014
Honestly, we struggled finding this wall even with Charlie S's description. He is partially correct - cross the lower (more west bridge) and you will pass straight through campsite #5. Continue directly straight past the site and up the talus field directly behind it. It's a pretty steep trail, and took us about 15 minutes to get up it. We just kept going straight and eventually hit the wall (never found any graffiti or blue paint). If anything, the wall was more on the right side (west). Nice wall away from all the crowds. Seemed to be several mixed routes, but mostly trad.
By Loumade
Jun 3, 2016
Garret C. is spot on. Find site #5 and go up the hill. There isn't a defined trail until you're almost at the wall.
By Seth Reelitz
From: Utah
Jun 30, 2016
My buddy and I collected a ton of trash on the approach today, mostly beer cans (coors light, that great American brew). I highly doubt this trail of trash is from climbers that are using the crag. Unfortunately a lot of this refuse is up the hill from the picnic areas and it could easily associated with climbers. If you can, do everyone a favor and pack out what the ignorant picnic warriors find impossible to do.
By Crag Turkey
From: Holladay, UT
Jul 11, 2016
Great area, especially so for those wanting to get better at plugging gear! Stacks of splitters that are very inviting. I also find it fairly unique in comparison to other areas up BCC. stomach the short but not so memorable approach, as it is worth the solitude.
By rging
From: Salt Lake City, Ut
Aug 31, 2016
I would like to thank the arrogant elitist ass who saw fit to chop all of the bolts on the first two routes up there. You just couldn't leave others to their fun without imposing your sense of justice on the climbing world. Next time I go up there I will chop all the anchor chains and you can do all the climbs as a down climb walk off.
By bus driver
Aug 31, 2016
It's been a long time since I've been there but I don't recall any routes with bolts. Were the bolts new?
By John Rogers
Aug 31, 2016
This topic was discussed Here.

I believe Allen Sanderson gives an accurate description of why this action was taken.

RGING, I hope this helps you understand.
By Tofu Brain
From: Denver
Aug 31, 2016
I was going to post that topic but got distracted, thanks for that John. RGING, its ok, you always have dogwood.
By madmardy
Sep 6, 2016
Even with the "Getting There" section and above comments, I went to Penitentiary Wall yesterday and didn't find them to be an exact description of how to get there. If my friends hadn't already been there to yell back at me, I doubt I would have found it. So here's my contribution:

Yes, park across the street from the Ledgemere entrance. I'm not sure why everyone says to use the "downcanyon" (west) bridge, since you walk about 30 yards west from the entrance to get there, then you walk about 30 yards back up to get to site #5. If you use the bridge that is right near the entrance ("upcanyon" or east) you will be right there. No biggie either way. Incidentally, this is a picnic ground and not a campground. Site numbers are painted on the ground near the tables.

Behind picnic site #5, you should go straight south (away from the road). There is no obvious trail, because the area is extremely well trodden, and the "trail" is about as wide as a street. It ascends a slippery area with a lot of trees. This is the short way, and you will veer to the east (left) as you climb.

If you take the path that looks like a trail to the east from site #5, you will be climbing up almost a staircase-like path on rock, and this is the way that leads to the blue-painted graffiti. If you see that graffiti, you need to pop up over the ridge above it and then go directly south (right turn) over another one. This will drop you in at the top of Penitentiary Wall. This is the long way, and the trail sort of disappears near the top, but you can see the anchors along the top of Penitentiary wall if you are looking in the right place.

The Beta Photo at the top of the Penitentiary Wall page is actually a pretty good indication of what the crag looks like from the street. If you identify it from there, it should allow you to get your bearings and make the short hike quick and painless.

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