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The Cheesebox 

YDS: Easy 5th French: 1+ Ewbanks: 3 UIAA: I ZA: 5 British: M 1c

Type:  Trad, 1 pitch, 200'
Original:  YDS: Easy 5th French: 1+ Ewbanks: 3 UIAA: I ZA: 5 British: M 1c [details]
FA: John Middendorf, early 90's
Page Views: 829
Submitted By: Tristan Higbee on Nov 27, 2011

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The Cheesebox

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  • Description 

    This is a short, loose, uninspiring climb up a cool formation in the middle of nowhere. It’s a fun diversion and another summit (and a funky one at that) to tick if you’re on your way to Mexican Hat.

    Though total height gained on the route is a couple hundred feet, there's only 30 or 40 feet of actual climbing.

    The approach is the crux.

    Getting There 

    Drive south from Hanksville for ~74.8 miles (between mile markers 74 and 75) on Highway 95 and turn left (north) on a faint dirt road. Drive it as far as you feel comfortable; the trailhead is about .4 miles up the dirt road, so walking it isn’t a big deal. At the end of the dirt road (where it overlooks White Canyon and you have a clear view of The Cheesebox), you’ll find a trailhead marked with a few cairns.

    Approach, Climb, and Descent 


    Follow the cairns and faint trail down and left. If you lose the trail, look for cairns. You should always be able to see the next cairn or section of trail. The trail will then cut right for a while as it parallels the canyon and some cliff bands. The trail (or cairns) will then cut down through the cliff band you’ve been walking above and head back left (parallel to the canyon but in the opposite direction you were just going). Going through the cliff band will require some easy class 3ish scrambling. Pay attention to this point, as it’s easy to miss on the way back. You might want to take a picture of the turn and surrounding area so that you don’t miss it.

    The trail will take you down to the bottom of White Canyon, right where Cheesebox Canyon comes in to meet it. (There usually is no water flowing in the canyon, though you might see isolated pools and potholes.) At the right side of the mouth of Cheesebox Canyon you’ll see some large bushes. Head toward the bushes and you’ll reach a small corner with a log or two propped up in it. Climb up it.

    You’ll now need to head right, looking for weaknesses in the cliff bands above you. So you don’t get lost on your way back, you might want to make your own cairns through this section if you don’t see any others. I had to do a 5th class mantle to make it through the final cliff band to the canyon rim.

    Now just head toward The Cheesebox. There is a ton of cryptobiotic soil everywhere, so the going will be slow as you do your best to avoid it. Try to stick to the shallow streambeds. The route goes up the side of The Cheesebox that faces away from you as you’re approaching the formation. See beta photo to locate the route.


    Scramble 10’ up a 4th class section, then walk right to the smooth slab of the 4th class traverse section. After the slab, you’ll be facing the short corner that leads to the top. Gingerly climb past the choss at the bottom to the better rock at the crux. Use nice incut edges to get on top.

    Hike up the slope to the funky summit block. A few 4th/5th class moves and you’re on top.


    Downclimb the summit block and hike back down to where the lower climbing section topped out. If you brought a rope, rappel 60’ from a solid bush. Otherwise, downclimb the route.


    Experienced climbers will feel comfortable soloing and then downclimbing the route. Another option is to solo up and rappel down (there is a large bush with a couple slings around it). Otherwise a rope and a few small (tips to off-fingers) cams should protect the crux moves. Just know that the rock is crumbly and the cams might not hold.

    Photos of The Cheesebox Slideshow Add Photo
    Rock Climbing Photo: Funky summit block, with a Nalgene bottle for scal...
    BETA PHOTO: Funky summit block, with a Nalgene bottle for scal...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Overview map.
    BETA PHOTO: Overview map.
    Rock Climbing Photo: The crux.
    BETA PHOTO: The crux.
    Rock Climbing Photo: The route
    BETA PHOTO: The route

    Comments on The Cheesebox Add Comment
    Show which comments
    By Tristan Higbee
    From: Ogden, UT
    Nov 27, 2011

    Regarding the rating... I read somewhere online that this climb was 5.5 (and the guy used ropes and gear on it). Since desert 5.5 can be like local crag 5.9++, I took a rope and light rack with me to the base of the route. Once I saw the climb, though, I dumped them and soloed up and down the thing. I’m not a particularly bold soloist, but I felt comfortable with it. The rock's a bit crumbly, but the climbing is super easy.

    Also, I got slightly lost in White Canyon on the way to AND from The Cheesebox. Make sure you pay attention to where you’re going...

    More pics, a TR, and a one page printable PDF with all the beta on it here.

    Also, topo maps refer to the thing as The Cheesebox. A sign on the road pointing to it calls it Cheese Box Mesa (or Butte). Desert Rock IV calls it The Cheese Box.

    And it's not actually located in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, but between GCNRA and Valley of the Gods.
    By RoadTripRyan
    From: Salt Lake City, UT
    Apr 25, 2012

    I think you used my route description. ( ) You seem to be doing a lot of the trips from my site these days.

    It was traditionally rated 5.5 in the Desert Rock guidebook I have. Could definitely be soloed, but the rock is poor. A few pieces seem prudent for moderate leaders. I know of at least 2 groups that went to the base without gear, and backed off.
    By Tristan Higbee
    From: Ogden, UT
    Apr 25, 2012

    Yep, I sure did use your beta for this route and have for some other trips, too (namely U-Turn Canyon and Parriott Mesa). I often find yours and other people's beta incomplete at best and inaccurate at worst, as others likely find mine. Tis the nature of beta and the benefit of having multiple writeups and descriptions.

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