[This is part of my vanlife series. I've spent 7 months and 25kmiles on the road in 2 years, exploring and rock climbing around the US]
We spent 10 days in Snow Canyon State Park in St. George, Utah, ticking off climbing firsts for the both of us—which is rather an accomplishment if you know Jeremy’s climbing. We’d been eyeing doing a multipitch climb this trip, which I'd never done, and ended up doing 3: a 2-pitch 5.10a slab, a 4-pitch 5.10c, and a 5-pitch 5.12a that had a section of 12d moves. It was an exhilarating experience but I’m glad to be on the ground or on a single pitch for bit.
Snow Canyon Park
First, a little about Snow Canyon. We’ve had great luck camping at state parks [that aren’t in California] the entire trip—they’ve had camping, hiking, climbing, showers, and are clean. Camping runs around $15-$20/night, sometimes plus entrance fees to put it at $30 a night, so it’s not cheap, but we like supporting state and federal parks. Snow Canyon is a 5-star state park.
The canyon starts off with the iconic sandstone red rock found in the area. Canyon walls range from near vertical, darkened patina rock to rolling red marshmallows you can scramble across. There’s sand dunes, slot canyons, lava tube caves, red and white rock, and climbing in the park. It’s hard to explain, but it’s oddly immaculate like the rest of the St. George area.
Their 30 campsites back up against one side of the canyon walls, each site so tucked away that you have your own private back yard. We lucked out and got the crown jewel of all campsites, a 50’x50’ camping area, a small canyon, perfect sunbathing/meditation slabs, and petroglyphs.
I was taken by the beauty at our campsite. We woke up to a layer of snow on Christmas morning and that night I tried one of my first full moon photos and caught another surreal landscape.
Snow Canyon is also about 30min from other climbing areas like Moe’s, Chuckwalla, and the Virgin River Gorge. We spent a day bouldering at Moe’s where I even got some low traversing and hard first-move pulling off the ground. We attempted a day at the VRG, chose probably the worst limestone route that shouldn’t have even been bolted, we were cold, and the view right off the freeway was too much of a stark contrast to Snow Canyon that we called it after 30min. I did my first 12a, though, at Chuckwalla wall! It was the first time that we've gone back to a wall this trip. Yay, check that one off the list!
Climbing in Snow Canyon Park
Inside Snow Canyon, the ambiance is tempered by below average rock quality. If the rock quality were better, it’d be a true climbing destination. It’s red choss with some black patina; we broke holds or feet from about 75% of the climbs we were on, but the movement was great. There’s a couple hundred established routes, about equally split sport vs trad, and quite a few bolted multipitch.
Our first multipitch was Confused Groundhog, a 5.10a 2-pitch slab. The first pitch was really great, one of the most fun slabs I've done, but the second was scary even on toprope. While belaying, I took more than a few facefuls of sand from Jeremy's feet, humming tunes to myself along the order of “desert sand come raining down on me.” I did a terrifying above-head thumb meathook on a teardrop size sandstone crystal, then thumb-mantled off it with a high sketchy foot I had just manufactured, all the while praying my toe wouldn’t pop and slam my knee brace into the wall. Type II fun and forced me to trust slab.
Our big day was a 5-pitch 5.12a, The Richness of it All. It's that much more of an accomplishment since Jeremy had never done a multipitch that hard before. It was hard on us mostly for the elements—it was freezing (literally) for most of the climb, and we only got about an hour of sun relief. The views are amazing.
- Pitch 1: 5.2 ramp
- Pitch 2: 5.11a. There was one move at the beginning that was V4/11.d-ish if you’re under 5’5”.
- Pitch 3: 5.12a. Big flake broken off with a bail biner. V6/12d-ish moves for a bolt. Would be difficult to pull through in the middle of the pitch. Techy to figure out.
- Pitch 4: 5.11c
- Pitch 5: 5.11c spiraling arete. Absolutely amazing and worth the whole climb. Midway you do a mantle onto a point with nothing but 400 feet of air below you. But I did pull out an 18”x6” rock.
Not a common sight.
The spiraling arete you climb this for.
Expression says everything? Candid photo at the ground.
GoPro timelapse of the whole climb.
Are you in the Utah area? Check out my other articles for photo inspiration to explore!