A few weeks earlier I had been flipping through Beckey's 100 Favorite NA Climbs and found The Thumb in Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT. The S-Direct route looked like an adventurous 9+ and would enable us to get in ~10 pitches of climbing up a really cool formation.
We got a pre-dawn start and brisk temps greeted us at the trailhead. Fortunately, it was pretty much straight uphill from the parking area so we warmed up quickly.
S-Direct begins from Lunch Ledge, 4 pitches up the wall. We started our approach climb on The Standard Thumb (5.7) for two pitches and then moved to Indecent Exposure (5.7) for two more pitches to the start of S-Direct. It was a fun mix of somewhat wandering stemming, squeeze and hand cracks to reach the base of a large wall.
After turning the corner, 3 pitches of thin slabs begin. The Tuolumne-esque bolting - close enough to keep you (somewhat) safe but far enough that you really, really don't want to fall - kept us very focused.
The slabs eventually taper off and some scrambling brought us to a notch that set us up for the final traversing pitch to the summit of The Thumb.
After several bushwhacking rappels and some scrambling, we arrived back at the base of the climb then somehow got off-route on the descent, leading to more bushwhacking. But we were stoked with the climb and headed off to Park City to celebrate at the High West Distillery.
While I had to fly back to the Bay Area on Sunday evening, we committed to getting in a full day of alpine adventure on Sundial Peak in Big Cottonwood Canyon. With a 3-mile, 3000-foot elevation gain approach and 4-5 pitches of climbing it wouldn't disappoint.
The approach hike was a long, sweaty march. However, our chosen route (Eleventh Hour) ascended an arete on the north face, and with a starting elevation over 9K feet, my hands quickly went numb as I led the first pitch. After two pitches of alpine 5.8 (climb-anywhere style up loose and broken rock), we arrived at a huge ledge. We moved the belay along the ledge to the base of a broken dihedral ~50 yards to the right.
Near the top of this dihedral is a ledge where you need to do a big no-holds, feet-smearing mantle. Stupidly, I tried to move around it on crappy holds, blew a foot and sliced open my hand catching my fall on the lip of the ledge. With blood running down my palm I committed to the mantle (which turned out not to be very difficult afterall) and stopped to patch myself up before belaying Geoff up to the ledge.
We topped out around 1pm and picked our way south over the loose shards of the summit ridge to the rappel trees. Two raps later we touched down and scrambled and talus-skied back to the base. Lake Blanche turned out to be a popular hike and we passed a lot of day hikers on the way out. Thankfully, we made it back with just enough time for me to shower before getting on my flight, narrowly avoiding being 'that guy' who stunk up the plane. Sundial was a full value outing and the setting and rock character reminded me a lot of Crystal Crag in Mammoth, albeit a longer and slightly more difficult version. And it was the perfect capstone to Bros Trip VI. I am already looking forward to next year!