The West Canyon routes of Snow Canyon State Park rarely see any action due to Peregrine Falcon closures during a prime part of the climbing season, February 1 through June 1. This is no doubt one of the reasons it offers the most remote climbing in the park, not to mention the longer approach particularly in comparison to Island in the Sky. The West Canyon routes include the most notable of all of Snow Canyon climbing, the ten pitch, 5.10a, “Babes in Thailand” and the seven pitch, 5.11b, “The Cheese Stands Alone”. The best short route in which to scout these routes is the much tamer three pitch Wagassa route which runs up the right side of the perpendicular wall.
Babes in Thailand is another Ron Olevsky St. George classic. This means it is a combination of a stellar pitch (that most would never be willing to investigate enough to find) with some damn chossy and thus run out climbing. The first two pitches are easily combined on easy ground. Same with the third and fourth pitches. The fifth pitch is the before mentioned “stellar” pitch- a completely varnished chimney that you would have no idea was there until you are actually in it. This pitch goes at 5.9 and is reminiscent of Epinephrine’s chimney pitches at Red Rocks. The sixth pitch starts some of the scary climbing on loose and precarious red colored sandstone. Again the sixth and seventh pitches can be easily combined. The eighth pitch is the crux, 5.10aX, pitch of the route for more reasons than one. This is one of the worst quality rock pitches I have had to lead anywhere. It is a tough off width that you force yourself to squeeze through (hope you have a thin frame) because of lack of trust on the crumbling mossy edges out right on the face. The sand covers you as pieces break off at just about every contact point. You can place a .5” that would not hold a fall in my opinion and then you must jam yourself up high to make a very long reach while stuck in the off width to secure a 4” that “might” hold a fall. From there, some more off width sandy stuff leads up until you can traverse left out of this nightmarish crack. The ninth pitch is an easy traverse and the tenth pitch was a 5th class scramble I led without a belay.
Now, all that being said, there is not much beta out there on this route. Todd Goss does not describe the ascent at all in his new guidebook and what little he said in the old one sure did not match the route we did. He does add a small photo topo in the new book. However his descent description is wrong, so obviously he has not climbed the route. It was a last minute climb for us, so I did not search the net ahead of time for beta, although after the fact I did not find much except a photo on Mountain Project that would confirm we both did the same line where any confusion could exist (the crux pitch). This is an excerpt from their experience: “Tony….is wondering if there will be any anchors or gear this time- or if maybe he'll pull out another torso-sized block while 50' runout???” So you get the drift, after the stellar 5th pitch, watch out! We actually scored some bail cams at the bottom of the 5th pitch leading us to believe someone either bailed at the top or bottom of this pitch. We cleaned out the cams, so if you were to bail the route without leaving gear, your last chance would be at the top of the third pitch.
Snow Canyon is a state park of 7100 acres just north of St. George, Utah. The West End has five published routes ranging from 5.8 to 5.11b and offers the most remote climbing in the park. It receives morning sun and afternoon shade. Park at the West Canyon parking trailhead, a significant parking area south of the campground with a restroom building. Hike past the gate along the road until you are up close and personal with the tallest wall in the park on your left side. Leave the trail and aim for a low arch marking the left face of this wall. Start at the right side of this arch.
Route Description1000’+/-, 10 Pitches, 5.10a
1st-2nd Pitches- 60m- 5.6/ Start up the left side of the large flake (right side of an arch). Surmount the flake and instead of taking on the mossy roof above, move right and up on sandy slab. Then aim for the black varnished jugs up and left. Take on the run out, but easy, face climbing up to a piton belay with a comfortable stance.
3rd-4th Pitches- 60m- 5.6/ Climb up and right to avoid the sandy slab run out directly above. Aim for the left corner of a huge arch. Use double length slings if you are going to place any gear through this section. Someone put in quite a few newer (2009) pitons through this section. Take a sharp left when comfortable on easy ground that leads up and into a short dirty chimney. Either belay with gear in this chimney or move out right and belay at the base of the large black varnished wall chimney above.
5th Pitch- 40m- 5.9/ No question this is the money pitch of the day. Take on the beautiful black varnished chimney, wide at the bottom with more of a squeeze at the top. Pro is here and there, but like most chimney climbing it will be a bit run out. Towards the top there is a decent piton on the right wall that you will appreciate as you make several stout stem moves to exit the chimney on the left to a decent ledge with a fixed belay (2009).
6th-7th Pitches- 60m- 5.9/ The only 5.9 climbing is the hard exit move above the chimney. Take on the short off width via suspect rock that protects with a 4”. Mantle up onto much easier angled ground. Follow the right side of the crack maneuvering around several trees on mossy face until you can set up a gear belay to the left of an off width crack in a comfortable alcove with several small trees.
8th-9th Pitches- 60m- 5.10aX/ This is a dangerous pitch. The sandstone is of the typical red chossy sandy variety that makes Snow Canyon a lesser climbing destination than it would be if the rock quality were better. As you start into the off width, sand will fill your eyes, clothes and shoes. There is an obvious constriction about a third of the way up that serves as the crux. You want to use some edges out right on the wall to help, but they disintegrate upon any pressure. It is best to stay in the off width (150lb frame was a struggle) and face out, grabbing a sandstone handle with your right hand and pulling yourself up enough to place a 4” way back in the crack above that hold. Up to that point, all you had was a .5” that sure would not hold a fall. Huge chunks came popping off the outer flake as I tried to stem up to that point. Once you get beyond this and have the 4” secured, you can relax a bit but still are climbing steep off width to just below where it becomes an overhang. At that juncture, traverse out left on easier ground and continue traversing up and left until you find a comfortable belay spot.
10th Pitch- 60m- 5th/ Run up to the top of the buttress a full rope length. I led this last 60m off belay with a few mid 5th class moves. Trees, bushes and a crack await at the top if you need to set up a belay for the 2nd.