Where to start….three experienced climbers bored and looking for something new. In less time we could have easily run to Red Rock for a sunny day out or even made it to Joe’s Valley for much better ice climbing. Instead we drove the 2.5 hours to Marysvale, then skied another 1.5 hours over downed trees and finally post holed for an additional 20 minutes to the base of Cascade Falls beyond the historic Bullion Canyon ghost mining town. All this effort for a quick solo jaunt up 500’ of intermittent WI 3 waterfall ice covered in four feet of fresh powder in February. The only salvation of the trip came at the end of the day when we drove the opposite direction of home for the infamous (could there be a better word for this place?) Mystic Hot Springs. Mystic Mike’s disclaimer said it all: Mystic Hot Springs is a one of a kind place. You will not find it anywhere else. Some say it's like stepping back in time to the 60's or 70's. Things are imperfect. We realize that there's a lot we could do to improve it. We understand that things are always changing. We have learned to appreciate it for what it is at this moment. Smoking and drinking Jamaica brew at Mystic definitely got my 70’s buzz on.
Unfortunately, from the climbing perspective (two out of the three of us calling it the worst ice climb in our lives to date), I let Zach get carried away in the remote pages of David Black’s Utah ice climbing Falcon guide. Way back on page 177 he describes two climbs in the Tushar Mountains (3rd highest in the state-Unita and LaSal), Cascade and Bullion Falls. Tushar Mountains are managed by the Beaver Ranger District in Fishlake National Forest. Our original plan was to do both routes, but by the time we got done with the snow slog up Cascade, we were all quite willing to ski on out and make for the hot springs. Zach had been up this remote winter canyon several weeks prior but fell short of finding either route before his friends with him on that trip declared mutiny. On this second try, we found it pretty straight away...of course both of my partners had the latest in satellite technology.
From Marysvale, UT (US 89), turn west on Center Street and follow it to Bullion Canyon Road (dirt). Follow Bullion Canyon Road to where it no longer is maintained in the winter. David mentions nice tracks laid down by snow mobile traffic in his book, but we saw no evidence of this in February, 2011. No one had cut the down trees all winter either, so our ski in was interrupted by hopping over a tree from time to time. It did not take long to reach deep snow. You follow Pine Creek to a fork. Take the left fork across a bridge which is the main road. It really is not that difficult to locate Cascade Falls. Once you meander through the old ghost town along Bullion Canyon, you will come to an old wrecked bridge (2011) at the first real drainage. That is Cascade Creek. Follow it up (south) about 500’ in distance to the base of the first ice (WI2). Go the opposite direction from the old wrecked bridge for Bullion Falls.
Route Description500’ +/-, WI 3/ The entire Cascade Falls route was under heavy snow in February 2011 and showed no traffic, either on approach or the route itself. We soloed the entire route until the first member reached the melted out portion of the last pitch. I have seen worse, but it was flowing under the crown and the ice was thin. The climb is basically broken up into three pitches, which did not come anywhere near 500’ in elevation which leads me to believe the guidebook is referencing total gain from the old bridge. The first pitch was 100’ even and can be rapped with a single 60m rope from a large tree on climbers left. It was well insulated with snow and quite mushy and wet in places. Continue hiking up the drainage and soon the upper two sections come into full view to the left. The first section is another 100’ even up to a small tree we used for a rap. This section was relatively dry and offered a fairly quick and decent solo jaunt. The last section is the best piece when fully formed no doubt. The left and right side offered the steeper ice, but neither were in good condition in February. The middle offers a variety of WI 3 sections split up with significant steps/rests. As you crest the top of the fall, be careful not to fall in. The ice was quite thin under the heavy snow in February and we broke through a large section. Continue up to a tree. This rappel is a full 100’, climbers left which puts you to a comfortable place to walk to the next rap.
Make three full 100’s raps from trees. The middle rap was done from a young tree that could easily go missing, so be prepared to down climb WI 3 for a few meters if you have to rap from a larger tree up slope with a single 60m rope. Taking a 70m rope would eliminate any down climbing at all on this route.
External LinksMystic Hot Springs
Bullion Canyon Ghost Town
Hidden Haven, WI 3-4, Parowan, UT
Cedarcicle, WI 5, Cedar City, UT
Kanarraville Falls, WI 4+, Kanarraville, UT
Zicicle, WI 5, Zion National Park, UT