OverviewThis route is a stellar, multi-pitch, trad climb, in one of the most beautiful corners of the Central Wasatch Mountains. This route can be as long as 5 pitches, if every belay station is used; yet with a 60m rope, we did the route comfortably in 3 pitches. The route climbs the north face of Sundial Peak to join the north summit ridge. The north summit ridge scramble can be taken to the north summit and/or the true summit.
If you reach Lake Blanche by sunrise, this route can be comfortably climbed in the morning, leaving ample time to get back down to Lake Blanche before early afternoon thunderstorms. Many parties use an alpine start at the parking lot and do this climb in a single push. My advice? Don't rush the experience. Hike up to Lake Blanche the afternoon before, catch the sunset and alpenglow on Sundial Peak, sleep under the stars on the glacier-polished stone, filter delicious, ice-cold water in the morning, then climb the north face refreshed in the cool, morning air. Ah, it's a phenomenal experience!
"The trailhead is located in Big Cottonwood Canyon. To reach Big Cottonwood Canyon take the 6200 S exit off Interstate 215 and follow the signs east for the Brighton/Solitude ski resorts. The trailhead is located 4.5 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon from the intersection of Wasatch Blvd at the mouth of the canyon. There is a parking lot on the righthand side of the road. This parking lot also serves as the trailhead for the Broad's Fork approach to Twin Peaks, Sunrise, & Dromedary peaks. The trail is located just past the restrooms on the east side of the lot and follows a paved trail for 1/4 of a mile."
This trailhead is also known as the "S Curves" parking lot, and it is will be relatively obvious why this is when you get to it. Follow the paved trail slightly uphill from the sign at the end of the parking lot. The trail then takes a right up a hill, off the main paved portion of the path.
From rmjwinters: "The trail climbs steadily for 2 miles and then steepens for the last 1 mile to Lake Blanche. The trail is well maintained to the lake."
Once you reach the lake, it will be slightly to your right and straight ahead. There will be a trail heading around the left side of the lake (the close side, obviously in the direction of Sundial Peak's North Face). Take this trail up and over a small rise and then back down among some brush. At some point there will be a junction of sorts....take the trail to the right and downhill, which will lead to a stream crossing. Early in the season, when snow still covers this area, you may have to pick a different route across the stream. This is the general idea though. Cross the stream and head straight up the slope, directly for Sundial's North Face (the obvious face visible from the lake). This will be covered with snow well into June, but will be entirely clear by August in my personal experience. Once you reach the north wall, follow it right (west) and go around a prominent corner until you are looking up at the Northwest Face or West Face. From the lake this is a 30 minute scramble according to the Ruckman guidebook, but can be done quicker if you are carrying a light load.
Pitch 1: Start off at the base of the north face between the two small groupings of pine trees near north arete (see route photos). The first pitch is a stout 5.6 with sparse protection. There is an anchor about 100-feet up next to a small green bush that sticks out from the stone. It's the only large bush sticking out, so aim for that and you know you're on route. 80-feet above the bush you reach the "large ledge" mentioned in guidebooks. There is a large anchor on this ledge. Some descriptions call is first section two pitches. I'll call it one, 180-foot pitch.
Between Pitch 1 and Pitch 2, traverse west (right) on the large ledge to a low-angle gully with a few bushes growing in it. Some parties might belay this traverse. Most climbers will feel comfortable walking unprotected along the ledge.
Pitch 2: Scramble up the gully and the face will gradually regain a steep pitch. There is a large roof hanging over the gully, climb left of the roof onto the slab. Most parties climb up the left side of the slab; yet some choose the dihedral on the right of the slab. This is 5.8 climbing. Atop the slab is a nice, flat ledge with an anchor.
Pitch 3: From this nice, flat ledge, continue straight up the face through the finger cracks, then angle right around the roof. After climbing around the right side of the roof, follow a crack system near the north arete to the top. In my opinion the climbing below the roof is 5.8. Above the roof is 5.7. Some descriptions call this last section two pitches, by setting up a belay station above the roof. With a 60m rope you can easily make it to the top in one pitch.
At the top of the technical route, you're remaining options are described in "The Descent" section.
The DescentThere are four descent options:
1. Rappel directly back down the Eleventh Hour route on the north face. This is a fast descent if you get hit by a storm. Otherwise, using this route for descent will probably bother other parties on their ascent. If you have a 60m rope, this will take 5 single-rope rappels.
2. From the boulders at the top of the route, scramble south along the summit ridge toward the north summit of Sundial Peak. Look to your left (east) and you'll see a ramp that angles down toward groupings of pine trees. From the summit ridge you can see slings around the pine trees. Three single-rope rappels will get you down. Then hike north to Lake Blanche.
3. Scramble along the summit ridge to the top of Sundial's north summit. Continue beyond the north summit toward the true summit, and about one-third of the way to the true summit, you'll see a climber's trail winding it's way down the west (right) side of peak. This is an easy 2nd-3rd class downclimb/hike. The trail switchbacks multiple times and places you on the scree slope at the base of Sundial's west face. From the scree slope, hike north back to Lake Blanche.
4. Scramble all the way to the true summit with the summit register. Then scramble south down the summit ridge to an easy 2nd-3rd class gully that meets the hanging valley on the west face of Sundial Peak. From here, hike north back to Lake Blanche.
Essential Gear60m rope if you want to make it 3-pitches. Full set of nuts, cams from C3: #00-#2 to C4: #.4-#2 (BD Camalot sizing). Lots of long slings to minimize rope drag.
The obvious essentials: helmet, belay device, harness, water, etc.