Parowan Gap is a quiet remote crag located due west of Parowan, UT. The gap is more popular for its petroglyphs, than climbing, which are featured in most of the local tourist rags. That being said, you still normally find yourself alone on the ranch road out to the gap. They named the wall, hidden to the right of the significant Parowan Gap feature, Roller Rink because “it is a bit of a roller derby to get to the base”. However, the cobblestones are really not difficult to navigate to get to the base of the wall.
This might go down as about the weirdest rock I have ever climbed on. A combination of welded tuff (hardened volcanic ash) and round river rock cobblestones (conglomerate cliffs= rock consisting of individual stones that have become cemented together) make for some very interesting climbing. It reminds me some of Solstice Wall in that the upper grades are interesting because looking up while on the vertical routes, the moves are not obvious as there are so many “fake” options. What you see is a ton of cobblestones sticking out of the sediment, and of course you do not always know which ones give you any purchase. Solstice Wall is a completely different kind of rock, textured limestone, but gives the same illusion when you get past 5.10b. Trusting these cobblestones for the first time is also a test of sorts. You can clearly witness where they have pulled out of the wall.
Climbing development at Parowan Gap started in the mid-90’s. Parowan Gap has 18 published routes and quite a few unnamed routes as of 2007. Roller Rink is a small wall to the far right (not seen from the road) which has four routes that fall into the shade by 4:00 PM during mid summer. At 6000’, this phenomenon makes the Roller Rink somewhat bearable. For whatever reason, the fly population is persistent at this crag, despite being as arid of desert conditions as any other crag in southwest Utah.
Routes are Listed Right to Left, North to South
Coyote Waits- 5.8- 75’-
I thought all the grades were soft here, particularly this one. It was my first time on conglomerate cliffs like this, so I was still fairly tentative leading it. But the holds and pockets are huge. Eight, not seven as the guide books suggests, bolts to anchor.
Obie Wan Shinobe- 5.10d- 75’-
A fun play on words no doubt. The chain station is so close to Coyote you can top rope it if you want. But if you are a 5.10 climber at all, you should take it. I don’t see the 5.10d move. Went at an easier grade for me. The crux move is early where it is a little overhanging and then another short challenging move towards the end. Nine bolts to a rap hanger and a chain hanger.
The Stoning- 5.10b- 75’-
The Stoning was as difficult as Obie I thought. Kind of difficult to find the right cobblestones at the angle you are given. There is a key small cobblestone whose top is broken and thus gives you a solid hold when you need it early on the right. The pitch is real laid back after that, but offers another short challenge at the top before the anchor. You can move right and rap on Obie’s chain when you are done with the route. Nine bolts to anchor.
Unnamed- 5.10c- 75’-
Someone threw up a new route to the left of the above three original routes of Roller Rink. It is the most challenging route on the wall. It contains somewhat sparser cobblestone selection than the other three routes. Again, tougher during the first half of the pitch. Say nine bolts to anchor, I forget the exact count.
A 50m rope will do for the Roller Rink wall. 10 draws. Some of the rap hangers are loose. Check your anchors. I saw no trad routes worth pursuing here. Remember, you are over 3000’ higher than Saint George, so if you are visiting Parowan Gap in the early spring or late fall, or even winter, bring a decent jacket. It would be possible to climb here on a sunny and warm winter day, it is pretty dry.
Take either of the Parowan exits and head east into town keeping an eye out for the BLM petroglyph sign on main street. Head west on Gap Road out of town. It is a remote, but paved, farming road that heads for the obvious gap. Pass a white sands dry lake bed on your right and continue as the significant cliffs of Parowan Gap come into clear view. The guide book references parking on the south side, but there is a dirt road on the north side that takes you to the start of the trail up the right side of the feature to reach Roller Rink wall which is hidden from view. Parowan Gap is approximately 11 miles out of town.
Raptors were screeching at us in early July, however the only visible nest we saw appeared to be vacated (left hand corner). I would suggest staying off of the Roller Rink from March through June which is their nesting season in southwest Utah.
The BLM manages nearly 22.9 million acres of public lands in Utah, representing about 42 percent of the state. The regulations regarding most BLM land are fairly wide open compared to State and Federal parks.
When to Climb
July is really to hot to climb here, but that is when we climbed the Roller Rink routes. Shade factors in about 4:00PM in July for Roller Rink. Most routes at Parowan Gap would be too hot no matter the time of day.
Cedar City has several private campgrounds and quite a few newer hotels. Country Aire RV Park Campground is located at 1700 North Main. They are open all year and have 18 tent sites, a ton of trailer sites, flush toilets, showers, etc. Cedar City KOA claims to be the #1 KOA rated campground in Utah and is located at 1121 North Main. The National Forest Service operates several campgrounds in the Markagunt Plateau area, but they are only open during the summer.
""You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.""