Stairway to Heaven (not to be confused with Highway to Heaven in Joes Valley which I have climbed as well) is described in David Black’s Utah Ice guide book as “considered by most Utah climbers to be the state’s finest ice climb”. Jim Knight and Mark Ward put in the first published account of the climb in 1975, completing the first four pitches. Lou Dawson and George Vicenzi completed the climb, as we did, in 1976, the first five pitches. Compared to the many routes I have climbed in the Canadian Rockies, Stairway to Heaven had an uncanny resemblance to Professor Falls (III, WI 4) near Banff which is my local “lap climb” when based out of Canmore. We arrived in Provo at about noon and had no intention to jumping on Stairway to Heaven for our first route of a mid week romp, but when we arrived at the parking area and observed how easy the approach was to all the climbing, we went ahead and knocked it out during a fairly warm January afternoon.
The guide book speaks of potentially seven pitches, Mountain Project, 10 pitches. In January of 2010, we required only five pitches to reach the top of the ice that was in. I ran the first pitch (aka the Apron) a full 200’ up two curtains, belaying into the base of the third curtain. Our 2nd pitch took us 100’ up a very pleasant WI 4 pitch to a tree on the left hand side. Our 3rd pitch sent an easy curtain up to a broad ledge and over to a tree on the right hand side below the only ice covering the long overhung wall on top of the ledge. The 4th pitch was a fun, albeit short WI 4 curtain gaining the top of this wall. The 5th pitch was an easy 100’ WI 5 pillar in good shape in mid January. Any remaining pitches above this pillar were void of ice in mid January, 2010.
Mountain Project rates this climb WI 5+ R, 10 pitches. Not sure who has climbed those last pitches (above seven), but assume since there is no description of them on MP, that they are rather unremarkable. We found the route well protected through the first five pitches at all times.
Pull off at Nunn’s park on the right side of US 189. Park on the right side of US 189 and walk through the gate onto a road heading east. Stairway to Heaven is fairly immediate. We started in the woods following tracks on the right side of the gully and crossed below the climb to access the left shoulder of the gully. Some folks were top roping the right side, and I believe that is a better start to this climb.
DescentWe made a double rope rap off of bolts at the top of the 5th pitch. Another double rope rap from bolts at the top of the 4th pitch. Another double rope rap from the top of the 3rd pitch (tree) and then walked off the route to skiers left, via one small down climb.
Tips for ProvoThe new (2009) Springhill Suites by Marriott (across from the BYU stadium) has a $75 rate if you are creative enough to get it (free breakfast). Perfect location (closest) to day trip it into the canyon and party with the college kids at night. Ate at a neat little Peruvian place named Se Llama Peru on W. Center Street. My younger partner had a hard time buying college Mormon chicks drinks at the bars, wait, what bars?
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