Sundial Peak is the prominent peak located directly behind popular Lake Blanche in the Twin Peaks area of the Central Wasatch Mountains. From the western side of Lake Blanche, the peak resembles the gnomon of a sundial, and from that it gains its name. From areas east of the lake this mountain reveals two peaks. The one more south (the one on the left when looking in a southern direction) is the taller of the two peaks at 10,320 ft and is the peak that houses a summit register inside a mailbox.
Following the Lake Blanche Approach, as outlined in the "Getting There" section below requires approximately 4,200 vertical feet of climbing and about 4 miles (one-way) of hiking to reach the peak. Most fit climbers will allow one and a half hours to reach the lake and about two more hours to reach the summit.
The summit of Sundial peak is most commonly climbed via its western aspect from Hanging Canyon. However the east aspect does offer a few options for those inclined to tolerate a greater degree of risk. One of those options is describe below, and is unofficially referred to as the Crazy Man Couloir.
You will not see the name "The Crazy Man Couloir" labeled as such on any maps nor in most guide books, however this gap between the two peaks, a pseudo couloir really, is evident in most pictures of Sundial Peak. As the story goes the name comes from a group of three Utah County adventure seekers who set out one spring day to climb Sundial Peak. Upon reaching Lake Blanche one of the three suggested to the others that they try to find a route up the east aspect, and the crack between the two peaks seemed like a logical place to start. Having success with the experimental route and looking back at the mountain from Lake Blanche on the descent, two of the climbers proclaimed "that was crazy man", to which the third replied then that is what we should call it, and as such The Crazy Man Couloir name was born.
Getting ThereThe Lake Blanche trailhead is located in Big Cottonwood Canyon. From I-15 in Salt Lake City take I-215 South until you reach the 6200 South exit. Turn right onto Wasatch Boulevard, then left into Big Cottonwood Canyon. Big Cottonwood Canyon is the home of Brighton and Solitude ski resorts. Drive 4.4 miles up the canyon, where you will reach an S-turn. At the lower bend of the S-turn is a parking lot on the right hand side of the road (look for the Mill B South signs). The trailhead begins at the east end of the parking lot.
Route DescriptionThe trailhead begins at the east end of the parking lot, see the "Getting There" section above. The trail is paved for the first 0.25 miles. At the terminus of the paved trail the Lake Blanche Trail is clearly marked. From here, follow the Lake Blanche Trail for approximately 2.75 miles to Lake Blanche. This trail is well traveled and clearly marked. Once you reach the lake the route is no longer well-define and, as such, requires some route finding skills.
Once at Lake Blanche continue to head south staying on the east side (the left-side) of the Lake, and approach the mountain keeping it on your right hand side. Your goal is to reach the gap between the North and South peaks of Sundial. At approximately N 40.59963 W 111.68635 and 9800 feet you will see a pseudo couloir leading up between the two peaks. This cleft is quite wide, and is riddled with several 10-15 foot high cliff bans. The route basically winds its way up and around the various cliff bands. Head up, climbing in a westerly direction to the first cliff ban. In the spring the snow should make it easy to gain the top of the first cliff ban. Once over the cliff ban continue up but in a more southerly direction as the snow will dictate. As you approach the vertical face (about 50 feet below the top of the South Peak) traverse to the right in a westerly direction aiming for the low point between the North and the South Peaks. Beware of the black quartzite cliff bans below you on your right side. Once you reach the gap between the two peaks the route will continue on the western aspect in a southerly direction to the high point. Scramble up a class 3-4 section about 20 feet high and then wander over to the mailbox (which may be covered in snow). The 10,320 foot high peak is at N 40.59712 W 111.68467.
The Crazy Man Couloir is best climbed in the spring when snow is present and stable. The route is non-technical, however it is very steep in sections (over 60 degrees), and unarrested slips would certainly result in falling down 10-15 foot high cliff bans.