The Underworld is truly a hidden gem regarding St. George climbing. The basalt columns making up the Underworld canyon cliff resemble a “mini me” of the much more popular basalt columns of Trout Creek in Oregon. The remoteness of the Underworld cannot be overstated. It takes driving a high clearance vehicle over leased BLM land to reach the rim of the canyon. Then a solid hike down to the bottom of the canyon from the north, crossing a beautiful running creek shaded by cottonwoods and up to the base of the south facing cliff. A handful of routes (10) were developed by Bo Beck and company from 2000 on with a few recent additions by a variety of other characters not to mention much more that could be developed. The Underworld offers the largest selection of pure crack climbing outside of Zion National Park in southwestern Utah. Its true open southern exposure, combined with the protected confines of a winding canyon, make the Underworld the absolute best winter destination in St. George if low temperatures are a factor. As the crow flies, it is not far from a much more popular St. George climbing destination, Prophecy Wall. The two crags together, with the beautiful Upper Sand Cove Reservoir (good for skinny dipping when the weather is right) to camp at in the middle, would make for as good of a true remote climbing vacation as St. George has to offer.
Drive north of St. George on Bluff Street which is State Highway 18. Stay in the right lane as you exit town. Continue north past Snow Canyon on the left to mile marker 18. Turn left onto a gravel road and drive to the Upper Sand Cove Water Reservoir on your right. Follow the reservoir around its west bank and through a fence. Drive to the power line and turn right following it east for a short period, less than a mile. Turn left on a faint road over the desert cow pasture. The high clearance comes in handy through this flat section as large lava rock debris litter the flat desert ground. The faint road comes to a dead end. Pick up a faint foot trail that heads north to the rim of the significant canyon. Descend into the canyon, following cairns across the running creek and to the other side of the canyon. Meander up the opposite slope heading east to meet the wall where it turns from white to dark red.
The Routes are Left to Right, West to East as you Face the Wall
- Bloody Back - 65’- 5.11b/
- Floyd’s in a Jam- 55’- 5.10a/
- Corruption – 2 Pitches- 5.10b/ I have not done that 2nd pitch yet, does not look that inviting. The first pitch is pretty stellar. Starts out with a few face moves (clip a bolt and move left, then back right), then follows the left crack up this section where three routes share the same rap anchor. You can make a wide stem, well I can, one needs to be limber, from time to time helping you reset your finger or hand jams as the crack is slightly overhung (bulge) for a distance. Small to medium pro.
- Extortion – 60’- 5.10c/ This is the most challenging of this set of three pitches. Even though they are all three rated the same, I see a big difference between this middle pitch and the two side pitches. Pass the fixed belay on top of the pedestal (we never used this anchor for anything) and clip two bolts as I recall before entering the overhung hand crack above and mantle up via a hard move or two until your feet gain the wider crack. Small to medium pro.
- Vice – 60’- 5.10c/ I suppose this is the lesser quality of these three routes that share the same anchor, but still worth doing. Where the other two are more true 5.10 crack climbs, this pitch involves more of a corner and a slightly dirty one at that. It is definitely an easier pitch than Extortion or Corruption even though it shares the same grade. There always seems to be a thin foot ledge to your right as you jam up the corner. The exit jam to the rap station might be the most exciting move of the pitch where the other two pitches ease up at that point. Small to medium gear.
- Alias - 80’- 5.10c/
- Made Man - 80’- 5.11b/
- Criminal Ballistics - 50’- 5.11a/
- Armed Robbery – 70’- 5.10c/ A very hard 5.10 in my opinion. Depends on the size of your hands I suppose. Also, this basalt is quite slippery until full on winter sets in, so if you can’t get your toes in the crack, this pitch is quite painful on the knuckles. Thin jamming for most of the route eventually opens up to much better hands and fists. There is a dual crack to the right that I used for the finish, but is not necessary. Small to medium pro.
- Armed and Dangerous – 70’- 5.10c/ My partners thought this pitch was a little burly, but much more to my taste than the other routes. By far the most beautiful crack on the wall. You can easily place double 2"-4" and nothing smaller than a 1” except right below the anchor if you want. Great hand jamming, toes loving the size too, little big in places, but just reach further in and do a few arm bars. Sweet stuff!
the weather forecast