The Brian Head ski resort
area in southern Utah offers temperatures some 30F!!! less than Saint George and Zion during the summer months. I challenge anyone to find another place in the world where one can drive one hour, change conditions so fast and still find as many sport routes up high as there were down low. At 9700’! the relatively newly developed (1998) Running Scared Wall (originally named Ravens Crag by Todd Goss) itself offers over 35 bolted and trad routes from 40’-70’. You will be hard pressed to find a more scenic location to climb in the fall when the aspens change.
Mosquitoes aside, Running Scared Wall is just about the most beautiful crag I have ever sport climbed on. The walls are situated in a heavily populated aspen glade overlooking a large natural meadow with running streams. The aspen trees are much larger than I have experienced in the Sierras or the Canadian Rockies. I measured one such monster aspen to be over 2’ in diameter. The all present hummingbirds that we experience at the many crags around Saint George are also very prevalent at Running Scared Wall. Running Scared Wall got its name from Tyler Phillips who in 1998, while working on the routes, was followed out of the woods below the crag by a mountain lion. The texture and hardness of the basalt rock is similar to what you climb on at 4500’ in Crawdad Canyon
The High School Wall is located just right of Seuss Wall
and features only three published routes ranging from 5.10a to 5.11c. The two 5.10a’s share the same three bolt start and neither rank high on my list at Running Scared crag. School Room Wall is to the right (east) and Seuss, Dysfunctional and Dark Tower are to the left (west).
Route Description(s)The Routes are Left to Right, West to East
- Lovers in Heat - 75’- 5.11c/ Significant overhang to start, but closely placed bolts to assist.
- Sixty - 70’- 5.10a/ Shared start with Nine (get it, “69”), but definitely has more of a crux to overcome at the finish. The start to these two routes is a short, but challenging face up a tower, then a scramble to the start of the 2nd half of each route. Sixty is to the left and Nine is to the right. Sixty works up a corner until you meet a small overhanging move to overcome on positive holds to gain the anchors which put you in a hanging stance. Seven, not six as the guide book suggest, bolts total to anchor.
- Nine - 70’- 5.10a/ No crux move, but nice sustained edges up to anchor on the right face of High School Wall. Do not run up the optional corner as you clip bolts as that is not the route. Stay to the right via vertical face moves. Eight bolts to anchor, but unclip that 4th bolt once you clip into the 5th bolt to avoid rope drag (photo).
A 50m rope
will do you as the Running Scared crags pretty much top out at 75’. Although there are plenty of sport routes to keep you busy, there are a few attractive trad routes as well, so you could bring a rack. Of course bring a handful of draws. Running Scared Wall is at 9500’!
so bring a jacket just in case. It will be much warmer in the afternoon than it is at the pass over Cedar Breaks, so don’t panic. The mosquitoes
can be bad as early as May so bring appropriate protection for that.
Head east on Highway 14 out of downtown Cedar City (the road typically opens sometime in May, pay attention to the signage) on your way to Cedar Breaks National Monument and/or Brian Head. Turn left on Highway 148 and pass through Cedar Breaks National Monument on your way to Brian Head. Turn right on Highway 143 towards Panguich Lake. Descend to 9500’ after approximately five miles. Look for the Running Scared cliff walls up and to the left of the road as you descend into a dip.
Either park on a turnoff to the right at the bottom of the dip over a running creek or proceed beyond this point in an attempt to find the logging road into the cliffs from the east. If you parked on Highway 143, cross the road to the west and follow the fence line up the hill into the aspens. Turn right on a logging road and look for a cairned (2007) trail on your left that leads to the crag.
Red Tape/Camping Dixie National Forest
, managed by the USDA Forest Service, encompasses nearly 2 million acres over 170 miles across southern Utah. It is by far the largest national forest in Utah and includes the divide between the Great Basin Desert and Colorado River.
If you plan to use a specialized facility (camping, parking, boat launch, ramps, swimming site, etc.) in the forest, you may have to pay a user fee. It appears people have camped and climbed in this area at will. Pit fires are highly discouraged if not illegal but you see at least one on the logging road.
I advise you camp at the National Forest Service Panguich Lake sites if you want to spend multiple days here. The Cedar City district
campgrounds include: Cedar Canyon, Deer Haven, Duck Creek, Navajo Lake, Panguitch Lake North, Panguitch Lake South, Spruces, Te-Ah, White Bridge and Yankee Meadows. Campsites are available on a first-come first-served basis from May 25, 2007 through June 11, 2007. Reservations for group sites can be made up to 360 days in advance. Individual campsites can be reserved up to 240 days in advance. Tent sites range for $8-12 (2007).
When to Climb
At 9500’+, climbing in the winter can definitely be too cold
in this region. But of course that means that Running Scared Crag and even further up the road, Brian Head, serve as great escapes from the searing heat in the spring and summer if you are visiting southwest Utah during a heat wave.