Southwest of Corner

Page Type
Utah, United States, North America
Route Type:
Trad Climbing
Time Required:
Most of a day
Rock Difficulty:
5.7 (YDS)
Number of Pitches:

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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Southwest of Corner
Created On: Dec 26, 2009
Last Edited On: Dec 27, 2009



This route is approximately 4 full-length pitches long, but several variations can be used. It is mostly less-than-vertical and on very solid rock. The approach is relatively long for such a short route by rock climbing standards (there are 6 pitch climbs in Little Cottonwood Canyon with a 15 minute approach) but this is a beautiful area and one of the few "alpine rock" routes in the Wasatch that is of similar quality to the climbing lower in the canyons.

Getting There

Follow the approach information from the main page to get to Lake Blanche. It has been copied to this page below (thanks to rmjwinters for this information):

"The trailhead is located in Big Cottonwood Canyon. To reach Big Cottonwood Canyon take the 6200 S exit off Interstate 215 and follow the signs east for the Brighton/Solitude ski resorts. The trailhead is located 4.5 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon from the intersection of Wasatch Blvd at the mouth of the canyon. There is a parking lot on the righthand side of the road. This parking lot also serves as the trailhead for the Broad's Fork approach to Twin Peaks, Sunrise, & Dromedary peaks. The trail is located just past the restrooms on the east side of the lot and follows a paved trail for 1/4 of a mile."

This trailhead is also known as the "S Curves" parking lot, and it is will be relatively obvious why this is when you get to it. Follow the paved trail slightly uphill from the sign at the end of the parking lot. The trail then takes a right up a hill, off the main paved portion of the path.
From rmjwinters: "The trail climbs steadily for 2 miles and then steepens for the last 1 mile to Lake Blanche. The trail is well maintained to the lake."

Once you reach the lake, it will be slightly to your right and straight ahead. There will be a trail heading around the left side of the lake (the close side, obviously in the direction of Sundial Peak's North Face). Take this trail up and over a small rise and then back down among some brush. At some point there will be a junction of sorts....take the trail to the right and downhill, which will lead to a stream crossing. Early in the season, when snow still covers this area, you may have to pick a different route across the stream. This is the general idea though. Cross the stream and head straight up the slope, directly for Sundial's North Face (the obvious face visible from the lake). This will be covered with snow well into June, but will be entirely clear by August in my personal experience. Once you reach the north wall, follow it right (west) and go around a prominent corner until you are looking up at the Northwest Face or West Face. From the lake this is a 30 minute scramble according to the Ruckman guidebook, but can be done quicker if you are carrying a light load.

Route Description

The first 20-40 feet of the route are scrambling and class 4-5.2 in nature. If there is still snow on the talus field, you can climb a little ways up this area and then put on your shoes to keep them dry. Below I have copied the route description from Bret and Stuart Ruckman's Rock Climbing the Wasatch guidebook, and then added my personal experience below it:

"A variation start to either of the above routes [North Face or the Eleventh Hour]. The first pitch climbs just south of the NW corner of Sundial Peak. The second pitch can follow a more direct line above (more difficult) or traverse south towards a corner system, which can be followed--more or less--to the large ledge halfway up the wall [which is somewhat visible from Lake Blanche]. Finish via a North Face route, the last two pitches of Eleventh Hour or your own creation."

My personal experience:

Head up (from just around the NW corner), following the path of least resistance for the first 20-40 feet. Climb approximately 2 pitches of rock, mostly in corners/open dihedrals where protection is somewhat sparse. You will climb past a fixed pin in a most opportune spot, and there is some brushy rock. If you pass the fixed pin, you are on route (there is no webbing on the pin, so it would be possible to miss it, but I have noticed it on both my times on this route, and it proved lifesaving once and very convenient the second time around). After around 2 pitches of climbing, you will be deposited on a large ledge, with slightly steeper walls on both your right and straight ahead (Slightly to the left, forming a corner). This ledge is large enough to unrope and have lunch or whatever.

I assume that the aforementioned ledge is the one mentioned in the guidebook. From here I moved right through a steep section (vertical to slightly overhanging) which placed me above the abyss I had just climbed out of (i.e. you move right through the headwall and are no longer over top of the ledge in question). Right after this steep headwall (12 feet), you will reach a rock with webbing around it. The section of climbing through the steeper wall is probably the most difficult encountered on this route, and would go at approximately 5.7.

From here, traverse south along the face for approximately 40-45 feet (most will want to place protection here as the climbing is not that easy and it is quite exposed).

From a stance at the end of the traverse, climb up a continuing corner system, with an occasional dart out to a small arete, which proved to be among the most difficult climbing on the route. Follow the corner system primarily through a period of loose rock and up a short chimney-like feature to the top of the route. You will see yourself at the top of the north face.

From here, proceed south along the ridgeline for 20-35 minutes until you reach the true summit of Sundial. There will be some towers or false summits along the way, some of which involve slightly exposed class 3 and 4 scrambling. Choose the path of least resistance and if it feels like 5th class climbing, you are almost certainly off route.
In general, if some careful routefinding is done, you will not encounter climbing more difficult than 5.7 on the entire route. The route is continuously 5th class, but not sustained at 5.7. I found that there are generally 1-2 moves of more difficult climbing (5.6-5.7) and then a few easy moves and then more difficulty. This route is as hard or as easy as you make it, and variations abound.

The Descent

There are four descent options:
1. Rappel directly back down the Eleventh Hour route on the north face. This is a fast descent if you get hit by a storm. Otherwise, using this route for descent will probably bother other parties on their ascent. If you have a 60m rope, this will take 6 single-rope rappels.

2. From the boulders at the top of the route, scramble south along the summit ridge toward the north summit of Sundial Peak. Look to your left (east) and you'll see a ramp that angles down toward groupings of pine trees. From the summit ridge you can see slings around the pine trees. Three single-rope rappels will get you down. Then hike north to Lake Blanche.

3. Scramble along the summit ridge to the top of Sundial's north summit. Continue beyond the north summit toward the true summit, and about one-third of the way to the true summit, you'll see a climber's trail winding it's way down the west (right) side of peak. This is an easy 2nd-3rd class downclimb/hike. The trail switchbacks multiple times and places you on the scree slope at the base of Sundial's west face. From the scree slope, hike north back to Lake Blanche.

4. Scramble all the way to the true summit with the summit register. Then scramble south down the summit ridge to an easy 2nd-3rd class gully that meets the hanging valley on the west face of Sundial Peak. From here, hike north back to Lake Blanche.

Essential Gear

Rope, rack, etc. Standard alpine rock gear.

Protection is sparse along the entire route, but I find places for all sizes of cams (from 0.75 friend to #4 camalot) as well as some medium nut placements. Because of the difficulty of protection, if 5.7 climbing is near your limit leading above your own gear, I would recommend a healthy rack of a variety of cam sizes. Cut weight elsewhere. Others more comfortable with the climbing can probably get by with a full set of nuts and a set of cams from 0.75 to 4.

Long runners to prevent rope drag, as the route wanders quite a bit. I brought screamers and used them somewhat liberally both at anchors and in between because I was rope-soloing the route. This would not be a bad idea if you have them though, for the many marginal placements on the route.

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