The Fang is just down the “street” from Stairway to Heaven, III, WI 5
. Even though we were warned by a local climber that this route was the most avalanche prone in Provo Canyon
, in mid January of 2010, there was not a lot of WI 5 choices that were climbable. Not knowing the lay of the land from above, it is almost impossible for visitors to determine what avalanche conditions are like above the route except for the condition of the snow below. The Utah Avalanche Center’s
website (which is a fantastic resource by the way
) had conditions a bit on the sour side when we were there. Therefore as we ascended the hill to the base of the Fang, it lit smiles on our faces to find a significant fresh slide (morning of or night before) in the gully below the climb.
, Jeff, Greg and Mike, first climbed the Fang in the mid 70’s, the same time most of the ice in Provo Canyon was scouted via FA’s. The first two pitches of the Fang are rather unremarkable WI 3 aprons that funnel you through a narrower portion of the fall and up some fun ice to the very base of the “Tube”
. Why this climb is called the Fang versus some play on the “Tube” I have no idea, because the tube is truly the interesting and delicate piece of this climb. And I do mean delicate. We found it in almost complete run out and fragile condition in mid January. Two of us who are seasoned waterfall ice climbers, were both surprised how thick the tube appeared in comparison to actually getting on it.
It forms a perfectly almost closed tube which leads you to believe that the left side has some thickness to it. Not the case. We started up the left side to find the only pro in a precarious icicle on the left side. The tube itself had nothing. Our picks were going right through it into the water fall. It would have to be a complete run out attempt. We backed off and traversed to a much shorter and safer WI 5 curtain to the left
, which led us to the large rappel tree above.
Another note, when I landed us at the very base of the tube via the 2nd pitch, the only safe belay was to ascend a mushroom out left to find a solid short curtain against the rock there. The bottom of the tube actually settled with a big thud and huge crack running up and right with my weight alone. Bottom line, this piece needs some cold temps to be in.
The short WI 5 curtain to the left was worthy of the climb though, albeit a bit wet as well. We simul-climbed that first pitch on 60m ropes to set up a safe belay well left of the narrow portion of the avalanche fall line and then took the 2nd pitch right up to the very base of the tube.
You can just keep walking down the road from Nunn’s Park past Stairway to Heaven and Bridal Falls, that is what we did. However, for a lesser approach, drive past the Nunn’s park pull off and take the next right.
Follow the road to the closed gate, cross the creek and head west down the road a short distance looking for any one of numerous possible trails breaking through the brush and heading up a gully to the Fang. It is harder to spot this route from the closed road versus other Provo Canyon routes due to the trees.
As would be the norm, it is important to run up either side of the gully, in the trees and brush, to avoid any avalanche action down the gully. I will descend a gully like this, but won’t ascend it. The gully was full of avalanche debris the day we climbed the Fang. We ascended up the left side and started our belay on the left shoulder below the apron.
Take a double rap from the huge tree. Then a double rope rappel off of an abalakov (V-Thread) down to some trees on skier’s right. Single 60m rope off these trees to the bottom.
Double 50 or 60m ropes. Tools, crampons, draws, screamers (thin ice on the tube!), helmet, gaiters, abalakov set up, etc. Felt fairly exposed to the wind here compared to Stairway to Heaven in terms of temps.
Tips for Provo
The 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?
External LinksDowClimbing.Com Unita-Wasatch-Cashe National Forest Utah Avalanche Center
One of the best avalanche sites I have used