Little Cottonwood Canyon, Hellgate - Hell Froze Over - November 2014

Last November, Jake Hirschi and I headed up to a line I had been watching for the last few seasons hidden in a gully at the Hellgate Cliffs (between Snowbird and Alta) in Little Cottonwood Canyon. You can only see the top 20’ from the road. The rest was a complete unknown but I thought it was worth checking out. 

The snow was much deeper than we expected and took about an hour to reach the gully. Even at the entrance we could not quite see the line but halfway up the narrow cleft I saw that the hike had been worth it. There was a thin drip on the right-hand side of the gully, 25’ of thin ice drips and blobs on a vertical wall led to a easier 70’ ramp of thin verglass ice on the left hand side of the wall. 

After getting established in the gully, I tried to pull onto the ice and quickly pulled half the thin drip down on top of me. Luckily I had brought a drill, so started to chimney up the wall, crampons on rock and tool in 1/2” of ice placing 3 bolts on lead until reaching a large chockstone at the transition.  

Nathan Smith chimneying up Hell Froze Over.

Nathan Smith chimneying up Hell Froze Over.

Switching sides of the wall was a bit tricky and unprotected for a bit but the ice was bonded just enough to make the switch. The final 70’ only has 2 bolts and the screws (custom modified 7cm Grivel Helix screws) were junk but just enough to get to the top. All the bolts were placed so that in fat conditions they would be completely covered.

Looking down on Hell Froze Over WI5- PG.

Looking down on Hell Froze Over WI5- PG.

Jake Hirschi following Hell Froze Over

Jake Hirschi following Hell Froze Over

Later I found out that the line had been climbed in 1997 by Mike Kempt and Matt Scullion in fat conditions. Two parties climbed the route in the fall of 2015 without much ice and both called it M5 X with the runout to the anchors. 

Nathan Smith