2020-02-08 Angel of Fear

February 8, 2020

Friday evening I got a call that Angel of Fear was in. This is one of the rarer forming climbs in Utah and is the jewel of the “Holy Trinity” in Santaquin. I’ve never seen it even close to forming before. The previous time I’d seen it sort of form it had fallen down to the road.

Case and I got a late start, leaving SLC at 08:30. Temps were warm, 40F at my house, when I left. Driving into the canyon there was only one other car and they weren’t climbers. The hike in was hot as we were in full sun the whole way. The snow was damp and sticky from the heat. Even in the shade postholing up to the climb it was 35-40F. The climb was well attached to the rock at the tops of the columns and well seated. The climb did have plenty of water running down it though.

We soloed the first 25′ step to the base of the pillar. We broke the climb into three pitches from there. We did a pitch to the first ledge, a second short pitch (30′) to the next ledge, and then the final long pitch.

The climb was a gusher at times and I’m glad for wearing a hardshell top, though I wish I had bottoms too. Thankfully the temps stayed fairly warm until the top when the approaching storm started to cool things off.

The climb is fantastic. Steep, engaging, complex, and totally untouched when we did it. There were no tracks at the base or at any of the belays. The warm temps did make for some hero ice, though there were some slushy areas as well. I didn’t lead it. While I might have been able to lead a portion of it if dry, the constant stream of water would have gotten to me on lead and I don’t think I could have done it safely. Case did a fantastic job.

It is too bad this climb doesn’t form more as the anchors are pretty terrible and could use some work. At the first ledge we didn’t find any bolts despite the rock looking very solid. At the second ledge we found a single bolt but it was in comically chossy rock. While belaying I brushed up against the wall numerous times and dislodged rocks from the wall. There were two bolts well to the left of the pillar, but the line we took didn’t put us over there. At the top of the climb we found one good bolt, an empty bolt hole, and two 4 inch diameter pine trees. The bolt had 5′ of cord to bring it into the trees which had two single length slings halved around them.

I re-worked the two slings on the pine trees so the angle between them was smaller, this put a little more load onto the bolt as well. Unfortunately, with a single 70m rope we weren’t sure if we’d be able to reach anything on the left of the climb, which is how the rap fall line goes. We chose the more time consuming but less unknown option of retracing our line of ascent by way of a v-thread to redirect the rap. This was one of the more complex rappels I’ve done, particularly since I went first and had to pull my way back onto the ledge. From this spot the ice was good enough to do a v-thread to put us back to the ground.

The rap anchor scene didn’t improve from here though since we still had the approach pitch to rap. A tree to skier’s left had some slings on it. Along with being faded and crusty, none of the three slings had ANY tails for the knots. One of the 3/4″ webbing slings had slices in it most of the way through. I cut all this choss loose and wrapped some webbing I brought around the tree and recycled the biner.

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