S-Crack to S-direct 5.12a (5.8 C1)
Includes Indecent Exposure (5.7), Spring Fever (5.10a), and Nob Job (5.10dR)
The Thumb, Little Cottonwood Canyon
About the Climb
The Thumb is the biggest buttress in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and offers many routes and variations. The area gets its name from the obvious thumb-shaped block sitting on top of the long, clean slabs of immaculate granite. The routes here get lots of sun and it can get very hot in the summer. Carry plenty of water if you'll be climbing on a hot day. The Thumb is a unique place where you can link up to 10 pitches of quality crack, slab, and face climbing ranging from 5.7 to 5.12. Most routes were established before 1970 but even these days, no matter which route you climb, getting to the top of The Thumb is still a serious and committing affair. But reaching the summit is well worth the effort and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Little Cottonwood Canyon and some of the best slab climbing anywhere.
The Thumb is characterized by two very different sections: the lower part of the buttress features various cracks and a chimney system, allowing access to Lunch Ledge. The upper section has long, clean slabs that are memorable, providing unsurpassed exposure and quality climbing.
One of the highlights of the area is the infamous S-Crack 5.12a, which is the most direct line up to Lunch Ledge. This route avoids the lower angle Indecent Exposure 5.7, which is the standard way to reach Lunch Ledge, and provides a more sustained and exposed experience. Only super solid climbers will be able to free the S-Crack entirely, but it is possible to aid the short difficult section at 5.8 C1. Otherwise, the rest of this route is mostly 5.8, and it is the line of choice if you want to link-up into the slabs above. The first pitch goes up low angle terrain, while the second pitch tackles an interesting chimney with a nice squeeze section, bringing you up to the top of a pinnacle. From the top of the pinnacle, 3 options are possible to traverse left into the superb S-Crack. The route then continues up the S-Crack, where a mix of liebacking and jamming eventually reaches an off-width, exposed groove leading to Lunch Ledge.
Once on Lunch Ledge, many options are possible for the upper section. The most popular option is the clean, exposed and classic S-Direct 5.9+R. This route aims for the best section of the smooth slab left of the Standard Thumb (5.7), and is a must-do. Contrary to its name, the route branches out right on the second pitch and is not very “direct” at all. A more popular option is the direct variation going straight up instead. Anyway you choose to do it, the S-Direct is one of the best slab routes in Little Cottonwood Canyon, with tremendous exposure and memorable position on excellent rock.
If you already climbed the S-Direct or if it’s busy, another great option is to head left to Spring Fever 5.10a, a super fun and not too scary route. While the grade suggests that it is a little harder than S-Direct, it is in fact better protected and the runout sections are on easy ground. It has also recently been re-bolted!
Finally, Nob Job 5.10d R offers another, even scarier alternative. It is a dicey route that is not climbed too often, so expect gritty rock and long scary runouts. This is one that you’ll remember for a while…
Eventually, all the routes converge to a great summit block which can be accessed by either climbing Robbins Crack 5.10, a gritty, hand-chewing fist crack on the west face, or by following the more friendly ridge on easier ground. A 5.9 hands and finger crack also reaches the summit from the east face.
As mentioned above, many variations exist on this buttress, providing many possibilities if other parties are on the wall. If you just want to get to S-Direct as quickly as possible, don’t climb 5.12 or don’t feel like aiding, a more popular alternative is to climb the Indecent Exposure (5.7), which is also the bottom section used by most climbers who climb the Standard Thumb (5.7). It has 2 great sections of climbing, but unfortunately they are divided by a tree-filled crack, and the line is not nearly as direct and clean as the S-Crack.
If you want to climb the S-Crack and want even more challenge, try Coyne Crack (5.11d) for the bottom section. This hard finger crack heads left on the second pitch and avoids the chimney, putting you back on top of the pillar.
For the upper section, the easiest variation is to stay right and continue on the Standard Thumb (5.7) 5.7. This route follows a long chimney system to the right of the S-Direct. The “trough” pitch above Lunch Ledge and the chimney that follows are the highlight on this route.
Another nice short route worth checking out in the area is Plumb Line (5.10a). You will pass right in front of it on the approach to The Thumb. It climbs a sweet fingers to hand crack up a featured face and is a good way to extend your day after climbing The Thumb, if you still have some energy left.