Challenge Buttress in Big Cottonwood Canyon is a great place to go when you don't have a lot of time but want some quality climbing. The buttress features a bunch of different routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.11, and new routes are still sprouting up. Unfortunately, the convenience and quality of climbing on Challenge Buttress can mean crowds, so don’t be shocked if you wind up waiting to climb your favorite route. Bear in mind, the wait is well worth it, so grab a snack and hang in there.
What Makes It Great
The East Face, North Face and West Face each have a good variety of routes, so you can play with sun and temperatures. Most of the routes have anchors at the top where single rope rappels reach the ground. Most routes are full sport climbing, but do know that at least Coral Bells Arete and Touch of Teflon were bolted with the intention of using both trad and sport gear. One of our favorite routes on the buttress is a 5.9 called Hollow Man.
For more experienced climbers, this sport climb is really just a warm-up. Touch of Teflon is another favorite. While it’s a short route, this 5.10d has a few challenging moves with plenty of possible variations. This thin, technical climb is often compared to a boulder problem. Chambered nautilus is a fun 5.10a. This route is on the east face of Challenge Buttress between Birth Simulator (5.6) and Coral Bells Arete (5.9). Chambered Nautilus is about 70 feet up and requires seven draws. The route tops finishes with a steep, challenging roof move. Who’s Going to Love It: Intermediate and advanced climbers can always find fun, challenging routes on Challenge Buttress.
It’s a great place to work on specific techniques or challenge yourself to take your climbing to the next level.
Who is Going to Love It
For folks just getting into climbing, Hollow Man is a great intro to the quality of climbing that Big Cottonwood Canyon has to offer.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Challenge Buttress is 2.5 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon from the neon sign. To get there, take I-80 east from downtown Salt Lake City and jump on I-215 south. Take exit 6 to Wasatch Blvd and follow the signs to Big Cottonwood Canyon. The signs will direct you to Solitude and Brighton Mountain Resorts.
The pullout is on the north side of the road about 100 yards down from the Storm Mountain Picnic area. Parking is always free and the canyon never closes. However, if you’re climbing in the winter, you’ll need a four-wheel-drive with snow tires to enter the canyon on stormy days.
From the parking area, scramble up the steep embankment just above the road on the west side of Stair's Gulch stream. A trail from here leads through the trees up to the crag where it forks. The left fork leads to the Challenge Buttress East Face. The right path leads to the North and West Faces. The approach is short, and the Buttress’ convenience has a tendency to draw small crowds of climbers. Climbing on quartzite can take some getting used to but it is fun. For really good beta, swing by IME Utah on your way out of town – those guys have been climbing the area for decades and know every corner of it.