Climbing Iron hayden wall
This wall is a fantastic gem located on the west face of Hayden Peak in the western Uinta Mountains. Everything from multi-pitch trad lines to hard sport routes can be found here. Pioneered by Dave Littman and Craig Martin, this wall didn't begin to see rapid development until 2008! Now, only 6 years later some 10-15 routes, many of them 4-5 pitches long, can be found and they are all classic or near-classic lines.
This 450 foot high wall is vertical nearly the entire way making all climbs sustained at their grade however the quartzite rock often forms nice flat ledges anywhere from an inch to three feet wide so footholds are plentiful even on the harder routes. The routes vary from 5.8 to 5.11d in difficulty and generally, a single rack of cams is needed for most routes since the wall sits in an alpine setting and the developers didn't feel the need to completely bolt any of the routes. Climbing here is sure to provide an adventure as solitude is almost a guarantee and the routes generally a mix of trad and sport.
The approach for the Iron Hayden Wall takes about 1 hour and starts from the Highline Trailhead right at Hayden Pass along Utah Highway 150 (Mirror Lake Scenic Byway). From Kamas, Utah which is about 45 minutes east of Salt Lake City, follow the signs for Highway 150 and Mirror Lake. This highway begins at the Chevron Station in the center of town. Head east, then northeast on the scenic road, passing numerous campgrounds which will all be full in the summer. About 30 miles from Kamas, pass over Bald Mountain Pass and continue a couple more miles to the Mirror Lake Campground which is on the east side of the road. If you happen to drive here early in the morning, take the spur road down to Mirror Lake to see the almost daily reflection of two peaks whose names escape me.
A few more miles past Mirror Lake, reach Hayden Pass (roughly 36 miles from Kamas) and turn east into the Highline Trailhead parking area. The Iron Hayden Wall can be seen from numerous points on the road as the biggest cliff on the west face of Hayden Peak. If you are coming from Evanston, Wyoming, it's 50 miles south on Highway 150 to Hayden Pass. Park in the "Hiker Parking" area and instead of starting on the obvious Highline trail (which heads down to the southeast), head in an ENE direction passing by a nice picnic table next to the parking area and pick up a faint trail leading directly towards Hayden Peak. Follow this as it's initially flat and heads around a tiny pond. The trail then begins veering left and ascends the sparse forested slopes in a northeast direction until it reaches a 50 foot cliff band. Here it turns north and follows the base along a small meadow.
Once around the cliff band, the trees begin to end and the trail emerges at the base of a huge talus slope coming down the southwest slopes of Hayden Peak. Follow excellent cairns as the trail continues on an ascending traverse up the talus slope. Some scrambling is involved to get above a small buttress. Once above this, continue along ledges in a northward direction until you reach the base of the main wall. The route is very well cairned.
Listed below are a handful of the more popular routes on the Iron Hayden Wall listed from right to left on the face of the wall (in order you reach them). This list is by no means exhaustive as there are nearly 20 routes here now, and more being added every summer.
Where Vultures Dare - 5.9 - Five Pitches Trad - One set of cams to 4" & 60 meter rope
This route is the first established route you will find as you approach the wall and is only 50 feet or so from the right edge of the face. It is the obvious crack leading straight up directly to the right of the first line of bolts. Each pitch is similar in difficulty and overall makes for an excellent climb with great belay ledges for each pitch. All 5 pitches are 100 feet long or less so a 60 meter rope will work for rappelling the route.
Pitch 1 (5.8) starts up the crack and despite the wide crack, face holds are everywhere so few jams are needed. Reach a small ledge with a triple bolt and chain anchor.
Pitch 2 (5.8) continues up the face following cracks and ledges as it zig-zags a little up to the "Vultures Nest" which is a large, 3 foot ledge with bolts and chains. A wide crack near the end of this pitch takes the number 4 cam.
Pitch 3 (5.9) is short, and heads up the face with a short crux to another good ledge.
Pitch 4 (5.7) is barely a pitch as it's so short but from the ledge atop pitch 3, traverse left onto the arete and place a small (Single 0) purple Metolius Mastercam in the crack for pro. Continue up the arete for 30 feet, passing 2 bolts to the shale covered ledge with a small overhang at eye level.
Pitch 5 (5.9) starts by overcoming the small overhang which gets easier the taller you are and continues up a small left facing dihedral with good pro. The route finishes in a chimney with some loose blocks and emerges onto a large ledge at the top of the face.
To descend, walk 15 feet left on the final ledge to a set of bolts and chains and make the first of four rappels. Rappel 1 (100 feet) takes you to the top of Pitch 4. Rappel 2 (100 feet) takes you to the top of Pitch 2 on the Vultures Nest. Rappel 3 (100 feet) takes you to the top of Pitch 1 and Rappel 4 (100 feet) takes you to the ground. All anchors are double or triple bolted with chains.
Sun and Steel - 5.11b - Four Pitches Sport & Trad - One set of cams to 3" & 60 meter rope
This route is the bolted line 4 feet to the left of Where Vultures Dare. Look for the yellow hangers! This route shares the same belay anchors and ledges as Where Vultures Dare.
Pitch 1 (5.10c) starts just left of the obvious crack of Where Vultures Dare and just right of a large roof 30 feet up. Pass 7 bolts on tricky face climbing until a thin crack. Follow the crack to the 3 bolt anchor.
Pitch 2 (5.9) climbs to the left of the anchor and follows bolts on a nicely exposed arete to the Vultures Nest ledge.
Pitch 3 (5.10d) climbs up the steep, wide crack to the left of the anchor, and then moves out of the crack to the left (exposed as hell!) below the large roof. Use the horizontal crack right below the roof to traverse left below it, clip the bolt at the lip of the overhang, and pull past its left side. Continue up the still pumpy face utilizing bolts and gear placements to the shale covered ledge atop Pitch 4 of Where Vultures Dare.
Pitch 4 (5.11b) starts about 10 feet left of the anchor at a bolt and climbs up a steep face heading for the right side of a large roof. Pass the roof and perform several insecure layback and side-pull moves up to the ledge at the top of the face.
Rappel via the same anchors as Where Vultures Dare in four raps.
Running Free - 5.8 - One Pitch Trad - One set of cams to 4" & 60 meter rope
This is one of the few routes at the Iron Hayden Wall without at least 3 stars. Locate the wide crack (somewhat dirty) immediately left of the large roof 30 feet off the ground. Climb the wide vertical crack just left of an ugly corner. At the end of the crack, climb past a small bulge and reach a nice ledge with a two bolt anchor.
Run to the Hills - 5.10a - One Pitch Sport and Trad - One set of cams to 3" & 60 meter rope
This is a fantastic single pitch line closer to the center of the wall and located a few routes left of Sun and Steel. Begin up a small overhang with excellent hand holds and continue past great finger cracks and crimpers to a large ledge with a double bolt and chain anchor. Belay the second from the ledge DO NOT toprope this pitch. The final 30 feet of the route has sparse bolts requiring smaller trad gear to protect. There is also a second and third pitch to this route which is more of an adventure climb featuring sustained 5.11 climbing on somewhat dirty rock. Double ropes are required to finish this route as Pitches 2 and 3 go about 140 feet each.
When to Climb
This is a summer crag. The wall sits at about 11,250 feet in elevation high in the Uinta Mountains which are widely known for their large snow totals. Climbing here is only feasible when the Mirror Lake Highway is open. Spring plowing typically occurrs sometime in mid-June and the road closes by mid-November. If you were really dedicated, the road is open to snowmobiles in the winter...
Camping can be found in many places along the Mirror Lake Highway...both dispersed (free) and campgrounds (fee). Supposedly there is now a $3/day fee to park along the highway but I don't think this applies to trailheads. Plus, the fee is technically illegal but that is a different argument. I just ignored all the "self-serve recreation pass" booths since they were all unmanned and no authorities were anywhere near the area. This is US National Forest Lands where you are free to do just about anything without charge!