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Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps

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A Crags 
B Crags (Spotted Wolf Canyon) 
C Crags 
D Crags 
E Crags (DBC Canyon) 
F Crags 
G Crags 
H Crags 
I Crags (Uneva Canyon) 
J Crags 
K Crags 
L Crags (Sinister Slab Area) 
M Crags 
N Crags 
O Crags (Three Finger Canyon) 
P Crags 
Q Crags 
R Crags (Two Finger Canyon)  
S Crags 
T Crags (One Finger Canyon) 
U Crags 

Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps  

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Administrators: Andrew Gram, Perin Blanchard, grk10vq, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: USBRIT on Oct 9, 2003
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BETA PHOTO: A panoramic picture of the San Rafael Reef from t...


See Photos below text to get an idea as to the various crag sections. There have been about 200+ routes put up from about 200' to 2000' which add up to all most 70'000 ft of climbing. Some with very easy pitches, some up to 5.12 and many with long runouts. Climbers used to slab climbing should find the grades about right, others who are not may find some of the runouts quite entertaining. Overall the rock is fine to excellent, although you will at times encounter a few soft spots but that is all part of the Reef experience.

Many of the routes climbed so far have great summits that overhang the back canyons by about 400', so often the descent is back down the ascent route. These longer climbs are more like mountaineering routes and allways seem to give great views and lead one into very unusual rock formations. A recent article in a climbing mag called the area The Sandstone Alps which seems a fitting analogy.

As was already mentioned, many pitches are long and runout. Cam and stopper protection or a few bolts are usually found on pitches that are at least 5.7. Though, routes 5.9 or harder do tend to be better protected.
It is advisable to perhaps carry a hand drill and a couple of #1 angles or 4" bolts in case one gets too far off route. Also carry extra slings to back up old webbing on the rap anchors and maybe bring a 3/8" spanner incase you need to tighten bolts, more so if no second ascent has been recorded on that climb.As of 2014 most of the climbs are still unrepeated.

All the longer routes on the slabs and in the steeper side canyons were done on sight ground up.The bolt protection was placed from free stances...not easy.
So keep in mind, due to the difficulty of finding and placing protection there is marginal gear on some routes. Gear beta should be taken with a pinch of salt as these were the placements we found and hopefully you will too. If you have any doubts bring extra gear, you never know what might have been missed.
For climbers who prefer some adventure there is still a large amount of unclimbed rock in this area and more so on the backside of the Reef.

The Reef is a magical area but the climbing is not for everyone and perhaps thats a good thing!

NOTE. The crags are set up in alphabetical order starting from I-70 and going south along the Reef.

For Crags A thru F park at Little Spotted Wolf Canyon.
For Crags F thru K park at Uneva Canyon.
For Crags K thru P park at Three Fingers Canyon.
For Crags Q thru U park at Two Fingers Canyon.

Getting There 

This very large sandstone slab formation is located about 13.1 miles west of the Green River exit on I.70 at mile marker 147. The entrance to this well-maintained dirt road is 10.4 miles from the Price 191 exit and 2 miles past the Route 24 exit to Hanksville. Here one will find a wire gate. Go through this, and immediately turn left and go under the interstate. The section under the interstate can be sandy and a much easier entrance to get onto the good dirt road is from a gate on the opposite side of the interstate. With a car this entrance is recommended.

The dirt road then parallels the slabs for about 6+ miles. The approach to the slabs from this road takes anywhere from 20/30 minutes of easy walking. However climbs near Three Finger Canyon, Little Spotted Wolf Canyon and Uneva Canyon trail heads are much closer to a parking area.
These are the three main parking places to the various climbs.
The Little Spotted Wolf area is a pull off on the right about 2.1 miles from I.70, Univa Mine Canyon area is a right turn about 3.2 miles from I.70 and then a short 4x4 1/4 mile to the canyon trail head. It's about 6.1 miles from I-70 to the Three Fingers Canyon turn off, then about 2 miles of high clearance/4 wheel drive to the canyon entrance.

NOTE. The Hanksville road (Rt 24) is usually in much better shape and more convienent for Three and Two Finger Canyons. Take the Rt 24 Hanksville exit off I.70 and drive 7 miles just past a mile marker 153 thats on the left of the road. The dirt road is on the right and starts very straight then curves right (north). Drive the road for 4 miles to the small BLM post on the left..this is the 2 mile road (best with high clearance/4 Wheel drive) to Three Fingers Canyon.

To get onto the Two Finger Canyon road, which once found is an easier drive than Three Fingers ie possible with two wheel drive.
From the Hanksville road entrance drive 2.4 miles to unmarked road on left, follow past pond on flat rock through trees then left (south) to obvious road up the hill. The road then flattens out and is an easy drive to its end..about 2 miles. This area now has many routes both in Two Finger and south to One Finger and then beyond to the final slab of End Game (U Crags).
Other climbs are also to the north of Two Fingers (Q Crags). The Mile and a Bit Traverse that starts at Three Fingers also ends at Two Fingers.One of the nicest areas for good rock and great slab routes is L crags (Sinister Slab area)

Climbing Season

Weather station 18.1 miles from here

209 Total Routes

['4 Stars',26],['3 Stars',108],['2 Stars',58],['1 Star',16],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps:
The Road to Mecca   5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a     Trad, 5 pitches, 1000'   E Crags (DBC Canyon)
1000' of Fun   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, 5 pitches, 1000'   O Crags (Three Finger Canyo...
Forget Me Not   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b R     Trad, 4 pitches, 800'   I Crags (Uneva Canyon)
Cat Walk.   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 2 pitches, 310'   O Crags (Three Finger Canyo...
Planetary Alignment   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 3 pitches, 500'   O Crags (Three Finger Canyo...
Firebird   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 5 pitches, 950'   A Crags
1200' of more Fun   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 6 pitches, 1200'   O Crags (Three Finger Canyo...
Death by Chocolate   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 9 pitches, 1700'   E Crags (DBC Canyon)
Rumble Strips   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 190'   A Crags
Knights-Errant   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 5 pitches, 870'   O Crags (Three Finger Canyo...
Mercury   5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c R     Trad, 5 pitches, 1450'   K Crags
Velvet America   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a PG13     Trad, Sport, 1 pitch, 190'   A Crags
The Dark Side   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 140'   B Crags (Spotted Wolf Canyo...
Tread Lightly.    5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 140'   O Crags (Three Finger Canyo...
The Crack   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 2 pitches, 185'   O Crags (Three Finger Canyo...
The Hollow Men   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 6 pitches, 1130'   O Crags (Three Finger Canyo...
Curiosity Killed The Cat   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, 6 pitches, 1110'   O Crags (Three Finger Canyo...
More Madness   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 4 pitches, 700'   F Crags
Browse More Classics in Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps

Featured Route For Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps
Belay Pitch 3 . Death by Chocolate.

Death by Chocolate 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c  UT : San Rafael Swell : ... : E Crags (DBC Canyon)
Location: From I.70 entrance drive about 2.1 miles to pull off on right a few yards north of a prominent wash that crosses the road.The chocolate stripped peak is easily visible from here. Follow the wash until the slot canyon below DBC is reached. Enter the slot canyon on its left side. After two scrambling sections the canyon flattens and leads to the foot of the large chocolate slab. A double anchor is located about 70' up the slab,reached by easy scramble on the right. About 35 mins walk fr...[more]   Browse More Classics in UT

Photos of Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps Slideshow Add Photo
Lance, alone at last, establishing another face ro...
Lance, alone at last, establishing another face ro...
Ross and Potter new routing on the slabs.Don't wor...
Ross and Potter new routing on the slabs.Don't wor...
"Bouldering" near the base of the Easter...
"Bouldering" near the base of the Easter...
Swell camping!
Swell camping!
This might help you find your way around.  It also...
BETA PHOTO: This might help you find your way around. It also...
Sunrise view east of Three Finger Canyon
Sunrise view east of Three Finger Canyon
Geology of San Rafael Swell. image credit: Kelsey,...
Geology of San Rafael Swell. image credit: Kelsey,...
The Reef looking south. December.
The Reef looking south. December.
Lance topping out a new route he established groun...
Lance topping out a new route he established groun...
P.Ross and P.Moe on FA The Hollow Men 5.9. Three F...
P.Ross and P.Moe on FA The Hollow Men 5.9. Three F...
One of The Swells local residents.  This guy was n...
One of The Swells local residents. This guy was n...
Sunrise looking towards the La Sal Mountains
Sunrise looking towards the La Sal Mountains
A) End Game.5.7 B)Peuterey Ridge.5.7.C)Its Only Ro...
BETA PHOTO: A) End Game.5.7 B)Peuterey Ridge.5.7.C)Its Only Ro...
On our way to "Death by Chocolate"
On our way to "Death by Chocolate"
nice camping
nice camping
Climber rapping off after FA of The Innominate. 5....
Climber rapping off after FA of The Innominate. 5....
 Looking North
BETA PHOTO: Looking North
Looking towards Crags F and G area
BETA PHOTO: Looking towards Crags F and G area
  . The Innominate. 5.12 .Little Spotted Wolf Cany...
. The Innominate. 5.12 .Little Spotted Wolf Cany...
A) Two Finger Canyon. B) Three Finger Canyon
BETA PHOTO: A) Two Finger Canyon. B) Three Finger Canyon
Looking towards K-Crag area and to the South
BETA PHOTO: Looking towards K-Crag area and to the South
Poto taken from the Hanksville Road entrance.A) En...
BETA PHOTO: Poto taken from the Hanksville Road entrance.A) En...
Looking towards Crags L,M and N .Three Fingers Can...
BETA PHOTO: Looking towards Crags L,M and N .Three Fingers Can...

Show All 26 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Eastern Reef Area.. AKA The Sandstone Alps Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Nov 26, 2012
By Ryan Brough
From: Arvada, Colorado
Nov 26, 2006
As of 11-25-2006, the dirt road was washed out in several locations. I'm not sure how often or when this road is graded, but I would consider it "impassable" for a car. Even after filling in the ruts with rocks and dirt, we bottomed out in my brother's Subaru. A high clearance 4x4 will speed up your approach to the routes substantially.
From: Cumbria.UK
Oct 28, 2007
Agree it does need some reorganization , but if you do read ALL the info the area's are separated by the three approaches, each climb mentions which road to hike from . Also most of the good routes have photos of the whole crag with the line of the route marked.It is a massive area and even we get confused with where we are and what we have done. Eventually we will have a more comprehensive guide to the area .I must point out that not all the routes that have been done down there are on Mt Project.It is very different compared to most desert climbing which more often than not are towers that are easily recognised.Its a pure adventure area ,and you will usually not find other climbers to consult with as is often the case, for example on sport route crags or the Cottowood canyons.Just keep going you will learn even if like us its often the hard way!!. The main dirt road has now been scraped and is car friendly. Four wheel is still advised to drive the whole distance (about 2 miles) to the mouth of Three Fingers, also the short road (1/4 mile) to the Univa trail head. The first pull off for Spotted Wolf (Death by Chocolate area) is car friendly. Good luck
By Andrew Gram
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Oct 30, 2007
I can separate the routes out by trailhead - sound good?
By Ben Folsom
Oct 30, 2007
That would be great! I have everything pretty organized in a book I have made, and if you need any help or information, let me know.
By Errinevans
From: Chiloquin , OR
Nov 6, 2007
Hey, Lance and Ben: I think we met you guys out at the swell at the end of October... Ned and I headed back out there last weekend and we were having trouble locating the Road to Mecca. Is there an old pallet at the start of the wash that you approach on? Is the Death by Chocolate route visible south of where you park the car? We headed up the wash, wandered around a few and then cut across to the base of the swell. The canyon we were in appeared to be more than class 4 scrambling. That would be awesome if you could turn us around to the right direction. Thanks, Errin. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
From: Cumbria.UK
Nov 9, 2007
Yes Pallet where you pull off Yes Death by Choc very visible . The Slot canyon approach has a struggle up a V groove etc . There is a different but more complex approach detailed in Road to Mecca that avoids the 4th class approach.Road to Mecca is very easy but fun...
By Errinevans
From: Chiloquin , OR
Nov 12, 2007
Thanks Paul, good to know we were in the right place then. I just wanted to confirm that. We find it a little difficult to navigate in the Swell. Next time we head out there, we should be able to get in there. The scramble up just looked more tough than class IV so I thought we might have been in the wrong spot. Since there isn't any snow it may be sooner than later. Thanks again.
By rob bauer
From: Golden, CO
Apr 28, 2008
[revised] I enjoyed the climbing, my climbing partner of 20+ years was freaked out a lot, with cause. I bought a 60m rope just for the trip. It turns out hat my new rope was 15 feet short! Measure your ropes before you go because you need 200 feet ropes! To be fair, the author did suggest a bolt kit "if we got too far off route," but I was on route and still had some 100 foot runouts. (This is sandstone after all.) I'd bring a bolt kit and in retrospect wouldn't have felt bad putting a couple of bolts on every pitch, for those who may follow. [Not everyone who chooses 8's and 9's is a slabmaster.] The problem is you don't know where to put them until you've climbed it.

I would normally never think of adding bolts to a finished climb and wish that if the leaders had been low on bolts that they had suggested placements for those who followed. I did that(suggest bolt placements) on Creature Comforts, in the 'Platte. I was ok with the runouts and single bolt anchors (I hammer my holes), but didn't think others would be. It worked out well enough since I suggested where they ought to go (I didn't want 5 more bolts per pitch or anything). I do believe that there are "statement climbs" on which the runnouts are a big part of the climb, but those are frequently at a high grade where regular people won't get sucked in. I expected 50 foot runouts, but going 200 feet with one piece of gear and not making the anchors isn't "Trad," its soloing. (Care to make a few suggestions before somebody goes up there with a box of bolts and a Bosch and really screws up your beautiful climbs?) I did notice the hard climb in Uneva canyon had lots of bolts.

PS: We rap'd and made every rap anchor with what turned out to be a 185 foot lead rope and a 200 foot 9 mm rope.
From: Cumbria.UK
Apr 29, 2008
See comments on the Mercury route...
By brian wilson
Apr 29, 2008
Hello Paul,
If I may ask for you to look at the comments on Runout Ridge and get some feedback that would be great. Thanks for your time.
By Charles Chace
Nov 27, 2008
Thanks for the Beta! We'll try for that on Sun/Monday.
By Catherine Conner
From: Phoenix, AZ
Sep 2, 2009
This looks like soooo much fun and beautiful, been wanting to go since last year. I'm planning to check it out this coming March 2010 spring break. Anyone who knows the area, want to climb with me? I'll be out there.
By Dan Monroe
From: Colorado Springs, CO
May 16, 2010
Went there a couple of weekends ago (May 6th-9th) for our second time. The first time was a year ago also in May. We met Lance the first trip and Lance & Paul this second time. They are really great guys putting up some really fun lines. The risk vs reward at The Swell is high. When you get to the top of some of the longer lines you feel a great sense of accomplishment. I also like that the climbs are technical requiring mostly good footwork not just a lot of upper body strength.
By John Peterson
Nov 19, 2012
This shows the turn from I-70:

Google Maps

The driving directions on this page are accurate - just keep your eyes open since this isn't a marked exit.

The road is normally passable in your car but I haven't been there recently. At worst, it's only about 40 minutes extra to hike from I-70 to Little Spotted Wolf.
From: Cumbria.UK
Nov 24, 2012
Best to have 4 wheel drive to get to Three Fingers Canyon. The first wash can give problems to two wheel . Its about 30 mins walk from the wash to the canyon.Little Spotted wolf parking is easy with two wheel.
By krbuckingham
Nov 25, 2012
Where does Eardley Canyon fit in here? Z? Went there and found a few pre-established lines and put up an easy slab two pitcher with ~1000 foot scramble to the top of the reef.
By krbuckingham
Nov 26, 2012
I know I'm arguing with the expert here, but I think Eardley is about 3 miles south of one finger... Please correct me if I'm wrong. Looking at the pictures, Eardley (according to Nat. Geo.)/Two finger just doesn't match up. Is this right: SWELL MAP PIC
From: Cumbria.UK
Nov 26, 2012
Sorry your right... Your in Straight Wash/Eardley Canyon further up the road... Z Crags... I see what you mean !! Good one