The Craggin Classic Puts The Rock Back Into Rock Climbing


I climbed a rock last weekend. Many rocks actually. And so did Sage. I dragged her from her cozy bed at the crisp dawn hour of 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning for the Salt Lake Craggin Classic up Little Cottonwood Canyon. I told her, “You’re climbing this weekend”. The comatose 9 year-old wasn’t happy with me.

I have been rock climbing for years but mostly indoors. Every year, however, I’m a beginner again as I completely stop for skiing in the winter. When I happened to come across the poster for the Craggin’ Classic it was my sole motivator to get back on the rock. The two-day event offered clinics for beginning sport climbers, alpine mountaineering, traditional climbing, rescue and first aid classes for all levels as well as food and community; my kind of weekend.

Craggin’ Day 1

We walked into the Peruvian Lodge at Alta to the sweet smell of grilled bacon and hashbrowns. I was sold at the make-your-own breakfast burrito station and fresh-brewed coffee. The savory curries from the Himalayan Kitchen would come later that night for dinner, after a five-hour excursion. Sage groaned a bit because the bevy of kids I promised never appeared. The kids outdoor climbing clinic was cancelled. I don’t get it. This was the perfect environment for climbing parents. Sign up everyone, drop the kids with an experienced coach to hone their skills and get them outdoors on real rock instead of colored gym holds, while you do your own thing for a few hours. Then you meet back up for dinner and camping. Super civilized. You leave your kids at an all-day rock climbing camp at Momentum, why would you NOT do this for both of you? No one could answer. Sage was one of three kids the whole weekend. I didn’t let that stop us.

After picking up shoes and harnesses from the Camp and Red Chili vendor tents, we broke into our clinic groups then loaded up my car for Big Cottonwood and the easy access Salt Lake Slips near the Dogwood campground. The Craggin Classic is part of a countrywide series of events put on by the American Alpine Club to educate and promote climbing at some of the premier destinations in the U.S. including North Conway, New Hampshire, Devil’s Rock, Wisconsin, and Salt Lake City, Utah. The AAC finds local guides and athletes to usher participants through clinics on Alpinism and Mountaineering, Trad/Multi-Pitch Climbing, and Physical Conditioning and Technique. You won’t get this kind of training in a gym.

After a short hike across the creek and playful banter, the talk turned to safety. We discussed gear, ropes, and suited up for belay lessons. Instantly I made a friend. Nancy was new to Utah and ready to discover the routes of the Wasatch Front. I had recently lost my last climbing buddy to a new boyfriend so here was yet another benie of the Classic.

While we bonded, Joey and Judy took Sage under their wing and taught her to belay. She held me on a 5.5, climbed it herself right after, then as soon as she was down, she rushed over to keeping practicing her belay…on Yasmin, her Monster High doll.

Back at Camp

Five routes and some serious hot temps later we wrapped up and headed back to basecamp (aka the Peruvian). Black Diamond sponsored our “happy hour” with vodka/punch and whiskey/lemonades that more than hit the spot. Eventually, we meandered into the basement room of the Lodge for some climbing slideshows and a raffle. We were famished by the first scoop of Basmati rice. The thumping music started shortly after dinner but we had a tent to erect and wasted limbs to revive. Ryan showed up to join us for the campout only to create one of the worst nights of sleep I can remember this year. Note to self: do not try to sleep three in a two-man tent.

yes, we had the smallest tent in the land.

Day 2

We sent Ryan packing in the morning, Sage joined the Intro to Outdoor Climbing clinic for round two (over at Dogwood this time) and I moved up the Canyon to Reservoir Ridge for Sport Leading Fundamentals. I have lead in the past but I hate it; climbing above the rope is not my cup of tea. The clinic was everything I hoped for- a refresher and confidence builder. The crew from Mountain Education and Development don’t mess around. We all lead two easy routes (5.6) but with a backup toprope system so that there would never be a time where we could fall. And the backup had a backup.

The End

I met Sage back at the Reservoir parking lot. Her ‘coach’ brought her over. She was beaming. “Mom! I did FIVE routes. Two were 5.9s!!” she exclaimed. I came home on Sunday with a renewed sense of outdoor climbing and my very own mini-climber. Getting outside on rock does that to just about anyone who doesn’t fear heights. As we headed home to Park City Sage asked if we could do the Craggin’ Classic again next year. I said sure; and maybe then there will be more kids. “I don’t care,” she said. “I just want to climb.” That’s my girl and that’s the Classic in a nutshell.

The next events in the west will be at Smith Rock in Bend, Oregon this weekend and then over Halloween in Shelf Road, Colo. There’s always room if you feel like road tripping.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *