Landscape: San Rafael Swell, Utah

The Sandstone Alps? I didn’t believe it when I heard it, but as I’ve started getting back in summer climbing mode, I went with a friend to climb in an area west of Green River in Utah called San Rafael’s Swell. This area has been dubbed the “Sandstone Alps.” After spending a few days there, I wouldn’t say that San Rafael’s Swell compares to the Alps— but climbing in a desert setting like this one is a good, local alternative.

We wanted to get in some long, easy trad routes—and there were many to choose from…if you’re okay with sandy, slabby rock and long run-outs. The first route we did was on a big rock formation Mountain Project calls “Aguille du Gieant…similar to the French alp of the same name.”

I think Mountain Project’s spelling is a bit off, but we went with it and found our chosen route sort of like climbing a sandy flatiron with no equipped belays or rap anchors. Getting off of the route required us to traverse over to a class IV gully and downclimb some more sandy, slabby rock.

The next day, we went over to Three Finger Canyon…(pictured below…)

…to climb a route called “1000’ of Fun,” and it was indeed much more fun. I’ll post some more photos from this nice climb upcoming.

Three Finger Canyon was a great place to explore. Tom (below) and I came across some good watering holes…

…and petroglyphs.

Despite the so-so climbing, I had a great time just being in the desert landscape. We’d get back to our campsite and hang out in the evenings—cooking, reading…

…and watching the evening clouds cruise across a pastel sky.


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