Rock and Ice Climbing in Santaquin Canyon, Utah

Climbing Santaquin

At this moment I was thinking how radical it was going to be to swing out onto that dagger of ice, recalls climber Scott Adamson, seen here on a new route called the Angel of Fear in Utah’s Santaquin Canyon.  The moves going out to the dagger are not all that difficult physically, but you should still be heads up so you don’t skate off, notes Adamson, a 15-year ice-climbing veteran.  After I weaseled in some good rock protection the climbing seemed mellow.

This is a mixed-climbing route.  First the climber ascends a steep rock roof, then he or she committs to this ice traverse.  I strive to find routes that have big ice daggers and to climb naturally with gear.  This route has natural gear placements for cams, nuts, etc., says Adamson, who lives at the base of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains and works as a climbing and canyoneering guide in Zion National Park in the summer.

Getting the Shot

It was pretty rowdy—a crazy little dagger, hanging in space, says photographer Jermiah Watt of the ice dagger that had formed a few hundred feet above.  Watt had photographed in the region before, under different conditions.  The previous year, in this spot, several tons of ice had cascaded down the entire wall.  This was a first ascent, so we weren't quite sure what to expect or whether the ice would even allow things to work.

To capture this shot, Watt set himself at the same height as Adamson by equalizing an ice screw and bolt above and behind himself.  I really wanted to give an idea of the position Scott was in—thin ice and little gear with this crazy dagger just hanging out in space—and for me that translates into working my way in close with a wide-angle lens.  Racing against waning light, Watt worked carefully as Adamson climbed.  I would wait for Scott to get into dynamic, angular positions that somewhat mimicked the geometric form of the ice.  I was hoping to create an attraction of sorts between the climber and dagger.

Watt photographed with a Nikon D800 and 16-35mm f/4 lens.  Select the photo for the large version.