|Sprocket Rocks, 5.6-5.12c, West Cedar Crags, Sport/Trad Routes
|Lat/Lon: 37.64306°N / 113.28361°W; Click for Google Map
Sprocket Rocks is a great escape from the desert heat that can grip southwestern
Utah and is considered part of the West Cedar Crags area located at 6000’+/- over
10 miles west of Cedar City on Highway 56. While some shun the crystalline
welded tuff (type of rock consisting of consolidated volcanic ash), I personally find it
a joy compared to the frail sandstone of Snow Canyon and other like climbing crags
closer to Saint George. This entire area sits on the Hurricane fault which separates
the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin desert. Welded tuff is basically a product of
lava (pyroclastic) flows hot enough to fuse or "weld" still-hot ash into a single uniform
layer called a “cooling unit”. To me this rock has the look and feel of airy lightweight
limestone and more particularly reminds me of the Ten Pins climbing area in
Needles, South Dakota.
As before mentioned, some like welded tuff, some don’t. Todd Goss put it best in his
excellent guide book for the area, “caviar to some and Ramen noodles to others”.
The crystals obviously are not to be relied on, but the edges seem bomber to
someone who does not experience granite much anyway. Bring your trad gear, as
two of the better routes involve nice 5.10 cracks running the length of the route.
The Routes are Left to Right, West to East
The first five routes are on a rock they individually named Embryology
Rock. It is the first large rock on the left side of this string of features.
- Fiesta at Elmos - 35’- 5.7/ Not sure this can seriously be called a 5.7, so if
you were looking for an easy 5.7 lead, grab it. Not much to it, just textured slab
up to chains. Shares the left face of a rock they have specifically named
“Embryology Rock” with Super Groover. Gets afternoon sun (at 6000’ you
might be looking for this). Three bolts to anchor, the middle bolt is shared
with Super Groover.
- Super Groover - 35’- 5.8/ Todd says medium pro placement, but I don’t see
the need. Three bolts to the same chains as Fiesta at Elmos. They share that
middle bolt. Challenging start here that makes it a 5.8, just a move or two
though, then a run up. Don’t cheat the start too far left, or you will miss the
- Embryology Crack - 35’- 5.10/ (trad)
- League Night - 40’- 5.11/ This is my favorite route thus far at Sprocket
Rocks (May, 2007). This is an easy route to identify as large green hangers
occupy the top 2/3rd of the route. You need to place small gear in a right
angled crack to start. The crack goes nicely with a little layback and then
dumps you on sparse ground at the first bolt. From there it is tiny, but bomber,
crimps and edges through four bolts to a hanging position on chains. You get
just a small break or two when you need it to make this a good 5.11 lead for
- Project/ The bolts to the right of League Night peter out before blending in
with League Night. Looks to still be missing a bolt if that was the builder’s
intent. Going to be some overhang 5.12 if ever finished.
- Erie Heights - 35’- 5.10d/
- Rimjob - 30’- 5.12b-c/
- Get Fixed - 35’- 5.11/
- De-Appendix Day - 35’- 5.11b/
- Ticks on Parade - 45’- 5.10/ (looks to be a great trad route)
- Missy’s Playhouse - 40’- 5.8/ If you follow the existing trail straight up from the
correct parking area, this is one of the first routes you see. An obvious
chimney formed by two blocks to your right. If you like stemming, this route
seems easier than 5.8 (my thoughts), if you don’t like stemming and have
tight runner’s hips, etc., then it will seem tougher (my wife’s thoughts).
Anyway, fun route, stem and clip, stem and clip until you lose the right block,
then grab a bomber ledge above and make an interesting mantle move onto
the face below the chains. Four bolts to anchor. A bolt has been removed
from the original anchor and the replacement set far back. Use a long runner
equalized with a figure 8 to get your rope off the edge for top rope
- Septic Death - 30’- 5.6/ A 5.6 route named Septic Death? Anderson has a
great sense of humor. Uneventful route that runs parallel to the very nice arête
line, “Line Between Light and Dark”. There is another line of bolts, only two I
believe, in between Missy’s Playhouse and Septic Death. I would ignore
them. Somebody was thinking of a 5.6 route here too, but not worth the
trouble to finish.
- Line Between Light and Dark - 30’- 5.10d/ Great little route up a steep and
pumpy arête on the edge of the same feature used for part of Missy’s
Playhouse and Septic Death, to the right side. A bit overhanging, but positive
grips. Three bolts to chains.
- White Harlem - 30’- 5.11d/ Same wall as Line Between Light and Dark
- Lip Before Clip - 35’- 5.10/ Move over to the next feature which looks
suspiciously like the “cookie monster” (see photo!). I am not sure which is
which here between Lip Before Clip and Cedar Variation, but they are both
basically the same in difficulty and use the same finish which represents the
crux move anyway. Assuming Lip Before Clip if the left route, it only has four
bolts, not five (as per the Todd’s guide book) to a nasty little anchor that has a
little bit of everything going on. I would use a long runner, equalized with a
figure 8, to get your rope over the rough overhang for top rope purposes.
These routes are both uneventful, but the feature is cool looking with shady
belay spots. The more difficult move is past the last bolt, which both routes
use and then real positive stuff to get you through the overhang by turning it to
- Cedar Variation - 35’- 5.10/ Same as for “Lip Before Clip” except the first
three bolts are around the corner to the right. Then traverse onto Lip Before
Clip for the finish. Lip Before Clip is more sustained. Neither are difficult 5.10’
Short rope will do you as there is nothing over 50’ at Sprocket Rocks. Some of the
better lines are trad though, so bring your rack, the approach is not much, not even
the 30 minutes Todd says in his guidebook. Carry a long runner to get your rope off
of some of these rough edges. Several anchors are placed quite far back as you top
out. They must not trust this “ash” so much. Six draws will be all you need.
Remember, you are over 3000’ higher than St. George, so if you are visiting West
Cedar Crags in the early spring, late fall or winter, bring a decent jacket.
Sprocket Rocks can be accessed one of two ways. Either right off of I-15 in Cedar
City, by taking Highway 56 twelve miles west of Main Street or via Highway 18 north of
Saint George to Highway 56 and then travel east past Pinto Road. What you are
looking for is a BLM sign on the north side of Highway 56. Just west of this sign is an
unmarked sandy road heading into junipers. You can see the crags up high to the
west. Meander through the trees (perfect for a jeep, tight squeeze for anything else)
until you come across the power lines. Turn left and park across from a well built
cairn (2007) on the right side. The trail up to Sprocket Rocks is quite pleasant
passing several unique features along the way, the first of which is in the shape of
an oversized sofa chair. The 2nd is actually bolted with chains on top. Seems to be
overdoing it a little for no taller than it is. Continue past this large rock to the base of
the upper crags. The first climbs you should come to are a great crack trad climb
called Ticks on Parade and a bolted chimney climb to the right of it called Missy’s
The BLM manages nearly 22.9 million acres of public lands in Utah, representing
about 42 percent of the state. The regulations regarding most BLM land are fairly
wide open compared to State and Federal parks. It appears you can camp and climb
in this area at will. Pit fires are highly discouraged if not illegal but you see them. Like
most of the rock back in the St. George area, you should not climb at West Cedar
Crags within 24 hours of any rain. Remember, this is simply hardened volcanic ash.
This welded tuff is for sure a different rock than sandstone, but still would absorb a
significant amount of moisture from rain I would assume. Don’t climb on it for at
least 24 hours after a rain. At 6000’, climbing in the winter can definitely be too cold
in this region. But of course that means the West Cedar Crags serve as a great
escape from the searing heat in the spring and summer if you are camping out in
Cedar City has several private campgrounds and quite a few newer hotels. Country
Aire RV Park Campground is located at 1700 North Main. They are open all year and
have 18 tent sites, a ton of trailer sites, flush toilets, showers, etc. Cedar City KOA
claims to be the #1 KOA rated campground in Utah and is located at 1121 North
Main. The National Forest Service operates several campgrounds in the Markagunt
Plateau area, but they are only open during the summer.
Notes: Cooler environs for sure. We are really enjoying exploring the higher
elevations north of Saint George. We never see another soul during the week either.
This day, we took our brand new jeep and tested it well going up a cliff just to the
east of Sprockets (Stacy jumped ship). Got turned around a tad. Todd Goss said it
took him 4 times to find it himself. We took the Pinto Road on the way up through the
Dixie National Forest, incredible country. I personally like climbing on this welded tuff,
reminds me of the Ten Pins in the Needles, SD. Definitely recommend this spot.
CLICK TO ENLARGE PHOTOS
1. Missy's Playhouse, 5.8
2. Cookie Monster?
3. Cedar Variation, 5.10a
4. Septic Death, 5.6
5. Sprocket's East End
6. Missy's Playhouse
7. Am I on Belay? Worth it.....
8, League Night, 5.11a
9. Cacti at Sprocket
10. View towards Cedar City