Scrambl-eering on the Island in the Sky Traverse

Inside one of the best hidden gems in Utah is a sandstone behemoth called Island in the Sky. Most climbs go part way up its face, but there is a traverse which gains its summit and traverses a labyrinth of short canyons with scrambling ascents between them. RoadTripRyan has the best beta, but doesn’t utilize or follow all the rappels I found and published on ropewiki. Regardless of tools (map, gpx or physical markings), good route finding intuition is a must. However, none of this took away from the five hours of fun which ends in four rappels!

Ascending the Island

From the trailhead (37.199470,-113.643495) we walked a short distance to the Island in the Sky feature before gaining the North aspect via whatever looked good. Our small Long Haired Dachshund Piton in toe.

Going up, we eventually saw a big sandstone block which we rounded on its right. Hugging it up a chimney-crack that eventually led to an alcove with a vertical hole.

Coming out of the vertical hole

In this section we found the two identifying marks that help confirm our trail-sense while navigating the maze: Button heads and three vertical marks.

Next, we followed a moss-less corner-ish system before topping out on the Island in the Sky, going left at a karin through a horizontal rock-window and entering the canyon maze of the Island.

Entering the Maze

The Island Oasis

On the other side of the hole we dropped into an oasis of green amongst the sandstone reds and oranges. Following a worn trail in the green until it looks like it goes left, but we turned right instead by a stack of bricks up to a sandy flat with lots of small black stones (moqui marbles).

The Sandy Flat after the brick stack

We leaned right and then dropping left into the next green canyon of trees. Again, we followed a trail until we exited the canyon and saw a wide headwall in front of us with a small water pool in the corner. We make our way to the canyon floor, check out the pool and then head back left and up to a winding short canyon with three marks at the entrance.

Headwall on right, pool on lower right

There are a couple marking groups on our right as we go up and down the canyon and then down climb at a final three marks.

We then go up through the brush slightly leaning left and around a boulder. Walking through another canyon once more, taking a right when the trail seems to split two times. The second right confirmed by cairn.

Markings as we traverse the maze

The path goes through grass and then up a black chimney.

Piton “Adventure Sausage” Skiles sending his first D-2

After this we hung left and climbed up to the summit. From the summit we took a break and our scrambleering doggie Piton “Adventure Sausage” Skiles took a nap in the sun.

Now that’s a summit!

Exiting the Maze

From summit we followed a large, distinct arrow comprised of the many round, black moqui marbles on the large plateau on the other side of the summit. From here the route finding became more difficult and the markings were often absent for the rest of our trek.

From the arrow, we headed down steep slickrock to the tree’d canyon floor. Then up a sometimes-wet drainage into a cactus laden path perched at the top of the flow. Traveling along the canyon we ascended a black chimney and at the top, traversed right along the rock to a clear worn u-notch.

We saw a clear trail in the canyon floor on the other side of this notch which veered right and then up. We went up again to a sandy floor which we exit’d shortly after entering and found the marks again at this exit (37.193317,-113.642325).

The exit, with markings circled

From here we came to the rappelling section.

R1 – 20m (37.192317,-113.643242): two bolt anchor with webbing

R2 – 22m (37.192075,-113.643670): two bolt anchor with stale webbing

R3 – 27m (37.192088,-113.643730): two pitons and a bolt with webbing

R3 alternate – 15m (37.192008,-113.643653): in the canyon for a straight drop off a slung column of sandstone

R4 – 10m (37.191805,-113.643638): Rusted chains off rusted glue-ins

Then we walked out following cairns and well worn track to the bottom. It was a fun scrambling, route finding adventure that was a little too long for our 5 mo. old puppy who whined a lot the last hour. However, once in the sandy wash and on his own four paws, he was a happy fluffer running around with his mouth open back to the trailhead.

WARNING: I found the rock here as poor quality as Wadi Rum, Jordan, I pulled on several black plated holds throughout the day which broke off to show a sandy inside. I often used soft holds and open hands whenever any 4th class climbing came into play that couldn’t be solved by stemming.

Coordinates List:

  • Trailhead: (37.199470,-113.643495)
  • Summit: (37.194712,-113.642595)
  • Last Canyon Exit: (37.193317,-113.642325)
  • R1 – 20m (37.192317,-113.643242)
  • R2 – 22m (37.192075,-113.643670)
  • R3 – 27m (37.192088,-113.643730)
  • R3 alternate – 15m (37.192008,-113.643653)
  • R4 – 10m (37.191805,-113.643638)