Cave Dweller is a seldom climbed, relatively new, route in Zion National Park located on Kung Fu Theater Wall. Bryan Bird’s gear call (double to 6”) as well as the chossy nature of the first pitch no doubt serve as a barrier to popularity, despite its moderate climbing by Zion standards. Bryan and Brian Smoot established Cave Dweller in 2006 and it was included in Bryan’s guidebook: Zion Climbing, Free and Clean. Zach Lee put in a bolted route right next to Cave Dweller that did not get completed in time to make the guidebook, Walk in the Park (5.11).
Cave Dweller’s upper three pitches are worth the effort of the first chossy pitch (5.7). There are several meters of heads up climbing through a sandy roof. It was my belayer’s first experience climbing in Zion and I was in no hurries therefore stuck to the FA’ers topo which has you stopping at approximately 20m or less on each of the first two pitches. However these first two pitches would be easy to combine. The second pitch (5.9) involves much better climbing and starts the varnished chimney which encompasses the gut of this route. Again you must pull a small roof to start the pitch. In fact the first three pitches' crux is each at a roof. The third pitch is the business on Cave Dweller. After pleasant but run out chimney climbing, you pull a significant roof with athletic moves out to the edge (crux). Through 35 meters on this 3rd pitch I placed three pieces of gear, C4 #4, #5 and #6 along with the lone pro bolt on the entire route. The last pitch was a pleasant surprise. Looking up at it from the belay, I figured it would be mostly chossy and bushy. It actually delivered 20m of fun climbing in a well varnished flaring chimney (not continuous with the previous feature) placing medium pro at will.
Park at the last switch back (on the right) along the park road before you enter the Zion tunnel heading eastbound. Locate the trail heading west for Bridge Mountain (Smash Mouth, 5.11). The entire north facing wall above you on your left is known as Kung Fu Theater. Cat Hole, Cave Dweller and Walk in the Park share the same start (photo) in a chimney system surround by bulging walls on each side. Once you ascend to the base of Kung Fu Theater wall on the trail, continue west on the trail (as the base of the wall continues to rise to your right) until you come across a junction that heads up and right, back up to the wall in a recess. There are two hand lines (2012) that assist you up to the base of the main wall/chimneys. Cave Dweller starts just to the right at the top of this second hand line. As mentioned previously, a bolted line follows up the face to the right. Cave Dweller follows the same crack/chimney section for its first three pitches.
Route Description350’+/-, 4 Pitches, 5.10
1st Pitch- 20m- 5.7/ Don’t get too discouraged by the choss on this pitch, the rock gets much better on the remaining pitches. Jam up the wide flaring crack of the sandy roof staying with the main crack. Above, continue on better rock and much easier climbing to a comfortable belay in a pod below a small roof with a 4” crack on its right side. The belay takes C4 #1 and #2.
2nd Pitch- 20m- 5.9/ Pull the wide crack roof and enjoy the neat chimney climbing above. You can clip at least one of the bolted line's bolts (Walk in the Park on the arête) for additional pro, otherwise a typical run out Zion chimney. Belay out right at a fixed station for Walk in the Park on a small ledge.
3rd Pitch- 35m- 5.10/ This is the crux pitch of the route. Although Bryan called for double to 6” in his guidebook, I took a single C4 #4, #5 and #6 and these three pieces were all I placed on this 35m crux pitch along with the one fixed piece of pro (the only pro bolt on the entire route). I walked the #5 one time, otherwise I felt well protected. Head up the run out, but relatively easy, black chimney on good rock passing one bolt on the right about half way to the wide roof above. Protect the roof with a large piece and make dramatic moves (crux) back out to the outer edge mantling up into the wide crack above. Continue whilst placing your other large pieces until the pitch eases at a fixed rap station. Continue past the rap station up a short corner and then short chimney via easy cracks (for the grade) to a sandy ledge. C4 #3 and #2 gear fits in the left crack above for the belay.
4th Pitch- 35m- 5.8/ This pitch surprised me. It takes all the gear you want to place and is more sustained than it looks from the belay. Start up the short and bushy right facing corner to the left of the ledge. Traverse right below a bush to another ledge and start up the wide flaring chimney which protects with medium gear deep in. Enjoy a pleasant chimney pitch to its top. The fixed belay/rappel is to the left.
DescentTwo double rope raps to the ground. Rap to that station you passed up on pitch 3. Rap again to the ground. We stuck our ropes a bit on the first pitch, not a big deal, but I would pull them once you returned back down the hand lines to get a better angle.
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