In 2008-2009, Zach and I, among many others, agreed to help Chris with some beta for his new SuperTopo Guide book involving over 200 routes focused on free and/or clean aid climbing in Zion National Park. Upon proofing and reviewing the rough draft, an old chimney route on the east spur of Lady Mountain caught Zach’s attention. I am not sure whether it was the bushwhacking descent, the dirty off width climbing or just plain curiosity that drew him to it, but the next thing I know, we were off to do the route.
Chimney Sweep is an old school 5.7 Zion route first established by Curt Haire and Wes Hall in 1975. I had never heard of anyone doing it, but did observe rappel tat (even though you can walk off the route) that was younger than 1975. Thus it has seen some traffic although one would never guess it from how much loose rock and sand you had to dodge. I venture to guess the reason it has seen some traffic is because someone saw the opportunity to extend the original route with a couple of pretty good 5.10 pitches on decent rock. However, that is the only good rock of the day.
Curt and Wes originally named this route the North Spur Chimney Sweep, when in reality it is on the east spur of Lady Mountain. I am not going to get specific about the 5.10 grade as whoever supplied Chris with the beta did not and Zach and I were not interested in trying to pin it down. Needless to say, you have a few challenging off width pitches at the 5.10 grade level.
Lady Mountain is the monolith with a sheer cliff on its north side located across the road from Zion Lodge. It was named after a section of the Old Cable Route that resembles a woman’s face over Emerald Pools. Most of the mountain is covered in Navajo Sandstone from the Mesozoic era and is therefore quite loose and sandy. Drive through the Park Gates on the edge of Springdale via Hwy 9 and continue to the Lodge. Park at the river bridge on the left or in the lodge parking area. Cross the bridge and turn left following the paved trail as though you are going to Emerald Pools. When facing east on the switchbacks, look for a faint trail that heads up the loose and sandy slopes on your left. Follow this trail as it meanders up several rock steps that serve as the beginning of the Old Cable route. Before you reach the tall headwall above, venture right and aim for the main chimney/crack system on the east spur of Lady Mountain. Approximately half of your 1800’ elevation gain is just reaching the suit up spot for this climb.
1000’+/-, 7 Pitches, 5.10
1st Pitch- 150’- 5.7/ Begin in a right facing corner that quickly turns into a left facing corner feeding a chimney with multiple chock stones on top and a large juniper tree to the right of the top of the chimney. The first corner was mostly scrambling and then became a tad more challenging on some suspect rock as it steepened. The chimney portion was a blast. I went inside versus taking the chimney out, and tunneled through the chock stones above, but then I do have a 28” waist. Might be a little hard to protect that chimney as I recall. Set up anchor at the tree. photo(s)
2nd Pitch- 180’- 5.7/ I recommend going off belay through the bushes and into the next (continuous) chimney and wait until the leader asks to be put back on. Scramble through several huge and precarious stones in the chimney until you can climb out left. Set up an anchor in a crack ahead and to the left. photo(s)
3rd Pitch- 150’- 5.10/The crack straight up was no doubt the original line and looks to go at 5.7. However, the off width to the right looked a lot cleaner and more interesting, so we took that. By doing this variation in the route, you will find the crux moves of the day, several meters of un-protectable (except with a big bro or maybe a 6" cam) off width towards the top of the wall in front of you and to the right. The issue making the off width hard is size. It is not heel to toe for a mens 10-11. A mens 8 barely makes it. A “6 might protect, but we only had 5” gear with us. You can get a 5” inch in down low for a nice move or two at the start, but by the time you reach the crux section, any fall would result in decking. Send your smallest person on lead. Face the right wall at the crux and try to get a heel to toe jam going. Keep all your gear on your right side so you can eventually get your waist in as well. It will be a few meters of moves at the grade before you can get a piece in. Then a jug shows up and the climbing eases. Continue on easy, but dirty ground to some more trees. photo(s)
4th Pitch- 150’- 5th/ Scramble up easy, but loose ground along a wall on your left until you can climb the wall on the left with no pro really, but easy 5th class moves, onto a ledge system above that leads up to a broad ledge. Go ahead and coil the rope somewhere after you get over the wall. photo(s)
5th Pitch- 150’- 5.7/ Move the belay left over the large treed ledge towards the middle of the towering wall on your right. The 5th pitch runs up another easy crack system that leads into a varnished chimney. You can place a large nut and a 1” as you enter the chimney and then I ran it out to the top which provides for kind of an awkard and loose exit on top of a comfortable belay ledge. Another 1” piece serves as your only real pro up here to set up a station. photo(s)
6th-7th Pitches- 240’- 5.10/ These additional pitches are what make this route worth doing, if in fact it is worth doing! Towering above you is a spectacular chimney and crack system covering 200’ of straight vertical ground before it ramps out to the finish of the route. We chose to run a full 200’ of hard climbing and then set up a station before running out the last 40’ separately. Whoever added these last two pitches to the original route, called them 5.10 and I concur. They avoided giving them a specific letter grade as I will, because as with all off width problems, the grade depends more on your size than other types of climbing. Run up the crack until it opens up into a large chasm of sorts. Move left for an easy move or two and then make a short unprotected traverse back right into the off width section. From here on you will get decent gear set with the exception of a small and cruxy roof pull in the 7th pitch section. When the off width gets really tough, swing your left leg out to catch the wall behind you for some much easier, but wide, stemming moves that gain considerable ground before you have to enter the wide crack again. For the 7th pitch section, the crack narrows to hands and fingers. The crux is pulling a small roof which has a small precarious lip on it in which to springboard up to. From there, the ground is quite dirty and loose, but at a much easier grade. A 70m rope would finish the route, but a 60m needs to set up belay in the crack just at the top of the 200’ steep section. Save large gear (4" and 5" for this belay). photo(s)
DescentCoil the rope and scramble up left to the east spur summit below the massive upper headwall of Lady Mountain. Descend south along the ridge for a bit before traversing back north staying high to avoid the precarious loose ground below. You want to drop down into the deep gully below the steep headwall above. There was old rappel tat on a large tree, but it is relatively easy to scramble down into the gully to the right of this tree. Continue down the gully as the drainage bends south. I saw at least one other old rappel set up on a tree, but we down climbed this section with relative ease. Quite a bit of bushwhacking eventually gets you to a clearing. Traverse right to meet up with the Old Cable Route on Lady Mountain. Follow the route down, which involves one down climbing rock step, until you reach the base of the headwall and can then return along the base back east, ascending a bit to reach your packs at the base of the route.
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