Lady Mountain- Old Cable Route
We got the idea to try this route after reading about it's historical significance to Zion. The Lady Mountain Cable Route was one of the first trails in the park and consisted of nearly 2000 feet of cable strung through iron bolts, 1400 carved steps, and at least two ladders. The trail was also marked with yellow, red, or white highway paint to mark the way. Often there are very large arrows painted on the rock. These methods are widely considered unethical today in much of the United States, but given the fact that the cable is gone, the ladders are gone, and the paint is faded, the route beckoned to be done. Even if all these items still existed, this would be a fabulous route, albeit more crowded.
Looking up from parking area at the Emerald Pools area, across from the Zion Lodge, it was unclear as to just how this route navigated the southeast face with just 2 short technical sections. It seemed improbable, but as I've learned over the years, most peaks and towers that don't look probable have some type of weakness that can be exploited to gain the summits(with minimal technical efforts). This is particularly true in the Zion area, as we learned on The Watchman, just the previous day.
After making our way up the paved trail, near a metal warning sign, we followed a faint climbers trail up toward the base of the first cliff band. We spotted the historic paint marking and made our way up the first set of etched stairs onto the next level of the cliff terrace. The point of entry is best described as the southeast point of the cliffs above, when viewed from the parking area. From this point we made our way southwest following a typical Zion shelf, climbing up small ledges and ramps with intermittent steps carved into the rock and paint markings. I must admit, after a day on The Watchman of serious route finding, it was relaxing to follow the marks.
The first area of technical climbing was a small chimney that had a slight overhang move. This was an area where one of the original ladders was located and without it, the short section is probably rated 5.5-5.7. There was a new bolt at the base of this section that provided an easy anchor for the belayer. Just above the climbing an ancient, but bomber cable bolt made for an easy clip in. From this point we traversed west, then south, continually climbing. A few patches of snow were on the ground near the second and last section of technical climbing. This very short section was more to the 5.6-5.7 rating as the move is awkward, but not as exposed as the first section. Above this, a section of the route called the staircase ascends a narrow and exposed ramp back toward the northwest for about 100 yards. From down below, near some horse corrals, we heard the micro phoned bantering of some horse packer. The tiny hikers on the Emerald Pool trail below, passed below by the hundreds. We relished in the fact that we were above all that, and had Lady Mountain to ourselves.
After the staircase, we encountered a snow filled couloir (Mid March) that require kicking steps for about 100 feet and post- holing up to our waist in other spots. This stinging cold felt particularly nice on the dozens of scratches that I had acquired on from the Yucca, Manzanita, and other prickly desert plants. Just above the snow, there was a section that was altered by snowmelt. Normally this section would be easily navigated, but running water down the rock made a friction area a bit more challenging, especially with the snow chute looming just below. My partner had fewer issues in his sticky soled approach shoes, but my plain trail shoes did a poor job of purchase here. Above this section we picked our way back east a bit toward the summit ridge.
From the summit ridge, we could see the true summit just to the north of us as we made our way around an easy path through foot deep snow and onto the summit. Remarkable, a metal plaque is bolted on the summit with arrowheads pointing to the various landmarks. Our partly sunny day gave way to threatening clouds and an approaching wind storm from the west, hastened out descent. The upper portion of the descent require intense concentration not to trip or forget about the water laden rock. The descent down the snow couloir proved easy, as did the staircase and the two technical sections. We approached our vehicle just as major gusts of winds whipped up. Lady Mountain proved to be an excellent scramble.