One of the warmest spots to climb in all of Zion National Park is on the southern aspect of the Three Marys. The Three Marys are located above the town of Springdale to the right of West Temple. The steep approach up the loose sandy hill side provides a nice warm up during cold winter days. The approach is easily accessed from the Tanner Amphitheatre parking lot.
As of 2012 most folks have focused on just one route located on Right Mary, Immaculate Conception (5.10). However, I consider Theatre Goddess a better climb in terms of rock and varied climbing. I was not that impressed with More Than a Woman on Middle Mary which is mostly a choss fest.
More Than a Woman was established by Bryan Bird and company in 2004. I would be surprised if anyone else has climbed this route besides the FAers and us as of 2012. It was incredibly loose and chossy with movable blocks everywhere we stepped or pulled. The cracks themselves were also incredibly dirty and frail on the edges. The descent was chocked full of cacti and brush. Bryan states in his guide book “first five pitches are fun, mostly choss free cracks”. I do not agree with that assessment. I led the first 200’+ trying to reach a ledge with a significant tree. Despite simul-climbing, the rope drag became too much and we eventually divided that first corner to crack to ledge section (300’) up into two pitches. The rock was crumbling at about every instance. The third pitch required us to move the belay up and left about 20’-30’ and was a bit more interesting at least. It started out in a corner with a decent crack on the perpendicular wall, but also soon gave way to more chossy white sandstone. At about 200’ I reached a belay tree which marked the entrance to an open gully. The fourth pitch was by far the best pitch of the day. It runs up an obvious hand-finger crack left center at the back of the open gully. After that pitch, we scrambled up 5th class to the summit and descended down the east ridge to the col with Right Mary. The descent down the col required just two single rope raps off of trees staying skiers right.
Drive down the paved road (Lion Avenue) toward the Dixie State College Tanner Amphitheater. Park before the gate and hike in along the road to the amphitheater itself. Right before the amphitheater locate a climbers trail on the right that drops down into a wash and then aims for the obvious break in the steep lower cliff band above and slightly to the west. The trail is rarely used and can be faint, but there are a few cairns along the way (2012). Once through the cliff band, make for the left corner of Right Mary (Immaculate Conception). Walk along the base of the col between Right and Middle Mary and notice how your descent is best made skiers right. Suit up there to avoid the bushy trek back to the base of the climb when you are finished. Continue along the base of Middle Mary heading west. Locate a significant roof a solid 200’ above. There is a bail bolt you can see (2012) below the roof on the left wall. Start up this corner and follow the cracks to the right of this roof (left to right) to a large ledge with a significant tree (2 pitches). I have included topo photos.
Route Description800’+/-, 5 Pitches, 5.10
1st/2nd Pitches- 90m- 5.9/ Start up the corner and move right into a crack system that constantly leans right. Continue up short corners and belay where comfortable. I did not stop until I hit a short ledge with a loose block that you have to traverse about 8’ right at about 220’. Finish up the rotten corner/crack to the large treed ledge above. Most of these intermittent cracks offer hand jams.
3rd Pitch- 60m- 5.10/ Move the belay up and left to a col of sorts. Head up a narrow corner with a face crack on the right wall. This crack peters out as you follow the left crack (corner) up and over several white sandy bulges/roofs. The rock deteriorates the further up you go, but the pitch protects relatively well. A few finger cracks and mantles, but mostly hand jamming. The pitch opens up above, hike up to a large tree for a full 200’.
4th Pitch- 40m- 5.10/ Head to the back of the closed in gully. There is a nice looking hand/finger crack left center. Climb it with one move at the grade on exit. Continue up loose ground to build a belay wherever feasible.
5th Pitch- 5th Class/ Bryan mentions five pitches of good crack climbing. He might have divided up the previous pitches differently. We un-roped at this juncture and just scrambled with intermittent climbing moves here and there to the eastern ridge. From where I topped out, there was one short wall I had to down climb along the ridge to reach the summit.
DescentDescend the eastern ridge to Middle and Right Mary’s col. Descend the col to the south, staying skier’s right towards the end. Make at least two single rope raps off of trees before you can down climb and scramble off the rest by cutting back left a bit. A lot of bush and cacti line this descent. There were no signs of human traffic and we left no tat on trees.
- The Many Free Routes in Zion National Park
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