I had considered doing Pygmy Alien solo this past December (2006) but never got around to it. In January-February of 2007 a fellow SP’er and I were looking for a route to climb for the first time together and Pygmy fit the bill. In retrospect, after experiencing the exposure of climbing out of the “pit” for the start of the second pitch, I was glad I had not done it solo. This second pitch start is somewhat exposed compared to your typical 5.7 routes.
Pygmy Alien is in the middle of Circus Wall of Island in the Sky of Snow Canyon State Park fame, not to be confused with a feature of the same name in Canyonlands National Park north of Moab. Snow Canyon State Park is a state park of 7100 acres just north of St. George, Utah. Island in the Sky has a minimum of 64 published routes from 5.5 to 5.12b. It is a significant piece of rock (small mountain) situated at the south end of the park that is broken down into eight different climbing sections along its west wall. In the winter it keeps one busy when many of the other spots don’t look so inviting. Pygmy Alien is one of the dozen or so easier routes on Island in the Sky and is a fairly warm route in early to late afternoon on winter days.
Pygmy Alien is one of eight climbing routes that make up “Circus Wall” towards the north end of Island in the Sky. At three pitches it is the second longest of these eight routes. It is easily accessed via the small pullout (east side) on the park road designated for Pioneer Names Trail. Follow the trail as it crosses a wash and ends at the wall where some early pioneers carved their name into an arch. The climb is to the left of the carvings. There is a small pit/cave like feature that serves as your first belay on route. There are half a dozen routes marked by pitons spread out across the wall. You are aiming for the most direct line below the pit. It is easy to get sucked off course. A few long runners might aid in clipping pitons you did not mean to reach and would protect your traverse back to the line.
Route Description1st Pitch- The first pitch is 140’ (photo) to an anchor in the pit via 12 pins. It starts out laid back. In fact I skipped the first two pins. Then it gets vertical on varnish edges. I know I got off track at least once and just clipped a long runner to protect my traverse back to the line. The pins can be confusing. The Pygmy pins are supposed to be painted green, but much of the paint has worn off. This is a popular route and fairly well cleaned through the first pitch. Some parties must bail at that point since the second pitch was not such a clean pitch. There is a rap station midway down that can be used for a bail situation (2 rappels) off of the first pitch.
2nd Pitch- (90’) The second pitch start is the crux of the climb (photos). Move out left of the pit via two pins. It is best to skip the first one and put a long runner in the second one. Reach up and out of the pit and traverse ever so delicately left and then climb back right through the next two pins (crux). Move left into a crack and start placing finger to hand gear through a small roof to a large alcove beneath a wide chimney. You will have to set up a gear anchor here. The rope drag on this route can be considerable if you are not using long runners through the pin portion. If it is a windy day, you will not be able to verbally communicate with your belay.
3rd Pitch- The chimney is easy 5th class climbing. I placed one piece of gear on this pitch. Enjoy the easy moves through the chimney which leads to a leaning block, then climb easy varnish to a larger ledge/platform with a tree. Belay off of the tree or build a crack anchor. From here, it is 4th class scrambling to your right up and over a block and onto the right side of a chasm. Continue up and back left to the top of the north end of Island in the Sky.
DescentAh, the tricky part. Todd’s book references that you can walk off the north end of Island in the Sky, but that climbers have had to be rescued in the past as they could not find their way off. The update is that there is an easy rappel option. The north end descent off of Island in the Sky is a maze of blocks, trees, pockets, alcoves, etc. with no discernible trail. As soon as you start to descend there are some precarious rap slings strewn underneath a massive boulder. This first rap lands you down to a treed/bush ledge. Some more secure rap slings are tied to a sizable tree here which gets you another 30 meters down the north ramp.
From there descend by zig zagging on horizontal features until you are just above the undercut 30’ above the desert floor. Massive flooding has cut away the last 30’ of rock so you must rap this last portion if you chose the rappel descent. The walk off descent takes your further west where there is no undercut. We traversed slightly to our right and found a rap sling run through a precarious sandy feature. Since it is a free air rappel from here, you might want to find something more secure or if you weigh over 200lbs, you might want to consider an alternative. I am sure some of these slings go missing from time to time, but the bottom line is you can rap the route easier than you can walk off it. Circle back around to the southwest and Pioneer Names Trail.
Essential Gear60 m rope will suffice. Double ropes will save you a rappel. You need tons of draws for that first pitch, at least 12 if not 14. You need a variety of placement gear, a light to medium rack for cracks. Red chalk only please!
External LinksSnow Canyon State Park
Red Cliffs Desert Reserve
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