Bryan Bird has this route listed as eight pitches, alpine III-IV. Mountain Project has it at seven pitches, although it is easily done in six and more like a II if one were to assign an alpine grade to it. Bryan also gives a detailed description on how to avoid the best pitch of the route in my opinion, the first pitch, bypassing it to the left via two less desirable pitches. He briefly gives a notable description of the dangers of pitch one, but no mention of the extreme danger of the final two pitches, which leads me to believe Bryan had yet to climb this route in its entirety prior to publishing his new guidebook, Zion Climbing, Free and Clean. However, I do praise Bryan’s book when compared to most such guides because of the fact that he has climbed most of the routes he published. Drew Spaulding and Ty Hydrusko established Riddler’s Delight in 2001.
Riddler’s Delight’s last two pitches are for sure to be avoided until properly cleaned. Being so close to the Zion lodge and employee housing, I for one would not volunteer to do the job. This should be a coordinated effort with the park to avoid any trouble in my opinion. As I alluded to earlier, I thought the first pitch was stellar. Quite a bit is made about the “scary chock stones”, but I have been around much worse. I led this pitch and did not feel uncomfortable easily maneuvering around those blocks/chock stones. The great climbing on this pitch is deep in the chimney above the hazards, stemming up three walls to a capped roof and making an aesthetic move to turn same. This was Disney World climbing at its best, just one fun ride. The second pitch centers around a real nice 5.9 hand crack. The third pitch is the crux (5.10+) of the route, a thin traverse left under an arching corner with a bit of blank feet. The fourth pitch was supposed to be 5.10 according to Bryan’s published topo, but I never felt the 5.10 in it. It does run over a few decking ledges and makes a run out, rope drag, traverse out left to the base of the next pitch (the straight up and down corner). I highly recommend you avoid the final two pitches until such time that they have been cleaned of some massive stacked blocks at the top of what was our 5th (6th or 7th according to others) pitch. At present, you are forced to climb these stacked blocks (RX) on lead to reach the bolted belay, fixed rappel. We climbed them and rigged the rappel such that our ropes were not interfering with the blocks, but I cannot recommend you climb them. All the belays are quite comfortable ledges on this climb.
Riddler’s Delight is listed in the Carbuncle Buttress section of Bryan’s new book. Carbuncle has a Joe French sport climb, Made to be Broken (5.10c), 2003, that is gaining in popularity. However, Riddler’s Delight is actually located on a separate unnamed buttress to the right (west) of the old plane wreck, located more behind the employee housing than the lodge housing. Take the bus or if off season, you can drive to the Zion Lodge parking lot. Walk west in front of the lodge to the near back corner of the separate lodge building. Locate a trail here that meanders up to the base of Carbuncle Buttress (tower) above that has a huge roof on top known as the diving board which is impossible to miss. It looks like an Olympic sized diving board. Once you have made it through a rock band (5 minutes from when you left the buildings), turn right and locate a water pipe. Follow it west until you are below a larger wall separated from Carbuncle by a significant gully. Ascend a wash up to the base of the gully and turn right to ascend to the base of a chock stone filled chimney which is the first direct and original pitch for Riddler’s Delight. On approach you can see two hand sized splitters above the chimney section which make up the 2nd pitch by the original line.
Route Description800’+, 6 Pitches, 5.10X
1st Pitch- 55m- 5.10/ This is the best pitch on the route in my opinion despite getting direction from Bryan’s new guide book to avoid it. Run up the easy corner to inside the chimney on the right. Burrowing under large rotten chock stones was not fun, but did not really frighten me and required no gear placement. Once standing on the last chock stone, the real climbing begins. Start by chimneying up the two outside walls, then switch to stemming utilizing the third back wall (forming a stem box) at times. This section is quite technical for chimney climbing, but protects fairly well. Once up to underneath the roof, you have to make some physical and awkward moves to the outside edge of the chimney turned crack on somewhat fragile rock. Continue up the left face to a large ledge above below a hand crack. Gear belay.
2nd Pitch- 30m- 5.9/ Take the beautiful 5.9 hand crack up the short vertical face. As it starts to widen, the grade eases up. Continue to another large ledge with a dead tree and crack to the left for pro.
3rd Pitch- 30m- 5.10+/ This is the crux climbing of the day. Start up the dirty crack to the right on the ledge. Follow the arch out left above via thin off-hands and somewhat blank feet. It all protects well. It eases after a few moves, continue up to yet another, but smaller, ledge below a wide deep flaring crack.
4th Pitch- 55m- 5.9+/ Called out as 5.10 in the guide book, I led it and can’t see the 5.10 move(s), not by Zion standards anyway. There is a lot of potential rope drag on this pitch, so be wary of how you manage your ropes and pro on lead. Head up the deep flaring crack, a bit of off width. You can see the next pitch’s corner over to the left, but if anything, exit the crack out to the face slightly right when it makes sense aiming for a ledge above. Then climb run out 5.7 face above that ledge until you hit a narrow ledge that runs left all the way to the base of that obvious corner you saw from below. Fixed belay. Do not take the dirty corner directly above the 5.7 section.
5th-6th Pitches- 100m- 5.9X/ The 5th pitch is a very dangerous and somewhat run out pitch. I advise skipping these last two pitches until you have secured the knowledge that they have been cleaned. I do not advise cleaning the death blocks on this pitch unless it is a coordinated effort with someone on the ground as well as with the park. Although there is no danger these blocks would damage any of the lodge, the fact anyone would cause this severe of a rock fall this close to the lodge could indeed get you in hot water with the park service. The ground coordination would be vital as the first four pitches of this route are gaining in popularity We had someone behind us (bailed after the first pitch) and friend of mine also has been on this route when another party was on it. The first four pitches at least appear to be gaining in popularity.
Take the corner up until its terminus. Unfortunately if you thought the rock was iffy to this point, it gets much worse and run out from here. Continue up precarious face holds for almost the same distance as the corner itself. You will come to a narrow ledge below significant death blocks up and right, stacked like dominos. To reach the bolted station above the blocks, you must actually climb them which is scary indeed. Tread and breathe lightly is what we did. We did not continue to the very top on the 5.7 ground (according to the topo in the guide book) due to even more blocks above as shown on the topo as well as “poor bolts” for the top rap which I have been told is a bad pin and bad bolt.
To rap from the top of the 5th pitch, if the death blocks are still present, I advise lowering to the narrow ledge below, pulling the knot down (doubles required) to that point. Then continue the rappel, but move the rope over the blocks to the right where you can get a clean pull. Back to the top of the 4th pitch. Then another double rope rap to the dead tree ledge at the top of the 2nd pitch. Take a double rope rap from the dead tree (slung-2010) to a ledge above the first pitch variation which will be climbers left of the first pitch. There are bolts on the wall to your right above a corner. Double rope rap to ground from there.
- The Many Free Routes in Zion National Park
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