Pitches 4-7 – Joe Allen & JJ Cieslewicz (5/8/10)
“After climbing through all these bushes, I’m scared to climb rock!” – JJ Cieslewicz
VegeMight? The name is a commentary on the extreme quantity of carniverous plants on the route. I dislike vertical bushwhacking almost as much as the famed Aussie spread.
The view from the summit of Red Butte is possibly the best in Southern Utah. Rising 1,800 feet from the valley floor, Red Butte is isolated from any other major peak in the immediate vicinity. From the summit, one can see everything from the Virgin River Gorge to the south, Kolob Fingers, Timber Top Mesa, and New Harmony to the North, Pine Mountain to the West, and the West Temple and Towers of the Virgin to the East.
What would compel a person to climb a petrified sand dune? I have no single answer. Since the first time I saw the mountain, a striking, pyramid shaped monolith rising from the desert sands, I had to climb it. Finally, on a warm and sunny spring day years after sighting the peak, I enrolled Rick Eddy into joining me for an adventure up the mountain. Exactly seven days prior Rick and I climbed Aries Butte http://www.summitpost.org/route/197120/aires-butte-aka-led-by-sheep-5-6-5-pitches.html a fun and safe 5 pitch 5.6 on Zion’s east side. After our success on Aries Butte, I felt compelled to attempt a slightly more adventurous Zion slab climb up Red Butte.
All I told Rick is that I wanted to take him up Red Butte. He assumed I meant the standard route. But when we met at the La Verkin Chevron and I suggested doing a first ascent up the mountain he was on board.
That first day ended after climbing three wet pitches. The mountain was still holding snow in its deep recesses and rivulets of water started appearing all over the fragile sandstone as the afternoon sun warmed the air.
Three weeks later I twisted JJ’s arm and we pushed the route to the summit.
Red Butte was once part of a giant sand dune and is returning to this state. As such, the dirt roads are more sand than dirt. A 4-wheel drive vehicle is highly recommended.
From the parking area, cross the fence and continue up the road as it gradually dissipates and becomes a sandy wash. Follow the sandy wash to the foot of the mountain and ascend up 3rd class slopes on the left side of the gulley. On my first attempt I took the right side of the gulley and had a hard time involving a lot of vertical bushwhacking. The left side is more direct and involves less fighting with vegetation. Follow the ridge until it narrows to only a few feet across and ends abruptly at a chimney. At this point there will be a 100+ foot drop on the right. Solo 30’ up the chimney and rack up in the narrow space.
Climb the chimney (best rock and best climbing of the entire route) to a perfect #2 hand crack. Place plenty of gear at the top of the crack, because this is the last good pro you get before the belay. Exit the crack to a low-angle slab with bushes on it. Sling the shrubs (probably won’t hold a fall) and climb the slab to the big pine tree for the belay (30’ run out). The slab is narrow and a fall would send you into the chasm on either side (R/X). The climbing is easy, but heady. On the first attempt I led up the arête on the right side of the slab making for wild exposure on bad rock. On the second attempt, my partner chose the left side of the slab which seemed like easier climbing and better rock. Belay from the big pine tree.
Pitch 2 – Low 5th, 150’
Climb the easy slab past the big pine tree and belay at the second, smaller tree.
Pitch 3 – 5.8, 100’
The pitch starts out low angle but quickly becomes vertical. Climb the corner past bad rock slinging bushes for pro. Fight your way through the hedge garden and belay at a small pine tree on a ledge.
Pitch 4 – 5.8, 190’
Follow the vertical crack over bad rock. Step right after slinging a big bush and climb the splitter (do not fall). Mantle up on deteriorating rock (I use the term “rock” loosely). Stem your way up the less than vertical rock. This is fun climbing on good rock, but no pro. I hope you’re flexible, and have practice doing the splits and full body stemming. Stretch your rope and belay at the big pine tree.
Pitch 5 – 5.7, 200’
Climb low 5th past several bushes for about 100’ until the terrain steepens. At this point my partner uttered, “After climbing through so many bushes, I’m scared to climb rock.” It was funny at the time. The last 100’ of this pitch have some of the best rock of the entire route. Belay below a pinnacle of rock. This pitch affords amazing views of Red Window Arch.
Pitch 6 – 5.8, 200’
This is a spectacular pitch with exposed climbing. Continue up the ridge for 40’ to a ledge with a deteriorating pedestal on it. Stand on the pedestal and get off it before it collapses and takes out the belayer. Reach for good holds and step out left. Follow the ridge to the end of your rope and belay off one of the many bushes.
Pitch 7 – Low 5th, 100’
Fun wandering climbing leads to the north summit. Enjoy one of the best views in Southern Utah.
Down climb to the saddle between the north and south summits and gain the south summit. From the south summit, look south and find rappel slings tied to a tree. Be prepared to replace the 10’ of tat if need be. You are descending the standard ascent route for the mountain. It is described in detail at: http://www.zionnational-park.com/zion-red-butte.htm. Continually trend east whenever possible. Don’t get suckered into descending into any of the western gullies. I’m sure they’re possible, but would surely involve rappelling. Once you’ve reached a giant terrace, find the window box arch. Walk east to the rim of the cliffs and use your best judgment as to which gully to descend. Hopefully you don’t get stuck on top of a cliff. I did not see cairns at the time of this writing (2010) marking any specific descent route. Bushwhack your way back to your car and celebrate a job well done.