Just to the southwest of Green Valley Gap is one of my favorite St. George crags, if not for the diversity in routes and rock, then for the isolation and views. The Zen Wall is comprised of sandstone cliffs (some of which are heavily varnished) that hang out over a mesa on the west side of St. George, thus receiving western exposure in the afternoon. Therefore it is a better winter crag than summer one, although the morning hours will offer significant shade. The Zen Wall routes are quite a bit taller and more interesting than the Green Valley Gap routes on average.
As close as Zen Wall is to town, it is actually not that easy to find. As the crow flies from Green Valley Gap, it is but a short distance. But several deep rooted canyons can make it quite a trip if you don’t know where you are going, even easy to get lost. The only interruption to peace and tranquility on this isolated cliff band will be a few bikers on weekends on the Green Valley mountain bike loop below.
There are just under 40 sport routes on Zen Wall. Todd Perkins started the development of Zen Wall, thus the grades are much more true when compared to any of the "boltmeisters" (Goss) routes throughout St. George. Most of Goss' routes are way soft in grade (to impress his spa tourist clientele no doubt). Another of many great local crags near St. George proper.... Black Rocks, Chuckawalla Wall, etc.
Route Description(s)Routes Listed, Right to Left, South to North
(as you face the wall)
- Hello Dalai- 5.10d/
- Sacred Cows- 5.10b/ A really fun and hard route for the grade. A trad roof crack at the far south reaches of Zen Wall. The rock at this end has some conglomerate in it and is not near as trustworthy as it is further north at the crag. The crack is bomber, but the face stuff is suspect on this route. Exceptional roof problem. You need a shoulder length sling at least to place on a 2" cam. As you make some hard stemming and jamming moves to place a 3" cam in the roof above, you do have some decking risk. Once you get the 3" placed, you are bomber and ready for the fantastic move over the roof. Better to not wear a helmet here as it is quite the squeeze. Once you are into the crack above (medium to large gear), the climbing is much easier, but again, on suspect rock when outside the crack. The crack is fairly wide, some arm barring. Someone removed one of the rappel hangers so continue above and left to the anchor of Karmic Justice.
- Karmic Justice- 5.11c/ Tough blank move I could not unlock honestly at the undercut bulge. Above there, some fun and crimpy moves. Eight bolts to anchor.
- Sacrificial Lamb- 5.10d/
- Burnt Offerings- 5.11b/
- Dharma Garden- 5.11d/
- Stinger at the Tail- 5.10c/
- The Emptiness- 5.10a/ Real tame 5.10a lead, really only one grade move at the top over the small roof. Kind of dirty, we pulled a few loose pieces off despite the varnish look. My friends thought it was great though, so might be worth doing. Shares an anchor with Running to a Standstill. Just about all of your draws are placed with your left hand. Seven bolts to anchor. Not far from the ladder from here if you are done for the day. (photos)
- Running to a Standstill- 5.11c/ Ascend a flake to the crux then easier grade crimps to the same anchor as the Emptiness. Real nice varnished wall.
- Atman- 5.10b/ These bolts are not placed safely. After the first two bolts, you have a run out and the crux move to reach the 3rd bolt. The deck opportunity is significant. It is a jump move to a finger ledge. Goss puts a bolt down low that serves no purpose and then not a bolt where it needs to be to protect a decking situation. This guy still has no idea how to put up a route.
- One Hand Clapping- 5.12a/ The best route period at Zen. Combined with Scattered Marbles, your best stop. A juggy 5.12! The crux is low with a tough side-pull, then the pitch opens up to dyno type jugging. The overhanging roof is pulled on huge jugs as well. A must do.
- Scattered Marbles- 5.10a/ Could be the best route for the grade at Zen Wall. A must. A nice long sustained route at 70' giving up just about everything in one pitch. Some jamming, overhang, edges and a funky mantle move towards the end. After that mantle move it looks blank, but is easier once you find the edges. Steep ground to the chains above. Be careful about your decking opportunities on the pillar to the left. Seven bolts to chains according to the guide book, but seemed like more than that via my memory. (photos)
- Moral Cannibalism- 5.10c/ Fantastic route for the grade up an arete up the hill a ways. You can cheat to the right, but stay on the arete, the moves are there. You do swing out left at one point. Really hard rock. Six bolts through 50'.
- Drinking the Ocean- 5.10d/
- Forgive Yourself- 5.12a/
- This is Goodbye- 5.13a/
- Loop Rider- 5.12d/
- The Underdog- 5.12b/
- I Knee’d You- 5.13d/
- Monosore- 5.13a/
- Half Cracked- 5.11c/
- Holy Man- 5.10b/ A real confidence builder for the grade. Fun counter balance moves from bottom to top. Suppose crux would be gaining the 2nd tier above, one move there to easy varnish or the steep slab to start. Nine bolts through 80'. (photo)
- Williwaw- 5.11a/
- Unpublished Route- 5.12a/ Very nice spliter crack up some of that blank Zen wall slab. Could be protected from bottom to top, but someone has bolted a line just to the right of the splitter. (photos)
- Gateless Gate- 5.11c/
- Avoiding Mordor- 5.10a/ A short route for Zen Wall, right next to one of the access points. But this is an excellent sustained route at 5.10a on really sound varnish. Fun slab and edges through five bolts (not six as stated in Todd's guide book) to anchor. Worth scrambling up from the lower trail and doing. (photos)
- Tabula Rasa- 5.11b/
- Preconceived Motions- 5.11c/
- Enlightenment- 5.12c/
- Pure Mind- 5.10c/ Real fun slab route on dark varnish past six bolts (70’) to chains. Crux is early via a couple of sparse slab maneuvers, then it eases up no worries. On the easy side of 5.10c I thought. (photos)
- Raptor Doo- 5.10a/ Appropriately named. I advise staying off of this route, because obviously the raptors use and enjoy this perch. Guess I was not paying attention to names when I did it. It is easy for the grade. Only one 5.10 crimpy move towards the top as you get into the “doo” part. All fairly positive, albeit sandy pockets and holds. Six bolts through 60’ to chains. (photos)
- Black Rain on the Temple Roof- 5.12c/
- Chop Wood Carry Water- 5.8/ Slightly easy for a sport 5.8. Real positive varnish. Start up and move right below sandy overhang. Gain its arête and attack the heavily varnished face directly above through six bolts (60’) to anchor.
- In the Moment- 5.10d/ Challenging move in the middle of this 5.10d. Side pull a time or two, then get both toes facing south and go for a very tall reach as you work them up tiny edges. Five bolts through 50'.
- Now and Zen- 5.11d/ Tough crimping on the solid black greasy type of varnish. Crux is very blank between the 3rd and 4th bolt. Reach for crimp on the left that is somewhat polished. Not suppose to use the crack to the right. Five bolts through 50'.
- Satori- 5.13a/
- Samsara- 5.10c/
- Plumber’s Crack- 5.11d/
- Sunkist- 5.12b/
- Day Out with the Lads- 5.11b/
- Yield and Overcome- 5.11c/
NORTH ACCESS VIA LADDER
ACCESS VIA 4TH CLASS LEDGES
ACCESS VIA CHIMNEY
SOUTH ACCESS VIA 4TH CLASS LEDGES
Getting ThereYou can access the Green Valley Gap area and Zen Wall from the northeast or southeast, depending on which way is shortest for you to circumvent the huge bluff that the St. George Airport sits on. Either way, your target is Dixie Drive which runs north south on the west side of the bluff. Turn west off of Dixie Drive for the Green Valley Spa, which is considered by Travel and Leisure Magazine as one of the top three spas in the world, so it is not so hard to miss. Pass the spa on the left and continue until the pavement hits a dead end. Continue on the dirt road and turn right following the tracks for a short period and turn left down a steep hill and follow a dirt road due west. Turn left at the bottom of the hill through an opening in the fence (2007) and continue across a wash (4wd and/or high clearance vehicle) and follow the faint road as it turns west again. Drive to the end of this faint road (several miles of slow going). Once you exit the car, continue west on foot trying to pick up a faint trail that runs along the edge of the mesa as it curves back south. There are several access points that descend to the base of Zen Wall including a chimney about half way along. Look for cairns.
By far the best way to experience Zen Wall is very simple. Go all the way to the south end before you descend the cliff (the metal ladder). Climb your way back to the north end where you can scramble back to the top of the mesa and return to the hiking trail. There is no cairn showing you where to scramble back up. But an easy line is past all the bolted routes at the turn of the cliff back east, a left to right ramp.
Red TapeThe rock at the Zen Wall and Green Valley Gap is not as solid as Black Rocks, but stronger than Snow Canyon. As with most of the climbing in and around St. George, you should avoid climbing for at least 24 hours after any rain. You are close if not within the city limits of St. George and there are no permits to climb or park. Access issues could become more complex as this area is slated for future development. My favorite place for dinner is the sushi bar at Samurai, 245 Red Cliffs Drive. The Outdoor Outlet is one of my favorite independent climbing stores anywhere. They know the climbing area well and have a great selection of gear at competitive prices. Jazzy Java offers a decent cup, good sack lunches and free internet.
When to ClimbI have climbed on Zen Wall during the winter months. It is one of the lowest elevation sport climbing crags around St. George, thus is no doubt one of the warmest. The climbing is good all year round with the exception of daytime during the summer months. If you are climbing anywhere in southwestern Utah during the summer months, you more than likely better get up early and finish your climb early. The walls can get brutally hot to the touch.
Camping/LodgingThere are three campgrounds within the city limits of St. George none of which I have experienced. Temple View RV Resort at 975 South Main Street; Settlers RV Park at 1333 East 100 South; St. George Campground at 2100 East Middleton Drive.
Of course my druthers would be to stay at the campground in Snow Canyon State Park. This has to be one of the finest State campgrounds anywhere with direct access to tons of climbing routes. The campground is open all year, no holiday closures. There is a limit on your stay of 5 days. They have 33 total units, 17 of which are reserved for the big boys (RV’s) with utility hookups. The tent sites were $14 in 2005. Drinking water is available on site along with vault toilets and even showers. The running/hiking/equestrian trail system is pretty cool and as long as you don’t run into the occasional Segway group, the whole park is usually very quiet, particularly during winter months.