1st half of the top pitch
Over the past dozen years or so climbing in Zion, somehow I have consistently ignored the second pitch of Cherry Crack despite climbing most of the other off-width routes not just in Zion, but in the southwestern deserts at large. For some reason the second pitch of Cherry Crack has been labeled with a certain level of mysticism as to how difficult it might or might not be. The majority of this can be attributed to the fact that most folks climbing on the Cerberus wall to begin with are Indian Creek type craggers versus true big wall/alpine trad climbers. This fact would equate to very little off-width experience for the typical leader who is taking on the first pitch of Cherry Crack which sees a ton of traffic by Zion standards. That being said, the second pitch is truly full on in your face in the #4 C4 range. In fact to lead it comfortably, I prefer six of them(!) along with two #5’s, but I have lead it with just four.
The difficulty of this crack is mostly due to being too small for knees and too large for fists for most regular sized climbers. It requires creative thinking to lead it well in addition to keeping your large gear placements out of the way of your feet and hands.
Strickly, Forsell and Egerton established Cherry Crack in 1979
2nd half of the top pitch
According to Alex McAfee’s old guide book, “Zion Rock, The Finest Climbs of Zion National Park”, he labels Cerberus as “cragging in Zion doesn’t get better.” The Falcon Guide calls the Cerberus wall base climbs the “best selection of one pitch free climbs”
Zion Canyon. One thing I can attest to is that access cannot get easier (well unless you are stuck riding the tourist shuttle in season). Cerberus is just 200’ off the park road behind the Big Bend Overlook pullout.
Whether in the winter when you can drive through the main canyon or during the tourist season where you will be forced to use the bus, park or exit for Cerberus at the Big Bend bus stop
. The main selection of routes are west facing and start right above the parking area with the Cave Route on the far left. Cherry Crack is the most obvious pure splitter of the group:
no corners involved for the lower 200’ on the wall. Look for the blank face right of several corners (Fat Hedral, etc) and you will see the wide splitter that makes up the second pitch. The trail to the base of the wall is easily found walking south from the parking area.
Route DescriptionCherry Crack, 175’+/-, 5.10+
1st Pitch- 20m- 5.9/
This is one of the easilst and thus more popular single pitch climbs in Zion. Few climb the second pitch of Cherry Crack. Start up the left angled chossy crack with a small tree offering shade for the belayer. It straightens out to a pure hands splitter to chains. Single rack with a couple of 2” pieces and you are set on this first pitch.
2nd Pitch- 30m- 5.10+/
Although rated 5.10c on Mountain Project and the second pitch rating not addressed in Bryan’s book, I have climbed several 5.10d/11a off-width pitches throughout the desert that were easier then this pitch.
The unique size of this sustained crack pitch (4”-5”) makes it tough to get a knee in when you need one for stability not to mention it is too large for most fists no matter how deep you go. You will definitely need to stack your hands in a variety of methods to lead this pitch cleanly. The key for me is to use an ample number of #4 C4’s (6!). I place them deep and at my waist every time to get them out of the way of my hands and feet.
Then hit it with little if any rests. The pure splitter section is more difficult than the beginning flared pod section. It does not ease up until the very top where it eases way off the last couple of meters.
Rap the route, even a 70m rope does not quite make it to the bottom from the second anchor thus 2 raps. The new guidebook mentions two ropes which are not necessary.
I prefer 6 #4 C4’s and 2 #5 C4’s for the top pitch.
You can lead it with just 4 #4’s with at least one #3 placement, but if I am having to walk gear, I can’t get this route clean due to the gear being in my way. I need to place it deep and low to avoid those issues and thus cannot walk gear and lead it clean. You definitely don’t need a C4 #6 as some suggest, again, it would be more in your way than helpful because it will have to be set on the outside edge. A single set from .5-2" with an extra #2 or two gets you up the shorter first pitch. 60m rope is adequate. West facing wall. Plenty of sun in the afternoons, canyon shade in early evening.