1st Pitch: under the Death Block
The Southwest Buttress of Angels Landing has a distinct crack that can be viewed from the road running its entire height (300’). The middle pitch could be one of the premier 5.10 off-width pitches in Zion if the route got climbed more. However the FA is unknown, the route has never been cleaned (huge death block on the first pitch and precarious rock all over the 1st and 3rd pitches)
and it no doubt has only seen a few ascents. If you are interested in this route, take a hammer as you will be able to make some major improvements for a few extra minutes effort. Bryan calls this route “South Face” in his guide with little to any description. Gaar calls it “South East Butress” (sic) on Mountain Project. Southwest Buttress is much more descriptive as this is a separate buttress that extends off of Angels Landing to the south and the route is shaded in the morning.
The first pitch is marred by a large block that the only local I found to have climbed it prior to us has named “Chockstone O’ Death”
: a large, now two piece, chock stone crumbling under its own weight. If you are a competent leader, you do not have to jug on it, but you do have to climb below it and make a chossy foot placement out right to traverse around it. I advise not to weight it whatever you do.
On close inspection, it is fractured in two and is not long for this world. From there it looks like you are in for a massive roof pull, but end up stepping up and right and clipping the fixed hanging belay. The second pitch is by far the crux of the route.
Start out in flared hands with some choss factor and move up into the C4#4 off-width. The crux is further up where you lose all hands and fists and inch up on arm bars or off-fists for a grueling few meters.
There is a bolt up and left that serves no purpose. Once level with it, the climbing eases off and as long as you still have a C4#3 and #4, you are good to run it out to the fixed anchor above and below the next roof. The 3rd pitch pulls the roof on fingers and/or small hands. Have plenty of C3 #.75 and #.5’s ready to protect the crack above.
All holds and foot placements on this upper rock are questionable and you might want to sew it up a bit. I only took a single rack of small stuff and wish I had brought my normal doubles and off-sets for this pitch.
Hike the Angles Landing trail across the bridge from the Grotto and hop off it as it leaves the river. Head across the bottom by the river and locate a surprisingly decent sandy trail through the brush below the objective. Ascend several hundred feet of gain to a great belay spot directly beneath the route.
Steph Abegg, my partner and photographer for this climb, did an outstanding job on this topo pic displaying the route
as well as writing up a detailed trip report
on her blog site.
Route DescriptionSouthwest Buttress, 300’+, 5.10+
1st Pitch- 60’- 5.9/
With exception to the death block, this first pitch is decent climbing. It and the third pitch could be cleaned up a ton though. Climb up to the block, delicately traverse under it and to the right and climb back up to the crack above. Make some cool stemming moves and take the right of two cracks. The anchor is then blind above, just reach up and clip it and set up a hanging belay below the off-width crack up and right. One bolt and hanger was modern in 2014.
2nd Pitch- 115’- 5.10+/
From the belay hand jam the flaring and sandy crack to enter it. It starts out C4#4 size but you can get hand jams in deep at the beginning. You eventually lose all fists and hands and must inch your way up the crux (C4#4-#5) via arm bars, chicken wings and/or off fists for several meters of sandy rock. By the time you reach the level of the single bolt out left, you are past the crux. Much easier, but still fun, wide climbing leads up to a fixed anchor that has had no bolts replaced, but both bolts and hangers were acceptable in 2014.
3rd Pitch- 100’- 5.9+/
Enter the flaring wide crack and move up to the bulge/roof and stem the finger/small hands crack up on precarious rock. Once through the roof, place all the C4#.75’s and C4#.5’s you have as you nervously negotiate fragile rock to the summit of the South Buttress. The top fixed anchor has one modern replacement bolt/hanger.
Rap from the top with a 70m rope
to the top of the second pitch. Rap from there following the true fall line to the top of a slung block in a large flaring corner to climbers right of the route. Rap to ground from there.
70m rope required for the second rap. Doubles from C4#.4 to C4#4 and one #5. I used my 2s, 3s, 4s and the 5 on that 2nd pitch with plenty of space between placements (115’). I only had a single in the finger size and wished I had more for the last pitch including my three small offsets or a small set of nuts.
Helmets….standard dirty and loose Zion route. Take a hammer and clean that first pitch chock stone.
It is so compromised right now, I believe if you hung from the first set of anchors and hammered on the weak center spot, it would blow making that first pitch much safer. Also the third pitch needs some cleaning up, as so much of that rock is suspect. We stole a couple of leaver biners from folks bailing on that second pitch and moved them to the top anchor which is the only one that was not set up for a rap. Anchors in decent shape as of 2014. Long sleeve shirt as the off width 2nd pitch has some sharp rock.