The last time the conditions were such for me was 1997, when I attempted Prodigal Son
on Angel's Landingin January. An unusually dry and warm Winter this year, enabled the
climbing season to extend for many areas. Seeking a bit of sun and warmth
I put the feelers out for a Zion trip. Amazingly I was contacted by a
person I never met, but was into my plan. He came with good references, so
off we were to Zion. Having never been to Zion, he was pumped, and so was
I to be able to show this to a friend. We made great time and made it from Boise
to Zion Valley in 9.5 hours including 45 mins of stops.
We arrived to warmth and had about 3 hours of daylight; time for a quick
classic, warm up hike. Angel's Landing was perfect, and as always a fun
scramble with terrific views. We saw lots of people on the trail for a random
Thursday in January We retired to the hotel (great January rates) and geared up
for the main objective of the trip:
The West Temple.
We got an early start, but not alpine style. We parked in a development
near an empty lot, per instructions from various web sites. Courtney
Purcell's tremendous book: Zion National Park: Summit
Routes was a useful resource. It's a book that's geared for exactly
what I love- reaching the summits of lots of obscure and challenging peaks.
Although Zion sees flocks and flocks of tourists, true alpine style climbing is
still a relative secret to this area. Lots of great Big Wall routes are
pursued, but far more than free routes.
The approach hike was typical desert scramble through sand, red clay, cacti,
and juniper. It felt like the temperature went from 25 to 65, when
we were in the sun. The route we were following is also used to scramble
up Mt. Kinesava
My wife and I did Kinesava 13 years ago, and it was a fun time, except for the
heat sickness my wife had. We branched off of the Kinesava climb and aimed
diagonally for a slot in the rock to the north of Kinesava. This was
pretty much the only way to access the ridge from Kinesava to the West
Temple without aid.
Once on the ridge, the climbing is a combination of Class 3 and 4, with
stretches of Class 2. Our first major objective was the get past ussy
Peak- named so because most people turn around there. We opted for a east
side traverse on some spooky rock, but it worked out as we found the tree we had
to climb down to reach the saddle north of Wussy. Without the tree it
would be a tough 10 vertical feet up and down. A trip with tree climbing!
Up ahead of us we could see our objective- a thin ridge that steepens to a
vertical headwall. There was lots of Class 4 here and soon enough we
reached a 5.8 crack that block our way. We opted to go around it and entered a
loose gully that culminated in stemming moves to get out. Once past the 5.8
crack, the climbing got steeper and steeper until we found a notch with some
It was time to rope up, and I led up a 5.6 crack that had fixed pro in
several key spots. I reached the top and I was on the plateau, of the
plateau of the summit. But it looked promising. I brought my partner
up and we negotiated some Manzanita and found an easy scramble opening to
reached the true summit plateau- think layers of a wedding cake. The
summit contained a communications tower that was airlifted there- bummer.
We found the log, signed it and knew we had to get down before dark. I
almost forgot it was January and the days were short. Messing around on
this ridge in the dark is not an option.
We rappelled the 5.6 crack and the 5.8 crack. Making our way back to
the Kinesava-West Temple saddle was a lot quicker since we knew the route.
The climbed provided some of the most challenging route finding I've done.
My partner was solid, and we conferred on decisions to go around, drop over, or
up and over. We made it back to the Juniper slopes and reached our car
with not much daylight to spare. I found a little envelope on my car from
the Springdale sheriff. Luckily it was a terse note with a warning.
Even though we were at the end of the development, parked in front of an empty
lot and just 100 yards from National Park territory, someone in the development
must have called. Oh well- I saved it because it will make a great memory
/ souvenir piece.
It was great just to drive 5 minutes to get back (as opposed to the 4 hour
hauls to parts of Idaho). We ate at Oscar's and both had a leg cramp.
We traded cramp stories and fueled up for the next day. We were debating between The Organ (4 pitches of 5.6) andAires Butte for the last day. After digging deeper for info on the Organ, we opted against a dark, grungy chimney (summer perhaps). We drove through the Mt. Carmel tunnel and past some Bighorn Sheep on the road. We hiked up Petroglyph Canyon seeking the 5.7 route on Aires Butte. After some Class 3-4 slabs, we were in the general area, but couldn't find the two bushes described in the beta. We spied a Piton, but didn't see anything above it or below to anchor into. Hmmm... Luckily it was only a mile, and instead of messing around we went for plan B:
Situated in the Kolob Terrace part of the park, (not be confused with Kolob
Canyons, impressive Tabernacle Dome lies near the Guardian Angels.
We utilized Purcell's directions to the parking turn out. We headed out,
through some tough brush, and down in a gulley, then over to the north side of
the peak (some snow) and tried one of many gulleys there. Somehow we
wiggled our way in and out and slowly up to the saddle. We went through
some really fun slots on this approach.
From the saddle we started up the slabbed ridge without rope. It didn't look very protectable anyway. But the wind had really picked up and this provided an added challenge. The slabs went from 5.2 (at the most) to Class 4 and then back to low 5th before easing out. The summit was big and provided a great view.
We then drove home to Boise, but not without stopping at an In N Out Burger,
new to the Salt Lake area. It was Friday night and very crowded.