Swoop Gimp, Zion National Park, Trip Report


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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 7, 2005 - 11:28am PT
Swoop gimp

Day 2 in zion with Ammon “The El Cap Pirate.” We vowed to get earlier start on today’s climb… so of course we showed up at the base of Swoop Gimp right at the crack of noon. And, of course, Swoop Gimp only gets morning sun. If we couldn’t climb a north facing route, at least we could wait until our east facing route went into the shade. The good news: today felt a little warmer than yesterday. Maybe even above freezing.

The route climbs in the SHADY side of the sun/shade line
Even better than climbing a shaded route in Zion in December, is crossing an icy river barefoot before climbing a route in Zion in December. I went first.

“How is it?”, Ammon asked.

“Its like walking through a hot spring… in the summer… in Bali. If only the bottoms of my feet weren’t burning up from these scorching river rocks.”

If you don’t believe me, just look at the look on Ammon’s. Doesn’t he look uncomfortably warm?

Ammon lead off. After a 5.6 pitch came the crux. A super-bad-ass pitch of overhanging C3 brass offset nuts and small cams. The pitch was overhung about 10-15 feet in 160 feet. Because the pitch was so overhung, many of the stoppers cleaned themselves as soon as I weighted the rope. Nice.

Ammon starting off on pitch 2

Ammon higher up on pitch 2.

I killed time at the belay by taping the core shot I caused the previous day on Desert Shield. The last two climbs that Ammon and I had done together had yielded two core shots. Somebody has to keep the rope companies in business. And the rope needed a middle marker anyway.

However, this was a pretty weak core shot compared to the one on El Capitan’s Horse Chute, last year.

On the next pitch, Ammon called down, “so there’s a bolt ladder going out left and one going out right. Which one do I take?”

Hmm. Its moments like this that you wish you had brought a topo for the route.

“Uhhh… go right.”

“Are you sure,” he asked?

“yeah, pretty sure.” But from looking at a topo for 30 seconds at the visitor center that morning, I seemed to remember the route trending right… I thought?

A few minutes later, Ammon called back down “These are old crappy star drive bolts sticking way out…. We must be on route!!”

Here he is on pitch 5

A few pitches later, I started leading the last 5 pitches. I got all the free climbing including a great 5.9 ow. It was great because it really didn’t involve any offwidth climbing. I face climbed fun 5.8 flakes on either side of a nasty looking wide crack.

I’d climb about 20 feet on the face, then place a big piece of gear in the offwidth, then climb more face. “Look” I called down to Ammon, “Its sport offwidth climbing!” Why can’t all offwidths be like this?!

After this it was mostly 5.7 with a touch of 5.10 thrown in to keep me on my toes. At one point I almost pitched when a big ledge/hold crumbled under my feet. That’s sandstone for ya.

Part of of what makes climbing in Zion so exciting in the winter is you only have a 5 hour window of non-ridiculously cold temperatures. So if you start climbing at noon, you better be done by 4. Luckily, we topped out 3 hours and 40 minutes after starting. Leaving enough time to descend and chill out for a few. We met up with the only other people we had seen climbing that day, Jordi and Heidi from maine. Two surgeons who spent there vacation time climbing big walls. Pretty cool. I joked about the lack of crowds and how we essentially owned zion’s big walls at that moment. “Tell you what, tomorrow, you take this side of the canyon and we will take that side.” (Brian McCray, Zack and James had already claimed the end of the canyon near Moneky Finger).

We headed back for food and drink in town with all 7 zion wall climbers at that moment. Another perfect day of big wall cragging. There are benefits to there only being about 5 comfortable climbing hours a day. Namely, you only have to climb for 5 hours a day. No full days of climbing El Cap style that then take a day or two to recover from. Instead, you put in your 3-4 hours on the rock, then spend about 20 hours eating, drinking, chilling, sleeping and, of course, spraying on the internet.

For the trip reports for Days 1 and 3 click here:
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 7, 2005 - 11:34am PT
Great report... not many climbing anywhere (had a lot of Yos to ourselves last weekend).

The image under the title "Ammon higher up on pitch 2." is art, the desert stone color against the sky, and the geometry broken by the roped climber... nice shot!

Trad climber
cayucos california
Dec 7, 2005 - 02:18pm PT
So sweet!
mike hartley

Dec 7, 2005 - 04:37pm PT

What did you think of the quality and difficulty of Swoop compared to Desert Shield? Nice pics! Thanks.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 8, 2005 - 12:14pm PT
Desert Shield is probably a little better than swoop. But they are both really good. Hauling the last 3 pitches of swoop looks like certain death

Trad climber
Eagle River, AK
Dec 8, 2005 - 12:22pm PT
Nice! Sportclimbing OW. LOL!

Dec 8, 2005 - 01:42pm PT
Nice work man, way to make it happen. I noticed on a topo that there is 25 foot section of hooking right off pitch 7. how was that? Also, did you bring a hammer or do it clean and if it was clean a little gear/rating info would be nice. I just got off desert shield and hoping to get on swoop gimp when the days get a little longer. Any beta would be great. Once again way to make it happen in the winter I bet it was cold.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 8, 2005 - 04:39pm PT
the hooking on p7 was 5.7 for me. it looked scary to hook! i would definitely free it.

we did it clean. about the same difficulty as desert shield to do clean. but maybe not quite as sustained.

ill post a topo and some rack notes in the next few days

Social climber
desert south west
Dec 8, 2005 - 04:53pm PT
Great, thanks for the beta, I will keep my eyes out for your topo and rack notes.

Big Wall climber
El Cap
Dec 8, 2005 - 10:06pm PT

Bring lots of offset brassies. We had three sets and was back-cleaning them quite a bit. If you want to leave them as pro, you might need five sets. Seriously.

Green, blue and yellar are the most usefull.


Trad climber
Boise, Idaho
Dec 17, 2005 - 11:46pm PT
This guy named Brian Van Der Ven and I did Swoop Gimp back in about '96 or so - it was his first true big wall, and I guess my third (after Leaning Tower W Face and the Prow on the Column).

Did the bat hole ladder on p.3 get filled in with bolts? Or do you still bat hook? We were bat hooking with my fish hook, and it was as solid as normal pro (3/8" holes). Brian actually took about an 8' whipper onto one when the Pika hook dinner-plated off the bottom of the next hook (ibis hooks have too sharp a tip for Zion sandstone), and that thing held just fine.

I remember some pitch way high (just checked Middendorf's topo, it was pitch 7) that I got to the top of some rotten tower about 30' off the ledge, and my first placement was into some rotten seam. For my first piece off that tower, I placed 2 equalized beaks (shitty rock), then running a chain of girth-hitched slings down to the ledge, and bounce tested it down there. Quite memorable.

Believe me, the hauling on the upper pitches *sucks*. But you can't bitch about the descent off that or any on that side of the canyon. I have considered bringing a Sector Nine longboard up to allow me to roll the pig back down. But 3:40 sounds like the better way to go. Wish I was able to move that fast.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Dec 18, 2005 - 04:23pm PT
"OW sport climbing". I like it even if it is an oxymoron. (Because perhaps?)

In '92 I took a nice photo looking down the first pitch of Iron Messiah of Catherine Destivelle cruising the lead. For those of you unfamiliar it face climbs up the right wall of a dihedral where a block has fallen away leaving no crack at all. The pitch is therefore protected with 5 drilled angles (a bit sparse for me THESE days but at the time I was sensitive to overbolting critiques.)

I submitted the photo to Mountain Magazine and somewhere I still have the rejection slip. The editor could see the dihedral and just assumed there had to be a crack and rejected the photo because bolts where used as pro.

I should have written him back and said that there wasn't even an OW to protect with.
But why bother? The magazine (and its very regimented attitude) is history.

Actually OW sport climbing could put the sport back INTO the term.

Big Wall climber
El Cap
Dec 18, 2005 - 08:33pm PT

"Did the bat hole ladder on p.3 get filled in with bolts? Or do you still bat hook?"

No, the holes didn't get filled. Yes, you have to bathook still. I could have used better hooks but was able to stick it with a couple talons. A narrow pointed grappler whould have be tons better.

Yeah, a skateboard would be great fun on the descent... but, I don't think the PS would agree. I was actually thinking of Largo on his muni while walking down.

Cheers, Ammon

Social climber
desert south west
Dec 18, 2005 - 09:39pm PT
I'm sure your wourking on it, but I would still love to see a "Clean" new topo for this route.

Big Wall climber
El Cap
Dec 21, 2005 - 01:27am PT

Does anybody know the year when this route was first done? Brian S.? Ron? Anyone else.... thanks.

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 25, 2005 - 01:49am PT
I just made a topo for this route and added it to the obscurities page:


Social climber
desert south west
Dec 26, 2005 - 05:10pm PT
Topo looks great Chris.
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