I have climbed scores of routes in Zion with dozens of first ascents (mostly lost to the sands of time) and this is one of my three favorite routes(the other two being Another Roadside Attraction and Headache.
The Central Pillar of Spry has every type of climbing from difficult face climbing (a rate treat in Zion) to a crack that starts thin and widens from finger to hand to fist to off width over 150 feet. Every pitch was special and every pitch was very different in character from every other. I recall zero bad rock, a rarity for a climb that long. It had one rather ballsy run out of 5.8-5.9 face climbing on chicken heads with runners looped over a chicken head or two for protection that Wes Krause led. I would not have been so bad to lead it the second time you climbed it, but Wes had no idea what he was getting into as he headed into the sky.
Re the dispute about whether aid is required, the climb should be all free. It should have gone all free but I hung on one piece during the cold morning after our bivouac. That was it. I still believe to this day that had I not been cold, the move should have gone free. It certainly would gone free with a better climber than I was. There were a few easy but clean stretches and we slept on a totally luxurious and vegetated ledge. The vast majority of the climbing was sustained 5.7-5.9 with stretches that were at least 5.10 but the real climbing was interspersed with some scramble stretches as I recall. It may be a grade IV, but we managed to make a day and a half of it.
The story of the first ascent is as good as the climb. In fact, my memories are as much a part of my five star rating as the climbing itself. I believe Wes Krause gets the credit for spying the route. He and I headed up to do the route. A pitch or two off the ground, there is a right facing dihedral that bends right and becomes an overhang they curved back to vertical to become a moderate crack/dihedral. I was leading. The natural route, uncharacteristically for Zion, was to leave the crack and head out onto the face. It was pretty dicey and I may have put in a bolt for protection (1/2 in angle in 3/8 inch hole). As I climbed above it I got nervous and was unwilling to cut loose to climb up to the security of the crack. (This is probably where the comment below had hoped for a bolt. But he, being more confident than I was went for it.)
So we went down. We were very excited about the route. We returned with Ron Olevsky in tow along with a tent pole. (Ron asked to come along lured by our enthusiasm and not convinced that we could make it without his aide experience.) I used the tent pole to place a large hex nut in the crack above the face where I had turned back and proceeded on up. It was not so hard in retrospect, at least not with a nut above me.
I really only remember three pitches clearly. The one described above, a really cool and very smooth classic desert 150 foot crack that started small and slowly, ever so slowly widened and the pitch that Wes led described above.
But I do know that we were unusually jazzed about the route during and after.
The chicken head pitch described above was not immediately obvious. Until then, Wes and I had been leading all of the pitches. Ron was a seasoned Zion climber but who thought of himself as more of an aide specialist than hot shot free climber. (He jumared most of the route.) We got to a spot where the chicken heads headed up and left but there was a little seam that headed up and right. Until then, from Ron's perspective, Wes and I were doing everything wrong. We belayed in the wrong spots, made bad protection decisions, took the wrong line, etc. Wes and I were sick of it. Wes and I saw only scary chicken heads heading into space. Ron was adamant that we should nail up the seam. I was dubious, but we let him have at it as neither Wes nor I were that eager to launch out on the chicken heads and we were tired of Ron telling us how to climb. The seam proved impossible and Ron retreated. So Wes lead the chicken head pitch to the left of Ron's line(much to my relief). Wes and I swung leads on up to the top.
I recall absolutely nothing about the descent so it must not have been very difficult.
This was a great route. We climbed it on the 20th of sept 2010. We took the variation just below the roof for the send but climbing the roof doesn't look too bad mostly hands. There isn't very much pro for the next two pitches but climbing is easy. I would have liked a bolt on the third pitch by the roof. We rapped Sandblaster with 2 60 m ropes pretty easy.
Photo: Bryan Bird
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