Moonlight Buttress 5.12d or 5.9 C1

 
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Moonlight Buttress Area


Zion National Park, Utah, USA


Trip Report
Moonlight Buttkick
Saturday April 14, 2012 1:35am
I used my hard earned college loan money to buy the portaledge for Ryan on his birthday when we were dating a few years back so for all intents and purposes, I should have been expecting the call.

"Hey Berg, I've got this big wall I really want to do in Zion." I would do just about anything to get away from law school in Chicago so I asked him which climb he had his mind on and to that he replied, "Moonlight Buttress."

Credit: Stephanie Bergner

I had looked up at the climb during a prior trip to Zion National Park but had no recollection of the grade so I googled it while we were on the phone and the conversation ensued:

"Uhhhh, It's a 5.12d. Are you crazy?" Now, I'm a decent climber but any twelve I ever had the chance to get on was characterized by pain and stinging smacks to my ego so I was skeptical to say the least.

Ryan, who wasn't about to let me off the hook that easily, quickly retorted, "Sack up, Bergner. It's only a 5.9 on aid and I'll do all the hard pitches and you can just ascend them." Every time Ryan wants me to do something outside my comfort zone, he refers to my imaginary balls. I guess I should take it as a dirtbag climber compliment but I wasn't yet convinced.

"Dude, I don't know how to ascend. Are you sure that's a good idea? It sounds kinda sketchy. " I was nervous just thinking about it. The only other big wall I had ever done was Iron Messiah and at barely 1000 feet, it was questionable whether that was even a big wall although that didn't stop us from breaking in the portaledge on it.

Ryan pulled out the wild card and shamelessly begged, "Come on, Steph, you know how fun it is gonna be and you're the only person I want to go with and who will do it with me. Come on, you know I'll get us up it. THINK OF THE ADVENTURE WE'LL HAVE! IT WILL BE SO AWESOME!!"

Being that I'm susceptible to climbing pressure and ego stroking, I caved in and replied with a disclaimer: "Fine, but you HAVE to teach me how to ascend on Wall Street before we head down there." What was I supposed to do? I was the ONLY person who would go. I was the ONLY person he wanted to go with. How could I let my rope gun extraordinaire/ego fluffing partner down? I was the ONLY one, the ONLY chance for the realization of another climbing dream.

By the time we arrived to the base of the climb, we we both totally pumped to send the route so we geared up and made the first necessary choice of the day: Wade across the Virgin River or go back to the bridge and hike a couple miles with a massive load of gear?

Credit: Stephanie Bergner

How the hell are you supposed to carry a portaledge, anyway?
How the hell are you supposed to carry a portaledge, anyway?
Credit: Stephanie Bergner

Should you someday choose to wade the Virgin River in mid-March, you will surely know how painfully long the seemingly narrow river really is... I had to take my first rest of the day to let my feet thaw so that walking would once again be possible.

The views in Zion National Park are amazing and everywhere we looked were the beautiful sandstone cliffs that make the Utah desert so unique.

Angel's Landing
Angel's Landing
Credit: Stephanie Bergner

The morning sun on the first pitch warmed my soul as only the desert sun can do. Anyone who has climbed in the desert knows of the sun's dual nature and the idea that the sun who gives energy and life can also taketh away. Thankfully, this was one of the good days!

Pitch 1, Sunny and beautiful
Pitch 1, Sunny and beautiful
Credit: Stephanie Bergner

"The Pig"
"The Pig"
Credit: Stephanie Bergner

No caption necessary!
No caption necessary!
Credit: Stephanie Bergner

After a little lunch and a quick lesson, I did my first aid pitch: the bolt ladder on pitch 3. After some sketchy moments getting used to high stepping in the etriers, I began to appreciate the meditative component of my aid sequences and got my grove on up the very vertical face.

Note to self: Put away your camera next time before ascending.
Note to self: Put away your camera next time before ascending.
Credit: Stephanie Bergner

Credit: Stephanie Bergner

Credit: Stephanie Bergner

As the light of the day began to fade, Ryan made his way up pitch four which turned out to be a very long belay. I sat on the rocker block and lightly contemplated my upcoming need to ascend. Rocker block rocks in an unnerving way that highlights the ephemeral nature of sandstone. This may have been the first moment of the day where I began to question my logic in attempting this climb.

Nothing like a little rocker block to make you question your decision ...
Nothing like a little rocker block to make you question your decision making capabilities.
Credit: Stephanie Bergner

Remember way back to the beginning of this TR when I told Ryan that I required an ascending lesson on Wall Street before I would agree to climb Moonlight Buttress? Well, that never happened. I attempted to teach myself to ascend in theory from a big wall technique manual that I read in the car on the way down from Moab coupled with a lesson from Ryan before he started pitch four. IN THEORY, I thought I could handle it. Ascending? NO PROBLEM! That was an unfounded delusion of grandeur.

Headed up pitch four to the first hanging belay
Headed up pitch four to the first hanging belay
Credit: Stephanie Bergner

The sun was abruptly departing and the air started to feel chilly as I finally got to set up my jumars and begin the ascent. I did everything just the way I was told and attempted to step up. Nothing. I wasn't going anywhere. I was just awkwardly imbalanced and well, pissed. I couldn't figure it out! Eh, maybe I needed to step harder, slide more, slide less? What the hell was I doing wrong? I tried and I tried to no avail and sneaky little tears started to form in the corners of my eyes. My blood pressure was rising, heart pounding. I tried to talk myself out of a panic attack and contemplated my situation. There was only one thing to do...

"RYAN," I screamed, "put me on toprope!" By this time, It was almost dark so I donned my headlamp and began climbing pitch four. TAKE!!! TAKE!!! It was all I could say after the 11 aspect of the climb was through and the 12c began. TAKE!! TAKE!! I swear I screamed take more times than the compilation of all my climbing. It seemed like an eternity before I finally arrived at the hanging belay.

We were both so tired. As soon as I ratcheted myself in, Ryan started pulling the clothing and shoes he had stuffed into the top of the portaledge bag and throwing them into my arms to hold. "Help me get this set up, Berg." I attempted to hang the coat and in my haste, Ryan's Chaco went plummeting into the dark abyss below. Much to my dismay, the tears I had talked myself out of for the last two hundred feet began to flow like the Virgin River and I had a complete meltdown. My body was exhausted and we were six hundred feet off the deck with only air beneath our feet. What was wrong with me? What was I trying to prove? Normal people don't climb vertical rock walls with a hundred pounds of gear and attempt to sleep! How would we ever get up? How would we ever get down?

After two and a half years of dating me, Ryan knew better than to give me any sh#t at that particular moment in time. He got the portaledge set up like a champ and said the sweetest two words I ever heard him say, "SIT DOWN." After about ten minutes, the floodgates had closed and my rational mind began to resume partial functioning. We were too tired to bust out the stove but we ate something or other and tried to sleep. Spending a night on the portaledge wasn't the best night of sleep I ever got but by the next morning, I had worked through my psychosis and was ready to get after it once again.

Looking a little rough...
Looking a little rough...
Credit: Stephanie Bergner

Dinty Moore never tasted so good!
Dinty Moore never tasted so good!
Credit: Stephanie Bergner

Friends had joked before the trip about the romantic setting of the portaledge and that perhaps we would rekindle our old romance. The next morning, the call of duty required Ryan to take a dump in a wag bag about three feet away from me. I retched at the foul stench of his ass and slid as far as I could to the other end of our camp. I wasn't really feeling it, if you know what I mean. Fortunately, my body had gone into armageddon mode so I didn't require a wag bag of my own. Thus, it was time to begin the push for the top!

Headed up the Grand Dihedral
Headed up the Grand Dihedral
Credit: Stephanie Bergner


I wanted the classic portaledge shot, I needed it, and here it is...

Credit: Stephanie Bergner

The next challenge was one I much feared as that my technical skills are at times, suspect. Portaledge deconstruction was no walk in the park but after a couple of dirty kicks, I nailed it. I'll take portaledge disassembly over ascending any day. Each pitch seemed to be more awesome than the next and because of my weak ascending skills, I had the rare pleasure of climbing hundreds of feet of marvelous splitter cracks on top-rope.

Credit: Stephanie Bergner

Ryan was so jealous he could barely stand it but he still took the opportunity to pose with me for a candid photo shoot.

Credit: Stephanie Bergner

The pictures don't do justice to the scenery and fail to capture the vast landscape but we kept taking them until the darkness spread out over the canyon.

Credit: Stephanie Bergner

Once again I donned my headlamp and struggled up the last awesome pitch of Moonlight Buttress. I sighed with relief as I pulled myself back on to solid ground once again. Ryan and I collapsed in the sandy trail above the 1200 foot route and had a moment, or perhaps it was an hour, to contemplate the stars above and to rejoice in the feeling of an unscathed accomplishment, our greatest conquest to date. The hike to the car was rough and the groaning was rampant all the way to the bottom but Ryan never once complained about his missing shoe despite the large blister that was forming with each step he took.

Moonlight Buttress was an epic and unforgettable climb that I feel extremely lucky to have experienced. I couldn't, wouldn't have done it had it not been for Ryan and his crazy peer pressure. As the days grow warmer and law school comes to a close, I've started to feel my big wall dreams welling up inside me once again and I wonder if there might be a little Epinephrine in my future?
















  Trip Report Views: 3,142
Stephanie Bergner
About the Author
Stephanie Bergner is a trad climber who promises to learn how to ascend before attempting another big wall climb.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
t*r

Mountain climber
the hills of my home
  Apr 14, 2012 - 01:37am PT
you guys are totally going to get married ;)
seth kovar

climber
Reno, NV
  Apr 14, 2012 - 10:43am PT
That was rad!!!! TFPU
FRUMY

Trad climber
Bishop,CA
  Apr 14, 2012 - 10:57am PT
Great post.
Srbphoto

climber
Kennewick wa
  Apr 14, 2012 - 11:11am PT
you guys are totally going to get married ;)

and never be able to climb together again :O
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
  Apr 14, 2012 - 11:13am PT
absolutely superb! no one else on the route? how lucky can you get?
GDavis

Social climber
SOL CAL
  Apr 14, 2012 - 11:15am PT
+1! Your partner seems like a good climbing partner to have, one that inspires and motivates. Super cool!


Epinephrine should be cake, just train :)
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  Apr 14, 2012 - 11:34am PT
a truly great TR - thanks even brought t*r out of the ether
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  Apr 14, 2012 - 11:55am PT
Good stuff!
TWP

Trad climber
Mancos, CO
  Apr 14, 2012 - 12:50pm PT
You two will marry someday. Photo of you two is the proof; you are mirror images of each other; look around, you will see many couples display the mirror image quality. Sorta like, we fall in love with ourselves as soon as we find another who resembles us on the right level.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Apr 14, 2012 - 02:31pm PT
Way to grit your teeth and send. Crying is a sign of strength. Only sissies never cry. Beautiful route. Nice writing. Hope to hear about more adventures from you yall down the road.
Johnny K.

climber
  Apr 14, 2012 - 01:10pm PT
Awesome,way to push through.Sweet pics,thanks!
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Apr 14, 2012 - 01:17pm PT
love it
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Apr 14, 2012 - 04:31pm PT
Thanks Steph,
Great Job learning on the fly, looooooved the wag bag story!!!!
-e
Prod

Trad climber
  Apr 14, 2012 - 05:41pm PT
I retched at the foul stench of his ass and slid as far as I could to the other end of our camp.

Best line of the story.

Great TR, thanks for putting it together.

Prod.
Stephanie Bergner

Trad climber
Planet Send
Author's Reply  Apr 14, 2012 - 06:09pm PT
Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read my TR and comment here. What a sweet community of people you are! I started getting Supertopo emails a few weeks ago and I was inspired by all your stories, comments, and articles. I've been obsessively checking Supertopo all day to see your responses and to see how many people have taken a look at my TR. You have all made my day and I can't wait to get the heck out of Chicago and take my next climbing trip so I can post another!
Prod

Trad climber
  Apr 14, 2012 - 06:29pm PT
Howdy Stephanie,

Check out the link below. About 1/2 way down there is a video clip that shows you how to set up your aiders for jugging.

http://www.supertopo.com/a/How-to-Big-Wall-Climb-Following-1-Low%20Angle-Terrain/a10537n.html

And that guy ought to take you to Trotters before you leave Chicago. He ows you that as a minimum for hogging all the leads.

Cheers,

Prod.
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Apr 14, 2012 - 06:32pm PT
" because of my weak ascending skills, I had the rare pleasure of climbing hundreds of feet of marvelous splitter cracks on top-rope. "

Damn! I gotta try that sometime.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
  Apr 14, 2012 - 06:32pm PT
So anyway, about Marbury v Madison...

TFPUAC!
moacman

Trad climber
Montuckyian Via Canada Eh!
  Apr 14, 2012 - 06:41pm PT
Thanx for sharing.....Great pics and all.......

Stevo
Mikemcee

Social climber
Mill Valley, CA
  Apr 14, 2012 - 06:56pm PT
Hey Steph..search here or youtube for Chris Mac's how to big wall videos. Makes learning how to jug really simple.

Nice work!

OOPS! Looks like Prod beat me to it and gave you the shortcut.
Stephanie Bergner

Trad climber
Planet Send
Author's Reply  Apr 14, 2012 - 08:34pm PT
Thanks for the jugging beta, guys. I signed up for the Lake Tahoe Community College Climber Self Rescue course at the end of May but I'm planning a couple climbs between here and there so your timing is ideal.

Speaking of climbing, I'll be staying in Pollock Pines during the month of June. If any of you Cali people want to show me the goods, I'll clean your gear ALL DAY LONG!
bmacd

Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Apr 15, 2012 - 12:52am PT
Good photos and I enjoyed the genuineness of your perspective. Be safe and stay stoked

Could have been titled "Romancing the Stone - part two - Denial Phase"
Gal

Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Apr 14, 2012 - 08:52pm PT
Great TR!!!!!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Apr 14, 2012 - 09:13pm PT
Great TR, Thanks!
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
  Apr 14, 2012 - 10:56pm PT
hey there, say... can't see the pics... but thanks for the really neat trip report! :)


enjoyed the writing, :) lots, :)
ming

climber
  Apr 17, 2012 - 01:09pm PT
You can definitely do Epinephrine! I did it last week and while it's not a "casual" route, anyone with some training can do it! It's a must do and if you can do Moonlight you shouldn't have too much problems on Epi! The one advice is to pack light - you'll be in the shade for most of the day so hike in with 2 liters and bring up 1.5 per person (or less if you are acclimatized). It's full-on day so just be prepared for that and the hike out in the dark is as heinous as everyone say it is - so be prepared to backtrack alot (or if you can get 1 hour of sunlight for the hike that'll help ALOT). It took us almost 6 hours to hike out in the dark (neither one of us ever done the descent before - and that includes the Frogland Buttress descent).

I really enjoy your pics and story here! I was laughing to myself...at work...with my co-workers wondering what the heck is going on :)

-Ming
Stephanie Bergner

Trad climber
Planet Send
Author's Reply  Apr 17, 2012 - 01:14pm PT
Hey Ming,

Thanks for the beta and the compliments! How long would you say it took you to do the climb?

survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Apr 17, 2012 - 01:31pm PT
Excellent TR!

Nice work up there folks. Although it will only make you jones for the next one worse and make school harder to bear.....
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Apr 17, 2012 - 02:06pm PT
I love the "looking rough" photo. My partner got a shot of me after my first night on a portaledge that looks pretty damn similar. Though the magic of Yosemite on a flawless morning was all around me in that pic, you'd guess from my face that I'm looking out over a wasteland, with a gun pointed at my head, or maybe that my dog had just been hit by a car.

Thanks for the TR. Were your hands pretty thrashed from cranking/dogging up those endless splitters?
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Apr 17, 2012 - 02:11pm PT
What a gem of a TR! Fabulous!

I got to see a photo of something I've never seen before: bolts holding the route together.
WallMan

Trad climber
Denver, CO
  Apr 18, 2012 - 02:41pm PT
Stephanie - I enjoyed your post, thanks. This can sometimes be a rough crowd - I am surprised you aren't getting bagged on for trying to learn to jug on the fourth pitch of Moonlight. Probably not the brightest idea, although many of my firsts were somewhat similar situations. Epinephrine is an awesome line, certainly something to aspire to. Very different type of climbing - free climbing - and light and fast is the strategy, as most parties climb it car to car.

I moved west from Chicago many years ago - and have never looked back. If climbing is what you want, head west . . .
Stephanie Bergner

Trad climber
Planet Send
Author's Reply  Apr 17, 2012 - 02:22pm PT
Were your hands pretty thrashed from cranking/dogging up those endless splitters?

My everything was thrashed! It took a couple days to process the whole thing.
Rockin' Gal

Trad climber
Boulder
  Apr 17, 2012 - 02:31pm PT
Great pix and story. Keep em coming!
labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
  Apr 17, 2012 - 03:06pm PT
Great report!
ming

climber
  Apr 18, 2012 - 11:37am PT
So it took us 20 hour car to car. So it would've been under 16 if:

1) We were in a foot race with the party in right in front of us...and we lost by maybe 5 minutes. So we waited about 45 minutes at the bottom while they climb the first pitch.

2) They got two link cams stuck on pitch 3 and 4....so I think they tried about 20 minutes per stuck cam (alot more waiting ensues) - btw the word is out about the booty so it's probably already gone.

3) We let a faster team pass us...in the chimney. Which was a little bit of an logistical issue as there were no variation (unless you go out on the unprotected face)...so that slowed us down by another 1/2 - 1 hour. Lesson - if you want to keep on your timeframe, don't let ppl pass in the chimney unless the lower party is willing to do the face.

4) We took 6 liters of water (at the base - we drank 1/2 liter for the hike in) + full jackets and extra provisions of everything (walky talkies, extra batteries, sweaters to layer up) - what were we thinking?! The pack was really heavy and I was not use to dragging it in the chimney. Fast and light is the way to go.

5) We had a #5 cam stuck on the simul-climb at the top. It took us about 1/2 hour to free the thing.

6) The sun went down after we got to the second cairn - so we were search for cairns in the dark and the usual 3 hour decent took us 5 1/2 hours.

So if you avoid all that you should be able to go car to car in a casual 15 hours. 1 hour hike in, 11 hours to top out (took us 12), 3 hours back to car IMHO. If you can simul-climb the first two pitches and maybe two of the 5.8 pitches above the chimney you can probably get it down car to car in 12 hours.

But I would slow down and enjoy it! There are 13 hours of sunlight now and if you go in may or june you'll have about 15 hours of daylight - more than enough daylight to just enjoy this awesome route.

Take lots of pictures and be sure to write a trip report!

-Ming
squishy

Mountain climber
  Apr 18, 2012 - 11:53am PT
great TR, thanks..
crustie

climber
SF, CA
  Apr 18, 2012 - 04:49pm PT
Epi is a great climb, one of my favorites. Do it!

The timing that people are listing seems long. The climb can be done way quicker - you can link a lot of pitches (including a lot of the chimney pitches) and simul the whole top part. My partner and I started the climb lazily around 9am I think, and ended at the top between 4 and 5. We hiked down in about 2 or 2 1/2 hours or so - it was dark by the time we got to the flats and we got a little lost getting back to the car, but at the top we kept saying "this isn't that hard to figure out". Maybe b/c it was still light out. We did it in March. Going light is definitely the way to go. Getting lucky on the weather helps.

Good luck!
Elcapinyoazz

Social climber
Joshua Tree
  Apr 18, 2012 - 05:58pm PT
Nice job doing that without the ascenders, cool pics. You look super baked in that pic with your partner. And good call chucking that Chaco to the talus too, those things are soooo 2001.

Epi will be a cruise after that, you can link it in about 10 or 11 pitches instead of the 17 or whatever the guidebook calls for. Super fun route, get over there ASAP.
Stephanie Bergner

Trad climber
Planet Send
Author's Reply  Apr 18, 2012 - 10:41pm PT
BETALICIOUS! You people rock! I wish we could all go together and have a big rock climbing party somewhere.
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Apr 18, 2012 - 11:11pm PT
what a great adventure!



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