It's been a long winter here in Salt Lake. With crappy air quality and a lot of low elevation snow unless we've been in the winter doldrums for quite some time.
Luckily we have a few outlets a few hours drive away to escape winter, immerse yourself into a new experience, forget about SLC, and get into some adventure. What better place to throw yourself at something new than Zion National Park? My friend Joey and I work together, climb together, and both needed to play in the sand.
We bailed for the south just as a storm rolled into the state, but this didn't deter us as we knew even if we had to wait it out we'd be in an awesome arena.
After the storm let up we had to dry out all my stuff. I re-sealed as well as nikwaxed my tent last spring before going to Yosemite, but apparently that did no good. I'd wake up to constant dripping on my sleeping bag, my head, everything inside my tent. Somehow I got some sleep!
Upon drying all my stuff out at the Springdale Laundry mat we cruised the park hiking various day trails we usually avoid due to crowds. Seeing these areas filled with snow and moisture was very different from the Zion I'm used to seeing. Arriving during the storm was a blessing in disguise, and totally worth my soaking the night prior.
The day spent hiking around we also scoped which walls saw the most sun, and which were seeping or had an overabundance of moisture. I'm sure Tokervillian could tell you all how hard it rained this past weekend.
After chilling for most of the following day we climbed up to the 5th pitch of Monkeyfinger before rapping off. M.F. is a super good entry level 5.12 free wall that is easily done at 5.10 C1.
Monkeyfinger got Joey used to jugging and something a little more vertical than his home crag of Little Cottonwood. Having zero wall experience under this belt I decided to drag him up my wall of choice. The Desert Shield.
I'll admit that this decision was a selfish one, but also one to to avoid the constant cluster that is the moonlight area. Good thing Joey is an easy going guy. He agreed to take care of the easy free pitches while I took the upper aid portion.
The awesome part about the shield is that it only requires a double rack plus the tiny nuts, offset cams and hooks. Which is a huge difference from the normal 4x racks carried up zion walls nowadays.
Climbing the shield for me and Joey was also about experiencing the famed jungle bivy.
From the bivy we had a birds eye view of Spaceshot! We cruised to the bivy pretty quick and fixed the two above it before retiring for the day. While eating dinner, and enjoying an evening brew we noticed two climbers racking up looking pretty light for how late in the day it was. The time was about 6:15PM when they started up, and we still couldn't figure it out. When they started simul-climbing right off the bat we knew what the deal was. I recognize those voices! I recognize those vans! It was Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold finishing their 4th and final wall of their most recent link up.
Watching these guys send that rig in 3 hours was soooo inspiring. Joey mentioned that to a normal person watching them climb would be like watching paint dry, but to us it was like watching ESPN Live! We gave them a few monkey hoots, and got some back. The stoke level was high to say the least.
Jugging our fixed lines the following morning I was honored to lead the entire bolt ladder to rim block. Without a doubt my most sustained aid lead ever, but also my most satisfying. Don't think it's over once you complete the 1st C3 pitch because the 2nd is the sting in the tail! With the day closing out we short fixed the last pitch had the standard anti-climatic summit experience, and started the raps.
The Desert Shield was my 3rd wall in Zion, and my 4th wall overall. My last wall was the Prow on Washington's Column which ended when my partner took a huge winger spraining his ankle on the 8th pitch. I think I'm finally ready for El Cap.
Alright I'm going climbing now. Later