Next day we head to the Kung Fu Theatre, this seems to be a place with good choice of medium routes, and itís in the shade. A good place to start.
We climb Miagi first, the guide says itís a bit dirty towards the top. Yes it is! When we get down weíre dirty too. A decent start, our inexistent crack climbing skills are tested and we realize that we donít really have a clue. Optimism is high, so is the fun factor. And we have a cool box in the car with ice and beer. Can anything go wrong now?
Now we start getting bold, move one route to the right and get going on Inner Chi. The line is beautiful. A crack in a dihedral, follow it til it ends and figure out how to get over the last overhanging bit to the bolts. Now we start realizing that climbing here requires other skills. I could do well with thinner fingers for instance; my sausages just wonít fit into the crack, which sends me flying several times. This helps to increase trust in self-placed protection. But trust alone doesnít get me up, so I back off and leave the next try for Stefano. He makes it on the second attempt, great job! I try again and finally get up there as well. We made a video of one of my attempts and after seeing it I am ever so grateful to whoever belays me: A video of about 12 minutes with around 1 minute of climbing and 11 minutes of complaining, shaking, hanging there, BORING. A belayerís job mainly requires patience, lots of patience.
Having done Inner Chi we look around, whatís next? Thereís still one big climb here, Mortal Combat. Never mind the name, letís do it! After two pitches weíre hanging in the belay just wondering, wasnít there something strange about the name of this climb?? There must be a reason to it, and now we know it. Not quite mortal, but definitively a combat. We wedge all we have into the cracks: hands, feet, knees, elbows, shoulders, heads, butts, this is not a lesson in technically accomplished OW climbing, but what the hell, it gets us to the top. The fun factor is temporarily diminished, but by the time weíre back down we know thereís a beer waiting for us and all is well again.
Word must have spread among the squirrels that some climbers are coming from Switzerland and they have food in their packs, maybe even CHOCOLATE?!?!?!? But we donít let them fool us again, our food is safe!
Zion is a beautiful place, regardless of the climbing itís stunning. We walk up to Angelís Landing and to the narrows, we just canít get enough of the sights, the colours and the rock formations. And here are some pictures to make you all want to go there.
And being in a touristy place has some advantages as well, such as plenty of choice for food and drink.
Next day is for the Headache, a classic Zion climb in its grade. We have to try it. Rock paper scissors and I get to lead the first pitch. This is what we consider being our first real splitter crack.
So out come my home-made crack climbing gloves and into the crack go my hands and feet.
After the first couple of moves I find it pumpy, very pumpy. And painful, it feels like putting my feet under a truck and asking the driver to go back and forth a few times.
Now here is my big question to all of you crack climbers out there: why does nobody ever mention the word PAIN in one of his or her trip reports?? Is my (inexistent) crack climbing technique so lousy, am I a sissy, or are you all real badass climbers who donít mind pain, blood and scars?
Anyway, I swear that I will climb the next big enough crack wearing my moon boots, Iím sure I can wedge my feet into the crack and still be comfortable.
Back to the Headache: I manage to reach the first belay, my arms feel like lead, but the pitch is great. Sorry I canít say much more about it, thatís how good my climbing memory is, it was great, period. And if I redo a climb after 15 minutes itís basically another onsight.
I seem to remember a bit more about the third pitch, which is my lead again. I set off from the belay looking like a Christmas tree, with the gear nearly pulling off my harness and pants.
I place an exaggerated amount of gear in the first part of the pitch to get some weight off my harness, but the higher I get the more the pump grows, again. And not far from the belay the inevitable happens: fiddle around to place a cam, looks crappy, better than nothing, climb on, pump, HOLD ON, DONíT LET GO, IíM GONNA FALL!! And I fall, the cam holds my fall, stress is relieved. To all the people looking up from the parking lot: that would have deserved at least some applause, you donít get those shows every day.
I climb on and the rest of the pitch goes fine, I finally get to place my no. 3 cam and the very last move gets me talking again. ďDonít hesitate, youíre getting pumped, but I donít know how to hold on to this, but you need to get going, I canít, do something, why the hell do you go to the gym in winter??Ē After some more inner debate of this kind I finally decide that my gym training should not be wasted and that I certainly CAN hold on to small holds. Grab, hold, move your feet, done, belay, happy end.
We rappel over a climb called Never Again. Well, after yesterdayís Mortal Combat we sure know that names here have a meaning. We donít even think about Never Again. It takes a while but we learnÖ
We plan our days in Zion so as to always have enough time to spend down by the river, enjoying a beer and we find more than enough places to eat.
Our last climbing day is probably not the typical Zion climb. We head up to the east rim and climb Led by Sheep on Aries Butte. Thatís a very enjoyable, easy, fun climb in a totally different landscape. We have a good time, fry our brains in the sun and find this a great way to end this part of our trip. And we even get to see a few Bighorn Sheep!