Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Prodigal Sun/Gooseberry Mesa

The climbing allure of Zion National Park has quietly been tempting me for the last three years. A friend took me down there once to teach me how to aid climb, but we only ended up "aid cragging" at the base of some of the bigger lines. Since that day, I've climbed bigger stuff in Yosemite and elsewhere, always bypassing Zion because it was too hot, too local, too whatever. Well, with less than inspiring weather everywhere except Zion, I conned trusty Sam into coming down to chase down the line, Prodigal Sun, on Angel's Landing.

Angel's Landing is a striking formation that extends from the canyon walls like a peninsula in the sky and is a major hiking destination for many park visitors. The hike itself is a proud scramble that occasionally turns fatal as the exposure is extreme and the terrain rugged. Maybe 10 years ago, I stood on the summit oblivious to the real climbing possibilities.

Prodigal Sun is predominately an aid line that ascends the right side of the above picture. It is continuously steep with a smattering of tricky placements and hook moves. I had planned on leading the majority of the climb and having Sam dispatch the C1 pitches and the last free pitch. But first, we had to cross the river, which was flowing at 300+ cfs. The flow wasn't difficult, maybe just above the knees (mid thigh for Sam), but the water was ICY cold. Painfully cold. We crossed without mishap, pantless, but with puffy jackets and beanies.

I lost the trail and mud soloed a small cliff band, where I could look down and point Sam in the right direction. He skirted around, and soon we found the base of the climb.

Looking up canyon toward Moonlight Buttress

A look East at the Organ and the Virgin River

The route starts with a good ole fashioned bolt/pin ladder

Sam jugging in the backgroundSam had practiced ascending a fixed line the day before in my garage. It's a little different doing it for a thousand feet straight up. But, like all things, he picked it up quickly and made easy work of cleaning the route.

Somewhere near this point, after seeing the cumbersome engineering that is aiding and hearing me mutter something about breaking my ankles while above tipped out cams, hooks, and poorly placed tricams, Sam decided he'd be better off jugging the rest of the route and graciously let me lead the whole thing.

The jugging machine

Up Canyon, Moonlight and Spaceshot visible

Cerberus Gendarme

Near the top of the route We just finished in the daylight then hiked out to the Grotto where we caught the second to last bus back to the visitor's center. A short drive led us to Hurricane where a McDonald's victory dinner awaited.

That night, we drove out to Gooseberry Mesa and tried to sleep through a wind storm and even a little snow. Actually, I slept pretty well in the Subaru.

Sam still hiding in the tent.

We went on a mellow short ride with Sam coaching me the whole time.


Sam near the "point"

Beautiful view toward Zion

And lastly, my new love affair

Jessie and I are up at Whitefish Lake in Montana right now enjoying a little sleet and snow on our vacation. Too bad I didn't bring my skis.

1 comment:

  1. Gooseberry Mesa is famous for it's mountain biking trails, although an occasional hiker will use them as well.

    Gooseberry Mesa