Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer Zion Climbing: Space Shot

The worst thing about my sprained ankle/midfoot is the inability to do anything in the mountains for a little while.  Jason and I had planned on returning to the Tetons this week to try and sneak in the Grand Traverse before the weather turns and our work demands make those kind of things unreasonable.  We were going to drive up Wednesday evening but that morning, my ankle was still grotesque and stained various shades of blue.   It's hard to run long, climb fast, and move efficiently in the mountains when even slightly and temporarily disabled. And worse, a lot of easy scrambling can be highly consequential  and the cankle just wasn't to be trusted.
Desert Rainbow
Still, free days are not to passed.  Seeking out perhaps the most unathletic of adventures, we decided to go aid climbing.  Being fools, our destination was the desert in mid summer.  A few years ago, I got started ticking off many of the trade routes in Zion and after gaining moderate proficiency, dabbled in the idea of linking up walls.  That was fun until the speed and freedom of mountain running and skiing took over making climbing in general and particularly aid climbing seem stagnant.

The gimpiness on Wed
Well, temporarily handicapped, it was time to revisit the past.  Forget that aid climbing is the antithesis of our preferred style, or that I've only tied into a rope once this year.  Neither of us had climbed Space Shot so we would start with that before chasing the shade and moving across the Virgin to Moonlight Buttress where we were pretty certain we'd be making a moonlit ascent.

We caught the first shuttle, shouldered about twice the recommended gear, and ambled up to the start of the route.  Broken and ugly, the first three pitches are wandering low fifth class, working their way up to the start of the steep climbing that follows a right trending crack system just to the left of the huge arch.  Jason led this section while I followed awkwardly with the pack.

Feeling confident that the cankle would handle standing in etriers, I then took the lead for next couple pitches and the section of "tricky nutting" which would prove to be crux of the day, at least time wise. For some reason, I had two ball nuts on the excessive rack which rendered this section fairly straight forward.
Top of pitch 4 
Blue on blue (photo by JD)
Since we suck at climbing right now, aiding is the name of the game
Fully in the sun and sweaty

Hours later... (photo by JD)

Photo by JD
Too much crap

By this point, it was nearly noon and we were severely behind schedule.  The sun had finally made herself known in full force and the sweating was full on.  A wall in Zion in the summer? By the time we were sitting on the Earth Orbit Ledge, the psych was still high internally but the heat was sufficiently draining that we moved slowly and solemnly.  Jason took the final bolt ladder before groveling with the obese rack over the last couple free moves to the finish.  Then it was my turn to try and remember how to jug a steep line as I stepped off the ledge with a lot of air beneath my feet.

Jason looking down into space
Welcome to the Earth Orbit Ledge (photo by JD)

A photo of me wishing Jason would hurry up so I could get out of the sun (photo by JD)

Airy perch before the final bolt ladder (photo by JD)
We topped out at 4 pm, after a very pedestrian 9 hour ascent.  Hot, thirsty, and sore we opted for a swim in the river rather than a prolonged lesson in how to suffer on Moonlight.  Regardless, I was reminded of why I enjoy climbing, aid or otherwise.  The terrain is wildly beautiful and the promise of progress is ever present.  I don't know why I felt like I could pick up with climbing where I left off a couple years ago but am still pleased by how smoothly we performed from a systems stand point.

Desert gremlins
Sitting in the river afterward, eating canned peaches, the voices had been quieted.  My need to go and see and feel the earth and its wildness was transiently calmed so that I can now return to work and focus on the mundanities of life in the civilized world.  Even though Space Shot is a small trade route in a crowded park, it was enough...for now.

Gollum, the Virgin River, and some peaches

Space Shot follows the thin right trending crack system just to the left of the larch arch
Gear for the day:

BD C4 Cams x too many
Handfull of BD C3s
Metolius off set cams x just about right (these make any aid route about a grade easier)
CAMP Ball Nuts x 2  
Offset nuts x not enough (only had a couple and wished for more)
Various quickdraws and slings
Full aid regalia 

Soft Goods:
Outdoor Research Tempo Shirt - pop open the pearlys to keep cool
Outdoor Research Ferossi 3/4 Length Pants - another fantastic versatile piece from the Ferossi line
SCARPA Crux Shoes - good for alpine scrambles and aid climbing
CAMP Speed Helmet
CAMP X3 600 Pack

None - too hot to eat
Drink - not enough.  We started up with 7 liters but dumped 2 out early cause the pack was too heavy.  That was stupid. 


  1. Andy, your postings make me wish I was cool enough to hang out with you. "My need to go and see and feel the earth and its wildness was transiently calmed so that I can now return to work and focus on the mundanities of life in the civilized world." Who are you? A younger version of John Muir, George Mallory and Dean Karnazas put together. Awesome stuff. ... oh, this is Scotty (you know, from BYU). Please forgive me for posting.

  2. Scottie! What are you doing in Cuba? Let me know when your back in Utah so we can go running and catch up.