Friday, August 31, 2012

Space Shot - Summer Climbing in Zion

Andy and I both had the last 2 days of August off and were planning on returning to the Grand Traverse.  We had the majority of it scouted and were feeling pretty good about our chances of firing the route in a day.  Feeling good that is, until Andy twisted an ankle at the Hidden Peak Hustle.  We waited until the last minute to see if he would be in good enough shape to try the GT but on Wednesday his ankle was still purple, swollen and tender.  We figured running and free climbing were out of the question.  This left us with the option of aid climbing which, even though is the opposite of  the light and fast style we typically seek out,  has always been fun for us.  There are a select few who can free climb the trade route aid climbs in Zion, this is certainly not us. We went down with the intention of burning up in the sun, standing in our aid ladders all day, and protecting Andy's ankle. 
Double rainbow!  Near Beaver
Niether of us had been on Space Shot and it seemed to be relatively straight forward.  From the few climbs we had done on the other side of the canyon we had been able to look over and see the meat of the route trending to the right following a large arch.  It is quite aesthetic.   
The meat of the route, from
The first 3 pitches are easy free climbing.  Since Andy had a bum ankle these were my job.  They were as billed, easy, but I forgot how horrible free climbing with a full aid rack is.   Again, not light, not fast.  Pitches 4 and 5 are the "crux pitches of the climb.  I was planning of leading all day and having Andy protect his ankle but when we got to the top of pitch 3 and said he wanted to add his contribution to the day and take 4 and 5.  At that point we were on a ledge and still in the shade.  Without hesitation I agreed.  
Andy on a hook, pitch 4
Pitch 4 went smoothly and before I knew it my ledge was gone and I was hanging and belaying Andy on pitch 5.  The hanging belay is another misery of aid climbing we had forgotten about. Pitch 5  is the aid crux of the route with about 20 feet of C2.  Not hard but having climbing twice (Andy) and 3 times (me) in the past year made trusting body weight placements a little unnerving.  Andy took a couple small falls onto a blue (smallest) ball nut which luckily held while trying to figure out the "tricky nutting" described in the guide book. Even though my hanging belay was uncomfortable I was perfectly content listening to relaxing music and watching Andy timidly weight crappy nuts as they popped out. 
Pitch 5 
Top of pitch 4, hanging belay
After the short C2 section the rest of the climbing is either very easy aid or freeable 5.11-5.10.  I've always had trouble switching out of aid mode and yesterday was no exception.  We just continued outr heavy and slow aiding to the top.  It's a shame too because pitch 7 looks fantastic and moderate.  It's a #1 camalot size and slightly overhanging but has abundant patina, widens to a #2 and the location is top notch.  I doubt I'll go back but if I do, the second is taking the majority of the junk and I'm climbing with 4 #1's, 3 #2's, and a couple #3's.  For those of you in better climbing shape, this looks amazing.  
Andy topping 6
Andy on Earth Orbit Ledge on top of pitch 7.
Climbing off of Earth Orbit Ledge and up the final bolt ladder is spectacular.  By this point you are at the apex of the arch and the wall has kicked back to overhanging leaving nothing but air between you and the ground.
Final bolt ladder, photo by Andy
We topped out and it was in the mid 90's, sunny and we were HOT.  We had the idea to head back into town, eat some food, take a nap, and then go back and start up Moonlight.  There was a full moon and we figured we could aid easy C1 by moonlight and headlamp.  We must be getting old.  Both of us complained about being tired and thirsty and not psyched to go jug up another trade route.  Instead we jumped in the river and drove home as fast as we could so we could sleep in our own beds and watch movies all day. Kind of lame but sitting in air conditioning right now with sore arms and swollen fingers is pretty nice.  
The only idiots in Zion climbing in the middle of the summer
Peaches and a swim, photo by Andy


  1. you aren't the only idiots doing it....(post coming soon)
    Congratulations for a job (well) done.

  2. Brody,

    Ha, glad we weren't the only ones, can't wait to hear about you trip. Where you there on Thursday too?

  3. WOW!!! how do you do this!?!?!?!