Thursday, March 20, 2008

Climbing Zion: The Arrival

Leading a beautiful crack

After sleeping 4 hours and finishing a medical school exam, I found myself boarding a plane for Las Vegas Nevada 6 hours later with my friend Tyler Overby. As the plane left the ground, it was clear we were not the norm of folk whose intention was to enjoy the manufactured spectacle that is extravagance of Vegas. We were in route to Zion National Park in southern Utah to climb the largest vertical sandstone faces in the world. It wasn't long before we were discovered, peppered with questions about our upcoming adventure, and offered a celebratory beer.

After touching down in Vegas we were aware that there were still obstacles to overcome before reaching our destination. We arrive at 9:30 pm and the shuttle to St. George Utah did not run again until 8 the next morning. We hunkered down in a quiet corner of the airport for the long night. After discovering no food establishments in the airport were open, we asked the airport information were the nearest exit was....and were informed that you couldn't just walk out of the airport...there are no side-walks, and in other words the Vegas hotel shuttles and cabs needed our money! Feeling the cold hand of oppression, I was determined to break out of the Vegas airport on foot. My first objective was to get the lay of the land. I headed to the top level of the parking garage and seeing the expanse, I picked my escape route. Soon I was out amongst the vacant rental parking lots and quickly jumped a fence to the busy streets with a clever smirk. I walked 3 miles to the strip, picked up some food, walked back, and fell asleep on the airport concrete next to our bags.

I awoke disoriented. Regaining my senses, I followed Tyler to the shuttle and 2 hours later was on a side walk feasting on a Dairy Queen blizzard in the sunlight of St. George Utah. Sam, a friend of a friend, arrived in a red pickup truck taking us to Zion.

After checking in at our lodgings and visiting local park ranger and friend Scott Rysdahl we warmed up with some bouldering to finish off the day.

Tyler Overby doing some sick move on an unrated boulder

The next morning looked cold and ominous as snow and sleet fell from the sky. In avoidance we didn't leave the house until noon. We then left toured local coffee and climbing shops in the nearby town of Springdale just outside the park until our caffienation wore off and darkness fell on the Zion Canyon.

The next morning we drove back St. George to hit up some of the local crags. We started our day with a 5.9+ trad line in the city limits of town. It was a thin corner crack, starting hand size narrowing to finger crack and open back up again. Sam was first to hit up a lead, followed by Scott, then Tyler. I having already top roped the line red-pointed the the route last. We then hit up an adjacent 5.10a crack. Scott quickly styled the route, followed by Sam, then Tyler. I feeling more confidant gave it it go. Half way up after some tricky moves my forearms were burning...I plugged in another piece and lower down then climbed back up and move by move finished my first 5.10a trad line.

Myself leading a 5.10a crack

We grabbed lunch at Del Taco and then ended the day at the Chuckwalla wall, which was comparable than an glorified and crowded outdoor climbing gym... in other words an extremely popular outdoor sport crag. Feeling tired I top-roped a 5.10a and a 5.10c route. We then dropped off Sam to his shuttle to the airport for his flight home and drove back to Zion with the sun dropping behind the red sandstone horizon. It was a day that left me with a face marked with the expression of contented exhaustion as I fell asleep in bed of the pickup as it drove on.

Onlooking as Sam leads


Snow_King said...

I'm glad to see you squeezed Del Taco in there.

Nora said...

That looks sweet Burgess! I took a look at Red Wing's Barn Bluff and I can't wait to get started this spring!