Monday, March 24, 2008

Climbing Zion: Learning To Aid Climb

The second pitch of "Organasm" with the roof looming ahead

The next morning we awoke and slowly arose from our slumber as Zion canyon slowly warmed in the morning sunlight. Our plan for the day was to tackle "Organasm" a 5.8 C2 aid/ free route. The route was going to be our warm up and practice sessions in aid climbing that were to prepare us for our big wall multi-day climbing adventure.

The Zion canyon walls soar up 2000 ft as we drive in and park the car near the approach. The approach was cold proposition because we had to ford the 40 degree waters of the Virgin River to reach the opposing canyon wall while carrying our gear-laden packs. Emerging from the waters with numb feet we hiked up the hill reaching the route.
This is "Th Organ" and our route "Organasm" ascended up the right middle column of rock

It started with a 5.8 double crack system to a large ledge with some loose slabs. It then proceeded up a tricky open book crack (crack between two faces coming together at less than a 45 degree angle) that was unrated...but we personally rated at 5.10. It then continued the next pitch up the crack up an overhanging slope that split through a 8 foot 5.11c/d roof 150 off the deck. The route then continued with the crack up the face and topping out 300-400ft up.

The first order of business was for me to figure out how to aid climb. Aid climbing (to those who don't know) is basically climbing on place a piece in the rock.... clip a webbing ladder to it....step up and place another piece higher and repeat. It is a technique used for climbing routes you wouldn't ordinarily be able to climb with your hands (free climb), unless you were a climbing God (5.13d..etc). So I understood the concept but hadn't done a bit of it. I aided up the 5.8 and 5.10 sections just for practice. My first impression was that I that aid climbing takes time....forever in fact, considering you are only able to move up little more than a half body length per piece.
Myself moving up the steps of my aid ladder

Tyler and Scott ascended the rope to my position and we set off to take on the next pitch. Tyler styled the roof naturally...made the whole thing look easy. Scott went next and cleaned the gear up to Tyler's position, while I in the back ascend the rope in thin air. The next pitch Scott took on while we hung of the anchor. It was dark by the time we reached the top, our head lamps shined through the night and our rappel to the ground. When we went to pull the rope from the ground it managed to get stuck on the route and forced us to leave it and come back the next morning to re-climb the route and free the rope.

So the next morning Scott quickly free climbed the first pitch. I then aid through the giant roof to the second anchor and freed the stuck rope from the night previous. Aiding through a roof requires some trust in your gear. You are hanging 150 ft off the ground hanging off mechanical advantaged gear stuck in the rock... you have to trust your gear and you have to place it well!!!

Dangling 150 ft up on the lip of the roof on "Organasm"

Upon getting to the top, Scott and Tyler had a plan in free climb the first pitches including the daunting roof. So I belayed from the anchors above while Scott free climbed up to the roof, risking a big swing into open air. Meanwhile Tyler snapped video on rappel while Scott powered through the 5.11c/d roof triumphantly, with tourist below snapping pictures.( seethe video below!)

Tyler then made his attempt and was out on the lip of the roof, fell, got back on the rock and finished it. Knowing my ability level was not interested in attempt on my part. It was a long day for us all and we went home excited as children at our adventure.

Studying up for our next adventure...

The next day Tyler and I packed our gear and made preparations for the climax of the trip...a 3 day, 2 night ascent of Moonlight Buttress via the route "Lunar Ecstasy". In the meantime, we made this day a rest day and hiked up the "Narrows" of Zion canyon. Putting on wetsuits we hiked up wading in the river as Zion Canyon narrowed to 3-4 arm spans wide and the walls rose up 1500 ft from the river.

Light piercing the shadows of "The Narrows"

It was surreal and so pristine.... I walked awe-struck to the extent of silence...lost for words as we forded the river and passed through the piercing sunlight and shadows of the towering the walls.

More canyoneering in the Narrows

No comments: