Forums: Climbing Disciplines: Big Wall and Aid Climbing: Re: Zion climbing history: Edit Log


Feb 3, 2005, 6:32 PM

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Registered: Oct 29, 2002
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Re: Zion climbing history
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Zion in the late 70’s…The Wild Wild West

Terry and I were psyched. It was spring break and we couldn’t stop thinking about this climb. It had a single splitter that ran almost the entire distance of this wall in Zion. It was 1979. The year earlier had been a successful one for me in the Valley and in Zion…we were ready.

No sooner had we arrived in Zion, at the base of the splitter, than this climber mysteriously appeared and announced that we couldn’t do the climb we were drooling over. “I'LL SHOOT YOUR ROPES IF YOU START FIXING!”. Suddenly, our spirits sank. “Stay off MY route”, he said. Geez, we had come to a National Park, paid our fee, the weather was perfect, and now we couldn’t do our climb. Being two scared teenagers, we obliged. I think if we had shown up at 3:00 in the morning, this climber would have found us…it was kind of spooky.

Walking around depressed, a guy named Rhan came by and suggested we try a quality new route he’d just put up near the Temple of Sinawava. With nothing better to do, we took a look. “Wow! That does look good.” There was even a perfect splitter that bypassed an off-width crack. Rhan said we had to climb this route with him because we didn’t have enough large pins…this was the pre-friend era. Although we seriously questioned this guy, somehow, insanity took over and we decided to all climb it together.

The night before the climb, it was quiet at the near-empty Watchman Campground. In the 70’s, the town of Springdale was dead. There were no lights and no places to go. Unlike Yosemite, there was no climbing scene in Zion. You were lucky to even see another climber.

Then the silence was broken...“WHO SPILLED WATER ON MY SLEEPING BAG?" Terry’s older brother quickly fessed up. Rhan exploded with a deluge of profanity “you dumb #%*#,” getting right up into his face. "I'm sorry, I know I'm a dumb #%*#". As the tantrum got louder and louder, so did the apologies. Rhan wouldn't let it went on and on. Something bad was gonna happen. Terry’s brother was bigger & stronger than little Rhan. He could have drop-kicked him out of the campground. Suddenly, one of us said “you can borrow my sleeping bag tonight." Things quickly calmed down after this was said…whew!

The next day, without helmets, we climbed up a beautiful, dark corner. The rock was hard--in fact so hard that I broke the heads off of several pitons while cleaning. They were welded. I yelled up to Rhan “why did you overdrive these pins!” “Come on! This is the Desert”, he shouted. Higher up, from our sling belay, Terry free climbed a long section of the vertical crack, running it out because of the difficulty of placing a pin…great lead. Next, as I was leading a perfect 1" crack, I suddenly got some sand under my contact lens. Yelling for tention, I slithered down to fix the problem. Rhan yelled up "Solo climbers don't ask for tention". As we climbed, Rhan critiqued us. We returned the favor as he climbed.

We reached a cool bivy ledge that night. Rhan, being the shortest, picked the best part of the ledge. Later that night, after smoking some of “the good stuff,” he grabbed my brand new 35mm camera and threatened to throw it off into space. I pleaded with him not too, and finally he handed it over. I slept well that night, but who doesn’t sleep soundly when you’re young! In the morning, after cleaning the sand out of my eyes, I started up the last pitch. The regular route to the right looked contrived, with some aid, so I free climbed left up a more natural crack line. Grunting up a typical Zion off-width/squeeze, I wearily pulled over the top.

Before we left the summit, we heaved all of our pins off the rim. The thought of rapping the route was almost unheard of in those days, so we continued up thru brush, deep snow, cactus and unprotected, loose, soft rock for another 1,300 feet to the top of the East Rim. The view was magnificent. Rhan wanted to take the short hike out to Observation Point. When we declined to accompany him, he went ballistic... We bolted to escape the wrath of Rhan. He continued out to the point alone to smoke more of the “the good stuff.” On the descent,
Terry and I reflected on our adventure…the good and bad rock, the splitters, the off-widths, runnouts, the sand, the solitude… guns, arguments, heavy pin racks, our own insanity and most importantly, the incredible beauty…Ah yes, the wild west.

(This post was edited by bsmoot on May 2, 2009, 7:19 AM)

Edit Log:
Post edited by bsmoot () on May 2, 2009, 6:58 AM
Post edited by bsmoot () on May 2, 2009, 7:19 AM

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