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chirp


Mar 16, 2005, 4:04 AM
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Better late than never.
Sorry for dragging this back up but I missed any serious history on the Kolob district.
I was active there in the mid 80's, working as a seasonal ranger and exploring and ogling all the awesome territory of the Kolob finger Canyons.
I enjoyed reading the old route reports in the "Black Book", especially the "ancient" ones from Forrest and March regarding their bold forays into the then obscure "fingers".
In my seasonal tenure there 1985-1989, I focussed on short route potential and canyoneering. But I was well aware of those that came before and the remnants they left behind. Some key moments:

Our ascent of the free version of "Last Rites", found a 2" angle lying in the dirt at the top.

An old and thrashed chouinard hammer in bleached out flood debris below Paria Point. (north face)

Star dryvins, ratty slings, and a biner etched with the name "Trout" on the ridge of Beatty Point. ( Ken Trout I am guessing )

A cairn and more star dryvins at the top of "Rooster Pinnacle".

Who climbed here, I have heard rumors and had the chance to meet several, including a visit by Forrest and March to Kolob where I was stoked to have someone stop by actually interested in climbing...little did I realize till too late who they were.

Art Wiggins and Harvey Miller, doing the FIRST recon of what is now Wind, Sand, and Stars.

Even several interactions with Dangle...some tense ( Meeting him and his mule below Timbertop) and some fun, especially getting a photo of him on top of a Garbage Dumpster with a CrowBar.

I feel fortunate to have been able to spend several years cruising in the kolob, savoring its peace before the popularity boom. I remember looking up at the virgin wall of Namaste/Huecos Rancheros and wistfully thinking "someday" there might be routes there.

My most recent trips up to Kolob in the late 90's have left me with a bit of a bitter taste, ropes abandoned and swinging, short routes with a bunch of ugly fixed gear that make major visual impact, all in the name of "getting a first", as well as graffiti and trash.

I would love to hear some stories of the pre "modern" explorers, those that came and left in a vacuum, those with respect.


rockprodigy


Mar 17, 2005, 9:45 PM
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Ok, it's time to breathe some new life into this thread.

A few people have asked for the story of the free ascent of the Lowe Route from last fall. I'll give you the first installment, and if there is interest I'll keep it going....


“How is it going up there?” Is the rhetorical question I get from Ben, my skeptical belayer. His precise inflection indicates that he knows the answer. A long pause results as I face facts: This pitch, these 10 measly feet, simply will not go.

“Uh, it’s not looking good. It’s too steep, and the holds are just too far apart.” I’m severely disappointed, but I don’t have time to dwell on it now. We’re about 1000’ off the deck with another 500’ to go to top out on the Lowe Route, on the N Face of Angel’s Landing, and the hour is getting late. We punch it for the top, freeing what we can, and aiding the rest, and top out just as it’s getting dark. On the summit, Ben consoles me:

“You know, Mike, I wasn’t too psyched for more belay duty on this thing anyway…so to be honest, I’m not too disappointed that it won’t go”.

“Thanks…thanks a lot.” It’s just the tact-less type of consolation that I would expect from my longtime friend. Ben and I have known each other since we were about 12 years old. We learned to climb together, so we’re past the point of polite conversation. Nevertheless, his assessment is too frank for me right now, as I try to hang on to a sliver of hope that I will find a way to make it go. My years of reading mountaineering literature have turned me into a hopeless optimist. In all the classic tales, the brave protagonists always find a way to make it go. Of course, the unsuccessful protagonists don’t get their stories published, so we rarely read about failures.

As we scurry down the trail in the dark I propose possible solutions while Ben kindly shoots them down.

“The Hubers used a man-powered rappel, how about a man-powered pendulum?”
“Pendulum to where? There’s nowhere to go.”
“OK, how about a shoulder stand?”
“That would be aid climbing, and besides, who are you going to get to dangle 1000’ off the deck off of those crappy holds belayed by those rusty quarter-inchers? You can count me out.” I decided it would be better to keep my ideas to myself.

My goal, or should I say, my pipe-dream is to free the North Face of Angels Landing in Zion, UT. Despite being the most obvious climbing feature in the Canyon, it had so far remained as the exclusive territory of the aid climber. This was my third recon trip, and it was going well until I hit the bolt ladder on pitch 8. A few weeks before I had rapped down to inspect the upper half of the route, and although I knew the bolt ladder would be hard, I thought it would go, at least there were holds. I was wrong. I was certain that I could free everything but the 10 feet of that bolt ladder; I was instantly enlightened about the frustration of big wall free climbing. You can free 1490’, but if you don’t get those last 10’, you have failed.

I first started thinking about this project last spring. I was driving home solo to Utah after a long trip to the Valley which allowed a lot of time for personal reflection. I had a great trip, met some cool people and reunited with old friends. My twin brother, Mark, and I had just made an all free ascent of El Cap and I had managed to avoid falling on any of the pitches. I didn’t think of myself as an elite climber, but after my unexpected success on Freerider, I decided that maybe I do have an aptitude for this type of climbing. For some reason, the further I am from the ground, the more easily the moves seem to come to me…at least that explains my complete ineptitude at bouldering.

While in the Valley, I was impressed by the amount of energy there is for free climbing. Prior to this trip I had formed the opinion that the Valley scene stifles progress by ostracizing people with a different vision of the future. This latest trip really opened my eyes to the feverish pace of progress in the Valley. There are a lot of very strong climbers, locals and visitors pushing the limits on climbs all over the valley. Nearly every day I could walk through El Cap meadow and hear about people making progress on various projects throughout the park. I wanted to be a part of that. Because I couldn’t bring myself to the Valley every weekend, I decided to try to bring that atmosphere to Zion.

Zion is ripe for a free climbing revolution. Guys like Doug Heinrich have been trying to motivate people towards that end for some time now, but it’s just now starting to catch on. When my brother Mark and I freed Moonlight a few years ago, there wasn’t a lick of chalk on it, now the crux pitch is perma-chalked. Nevertheless, the route still gets more aid traffic than anything.

Immediately upon my return from Yosemite, I started researching possible routes in Zion. I contacted Brian Smoot, whom I had previously sparred with on the internet. I knew he was a long-time Zion climber and he would have some great ideas. He sent me a great list of potential routes, but I was instantly drawn to the Lowe Route on Angel’s Landing, and have been obsessed with the line ever since....


brianinslc


Mar 17, 2005, 9:57 PM
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Prod prod poke...

Go....more...

-Brian in SLC
ps: weave into the story my TCU, if you would...ha ha...just kiddin'. I'm over it. The thing won't even talk to me anymore. Just sits there, all smug, as if to say, "all you ever used me for was aid climbing". Yeah, I used to think it looked cool on my rack, but now, maybe aliens aren't so bad. Nah...


rockprodigy


Mar 17, 2005, 11:12 PM
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Oh, don't worry, it'll show up in chapter 3...if we make it that far.


skinner


Mar 19, 2005, 2:20 PM
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Ok.. you've go my attention.. the free ascent of the Lowe Route or anything on Angels Landing for that matter :shock:


golsen


Mar 23, 2005, 6:46 PM
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Rockprodigy...MORE. I will try and get around to scanning some more old pics of the route.


rockprodigy


Mar 25, 2005, 5:30 PM
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OK, here's Chapter 2. This might be the last part I post, if It's just the 3 of you who care, I'll e-mail the rest to you.


They say “time heals all wounds”…I don’t have much experience with that, but one thing I do know is that time downrates all cruxes. The further you are from your project, the easier you remember those moves being, and it didn’t take long after that initial recon before I had convinced myself the Lowe Route was worth another shot. Convincing a belayer?...now that’s another thing.

Within two weeks I was back in the Park, hoping to give it another try. I had made plans to meet up with Brian Smoot, and hopefully meet the prolific Dave Jones, but it didn’t come to pass. The first day we were there it was raining. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was heavey-handed foreshadowing of things to come. We were unable to get on the wall, but that wasn’t the point, I just needed to have a look. From the covered bus stop at Big Bend, I scoured the face with my high powered spotting scope and identified enough features to motivate me to rap in from the summit a second time.

The rest of the weekend was spent enjoying the solitude of Zion in the rain. At one point we decided it would be fun to try to hike to the south side of the Great White Thrown cross-country from the Mt. Carmel highway. We got cliffed out and didn’t make it to the Thrown, but we did stumble upon a group of desert bighorn sheep that made the weekend worthwhile. Spotting these creatures in the wild is a rare treat because of their keen eye sight. They usually see you well before you see them. In this case, I think they did see us first, but when they continued up the ridge to evade us, they got cliffed out before we did and were forced to face their pursuers.

The next weekend I was back, and forced to sit out yet another day in the rain. Fortunately the excellent sports climbing in nearby St. George had been spared the moisture, and I was able to climb something. That Sunday, my wife, Janelle, and I hiked up Angel’s Landing with several hundred feet of rope. We rapped down about 700 feet to the ledge at the base of the bolt ladder. I had conceived of some other options for climbing the bolted arête, and I wanted to try them with a belayer, if it didn’t work out, I would check out those features I had spotted through my scope. Once again, the arête didn’t work out. It was steeper than I had remembered, and the nearby pinscars were unusable. I gave up on the original route, and decided to focus on those features that dotted the smooth face left of the aid route.

Inspecting a face on rappel for free climbing is a risky proposition. I had done it countless times for the sport routes I had put up, and I knew that there was a very fine line between climbable and impossible. Nevertheless, I thought I saw enough there to warrant putting in the bolts to protect the moves. I put in 9 bolts that day to protect the first pitch of the variation. After two more separate trips spread out over 3 weeks due to the non-stop rain, I finally had all 15 protection bolts in, and 5 belay bolts. The route was finally ready for an attempt....


blowboarder


Mar 25, 2005, 5:40 PM
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Hey, if you don't finish the story include me on the email list for the conclusion.

I hate reading something in sections and not getting the finale. :lol:


zozo


Mar 25, 2005, 5:46 PM
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No Mike post it! I bet alot are reading it. If not PM the rest to me as well, just getting to the good part.


rockprodigy


Mar 25, 2005, 5:50 PM
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In reply to:
I hate reading something in sections and not getting the finale. :lol:

Yeah that sucks, you know what else sucks? writing a huge long story in one sitting. If there is enough demand, I'll post chapter 3 today before I leave for Moab (Jeep jambore baby!!! ExXXtreme, to the MaXXXX!!!)


atg200


Mar 25, 2005, 6:38 PM
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mike, i think all of us are really enjoying this and want to hear the rest of the story - we just don't want to clutter up the thread. please post the rest of it!


epic_ed


Mar 25, 2005, 6:48 PM
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Seriously. There's more to be told! Looking forward to it when you get the chance.

Ed


ambler


Mar 25, 2005, 7:02 PM
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Another vote for more stories! This is already the best Internet-climbing thread I've seen.


clmbr121


Mar 25, 2005, 8:41 PM
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"Post! Post! Post!" they chanted.

And where is Dave's long-teased beer story...


chronicle


Mar 25, 2005, 9:01 PM
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I've given more trophies in this thread than all others combined. Keep em coming.


rockprodigy


Mar 25, 2005, 9:07 PM
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Chapter 3: Where are you Brian?, this is your 15 minutes....

On the 21st of November, Janelle and I crossed the frigid Virgin River and approached Angel’s Landing. OK, I have to be honest…it wasn’t that frigid. The day before, while killing time in Hurricane (pronounced “herkin” by the local intelligentsia) I stumbled upon some cheap hip waders in the Ace Hardware store. For under $30 you too can cross the Virgin in winter in total comfort! We were at the base of the wall by about 8:00am, and started climbing despite the frigid temps. The predicted high for that day was in the low 50’s – barely warm enough for the hard climbing that lay ahead on this north facing wall. At this hour, however, the mercury was hovering in the low 30’s, and the grass on the approach was still frosty. Fortunately the first four pitches are mellow, and climbing them in this cold weather was manageable.

The first pitch (5.9) climbs a low-angle groove formed by terrible rock and covered in moss…pretty much par for the course in Zion. The protection is seldom and sandy, but I had climbed it twice before and knew what to expect. Pitch two, also 5.9, starts off in an intimidating flaring groove reminiscent of the Poseidon adventure on the Lighthouse tower in Moab. Fortunately, the walls are more featured and the pitch can be climbed with no groveling whatsoever by stemming against the walls of the tight corner. If it is done this way, it is actually quite enjoyable climbing. The next real challenge is pitch 4 which wanders in and out of corners and arêtes to gain the bivy ledge. At one point, a horrible looking off-width is encountered, but it too can be bypassed by face climbing and stemming over it.

Once on the bivy ledge, the business begins. Pitch 5 is the first 5.12 pitch, and I had hoped to reach it right about the time the temperature was rising. No dice. When we arrived there at about 10:00, my thermometer showed 40 degrees. We hung out for about 45 minutes and then I started up the steep corner. Pitch 5 is a spectacular pitch. It starts out with delicate stemming up a loose chimney feature. Your left leg is stemming against a huge detached flake, while your right leg and hands are carefully picking their way through an overhanging jungle of loose blocks. Fortunately the climbing in this section is only about 5.10+, but the blocky ledge below you keeps your attention. This section is probably the most dangerous portion of the route to aid, where a serious ledge fall is quite possible

About 30’ up, the rock improves dramatically at a good rest. Just above is the crux move which involves entering a steep, right facing corner. An old knifeblade piton is wedged in the crack at the start of the corner. It sticks out 2 inches, and is bent over 90 degrees such that the eye, which should be level with the horizon, is pointing straight down. I clipped this piece for effect, and backed it up with a tcu lower down. I hadn’t redpointed this pitch before, so I was nervous about it, but on my recon almost two months before, I had worked out the moves. Entering the corner is the crux of the pitch, and it is made possible by some “thank god” edges on the face. I cranked out the bouldery moves, paused to place a tcu in the crack and pressed on to a good rest. The rest of the pitch involves enjoyable stemming and crack climbing up an Indian Creek-esque corner. I arrived at the belay well pumped and happy to make the redpoint. The temperature turned out to not be a factor.

The 5.10c climbing on pitch 6 went by quickly. It climbs an enormous dihedral through the best rock on the route and the climbing is varied enough that you don’t get bored. For free climbers, this pitch ends at the “Flake Belay”. It’s a detached pancake flake, about a foot wide and 10 feet long that hovers about a foot out from the right side of the dihedral. It’s quite a comfortable belay if you straddle the flake, cowboy–style. Above the flake, the crack is very narrow. Still in the aforementioned massive dihedral, now the crack has pinched to about the size of a #0 Tcu, or about 3/8”. There are a few pin scar pods that will accept more of my fingertips, but the laybacking is still very strenuous. This section is only about 35’ long but it packs a punch.

I stood high off the flake and placed a ratty old 0 tcu with a period-piece bit of spectra cord tied in for a sling. I had borrowed this piece from my friend Brian Cabe, and was glad to get it off of my rack as soon as possible. I don’t know when he acquired it, but by the looks of the thing, it must have been a prototype at one time. A few stem moves are possible right off the belay which gave me a chance to place another piece before launching into the do-or-fly lieback. About 10’ above the belay is the crux where the crack pinches down and the smearing wall is as unblemished as a Boulder Trustafarian’s # 4 Camalot. I powered through this section and reached a good tips finger lock right at the point where my foot reached a small divot. The hardest moves were done, but the corner stays steep and strenuous, so I took a deep breath and continued on. At this point, the left wall of the dihedral bulges out creating another crux, amazingly, this bulge happens right at the point where the crack widens enough to stuff all of your fingers in and a bomber # 0.5 camalot. Another rest was had above the bulge, then the last hard moves, protected by a # 00 tcu allow access to the sloping ledge that marks the standard end of pitch 6. I made the memorable 5.7 traverse along the ledge out to the left edge of the dihedral at the base of the “triple roofs” pitch. The first hard pitch was in the bag!

The next pitch, the standard “pitch 7”, is the physical and psychological crux of the route. The pitch starts under an inverted staircase feature known as the “triple overhangs”. The pitch was originally climbed via a knifeblade crack where the roofs meet the main wall. These scars have since grown to wide pods from the relentless piton-ing and the extremely soft rock. Above the roof, the crack widens to a seam large enough to accept tiny nuts. This pitch, with its marginal protection, is the aid crux of the route.

On my recon, I had toproped this pitch, and done all the moves, but I hadn’t yet attempted to place the gear on the lead which is an entirely different prospect. Two days before, when I rapped in to place the last few bolts, I had scrutinized the crack and worked out an intricate system of protection. This pitch would make or break the climb, and I feared it would make or break me. I started up the overhang, and encountered the first placement, a #00 tcu in a flaring pod of white, sandy rock. Soon after, I reached a thin vertical crack that accepted a small offset nut. From this shoddy protection, I had to power out some desperate moves to reach the first of 3 fixed bugaboo pitons I had placed previously. As I moved above the offset, it popped out, and fell back down the rope. I immediately lost my nerve and down-climbed to the belay. I made a few more half-hearted attempts, but I was completely psyched out. I decided that the first 7 pitches I had climbed would be adequate for today. We would rap down to the ground, spend the night in the comfort of the motel, and come back tomorrow to finish the route.

The slightly overhanging rappels to the bivy ledge atop pitch 4 went smoothly. From here, it is possible to diverge from the route and rappel straight down the face. Dusk was upon as we cast off down the blank face at about 5:00pm. The second rappel off the ledge is a 50m straight shot down a smooth wall. I was rapping on a 100m static line that I had stashed on the bivy ledge for just such an occasion. I had done this rappel before, so I knew when to expect the next anchor, but I hadn’t used this rope. As I approached the end of the rope, I still couldn’t see the anchor. By now, it was completely dark. By the time I realized my rope was short, I was dangling below a roof. The next anchor was 10 feet below on a sloping ledge. Apparently the 50m rap included the stretch from a dynamic rope.

I dangled in space for a while, completely exhausted and at the end of my rope – literally and figuratively. I thought about trying to prusik back up to the anchor 50m above, and thinking of nothing better to do, I started the process. I had done this a few times before to retrieve stuck ropes, so I knew what to do. Take a shoulder sling, wrap it around the rope a few times and try to keep it from sliding down the slippery sheath. Eventually, I was able to get above the overhang which greatly improved my predicament. About that point, I spotted a tiny ledge about 20’ to my right, and just above me, and I made a beeline for that.

Once established on the ledge, I was able to calm down enough to think of a solution. I tried to yell to my wife up above to reposition the rope so that I could rappel down to the belay on a single line, but she couldn’t hear me. I realized I had a 30’ piece of webbing in my pack, and I figured I could use the webbing to extend the rope. I tied the webbing to each end of the 100m rope, then pulled the rope through so that the webbing section would be above me. At this point, Janelle really started freaking out, as she saw our only rope being pulled through the anchor she was hanging at. Fortunately for her, I knew what I was doing. With the extra 30’ in the rope, I was barely able to reach the lower anchor, and proceeded down to the ground without a hitch.
We just about missed dinner in springdale, but fortunately there was a small Chinese restaurant still open. We gorged ourselves on orange chicken and white rice, then settled into the Bumbleberry Motel anticipating the rest of the climb the next day. We woke up early on the 22nd, and found six inches of new snow....


atg200


Mar 27, 2005, 12:32 AM
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In reply to:
About 10’ above the belay is the crux where the crack pinches down and the smearing wall is as unblemished as a Boulder Trustafarian’s # 4 Camalot

Classic!


golsen


Mar 27, 2005, 6:04 PM
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Mike,
awesome story! I just saw some pics in R&I (or was it the other rag) of your ascent. You inspired me. No I didnt go climbing (I am at work) but you did inspire me to post a few pics of the route from 20 years ago. I apologize here for the quality but the slides are 20 yrs old and scanned on a cheap scanner. They should be available in the Zions Route area or from my profile in a couple days.
Thanks for sharing,
Gary


mikemachineco


Mar 28, 2005, 10:01 PM
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Mike, keep writing! I'm loving it, especially after having climbed the route last spring.


golsen


Mar 29, 2005, 8:33 PM
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http://www.rockclimbing.com/...p.cgi?Detailed=51065

Here is the scary (Lowe 5.7) traverse pitch that takes you to the "exit crack" near the top of the Lowe Route, Angels Landing. About 1'000 feet of air beneath Guy Toombes as I am very happy to belay this pitch. about 1985 or 86.


golsen


Mar 29, 2005, 8:38 PM
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http://www.rockclimbing.com/...p.cgi?Detailed=51062

about the 7th Pitch of the Lowe Route in 85? Note the flake belay lower down that Mike mentioned in his writeup....At that time there were only about two pin scars in the thin crack.

Mike, time to finish up?


golsen


Mar 29, 2005, 8:43 PM
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http://www.rockclimbing.com/...p.cgi?Detailed=51064

This is about the 11th pitch for us (10th in Desert Rock), Lowe Route, Angels Landing. I think the first rating I saw in a guidebook was V 5.7 A2, I think Harlins Climbing In NA Guide. 5.7??? Is that flake still there? I thought it was loose when I aided by 20 years ago, quite possibly I was freaked...


golsen


Mar 29, 2005, 8:49 PM
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Re: Zion climbing history [In reply to]
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http://www.rockclimbing.com/...p.cgi?Detailed=51063

Me on the Bolt Ladder Pitch. Lots of exposure there!


golsen


Mar 29, 2005, 8:53 PM
Post #499 of 667 (67790 views)
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Re: Zion climbing history [In reply to]
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Me on 5th Pitch of the Lowe Route in about 1985. Great corner above. Sorry for the Quality of the slides, they are 20 yrs old and scanned on a cheap scanner.

Mike, time to sit still at your keyboard for a little while.

Garyhttp://www.rockclimbing.com/...p.cgi?Detailed=51060


golsen


Mar 29, 2005, 8:59 PM
Post #500 of 667 (67819 views)
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Re: Zion climbing history [In reply to]
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One last pic, the scary 5.7ish traverse on the 8th pitch of the Lowe Route, Angels Landing.
http://www.rockclimbing.com/...p.cgi?Detailed=49509

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