Sunday, November 25, 2012

Smashing and Getting Smashed in Zion


Zion is the place to be in late November. Cool but sunny, spectacular scenery, climbing of all types, and great trails to run. After gorging on turkey and the fixings while spending a more than ample amount of time on our butts watching football, we made the trek down for a dual threat of climbing and a long trail run.

Friday we arrived in Zion about 12 pm and took off for "Smash Mouth", a gorgeous 4 pitch 5.11 splitter finger crack near the Mount Carmel Tunnel that leads to the East Entrance. The wall faces west so afternoon sun was our hope. After a 20 min trek skirting around the base of the wall, Court, Annie and I set off up the crack. Court took pitch 1, a short 5.10+ thin hand crack to a wide hands corner. Fun. I took off pitch 2, a dancy face past 4 bolts which allowed passage to the finger crack. 30 feet of .5 camalots took me to the belay, another great 5.10 pitch. Pitch 3 was Courts, another beauty. 80 feet of fingers, with adequate feet often but a few sections of smearing garbage into vertical terrain. He surprised himself I think by onsighting the beast, a great achievement. Pitch 4 was the crux 5.11 pitch, which wasn't too hard up until the last 10 feet. I pulled through a few hard bulges on good locks, but then fell at the last sequential tips to flarey hand jam crux. Annie and Court both sent on TR, so I felt crappy, but they were nice enough to say it was reasonably hard.

Pitch 1

Court following pitch 2

Annie fighting for some good locks

Crux ending to pitch 4

We then went and hung out with Steve, Izzy and Nick where Crimson King, a hard 5.11 single pitch gave us all quite a bit of grief. We managed to find a place to sleep across the Rockville bridge on some BLM land by a river and some RV's.

Saturday Steve, Court, and I had plans to run the full Zion 50 mile traverse, while Nick and Annie were going to try to run the first half, or Rim to Rim of Zion, a very difficult 26 mile course. Izzy was our crew. Essentially the full 50 miler(10k vert) starts at the East Rim of Zion, heads down into Zion proper ending at Weeping Rock, then climbs out the canyon via the Angels Landing trail. It then heads out to the West rim, which is 13.5 miles from the Grotto. Then it takes the Wildcat Trail down to the Hop Valley trail, another 8 miles, and finally cranks the last 14 miles out into the Kolob section of Zion, where it ends at Lee's Pass.

 We started off from the East Entrance just after 7 am. We all plodded along, and the first 10 miles to the Weeping Rock Trailhead went well with no one really complaining too loud about the difficulties. It was mostly downhill. We all made it up Angels Landing where a few ran, but most walked. The trail climbs the entire time from the Grotto up to the mesa above Behunion Canyon. We were all getting pretty tired by this point, 18 miles in. Steve, Court and I took off as we had 22 more miles to go after the West Rim, leaving Annie and Nick to chug it out the last 8. We ran the flat and downhill, but walked the uphill. We weren't making good time, and the 3 of us finally made it to the West Rim between 6:45 and 7:00 total elapsed time. Izzy had illegally gone down the closed road to the West Rim in the 4 runner due to our need for supplies, which we were grateful for. After binging on food, Court decided he was out for the 2nd half due to stomach issues, while Steve and I decided to press on in a very reluctant manner. Once Annie and Nick arrived at the West rim, they would carpool back to get our car at the East rim, and then meet us in Kolob. They arrived 10-15 minutes after we left the car.

Annie running near Echo Canyon

Nick on East Rim Trail

The crew running on East Rim

After Steve and I came to a junction for the Hop Valley Trail 5 miles later, we decided running in the cold, dark night for another 18 miles didn't sound very fun. So we bailed.  We hitched a ride down to the main road, and waited for our comrades to come get us. We ate Panda Express and made it home at a decent hour. Sometimes its more pleasant to not accomplish your goals.

Nick, Court, and Annie: 26 miles in 7 to 7:30
Steve and Spence: 32 miles in 8:30

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