Monday, January 20, 2014

Zion Chossoneering

Inspired by my hero Jared Campbell, the Zion aficionado, we set out for Zion in hopes of climbing some ridges, bagging some peaks, and winter canyoneering rather than the standard splitter crack climbing. We found some great views, honed our routefinding skills, and didn't kill ourselves despite the choss.

Our two objectives for Saturday, Kinesava on left, and West Temple on right

Saturday- Cowboy Ridge of Mt Kinesava /Southwest Ridge of West Temple Linkup
good route descriptions here and here

These two ridges are a nice natural linkup in a day for a fast party as they are close, require essentially the same gear, and let you bag two peaks instead of one so the long approach only has to be done once. We parked at the Chinle Trailhead in Springdale and after a group bathroom excursion that need not be discussed further we set off. The route leaves the Chinle Trail and heads up through the Springdale Band on the usual cross country Zion terrain of pokey bushes, sand, and loose rocks. We hit the Cowboy Ridge proper after an hour, and scrambled, climbed, navigated the complex ridge terrain. The only real technical spot was a 5.7 handcrack near the top that Court and I soloed and Pete and Steve roped up for. It was the highlight of the ridge as the rock was excellent and secure. We topped out around noon and set off for West Temple.
Scrambling up the ridge

Pete already hot with his shirt off

A chimney marvel allows passage through an otherwise blank vertical wall
Steve doing some higher quality 5th class up high on the ridge
Court solo on the 5.7 handcrack. It is not this steep, but the ground to the left is 1500' down. 

A more realistic but less cool view of Court on the handcrack
A view of our next objective from Kinesava summit

Unfortunately the ridges don't allow for an easy scramble between them, so we were forced to downclimb the east face, then climb back up to the West Ridge notch before continuing. It makes you lose a few hundred feet of vert, but nothing too painful. West Temple is higher than Kinesava and is made up of the horrible brown sugar white rock that is not confidence inspiring. What makes the 5th class sections hard in Zion isn't the actual climbing but the rock quality. You never know when the huge dinner plate of 1/2 inch thick sand is going to bust on you. Nevertheless, we made it up to the final 5.6(not 5.8) pitch where a few oddly placed bolts provide security should you need it though we found the section below the bolts to be harder. Again, Court and I soloed while Steve and Pete roped up. We bagged the top of West Temple via some pretty horrible shwacking and then turned around. We had a brief moment of inspiration that we could continuing traversing onto the Three Mary's but the 500 foot vertical cliff separating them kabaished that idea quickly.
A look up the West Temple ridge

Court 3rd classing the final 5.6 section up to West Temple plateau
This is what the plateaus of the peaks are like. Viscous stuff. All our legs looked like shredded meat after this event

We had a bit of an issue finding the right cliff on the way down that we had come up, but eventually found it and arrived back at the car 8.5 hours after departing. A meal at Alberto's(as well as a shower in the bathroom sink), and a movie(Walter Mitty, lame) rounded out the night. Long day but felt good.

Sunday-Pine Valley Peak 
route description here though I think we found a better way

The rule I have for vacations is no roped climbing or hiking that makes you sweat on Sundays. Seeing that we hadn't really been using a rope much anyway, we decided after church to tag Pine Valley Peak, a whiterock mountain above the Wildcat Trailhead which is used for the Subway access. Steve and I scrambled to the top with some fairly sketchy 5th class slab sections that made me a bit nervous, but no one died. The hard part is downclimbing this stuff,  not going up. Then we hiked down to the Subway entrance before following false cairns into the wild and turned back to avoid nightfall.

Pine Valley Peak
Slab pictures all look trivial. But this was scary as a fall here would send you all the way down. And there isn't a jug anywhere in sight. Or a handcrack. 

Steve navigating the slabs/snow

It felt good to actually have a crack to work with on this one

Nice views from the top of Pine Valley Peak

Monday- East Temple and Keyhole

Special shout out to MLK who allowed for free entrance to NP's today! 

JC has described this extravagant route up the East Temple that involves lots of routefinding, miles of off trail slickrock sidehill hiking, and fairly scary 5th class slab chossy sections with a heads up solo(not in his route description) of a bolted route to the summit. The three of us managed to get across the slabs, down into the first gully, and up the opposing slabs before Pete bailed when the easiest maneuver we could find was a scary mantle on graham crackers on a 50 degree wall. I don't blame him. You know you are on bad rock when dead bushes seem "bomber" for hand holds. Steve and I made it around the hoodoos at the top on fragile rock before being stymied on a surprise bolted slab that had good rock, but too high consequence for our liking should we fall. We were likely within 200 feet of the top, but felt like living another day. Bring a rope next time for this one. Props to JC for soloing this section.

Beautiful slabs of East Temple

A look up at the summit we just couldn't quite reach
Steve was braver than I and actually attempted the final bolted slab before retreating. 
Again, looks easy, but most of this rock is garbage, and a slip will send you down into Spry Canyon

Then we decided to do Keyhole, the classic short Zion slot canyon, which is quite cold anytime you do it but the winter is quite frigid, as fast as we could because we like time trials. However, we came to the conclusion that we had to do it as fast as we could anyway or we would freeze, so our goal wasn't exactly a choice. We dressed in whatever we thought was best(thermals, swimming suit, baclava, whatever we had), and ran up the approach slabs. We flew down the root hill and into the slot. The first slot section we encountered little water, but then soon encountered a full on ice flow. We skated, swam, waded, and karate chopped our way(with our thighs) through to the first rap. We forgoed actual rappelling with harnesses and just slid down our 30 foot rope on the two mandatory rope sections(big tree is gone) and butt slid a few others. The pools were icy cold, some had 3-4 inch thick ice floating in them. I felt like a polar bear on an ice cap at sea. I honestly hate cold water, and I was screaming like a little girl most of the time, convinced I was going to die of hypothermia. We ran and swam and screamed and were extremely happy to exit the final pool, strip down, and bask in the sun. Multiple extremities resulted in screaming barfies.

Then this young couple who apparently had spotted us running up the road in our random assortment of attire and then stripping down afterwards approached us at the car and asked if we had gone swimming. I wouldn't call it swimming. When the dude heard we had done Keyhole, he wanted in. Steve obliged and took him through it again. Apparently Steve actually enjoyed it the first time. Pete and I were happy to sit in the warm sun and eat fruit snacks while they froze their tootsies off again.

The book gives an accurate 1-2 hour time frame for the canyon for most groups going at a normal pace. The group of three of us did it in 18 min CTC, then Steve did it in 15.5 min on round two with stranger turned canyoneer friend Travis. No doubt in the summer we could dial it under 12. Likely JC already has the FKT though he never stated his exact time.

Two videos of our day from stevo

KEYHOLE VIMEO from Stephen Lindsay on Vimeo.

Cowboy ridge/West Temple


  1. Great writeup! You got your moneys worth that weekend.

  2. I sure love reading this stuff, Spence. I'd say this write up is "mmm mmm good"... just like Campbell's