Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Zion Winter Solstice Peak Linkup


Living in Florida is really lame, so the twice a year we get to come back to Utah is something to look forward to. Luckily I finish in June of 2017, so this will be the last temporary voyage from back east. The main objective for this trip was a peak linkup in Zion that we learned about from guess who, Jared Campbell. Court had done the linkup solo already almost a year ago, but was game to do a repeat with some modifications to allow him to see some new terrain. Steve is always game for whatever and both pulled some strings in their schedules on short notice to make the one day trip happen. With snowfall approaching, Dec 21 looked like the best weather window. Despite an ingrown toenail and a cold, Steve pulled through as the hero on this trip.

Our objective was to link Mt. Spry, Twin Brothers, Mountain of the Sun, and Deertrap mountains with an exit out Hidden canyon. Courts previous expedition had followed Jared's approach(and what seems like the most common way among other trip reports ) of approaching via the Pine creek drainage just above the tunnel and then either rapelling(or downclimbing the large bowl with a "jump" per court's report) the first rappel of spry canyon before angling right and accessing the peaks via staying high above the canyon itself. Zion is such a complicated arena of mazes and towers is always dumbfounding that the majority of these peaks can be climbed via non-technical routes, though the route finding is rarely straightforward. We decided to attempt to access Spry/TB from below by "ascending" Spry canyon, rather than above. We weren't going on much beta, just a couple sentences out of the Zion Free and Clean book which states:
Option two: park at the Pine Creek Bridge 1.9 miles from the South Entrance. Hike up drainage to the first steep gully drainage on the left. Follow the steep drainage to the base of the East Temple. Look for a vegetated ramp on the east side of the mouth of Spry Canyon. Climb the 4th and easy 5th ramp into the mouth of the canyon. Scramble along the southeast rim of the canyon to a chock stone that makes a bridge across the canyon. Some rope up here. Cross the canyon on exposed terrain and work your way up onto the slabs. 

This might sound straightforward, as it did to us, but the actual execution was anything but. We got into the actual canyon fine, but struggled to locate any obvious "vegetated ramp". Our route, which was ultimately successful, went something like this:
-after entering spry canyon, proceed essentially to the terminus of the canyon(last official rap in Spry) and look for a slab just left of a large chimney/corner system on the right wall. ascend it via a few exposed 5th class moves
Court actually backed down off the hueco route and went lower by the tree
Steep but mostly secure

-traverse left on exposed slabs towards some trees
-traverse up and right via mostly 4th class with a difficult bouldery off the ground move up an OW
-traverse back left again on more slabs and ascend a cool steep arete rock staircase(we noted a few slung trees along this section, bailing or for pro?)
Dicey terrain, insecure with bad fall potential

Staircase arete
short handcrack over a bulge 

-stem across a small side canyon
-descend into spry canyon

This sticks you out directly between two raps in spry canyon itself. The chockstone mentioned in the guidebook is quite anticlimatic, merely a 4x4 small thing that really isn't essential as a small jump could get you across the canyon. What follows after crossing the chockstone was the mental crux for us. It involves semi-steep, slick, classic funky zion 5.6 that must be free soloed by the leader(unless you trust really old decaying trees for pro). A fall here would land you 100' down inside Spry canyon, not a good way to go. Up to this point we had free soloed everything, and from the chockstone it doesn't look any different than anything else we'd done. Steve headed up there and it turned out to be a little more then he bargained for. Court and I needed some Xanax to calm our anxiety watching him ascend that section. He made it no problem, and belayed us up on a pull cord we had brought along via a fixed anchor at the top. A short traverse left then up a small draw ended the difficulties.
The first crux is getting past the ledgy looking thing on the left(drilled steps?) to where steve is now, then a final crux to grab the tree just above his head. 

From here its a romp up to Mt. Spry and then backtrack up the steep 4th class slabs of Twin Brother, both amazing peaks. We traversed to the other side of TB and proceeded with a semi difficult downclimb off the summit. There are likely several ways to do this, we chose a 25' squeeze chimney of sorts that was probably 5.6 or so in difficulty. Awkward more than anything. There really isn't a good place to rap here unless you bring a bolt kit, so once again good downlclimbing skills are essential. After that section, it was mostly cruiser slab descending with one or two sections that either involved short raps off small trees or some intricate downclimbing. I made it without doing any raps, but the boys opted for one across a particularly blank section.
a look at south face TB from Spry

Court slabbin it on TB

Steve on the TB chimney downclimb

One of the sections requiring either downclimbing prowess or a short rap on TB NW ridge. A tumble here will send you a thousand feet into the bowl unless a ledge or bush saves you

The large bowl inbetween the MOS and TB is amazing, and the ascent up MOS was easy 3rd class. Some cairns mark the way up this summit. It gets done way more than the other two due to its nontechnical, albeit long approach. We descended down a cool ramp system into Lodge canyon and ascended the canyon out towards Deertrap mountain.
TB NW ridge from MOS 

Ice flow in bowl looking towards sentinel

Court descending into the bowl 
Lodge canyon 

Deertrap is a really cool scramble. Lots of big, plate/pancake like jugs on steep rock. The routefinding is fairly straightforward. A bolted anchor at the top allows for a belay up the final section should one be so inclined. By far the most secure climbing of the scrambling we'd done.
Final section of cool plates on Deertrap
Same section from above 

After leaving the Deertrap Mtn trail and our cross country travel to Hidden Canyon, we found the first rap a frozen waterfall of ice. Court and I balked, citing numerous opportunities to become unwelcome overnight guests of the canyon at best and death by hypothermia at worst seeing as the hour was 3:30 pm with less than 2 hours of daylight left, possible unknown icy swims, falling ice, etc. Steve was not deterred and made a valiant effort to persuade us to continue, but was unsuccessful. He ended up making the decision to do the canyon alone while we ran out the east rim trail. We felt bad abandoning him when it "most likely" would go fine. It ended up being fine and we all rendezvoused back at the Weeping Rock trailhead near dark. Steve had to negotiate a few cold pools and do about 6 raps, but was unharmed. Court and I had no regrets, just a moral to return again. Court is now 0/2 on hidden canyon unfortunately. A hitchhike back to the cars and some Panda rounded out another great adventure.

Court got turned around here on his solo attempt, ended up epicing in Grotto canyon

Steves pic of his rap into Hidden canyon

Overall this is fantastic day in Zion and highly recommended. Somewhere in the 16 mile, 8k' ballpark per strava. To the proficient Zioneer comfortable on lots of exposed 5th class sandstone, the entire route(via either approach) can be done sans rope assuming no descent of Hidden canyon, however a rope of some kind will be benzodiazepine equivalent for a maiden voyage should mental tenacity fail.