Category Archives: Rock Climbing

Mediocre Mountaineering

Inspired by some of the moderately technical summits in Zion’s more remote corners, my Zion “to do” list has been expanding lately to include a number of minor,non-technical summits. A couple of weeks ago, I scrambled to the top of the North Guardian Angel with Nick for a quick afternoon adventure; this weekend, the memory of adjacent Pine Valley Peak pulled me to return for another fun summit adventure. There is something freeing about standing on a summit and seeing the canyons and mesas stretching out across the horizon. It is a special sensation. To be unbound by canyon walls, to sense the vastness of the area, and to feel a lightness that technical climbing rarely allows. I climb in approach shoes with sticky rubber, packing a rope, water, food, a harness, some carabiners, belay device, and webbing. There is evidence of past climbers on these routes, yet the slickrock encourages me strike out and find my own path up the meandering cracks and ledges. The Purcell guidebook has route and equipment information on Zion summits helpful in planning and executing a successful climb, but the descriptions are rough enough to maintain a good sense of adventure. Back in Washington’s … Continue reading

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Tie Knots In Your Rappel Ropes to Avoid Disaster

Whilst descending the North Guardian Angel Saturday evening, Calvin and I found our 100′ rope just a bit short to reach the most comfortable landings along the way. It wasn’t much of a problem, but highlighted the importance of tying knots in the ends of our rappel lines. Even when the terrain is not vertical, sliding off the end of your rappel ropes can be extremely dangerous, often fatal. In many places on the North Guardian, an unprotected slip could lead to 50 to 500-foot tumble… not good for your health. On the last of three rappels, we staged this shot as a grand coupling of beautiful landscape and tragic technical foolishness. Can you imagine seeing this scene in real life? Watching someone rapidly descending a 50-degree slope with only 18 inches of line left? I would probably crap my pants. So while we took the picture in jest, I wanted to share it to highlight the serious message underlying it. ALWAYS tie knots in the ends of your rappel lines, or at the very least, make a very conscience and aware decision not to.

Posted in Accidents, Canyoneering, Rock Climbing, Safety, Techniques | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Wilderness First Responder Courses This November

This November, we are offering a full 5-day Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course (11/5 – 11/9, $750) and a WFR Recert course (11/7 – 11/9, $425). Most outdoor professionals and many outdoor enthusiasts already know all about WFR, but for those new to WFR, I thought answer a few common questions: What is WFR? Wikipedia explains it better than I could: “Wilderness First Responder training focus on teaching the students to assess a situation, improvise solutions using available resources to stabilize the patient, and identify the best way to get the patient to definitive medical treatment. In many courses, students are encouraged to develop the habit of systematically thinking through and documenting their assessment decisions/plans using a SOAP note. Topics covered usually include, but are not limited to, the following principles Basic Life Support Responding to results of trauma: burns, wounds, infections, fractures, spinal injuries Responding to the onset of sudden illness Transport/evacuation planning and implementation” Who is WFR for? WFR courses have become a defacto training job requirement for anyone working in the outdoor industry. Many non-professional outdoor enthusiasts, however, also take WFR courses to stay safe and able in remote environments. Whether you’re a backpacker 20 miles away from a … Continue reading

Posted in Accidents, Canyoneering, Hiking, Outdoor Leadership, Rock Climbing, Safety, ZAC Events | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

‘Tis the Season: Late Summer Adventures in Zion

Ahhh, August is here. The desert is still hot, the thunderstorms are coming and going, and for many it is the last chance for a summer adventure. I offer this post as a guideline on how to maximize this time in Zion and the surrounding area. Climbing, for me, is the most important form of recreation, so I will start there. There are few sports that offer such extreme physical challenge and such inspiring rewards. Even when it is 100 degrees outside, climbing in the shade is amazingly reasonable. Shady cragging opportunities exist all through the main canyon for those who can find the right aspects and times of day. One of my favorite summer climbing areas, Kolob Canyon’s South Fork of Taylor Creek, features cool temps and shade most of the day. Perhaps the most exciting and challenging summer climbing I have done is in Kolob on Huecos Rancheros (5.12c) and Namaste (5.12a). Also, Last Rites (5.10+) is a super-fun single pitch finger crack with a bolted start. St. George also has some fun summer climbing opportunities. Enjoy the novelty of Veyo’s Crawdad Canyon Climbing Resort; if you go, don’t miss “The Fly” (5.11c), right off the pool deck. Snow … Continue reading

Posted in Canyoneering, Mountain Biking, Rock Climbing, Seasonal, Summer, The Narrows, Zion, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Polyester vs. Nylon Ropes – Which Absorb More Water?

How much water does a rope absorb? It has always seemed that polyester ropes hold less than nylon ropes, but is this actually true? How big is that difference? I decided to find out yesterday… Rope Water Absorption Test – July 13, 2011 Test Method: At least 30m of a particular rope is coiled, weighed, then immersed in a cooler full of water, and held under by weights, for one hour (+10 min, – 0 min). The rope is removed and hung in the air for 10 minutes (+1 min, – 0 min), then weighed again “wet.” The two weights are compared. Conditions: Summer conditions (85 deg F air temp, low humidity, no wind). Water at faucet temperature. Test Samples: I tested three samples: 1. Nylon climbing rope: Beal Joker 9.1mm x 60m dynamic climbing rope, lightly used (about 20 pitches), in good shape. “Standard” treatment on this rope is DryCore. 2. Polyester canyoneering rope: Imlay 8.3mm Canyon Fire x 40m static canyon rope, lightly used (about 40 rappels), in good shape. 3. Polyester canyoneering rope: Imlay 9.2mm Canyonero x 60m static canyon rope, brand new. Results: – The used climbing rope absorbed 42.4% of its weight in water. – … Continue reading

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The Hands Tell the Story

When riding the Zion Shuttle back from climbing in the Park, visitors often ask about the assortment of gear hanging from me. This last weekend, my climbing partner, cornered in his plastic chair with a lap full of rope and cams, demonstrated on the chair in front of him how a cam works to stop a falling climber. The man to his right watched with wide eyes and asked a stream of questions aimed at solving the riddle of how we get the ropes back. In the midst of his questions, he turned to his two young sons and excitedly relayed the information about bolted anchors and rappelling. “These two were just scaling the walls up there,” he exclaims. “Look at this guys hands!” he said, nodding to BJ’s plump fingers, red knuckles, and raw flesh abraded by continuous crack-jamming. I looked down at my sausage-shaped fingers, the gobie still oozing from the scab I ripped off the back of my hand (yet again), and I found something beautiful in the stories told by my mangled hands. I can retrace the day’s climb by my bloody cuticles and split knuckles, reliving the desperate movements hanging from a half-inch crack by … Continue reading

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Alternatives to Hiking the Zion Narrows During Spring Flood

Extraordinary precipitation this winter/spring has resulted in high water levels in The Narrows this spring, closing the world-famous hike for the last two months. Since the snow pack remains significant in the watershed’s higher reaches, we expect The Narrows will remain closed another 2 to 4 weeks. So many Zion visitors plan to hike The Narrows, and we have the ugly job of telling all these folks, day after day, they can’t explore this place they’ve heard so much about and have travelled so far to see. Visitor reactions fall across the board: mad, sad, frustrated, crestfallen… a few hesitant hikers are even glad to have an convenient excuse to miss The Narrows. But the upside of this whole situation, the thing we try to help everyone see, is there are TONS of world-class activities in Zion that can be just as rewarding as The Narrows hike. If you are bummed to miss The Narrow on your current or upcoming trip, please peruse the following ideas for ways to turn that frown upside down and make the most of your visit. Fabulous Day Hikes 2- to 4-hour hikes like Angels Landing, Observation Point, Emerald Pools, and Hidden Canyon offer breathtaking views, great … Continue reading

Posted in Canyoneering, Families, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Rock Climbing, Seasonal, Spring, The Narrows, Weather & Climate, Zion, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

Zion Free and Clean: Adventure Climbing

I vividly remember my first multi-pitch climb, “Outer Space” on the Snow Creek Wall in Washington’s North Cascade Range. I was just getting into free (or traditional) climbing at the time, enjoying the novelty of placing my own protection as I climbed various single-pitch routes in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. I felt pretty good about my placements, but not so good that I would WANT to fall and test whether my cams or nuts would hold. While I knew these metal wedges, cables, and springs could theoretically hold thousands of pounds, on that day halfway up Outer Space, as I built my first anchor from cams and nuts, I imagined what it would be like if my partner fell, ripped out the anchor, and dragged me off the wall. I was 300 feet up cliff, the wind ripping around me, and I decided multi-pitch climbing was stupid. In fact, I wanted to be off that wall and had no intention of doing any more multi-pitch climbing. I did not share my sentiments with my partner, however, and being the stubborn individual I am, I continued up the wall to the summit. I decided I was over multi-pitch climbing as I … Continue reading

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Climbing Ethics: Chipped, Hammered, and Bolted

From philosophical discussions to bolt-chopping wars, there are as many opinions about climbing ethics as there are climbers. While climbing in Yosemite last week, I had a realization that complicated my beliefs about climbing ethics. The old stone masters worked hard to establish one of the most iconic climbing areas in the world, but by today’s standards they would likely be met with criticism for altering routes all over Yosemite Valley. Standing on EL Cap Tower, I felt as far away from the everyday world as if I were standing on the moon. However, without the piton scars, bolts, and fixed equipment we used, I could not imagine how I could have arrived at such an amazing place. I owe tremendous gratitude to Warren Harding, Wayne Merry, and George Whitmore, who spent 47 days nailing their way up The Nose, using “seige tactics” to progress up the wall, setting fixed ropes and camps all the way to the summit. Without their assault on El Cap, it would not be possible for modern day climbers to dispatch the route in such short periods of time (from a few days to a few hours). The luxury of clean aid and free climbing … Continue reading

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Unstoppable?

Last fall, Sam Tickle accepted a challenge: to push himself for 30 days, in 30 sports, in 30 US cities. The challenge is part of a web-series sponsored by EAS Sports Nutrition. Sam is testing the limits of athleticism. Without a rest day, or any way to prepare for the next sport, this is a training regimen that would destroy most people. Sam stopped by to visit Zion on Day 21 of his Unstoppable Tour, and I took him on a multi-pitch climb on Tooele Tower (aka Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth). Guiding Sam was only a small part of the adventure; there are many additional challenges on a filming shoot, with camera men, sound technician, director, trainer, etc. in tow. The goal of the event was “officially” to test Sam’s mettle in the vertical realm, but the day proved an adventure for the entire crew. Most of my guiding is with people that do not have a great deal of experience in the outdoors, so getting everyone prepared for the day was not too hard. But anytime I am taking people into the backcountry, I am very aware of the risks we can control vs. those we cannot. After … Continue reading

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