Trip report: Southern Utah
by We didn't write this
We left the Yay area late Friday evening and rocketed a rental rig towards Vegas. After crashing out somewhere in the Mojave, we started our tour at the VRG.
The guidebook describes the VRG as “not a pretty place to do anything but climb.”
After hours and hours of driving on I-15, it sure was a bit alarming to simply park off the side of the road and spend the rest of the day hanging out by the freeway.
The climbing, however, is hard to not get psyched about. The rock quality is spectacular and the lines are proud. The highlight of the day for me was onsighting Fall of Man, a vert, runout, 130 foot 8a called “exciting” by Honnold. This route was put up by Boone Speed in ’92, and in a somewhat interesting turn of events, Boone Speed was there to watch me onsight and tell me nice job afterwards.
I had a good time at the VRG but I guess when it comes down to complete black and white, I go rock climbing primarily to be outside in cool places. For this reason, it is hard for me to get psyched on this cliff.
That evening, we got back on i-15 and finished the drive to St George, crashing out at some primo free camping in Moe’s Valley.
The next day we rolled out to Cathedral. This place had a high concentration of hard lines on pretty bomber limestone. Good looking vertical rock as well as a steep, tall cave. One of the best I have seen in Utah yet.
We mostly climbed on a cool 13c called Tree Beard. I sent second go, and Walker got close with some unprecedented upside down kneebar beta.
We woke up early the next morning to beautiful views of Zion.
Unfortunately, Moonlight was not in the cards. While trying to dumb down the v4 crux of Tree Beard with a tweaky kneebar, poor Walker jacked his knee to the point he could barely hobble.
With Walker claiming to be “out for at least a week” the situation seemed bleak. I decided to spend the day hiking to the top of moonlight buttress and mini traxioning the last few pitches.
After stumbling back and forth along the top of a very large Zion cliff, I was finally able to locate what I thought was the anchors of Moonlight Buttress. I threw my 80 meter rope over the edge and rappelled off.
This was my first Mini Traxion experience and I gotta say it was fucking awesome. No gear to worry about, no partner, just cruising up and down at your own pace with an IPod is pretty damn fun.
The quality of the top few pitches of Moonlight made me want to giggle and cry with joy at the same time. The route varied between sections of splitter finger crack and super fun face climbing. The rock is Navajo Sandstone, and is very reminiscent of the New River Gorge.
I hiked back to the car brimming with psyche after climbing on a big wall made out of my favorite rock type.
By evening, Walker was miraculously walking again.
The next morning we decided to go for it. The weather was somewhat sketchy; it was windy in the morning, and predicted to get progressively worse throughout the day. To save time and avoid damaging Walker’s knee, I decided to lead every pitch.
We set upwards at 9:30am, quickly crushing the first 4 or so easier pitches to the Rocker Block. From here, its 5 or so pitches of 5.12 to the top. I continued upwards, onsighting pitch after pitch of 5.12 trad with little rest between. Miraculously, I managed to not fall on any of the pitches all the way to where I had mini traxioned the day before. We were 3 pitches shy of the top and the team free ascend was still on.
In a heartbreaker finish, I managed to slip off the last hard move of a 12b pitch near the top. With the weather moving, I decided to not reclimb the pitch and just continue to the top. We topped out in 6.5 hours with me taking one fall and Walker never weighting the rope.
We topped out in 6.5 hours with me taking one fall and Walker never weighting the rope. We climbed just fast enough; very shortly after summiting, the wind picked up to dangerous levels; by night time, RVs were being blown over on the freeway.
We spent an uneventful evening at the Tropicana on the Las Vegas strip and after a not so psyched attempt to climb at Mt Potosi, shot back to the bay.
In summary, the limestone cragging of the St George area, quiet predictably, proved to be good, but not amazing. However, the sandstone walls of Zion pretty much blew my mind. While a lot of the rock looks pretty chossy, the chunks of rock that are solid looks out of this world. The place is basically a red Yosemite made out of sandstone. The scenery is breathtaking and the climbing is super fucking fun. I cannot wait to return.
Thanks for reading,