The moonlight buttress

by We didn't write this

I recently had the pleasure of spending a week climbing the ridiculously awesome sandstone walls of Zion National Park.

I left Portland one evening and shot over to Bend to pick up my partner, Tara. We had some drinks, borrowed some gear, and woke up early next morning to make the 14 hour drive to Southern Utah.

There isn’t much to say about the drive from central Oregon to southern Utah. We watched the sunrise in the desolate nothingness of eastern Oregon desert and watched the sunset in the desolate nothingness of southern Utah desert. Everything between is a blur.

We awoke the next morning in a beautiful, free campsite.

I was on a trip with a native american; this was very evident from the turkeys that kept on presenting to Tara.

Super psyched, we quickly made breakfast and assembled our gear. The goal of the day was Monkeyfinger, a 9 pitch 12b considered “the Astroman of Zion.”

We parked our car near the entrance of the park and boarded a shuttle bus, the only vehicles allowed inside the park. The bus wound itself deeper into the park, playing a pre-recorded audio tour. This recording told of the geological (sand, glaciers, blah blah), social (white people killing brown people) and institutional (the government runs shit) history of the park. It turns out this same exact recording plays every single time you ride the bus.

The bus stopped and we approached the climb. At this point, the ominous looking clouds approached closer than ever and a light drizzle started. By the time Tara was seconding the first pitch, this light drizzle turned into a strong, windy hailstorm.

We bailed and went sport climbing.

The next day, the weather looked much better. We awoke early and made tapegloves as the tourists gawked at us.

The climb was still moist from the day before but we went for it anyways. After 2 easier pitches comes the first crux, a short, 11+ or 12- thin crack (depending on your finger size). I chuffed early and fell. Then comes a long, amazing 5.11 corner.

After this comes a variation: a 5.10 offwidth or “the monkeyfinger crack,” a splitter, bouldery fingercrack weighing in at 12b. I went for the finger crack and whipped several more times. Here is Tara on this pitch.

The next day we went for Shunes buttress, an 8 pitch 11+ considered the “Rostrum of Zion.”

Here is Tara in an awesome dihedral pitch in the middle. Shes a handjamming fool!

I managed to onsight the route, and Tara did very well as well. It was very impressive to watch her pick up multipitch belaying, handjamming and other trad concepts with ease and confidence.

Overall, the rock quality, exposure and fun level of this route may be better than the rostrum. Oh, and Honnold onsight soloed it.

The next day we rested. We chilled, swam in the river and drank beer below the moonlight buttress.

The next morning we woke up for the main course, the moonlight buttress. I had come close to sending the route earlier this year and was psyched to give it a good go.
To make the climb as casual as possible, we hauled a small pack and brought a very light rack.

Moreover, the several small ledges on this route made the whole experience very casual. I even brought 2 pairs of shoes, a lose pair of TC Pro’s for the straight forward crack pitches and a tight pair of Muir Velcros for the thin, technical laybacks.

The climb went beautifuly. Typically, in a multipitch trad climb, the first sensation experienced is heaviness. You realize that even though the climbing is easier, all the shit you are bringing with you is heavy and therefore, even the trivial pitches require effort.
Such was not the case on the moonlight buttress. As soon as I stepped off the ground, I realized this was going to be special. The light small rack on my harness did not feel much heavier than a rack of draws. We cruised the first 4 pitches to the base of the crux dihedral. From here its six 5.12 pitches to the top.

We chilled for a bit, blasted some UGK on my iphone and then got ready to climb around 12:30pm.

The next 2 pitches asent the striking crux dihedral of the route. With James Lucas’s beta flying through my head “Layback like a champ!!!!” I sent the crux pitches. Here is Tara on the crux dihedral.

On this pitch, Tara defined a revolutionary new crack climbing technique called the “no jam.” Here she is demonstrating in action

We kept climbing and eventually made it to the top. I had no falls and sent leading every pitch, but perhaps more impressively, Tara got up the thing for her 7th trad climb ever.

The rest of the trip is a blur. We did some sport climbing and then a fuck ton of driving.

Ill leave you with this kewl picture of a tree.

Thanks for reading!