Climbing Castles Made of Sand

Climbing Castles Made of Sand

Zion National Park, Utah - Iron Messiah, 5.10c III While I nursed the evidence of my mountain biking debacle and the heavens unleashed copious quanties of rain and snow, my climbing partner drove us to Zion “the land of sanctuary” or more aptly a place with giant sandstone walls and a forecast with only a [...]

Zion National Park, Utah – Iron Messiah, 5.10c III

While I nursed the evidence of my mountain biking debacle and the heavens unleashed copious quanties of rain and snow, my climbing partner drove us to Zion “the land of sanctuary” or more aptly a place with giant sandstone walls and a forecast with only a chance of rain.

We woke up an hour from Zion, where we had set up a hasty camp during a break in the inclement weather, to snow covered mountains and clear crisp skies.  Excited, we broke down camp and headed into the park.  A few shuttle stops later we arrived at the Grotto Picnic Area, the launching point of the days adventure.  Aside: Zion’s shuttle system is an absolutely brilliant way of solving what would otherwise turn into the horrible traffic mess which has become Yosemite Valley.

Wet sandstone is not good to climb on, its bad for the route and in my experience often not stone.  Still, we were itching to climb and decided to hike up and see what the rock was like.  After a lot of holding the guidebook up and twisting either it or our heads, we found ourselves racked up and scrambling up the most 5.6 like “class 3” gulley either of us had ever encountered to the start of the route.

The rock was dry and so we embarked. The first pitch was sandy, making it what we hoped would be a rather unique if not challenging experience as one had to brush the sand off each hold candidate in order to determine whether it was a hold facilitating upward movement. Unfortunately, pitch two turned out to be more of the same and by pitch three it was falling out of my hair and I was fearing permanent retinal damage.

Iron Messiah (5.10c) - Zion, Utah Chimney Love on Iron Messiah (5.10c) - Zion, Utah

Many cold and tiring chimney pitches later which could have been twice as long had we had not linked most of them, we arrived at the top, and as I sat there I began to appreciated how accurately named Zion was.

I saw, I climbed and I can comfortably say that Zion was not my favorite climbing area.   It’s not the bullet proof, sand bagged granite of Yosemite. The route reminded my climbing partner of Epinephrine in Red Rock NP. Red Rock has many more long free moderates without the drone of cars echoing below the sandstone cliffs of only slightly less grandeur.

Location: Zion National Park, Utah

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Ilana is a native of Southern California. She is an accomplished rock and ice climber and is the brains behind Thrillseekers Anonymous. Currently residing in Colorado, she is a Registered Surgical/Trauma Nurse, who can be found leading her own adventures on days off. Ilana is a sponsored athlete with GoMacro, WoolX, and an Arcteryx Denver ambassador. She has been featured in various media outlets including the February 2015 issue of ‘Climbing’ magazine, December 2013 issue of ‘Rock and Ice’ magazine, December/January 2013 issue of ‘Gripped Climbing’ magazine, Canyoneering: A Guide to Techniques for Wet and Dry Canyons (How To Climb Series) by Dave Black and Pasadena Magazine as well as a Climbing Expert on MTV’s Parental Control (Season 7 – “Heather”).

Ilana has written 111 articles for Thrillseekers Anonymous.

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