Saturday, May 05, 2012

Zion Day 1: The Organ

Photos Map

We got to the RV park a bit after noon, checked in and got the RV set-up. We threw the packs together and  hiked up to shuttle stop and rode it up to the Weeping Wall stop. The Super Topo guidebook doesn't even list the route we were planning on doing, the Southeast Chimney, but it was in Courtney's Zion Summits book. The route weaved up through the cliffs on the north side, supposedly at the 5.6 level, and provided the easiest path to the summit. We brought trekking poles and Tevas to wade the river, which wasn't too horrible. It did involve about 5 seconds of intense pain on the other side, but then our feet instantly became comfortable again. 

We left out Tevas and poles down low and we should have left our packs. Taking these up a route with tight chimneys is just...not wise. I guess I figured since it was only 5.6 a "tight chimney" would suddenly be wider whenever I needed it to be. That didn't turn out to be true. We found the start and geared up. The first pitch had an option of climbing the chimney or the 4th class wall to the left. I chose the latter option and it went fine, though at a tougher grade. Above was a tight 20-foot chimney and I had to remove my pack for this and would for most of the remaining chimneys. I found this chimney to be a pure back/knee chimney, which wasn't very comfortable in the shorts I was wearing. One skinned knee later I was on a good ledge and belayed Loobster up, hauling up both packs.

The next chimney is tight but supposedly only 4th class. It turned out to be very strange. The chimney had a sandy floor to it, acting as a ramp and until the very end I was standing on the ground. The probably was two steps in the chimney, only about two feet high, but the chimney was so tight that it proved quite difficult to step up onto these ledges. Strange stuff. The chimneyed opened up a bit and became vertical and some easy moves led to a belay on a chockstone. I had the Loobster untie from the rope so that I could toss down the rope on the outside of the chockstone to haul up the packs. Then I tossed it down again to belay him and dropped him a loop on the other side of the chockstone when he got near it. So many shenanigans!

Next was the tightest chimney of the route. At first I took off my pack. Then the rack. Then my helmet. Then my glasses! Okay, that last one was a mistake. They landed softly fifteen feet below at the bottom of the chimney and had to I descended to get them, lest I end of on top the iMax theater in town instead of the Organ.

I was baffled by this chimney to begin with. It seemed way harder than 5.6, but then I just tunnelled all the way to the back, climbed easily upwards and then made my way back out to the edge where I was able to traverse over to a ledge.

The next pitch was more of a corner system than a chimney and I was able to wear my pack all the way. This was good, as I was getting tired of hauling the packs and it was making things slow. The final pitch was a committing lieback move with no gear, but it wasn't too hard.

We dropped the packs an ropes, and scrambled steep, 4th-class terrain to a great summit.

On the descent, the Loobster knocked a big rock off. I was below him but was able to dash off to the side. Miraculously, the Loobster didn't fall and we avoided dying on our first day in Zion. Awesome!

We did a couple of single rope rappels and then scrambled down to the last rappel, which was 170 feet. Back on the ground we bushwhacked around to pick up our poles and Tevas and re-crossed the river. We didn't get back to the campground until 8:30 p.m. That made for a long first day, but we already had a new Zion summit.

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