Sunday, May 06, 2012

Zion Day 5: The Watchman

Photos Map

The Watchman is an awesome summit that hangs right over our campground and the Zion National Park Visitor Center. I've wanted to climb it for years, but it had never bubbled up to the top of the list, mainly because of the nasty looking approach. But now that we knew the good approach up to and over the Johnson Ridge, which is the same approach to the Watchman, that barrier was removed.

I took yesterday off from running in order to be well rested for today's killer  workout of 5 x 1200 meters. I was out the door early warmed up running up canyon 2.5 miles to the Confluence Shuttle Bus Stop and then road that to end of the canyon. I did the intervals coming down the canyon and then jumped on the bus for one stop and then ran the rest of the way back to the campground, getting in about 9.5 miles.

After a second breakfast (like all good hobbits, I eat two), the Loobster and I took the town shuttle bus the other direction and re-traced our tracks over the Johnson Ridge and down into the wash. This time, though, we went directly across the ridge and started up the Watchman. 

We had previously scoped our the route from the top of the ridge. What we saw was dauntingly complex.
There was one big gash amongst many weaknesses, but this gash ended in a nearly vertical drop of over a hundred feet to the wash. There wasn't an obvious way up there, but we did see a possibility off to the left. We hiked up and left a bit, around a beehive like buttress and then did a cool, airy traverse on a tiny ledge back to the right, where we found a fixed line leading up a wall. Climbing this wall without the benefit of the line, it felt like easily 5th class, maybe a touch of 5.2.

Above the wall, we entered the big gash/gully that we scoped from the ridge and followed it easily upwards, occasionally directed by cairns. The route is always "the easiest possible way at the time." It just all goes so nicely. We climbed up a steepish slab and down a bit on the other side and then up into a narrower gully that led to the second and final technical section, which was about ten feet of steep 5.5 stemming.

Above the second technical section. You don't have to climb through this tree, but traverse in above it, from the left.
We then followed Courtney's description of taking a corkscrew route around to the left until you couldn't go any further and then headed up to the summit. On the way down we short cut this a bit and when you think you can head upwards on steep slabs, you can, as we came down that way.

Eating lunch on the summit.
We made the summit in three hours and ate and drank on top for 15 minutes before the threat of rain chased us away. We had a few sprinkles on us and I thought we might be in for a soaking, but it never happened. Still it spurned me on for an efficient descent and we made it from the summit back to the shuttle bus stop in just 90 minutes.

Johnson Mountain from the Watchman. Our route from two days before follows the ramp from the far left up and right

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