Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Beehive in Zion

The Beehive is the small white summit just right of center. Our route pretty much climbed the left skyline.

My trips to Zion have morphed away from pure rock climbing towards summit bagging, partly due to my own ambitions and partly due to my regular Zion partner, the Loobster, waning desire for hard climbs, which encompasses most Zion climbing. But compelling summits have a strong pull on us, so this change in focus hasn't diminished my enthusiasm for Zion. One of the most striking is something called the Beehive, which lies above the Streaked Wall. The only listed climbs I could find went directly up the Streaked Wall and were A4 aid climbs. We had no interest in that - too scary and too technical for us - but it seemed like a route should go up the south ridge and we decided to take a look.

The Beehive as viewed from the Zion History Museum
We started from the Zion History Museum and headed up steep, loose slopes toward a gully that split the Beehive massif from another blocky structure just to the east.

We passed through this cool slot in the first Red Band
We found a neat slot through the Red Band and then traversed over to the gully. The climbing up this gully was a mixture of scrambling, bushwhacking, and some low 5th class climbing, which we roped up for.
We hit the wall a bit to the right of the notch and traversed left to it.
Getting closer to the gully 
Looking up the gully - some 5th class climbing here
Soloing up the first steep section in the gully
Bushwhacking up the gully
Getting to the 5th class section in the gully
Steep scrambling in the gully
 When we got to the saddle, we took a little break to eat and consolidate our gear into one pack. We found a fixed line hanging down off the wall here and we'd find others higher up, to what purpose, I don't know. Possibly for an easier descent for climbers topping out on the Streaked Wall. We roped up here and did an easy fifth class pitch. Above we scrambled up to a very steep headwall. The climbing here was too technical for us, though we saw another fixed line down a smooth dihedral.
Looking up from the notch. There is a fixed line here, but hard to see. The climbing here is low 5th class.
Climbing up the initial pitch out of the notch.
We traversed to the left, to the edge of the wall, and around the south rib to the other side. We down climbed twenty feet there to a small ledge and found another partial fixed line and a more moderate angle with a reasonable crack. Getting to the start of the crack was probably the crux. Once at the crack, it accepted good gear and the climbing was no harder than 5.8.
The crux pitch - probably 5.8
At the crux of the 5.8 pitch
Looking down the crux pitch
 At the top of this pitch we found a fixed line leading hard to the left on a ledge system and then more fixed lines leading to the top of the steep climbing. We didn't use any of these old, super stiff lines, but followed their path.
Loobster near the top of the crux pitch
Fixed ropes on the south ridge
Fixed ropes on the south ridge
Fixed ropes on the south ridge
Topping out on the technical climbing of the south ridge
Scrambling up 3rd class slabs to the top of the south ridge
 Once atop this steep section we unroped and it was scrambling the rest of the way. First we climbed up 3rd class terrain to an intermediate bump on the ridge. This was equivalent to the top of the Streaked Wall. We still had to scamper up very cool, smooth, white slabs to the very summit. As always the case in Zion, the views were astounding. We hung out and ate lunch before starting down.
Atop the main south ridge and looking at the summit of the Beehive and the top of the Streaked Wall
Lots of smooth rock up here
Heading to the summit up steep slabs
On the final slabs
On the final slabs

On the summit of the Beehive
We reversed our route back to the top of the 5.8 pitch, but instead of rappelling down the wrong side of the rib, we traversed further around, following the fixed ropes, to where we found the bolted anchor that we had seen from below. We rappelled from this anchor, but couldn't pull our rope. I had to solo up 100 feet of 5.5, steep, semi-loose terrain to retrieve the rope. This was serious and scary and not recommended. I climbed up a big tree to the right (looking up) of the corner we rappelled down. There was a sling around this tree and now I know why. You need to rappel to this tree and then down, as it's the only why to get your rope to pull down.

Rappelling the upper section
Fixed anchor at the top of a steep section (not on our ascent route) 
Rappelling from the fixed anchor. The rope would get stuck here and I'd have to solo back up to the big tree right of Loobster
 The rest of the descent went smoothly. We spent 11 hours on the roundtrip, but never hurried and took our time finding the route. Our total ascent gained about 3000 feet, from 4000 feet to 7000 feet.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Moqui Peak and Tabernacle Dome

We decided to do a couple of quick peaks up along the Kolob Reservoir Road, in mid-Zion. I chose Moqui Peak since it was a 4-star route in Courtney Purcell's guidebook. This was a mistake. I've met Courtney in person and traded a bunch of emails with him. I like him. He's a nice guy and he has put together a very nice list of peaks to do in Zion. I also have his Las Vegas area peaks book. All that said, I find his guidebook frustrating. It doesn't really provide much information beyond: Hey, I've done this peak and it goes. Now, that's a lot more than I've done. I haven't put together a guidebook of any sort. I don't regret paying the money, but it does motivate me somewhat to put together better information. 

Courtney's favorite expression is "route find upwards." We did so on Moqui Peak. We went up the wrong summit first. Or rather, the lower, eastern summit. We retreated and then climbed up to the highest summit. Ironically, CP listed this as a 4-star route because of the route finding challenges. We didn't find the hiking/scrambling to be that classic, nor the summit that appealing, but it was some good exercise. In search of something more inspiring, we headed a bit further up the road to the very beautiful Tabernacle Dome. This 3-star route had much more interesting route finding, more technical climbing, and some fun slaboneering on the final rib up to the summit.

We reversed back to the car and then headed into Springdale and our RV campground, just outside of the main entrance to Zion National Park. We cooked up some dinner and prepared for the next day, where I'd do the Trans Zion Run, with Loobster supporting me.