First things first, all – more highlighted pictures have been uploaded! Check out the ‘Photo Highlights’ page for more. Click on smaller photos to enlarge and view!
Picking up where we left off…on to Zion we went! Neither Eric nor I have been to Zion – I am not sure what we were expecting, but it blew us away. While still considered a desert, the environment was different than what we had experienced thus far. Zion consists of huge walls guarding access to monster summits, flowing creeks being fed by beautiful waterfalls, and so much of the color green. The campgrounds in the park were full, but just outside the east portal was a great, privately ran campground, Hi-Road Campground. It was our first time having to pay for camping since we left Breckenridge, but it was worth every penny when we saw the zoo that was the national park campground.
For our first day of climbing we were craving for two things: shade and classic cracks to continue to “re-learn” the skill. We ended up going to a crag called Cerberus Gendarme which is home to numerous splitter, mostly single-pitch crack climbs. We first chose a warm-up climb that, honestly, worked us both. It was off-width, awkward and not much of a confidence builder! However, the next pitch was one of the best 5.9 cracks that either of us have done and was the inspiration to try harder pitches the rest of the day. The pinnacle of the day was a 5.10+/5.11- dihedral that ended with a fun overhang crux, which we both cruised through, smiling the whole way.
The other pinnacle of the day? Seeing a rattlesnake only feet from our feet. Do not worry, I saved Eric’s life. : )
This day, by far, had been the most energizing for us both. The heat was much more tolerable, the scenery, incredible. And, we felt like superstars – as the park’s shuttle buses passed below us, park tourists would lean out their windows and take pictures. We finally felt solid again in our crack climbing.
Our second day in the area proved even the best days can be beaten. I had found an area called Namaste Wall, located in the northwest corner of Zion, Kolob Canyons. While we both have certainly heard rave reviews about Zion, little had been mentioned about Kolob. We packed up camp early in the morning and entered the area as the sun was just warming the rock. Wow, wow and wow. Kolob was obviously a less popular place for park visitors to tour. No bus shuttling system. No huge visitor center. Just one out-and-back road, trails and towering rocks. It was quiet and peaceful, but you could still feel the power and impressiveness of the 2,000 foot steep walls around us.
The canyon was wide where we began the hike in, but as we crept closer and closer to Namaste, it narrowed. Over the last 150 million years, wind, storms and water erosion have literally pushed the canyon to its current depth. And, it will just continue to grow. I was amazed.
As we hiked in, we followed the wash bed below and moved through lush green forests full of trees and flowers we did not expect to see in the desert. The hike was primarily sand, which was gentle and kind to our feet in comparison to the slick, steep and rocky approaches we had been working with. The walls of the canyon grew, bright red in color. The sun’s rays peaked through the trees. It was cool in temperature. And then, on our right, appeared the steep, hueco (Spanish for ‘hole’) ridden wall. The Namaste Wall only has about five sport routes to it, with the easiest being a 5.10a. And, as we worked both a 5.10a and a 5.11a route, we were quickly reminded the extraordinary amount of strength it takes to climb overhanging walls. We were laughing the entire time at our struggles. “Eric, we freaking went from hand jamming to overhanging in a day, what the heck?!” I yelled as I huffed and puffed my way up the 11a route. When you got to the top of a climb and were lowered to the ground, you floated in mid-air the entire way. The wall, we believe, is about 15-20 degrees overhanging.
But gosh – Namaste Wall is the most tranquil place both Eric and I have ever climbed. At the Namaste Wall, especially, you are thrown in the moment. Deep within a canyon with nothing but your beloved partner, song birds, chalky hands, and the occasional ‘Gah!” as you move through difficult moves on the steep routes. It was magical. We ended the day with the 14 bolt, ~110 foot, Namaste route, 5.12a. After only four long climbs? We were happily worked.
Some of you have asked…what is the difference between sport and trad climbing? I will put it in short and simple terms. Sport climbing routes have existing bolts already drilled into the rock, typically spaced 6-10 feet apart. When leading a sport route, you only carry a quickdraw, seen in the picture. At the top of each route, there is an anchor for the climber to clip into and use to lower off of or rappel. Trad climbing routes have no existing bolts or gear in the rock. You must place the gear yourself using tools such as nuts or cams. Trad climbing requires much more gear and technical skills overall due to the variation of a route. Trad gear is placed in cracks in the rock to protect a climber from a fall. Sometimes trad routes have anchors, others you must build your own anchor or hike/rappel down from the top of the climb.
Fun stuff, right?
Following Zion, we drove to Las Vegas for our first hotel stay of the trip. The drive was brutally windy with the van and topper. The air conditioner was working subpar and, as we pulled into Vegas, the temperature was topping out around 100 degrees (or at least it felt like it). I am sure we were quite the sight when we pulled up to our hotel. Red, dirt-stained van. Out jumps two even dirtier humans, hair unwashed for almost two weeks. Open the van door, out jumps two dogs and out with them, climbing gear and gallon water jugs tumbling down to the ground. Oh, I am sure we were a sight.
Vegas was fun, but we were sure ready to depart once the time came. Vegas was a slight culture shock to us after being in such reclusive places. We enjoyed the whole experience, however, with a walk down the strip, late night at a club, pool dips, and plenty of cuddle time with the dogs in a comfy hotel bed.
And now? We have settled into California. The story of our alpine adventure in the Sierras is for another blog post, but we will be back soon. We wish you well!