Tuesday after the marathon, it was back to the desert for another Zion trip, this time with a girlfriend from Salt Lake City. Polly and I had been planning on climbing a big wall (a big wall is a climb too long for a single day that requires sleeping on the cliff face) for quite a while and this was our opportunity. She had done just one other wall, and hadn't led a single pitch. I had never done a wall without Mike there to take over if things got hard or scary. But, we really wanted try one on our own, so we perused many topos and decided on Prodigal Sun, Grade V, 5.8, C2. Here are some photos and a bit of our story:
This is the north face of Angel's Landing and our route pretty much follows the shadow line up the right side of the face. This photo was taken from Big Bend, where Mike and I were married 3 years ago (I actually spent our anniversary on the wall). There is a popular hiking trail along the ridge to the top of Angel's Landing.
Me in my "resting stance" carrying the haul bag to the base. In the haul bag goes water (4 gallons for 2 people, 2 days). food, sleeping bags, stove, extra gear, wag bags (for pooping on the wall)...you get the picture. It weighed about 80 pounds. Polly and I hiked our stuff to the base of the route the night before we started.
Me trying to clip the first bolt, which was about 8 feet off the ground. I stood on a pile of rocks for a boost and fashioned a "cheater stick" to improve my reach. A cheater stick is a 2 foot section of tent pole with a carabiner duct taped to it and a sling through the biner. It allows you to reach up and hook an out of reach bolt or piton, but is pretty insecure and only used if absolutely necessary.
Here is Polly on the 3rd pitch. Usually, the leader places removable protection into the crack, and if there is no crack, there are bolts or pitons for protection. On this pitch, there was a missing bolt and Polly had to stand on a hook (very insecure!) while stretching to her absolute limits with the cheater stick to the next piton. It was a very exciting move for her, especially after she fell while stretching out and the hook held!
Polly ascending the ropes, or "jugging". This type of climbing is called aid climbing, which means you use artificial means of getting up the rock instead of just depending on your hands and feet to hold on. The leader stands in webbing ladders while going up and the second uses ascenders to follow. Aid climbing is used to climb aesthetic lines that would be too difficult to free climb. (To clarify a common term mixup: Free climbing is climbing that still uses ropes and protection, but the rock is ascended using only the body and no artificial help. Free soloing is climbing without ropes or protection of any kind.)
Polly on the portaledge (what most people like to call a "cot") where we slept. Our stove is hanging in the foreground.
A view of Zion Canyon. You can see Moonlight buttress, Spaceshot, and the Temple of Sinewava in the photo.
Hiking down. Our route ended on top of Angel's Landing, where there is a popular hiking trail. We topped out just as it got dark and hiked the 2.5 miles to the trailhead. We barely caught the last bus out of the canyon and (thank goodness!) there was still an open restaurant in town. What a great adventure!