6 Things I Learned in Zion

8 06 2009

Zion - May 09 - 044

A cloudy day in Zion.

(1) Places that are not Southern California have this weird thing called “Weather”.

Although here in SoCal we can just check to make sure it’s not going to be too hot where we’re going, other more exotic locales, like Zion, have actual weather that can prevent climbing. Like thunderstorms. Our first day in Zion was cloudy, with off-and-on rain and a bit of thunder and lightning. We decided to bail from 2.5 pitches up because it’s generally a Bad Idea to climb sandstone when it’s wet. Then we spent our 2nd day on a day trip to Bryce National Park waiting for the rock to dry out. When we actually got to climb on the 3rd today (Sunday) it was pretty hot and sunny with a perfect blue sky. This weather thing is pretty crazy.

Zion - May 09 - 022

Making grumpy faces because it’s raining…

(2) Falling happens, and it’s not actually the end of the world.

The first 4 pitches of the route were mine to lead: 5.8, 5.10c, 5.10c, and 5.6. I had a lot of pre-climb jitters on Friday morning. I hadn’t been doing a ton of leading, especially multi-pitch trad leading, and I have a huge problem with getting incredibly intimidated about climbing somewhere new, especially a big deal place like Zion. But I lead the first pitch just fine and was moving on to my onsight attempt for first 5.10 pitch. Theoretically, 5.10 should be within my onsight limit. After a bit of struggling, I made it past a pumpy, weird roof section that I thought was probably the crux and got into the pod-y crack above. I got a bit nervous and clipped my cams direct instead of adding quickdraws. I tried to layback myself up to ledge above, but realized that I’d need to stem out with one of my feet to make the next move. I reached way out with my toe and then I was in the air. I think my foot slipped. My last piece (a green C3) had been below my feet and I ended up falling about 2o feet.

After we worked out some of my gear issues (I needed to put QD’s on some gear to eliminate some awful rope drag I created by falling), I shook and trembled my way past my highpoint and eventually flopped onto the ledge with the next anchor.

Zion - May 09 - 242

Taking a break one of the belays.

(3) I need to work on not freaking out.

I should have been psyched to have made it through the part I fell on the first time, but I was mostly just mentally drained from falling. Usually I know that I’m going to fall (this was a bit of a surprise). Usually I don’t fall quite that far (it was pretty far). I did recover (after a while) to start leading the next pitch, but then it started raining (that whole “weather” thing), so we ended up bailing and hiking the Angel’s Landing trail to stash a backpack with some water on top for our next attempt.

Zion - May 09 - 213

Following the 6th pitch, a 5.11a. Very cool.

(4) C3s are much better than I originally gave them credit for. The more I use Master Cams, the more they annoy the crap out of me. But Aliens are still by far the best small cams.

The cam I fell 20ft onto was a green C3. It was an ok placement – the two inner lobes were perfect, but the outer one was not ideal (it was a slightly flaring crack). But it held like a dream, to my surprise… We also were impressed with the placements of the green and purple C3s at various places along the route. They fit quite well in places where Aliens don’t work.

However, when we actually sent the route, I had to take twice on the 5.12b pitch, which I think I could have followed clean, were it not for the 2 Master Cams I had to take out. Let’s take a second to consider the Master Cam. While for other cams – Aliens, C4s, TCUs – you can just pull all the way on the trigger to retract the cam lobes and wiggle the cam out, Master Cams often demand quite a bit of finesse to remove. If you pull all the way on the trigger of a Master Cam, the little extra bumps on the outside edges of the cam lobes will wedge themselves in the crack. To actually take it out, you have to pull all the way and then ease back a little on the trigger. This is not always easy to do. We have blue, yellow, red, and black Master Cams and they are BY FAR the most getting-stuck cams on our rack. We do not plan to get any more of these.

But Aliens still rock the socks off any other small cams we’ve used. They fit almost anywhere, walk less than TCUs or C3s, and are easy to remove, unlike Master Cams. I know Aliens are difficult to find, but Master Cams are just not a valid substitute for the real thing.

(5) When you stash water at the top of a route, bring AT LEAST twice as much as you think you’ll want. Plus bring extra water on the climb, too. It sucks to be trying to do hard climbing on only a few sips of water per pitch.

Not sure this one requires much description. It was much warmer on the day we actually did the route than on the day we bailed, so our downsized amount of water and our half Nalgene (why? why not full? hindsight 20/20, right?) was not really adequate. I definitely had some issues with my hands and forearms cramping, but we survived to the top of the route (topping out around sunset) and hiked down the nice Angel’s Landing trail to the bus stop. Dinner was a burrito and some chips and salsa at the Mexican place in town.

Zion - May 09 - 243

This is what Luke looks like when he’s tired and dehydrated. How many pitches are left??

(6) I need to be better at not getting tired.

I don’t know whether its my nutrition or my fitness (or both), but I just don’t have as much energy as Luke. I guess I should do more general endurance training – long runs, long gym sessions, anything involving doing stuff for a long time. Hopefully that helps.

Well, that’s about it for this post. We’ll be doing a more conventional trip report of our Zion weekend soon. Plus, keep an eye out for us in Smith Rock the last week of June and Squamish the first week of July.




6 responses

8 06 2009

As someone who is going to be doing some multi-pitch climbing I found this really helpful. I will be paying especially close attention to #2 and #5.

8 06 2009

Ha ha: “I don’t know whether its my nutrition or my fitness (or both), but I just don’t have as much energy as Luke.”

Who does?!?! Plus I think daily life can make a big difference too…when I’m stressed out about work or anything else for that matter I get tired a LOT quicker. Dehydration is also not helpful.

8 06 2009

I think one of the interesting things about a long hard multipitch is the short and long term effect on one’s body. Sure you are going to get tired in the moment but what do you feel like the next few days or weeks.

I felt much better at the end of the day when I climbed the Red Dihedral in 16.5 hours CTC versus our 10+ hours on Sheer Lunacy. However my body recovered much faster from Zion. After climbing the Incredible Hulk there was a week and a half of feeling generally out of it before I was back to normal.

9 06 2009

Good point Julie 🙂
Maybe (hopefully) I’ll be less stressed at Stanford and can have more energy left over for the weekends.

23 06 2009
A Zion Photo Show from Memorial Day Weekend « Dream in Vertical

[…] bit of encouragement and emotion later Lizzy sorted out her rope drag by slinging a few more pieces and finished the lead to the […]

8 10 2009
Sweet Gear Long Term Review: Black Diamond C3 and Oz + Petzl Reverso 3 « Dream in Vertical

[…] Memorial day weekend in Zion, Lizzy really came to like the C3’s after taking her longest lead fall, 20 feet or more, on […]

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