My 5th trip to the Utah desert yielded some great adventures. I thank Mike and Brinte for again being gracious hosts. Mike, always an agreeable and fun partner, did only 1 route with me that he hadn’t done prior. They were all great classics, and he got to swap the leads that he followed on his prior ascents. We started off in the Red Rocks Canyon. After a warm up day of sport climbing in the Calico Hills, we set our sights on Levitation 29. An astounding and steep route, it lived up to its stout reputation. I think the route is getting harder with the sandstone now offering fewer footholds in critical sections? At any rate , I enjoyed it and got up it with only pulling on a couple of draws. Great deproach too, down a scenic valley to the West (no leaving your stuff at the base, and carry 1 rope). We were excited to spend the night at the base of Rainbow Wall route, but the temps were too cold for us in the morning to enjoy our first time up that route. Retreat back to a cheap casino for showers. Next time..
Zion was one of the last major western areas that I had yet to climb at. It was covered in snow last year when I had the time. This was my best chance, with moderate daytime temperatures and stable weather in mid-March. Iron Messiah was first on the list, what a fantastic route! All types of adventurous climbing and long leads made for a great intro to the park. Next up was the monster route called Silmaril on the Watchman. Mikes tried and true strategy was to fix several pitches on day 1, then on day 2, jug and finish the route. With the strenuous and long pitches, this was a critical move. We were humbled by the first 3 pitches. Right off the ground we did a short section of aid, then a full power finish to a 50m lead. My lead on p2 started off on a set of huge blocks that had a set of blocks behind that shifted while I was jamming them. I was just able to keep it together and get beyond this dangerous section with some serious self-talk and breathing. Rocks were tumbling down the cracks, and my cams were expanding in the right hand crack. Be careful on this section. Mike did the 3rd straight hard lead with small amounts of aid, and with 1 69m rap we were on top of the original route pinnacle. Another 30m rap and we were back on firm ground. Day 2, we hiked back up and did the steep jug back to our high-point. The most memorable pitches after that were the 10+hands endurance corner and Mikes resilient off-width lead. Both days were exhausting and I can’t imagine doing the whole route in a day! It was my hardest sandstone route to date, a medium I am learning to respect. 1 sandstone lead can equal 3 on granite. A given hard lead can take hours to get up.
After such body-wrecking , It was nice to enjoy more reasonable classics. Monkey Finger and Smashmouth are 2 of the best. They made a great trip even better. A must do pair of routes for sure. I had never cragged in Little Cottonwood either. Mike showed me around for a couple of days before I flew back home. 55 pitches in all, 5 multi-pitch routes. Cant wait till next year! Thanks Mike and Britne!!