September, '04


The Prodigal Sun...

Shameless and I head to Zion



    I had known Shameless for a year or so when we decided to do a significant route together. Climbing in Logan Canyon is nice but it's nothing inspiring. At least not in the way that Moonlight Buttress is inspiring. After clearing the time with our bosses at home, we motored down to Zion after work on a Thursday. Ominously, we had been forced to leave half of my cams behind because I locked them in the car and left the keys with my smarter half.

    Once we arrived though, things started going more smoothly. We decided to change our objective to escape the oppressive heat that pervaded the canyon. The forecast called for 90 degree days and we could already see a party baking on Moonlight Buttress. It may not have been what we intended to climb, but the north face of Angel's Landing is an impressive piece of stone and we were happy with our decision to avoid the sun. Of equal importance was the fact that Shameless had brought plenty of gear to supplement the rack so that was no longer a concern.

     There was a soloist on the route when we started but he had a head start and we were in no hurry. Our plan was to fix the first three pitches and come back in the morning to finish the route. We waited at the base for an hour or so and then went about fixing our two ropes. It was great to be climbing a route in Zion after having read so many stories that had transpired on these very walls. I felt like it had been a long time coming.

    Overall the climb went smoothly so I won't bore you with the details but we did have few standout moments:

    For instance, I took an unexpected leader fall on the 7th pitch when a manky tricam blew after holding me for 30 seconds. It was worse still when I reclimbed up to my high point and realized that I didn't even need to use the stupid thing. I was able to lasso a piton above with one of my aiders and pull myself up.

    Also, Shameless lost a tug of war match with one of our ropes and the rock gremlins. Shady little creatures they are, making their homes in the cracks on that big wall.

     On the last pitch we caught up with the soloist and all joined forces to finished the route together. We topped out just as the sun let slip it's last rays and all that remained was to get back to the cold beer waiting at camp. Fortunately, there is a paved trail leading down from the summit of Angel's Landing so we were able to walk down and catch the bus with little difficulty.

    Shameless and I both left having gained a deeper affinity for one of the most beautiful parks in our our country. Something tells me we'll be back.

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Looking over at West Temple Peak from the Watchman Campground.

This picture is from the approach to Prodigal Sun. The lens is looking north and contains both Moonlight Buttress on the far left and Spaceshot on the right.


This is a large picture (500K) of our route

CLICK HERE  to see this picture with the route marked.


Starting the first pitch. A bolt ladder leads to a nice C1 crack. We combined pitches one and two.

Shameless sets off on our second pitch. This is a beautiful crack which I am sure goes free to strong climbers. One of the best qualities of this route is that there is no bad climbing until the last pitch, which is easy.

A close up of Shameless.

Looking over to the Touchstone Wall area from Prodigal Sun. Note the road on the canyon floor which gives the wall some perspective.


Gathering weather and a beautifully lit Cable Mountain form a nice background for the silhouette of  The Organ.

This picture is available as a wallpaper.


Looking up at Brent, who was soloing above us on the route. We teamed up on the last two pitches and finished the route together.

Back in camp after fixing three pitches we found the Watchman basking in beautiful evening light.

Looking up the canyon toward Moonlight Buttress on our second morning.

Shameless arriving at the top of our fixed lines. From here it's six pitches and a loose grovel to the top.

Casting off on the first pitch of day two. A hook move off right off the belay gets your attention.

Higher up the pitch, things improve as I find sunshine.

Shameless jugging to the top of our third pitch. We enjoyed perfect temperatures on our climb and were pleased with our decision to abandon our original objective of Moonlight Buttress in favor of shade.

Learning to love the backpack.

Another shot of Shameless jumaring in morning light.

Shameless taking his turn on the sharp end.

Looking down from our fourth pitch at me cleaning.

A large picture of Moonlight Buttress towering over the canyon floor.

Starting our fifth pitch which moves up and left by switching crack systems multiple times.

Higher on our pitch 5. This pitch we combined with the next (or at least we skipped a bolted anchor) to finish at the end of the diagonal bolt ladder.

Shameless jugging through the diagonal bolt ladder on our fifth pitch.

This is one of the more exposed sections of the climb.

Hanging out at the top of our fifth pitch.

Looking down from the top of our 6th pitch.

Approaching the belay after another wonderful jugging experience.


Starting my last lead. After this pitch, we caught Brent and teamed up on the last aid pitch.


Not wanting to be finished with all the excitement, I decided to trust a dubious tricam in a pod near the end of the pitch and was rewarded with a 10ft whipper.



A shot of Brent's haulbags that shows the late hour. We topped out at dusk and found the trail before we lost the light completely.

Shameless on the descent from Angel's Landing. The best reward for climbing this wall is that the descent is a paved trail that the Park Service installed.

A view of the wall the next morning.

Looking up at Moonlight Buttress from shuttle bus.

A large picture of Moonlight Buttress from below.

A close up of climbers on Lunar Extacy and Moonlight Buttress.

Our first view of the fire that was raging to the east of Zion canyon.

The smoke was amazingly dark near the ground.

It was unfortunate that we were short on time to get back to Logan because the photographic opportunities were excellent.

Smoke from the fire as seen from the Watchman Campground.

A variant of the previous picture.

A smoky sky as seen from Springdale

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