Thursday, May 06, 2010

Moonlight Buttress

The past two days I climbed a route in Zion called "Moonlight Buttress" with Andrew Fitzgerald, a ranger at Zion National Park. This route is considered one of the classic climbs in Zion. We started early the first morning having to cross the Virgin River during spring runoff. It was cold and tricky to get across thus we had the whole route to ourselves during the climb. It was slow going as we brought a "haul bag" with extra water, food and sleeping gear. The climb is almost 1400 vertical feet. We had good weather except for some gusty winds during the night which made sleeping difficult. The upper pitches of the route were stunning. Mostly a finger wide splitter crack extending to the top of the cliff. This was a very steep line with few ledges. We finished a bit early in the middle of the afternoon on the second day. The hike down the Angels Landing Trail was surprisingly difficult considering it was all down hill, but all the gear was rather heavy and our muscles fatigued. This climb was another one of my great adventures in Zion. I have done many in this park and hope to do many others. As I looked across the valley towards the Great White Throne I realized I had not stood on top of the great monolith. In fact, I personally don't know anybody who has done so. Maybe some day I'll do that one!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Kayaking into the Gorge

The Virgin River is running high this year. There is a lot of snow-pack up in the mountains and it has been a cold and windy spring. I have been watching the river flows closely and have been trying to find partners to kayak the Virgin River. There are not many people who feel comfortable in a kayak and have a high sense of adventure for floating certain sections of the Virgin River as it is rocky, fast flowing and often choked with debris. Several phone calls later and some shuttling of vehicles, my nephew Tyrone and I launched in the kayaks from under the Man-O-War bridge in Bloomington on a Friday afternoon. This stretch of the river is not visited much. It is not particularly challenging for the avid kayakers and it starts out rather boring and it has a difficult take out requiring lots of effort to carry the boats back up to the highway. It took Tyrone a little while to figure out the nuances of paddling in the "sit-on-top" kayaks that I have. The river flow was about right for us at around 400 cfs. There were a lot of tamarisks in the initial stretch of the river as it winds around in the desert before diving into the upper portions of the Virgin River Gorge (VRG). These same tamarisks proved to be troublesome as they formed "strainers" along the way and provided many opportunities for a boater to get caught. Tyrone found this out the hard way and almost lost his boat. We were very fortunate to get his boat back and get underway again after a 40 minute delay and some anxiety producing moments (just ask Ty if you want details). We then entered the VRG. It is a really neat canyon. The walls of rock are impressive and it is exciting to see what is around each bend. Eventually the rock changes from gray limestone to red and white sandstone and the canyon has a wilderness quality. I would like to go back to that stretch of the VRG in the autumn when the river is low and hike through it. We stopped for a few minutes and stretched our legs and admired the towering sandstone buttes while warming up on a sandbar. As we approached the freeway we began to hear the roar of the cars and trucks speeding by. We drug the boats up a very steep and rocky slope below a very tall bridge spanning the Virgin River. It had taken us only 3 hours, but we were physically worked and had experienced some adrenaline producing moments. All in all a great day on the river!