After a long spring of sport climbing, I was desperate for adventure.
Like someone eating junk food, no matter how many bolts I clipped, I
didn’t feel satisfied. Zion, however, is an all-you-can-eat adventure
buffet. I have a long list of projects in the Canyon, but the summer
heat and peregrine closures helped narrow it down. Spaceshot is a
world-class route that’s shady until noon, and I had it on good
authority that it would go free. My twin brother, Mark, and I climbed it
as our first big wall almost ten years ago. It was a big adventure for
us then, and in June we went back for more.
After working the crux fourth pitch the day before, we set off at dawn
on June 16, 2005, and simulclimbed the first three pitches. Mark took
the first stab at Pitch 4, but fell at the insecure crux. Damn! I was
hoping for a toprope. The first moves yanked me from my early morning
daze. Climbing through a Dr. Seuss landscape, I was forced to stem
between the main canyon wall and the teetering, six-foot-in-diameter
Rebozo Pinnacle in order to reach the varnished wall’s first features.
Sixty serpentine feet later, I slapped my way across the crux rail,
stabbed my foot out to the rest hold and exhaled. The final crack went
easily, but I lost valuable time arranging the precise composition of
gear and holds in the shallow seam.
Pitch 5 might be one of the best crack pitches in Zion: a clean, gently
overhanging tips splitter with footholds. I savored the lead, though I
again wasted precious shade time working out a sequential section. Mark
took Pitch 6, where we deviated from the aid line again. By climbing
left rather than right, we exchanged thin C2 for wide 5.11. Above the
offwidth, Mark led out of the crack on a thirty-foot rightward traverse
over untested and unprotected patina to regain the original route. He
did it without flinching. As I followed, I couldn’t believe our luck
that the necessary holds appeared where they did.
We gained Earth Orbit Ledge around 2 p.m. An hour’s rest later, Mark
started the notorious final bolt ladder. After three hours of 100 degrees F
sun, he onsighted the 5.12 roof and reached a good belay ledge below a
final blank section. A ten-foot vertical sandbox stood between the
topout and us. Twice, snapped holds and glorious whippers repelled our
direct assault. After a short discussion, I aided to the top in order to
work out and bolt a promising line to the left. While I shouted beta,
Mark flashed the final three-bolt variation. I quickly followed, and we
collapsed under the soothing shadow of the summit ponderosa, having made
the first free ascent of the route (IV 5.13a, 9 pitches).
Mike Anderson, Colorado Springs, Colorado