- Feb 21, 2012
- Honnold Feeds the Beast
Heinous onsights are not something that many are known for, but in the realm of Team CLIF Bar climber Alex Honnold, they have curiously become more the norm than the exception. Here is a recent account of Honnold's latest harrowing effort. As if the climb wasn't tough enough (though it took him less than an hour), Honnold opted to "pioneer a hike off the top" instead of taking the "normal" way down....no rope required. 4+ hours later of epic "walk off" Honnold shares the tale in this first hand account below.
Yesterday I onsight soloed Shune's Buttress, a 8 pitch 5.11+. It was something that I'd considered for the first time years ago but had never been motivated enough to do, but yesterday I had the right amount of pent up energy and hunger for adventure so I finally made it happen.
The forecast in Zion was super grim; it'd been raining the day before and it was supposed to rain after 1pm, but I figured that gave me a solid 5 hours to climb something before the next wave of storm came in. My biggest worry was that Zion's soft sandstone might be too friable after the previous nights rain, but I figured I could tread carefully and bail if it seemed suspect. I'm super careful when I'm soloing anyway, so whether it was wet or not I still would be just as suspicious of the rock.
I hiked up to the base of a couple different routes, trying to decide what looked the driest and most doable. Ultimately I settled on Shune's since it's mostly secure-looking crack climbing and they looked pretty dry. Normally to descend off Shune's you rappel the route, but since I didn't want to take a rope and harness up the route [it sort of takes the fun out of soloing if you have to carry all the same gear but alone] I figured I could try to pioneer a hike off the top.
I took a tiny backpack with my running shoes, a pint of water, 2 Z Bars, a Mojo bar, and some Blocks. I hadn't really eaten breakfast, but I was impatient to get on the route and beat the coming weather.
The climbing was a pleasure. I hadn't climbed on sandstone cracks in a long time and as soon as I started jamming I felt totally indestructible. The position is nice and exposed and you climb up a pretty cool tower. Even the climbing is enjoyable and technical. It was everything I hoped for, and almost entirely dry. At least dry enough to not be a problem. I felt great when I topped out - until I looked up and realized that I had at least another 750 ft of snow covered slabs to ascend before I reached the rim of the canyon. As I sat on top and considered the first snow flakes started falling, which suited my mood perfectly. It was really pretty but they weren't really sticking, entertaining but not a problem.
But as I started up the snow [well, consolidated hail actually] covered slabs it started snowing in earnest. Visibility dropped to a hundred feet or less, which was a big concern since I wasn't entirely sure where I was going and the topography in Zion is super complex. Big sheer canyons cut every which way through the mesa, making it hard to hike cross country or in straight lines.
My pants and sweater started getting pretty wet from post-holing in snow and falling down all the time. I had to switch back into climbing shoes because the slabs were so steep and technical, particularly because of the snow. For a few minutes I actually worried that I might get stuck on the slabs and that exposure could be an issue, though I eventually found a way onto the main ridge and back towards the mesa.To make a long story short, I eventually stumbled across the hiking trail [quite the stroke of luck, since everything was under a solid foot of snow] and made the 10 mile hike back down to the canyon floor. It snowed the whole time. I was wet and cold and hungry.
The day's summary: the 8 pitches of glorious climbing probably took less than an hour , the snowy nightmare descent took something like 4+ hours. But I had exactly the adventure I was hungry for, and today I'm actually content taking a rest day. I fed the beast.
- Posted by:
- B Cole