American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Utah, Lovelace, First Free Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1996

Lovelace, First Free Ascent. On April 25, Kennan Harvey and I wanted to try a free ascent of Moonlight Buttress in Zion, but a huge landslide had closed the canyon. Craig Luebben and Chris Harmston planned to aid ahead of us and photograph our attempt. Craig suggested we try Lovelace, a route he had aided ten years earlier. All four of us made it up the approach ledges and first 5.10 pitch to the base of the 15-foot triple cracks that promised to be the crux. Craig aided the pitch first and set up a huge toprope so we could check out the possibilities. Chris tried first and managed to free all but a couple sections. Craig tried second and did all except a couple moves. Kennan pulled off all the moves with several falls and finally I managed it with two falls. Learning from each other was a fun progression. After a rest I led the pitch with no falls on preplaced gear.

We returned the next day to complete the route. Kennan led the crux, placing gear, but fell off a 5.12a section 100 feet up. He lowered to the belay, pulled the rope and tried again. Another fall, another lower, and another attempt. This time he made it. Kennan and I continued for five more pitches of easier crack climbing to the top for the first free ascent.

The climb follows the obvious widening crack system on the buttress to the left of The Fang, a free-standing tower to the east of the road leading up to the Zion tunnel. Take gear from RPs to a couple off-width pieces. Expect to use three sets of cams in the fingers-to-thin-hands range.

Topher Donahue, unaffiliated

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