American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Contiguous United States, Utah, Zion, The Temptress, Ascent, Previously Unreported

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

The Temptress, Ascent, Previously Unreported. In April, 1998, while exploring one of Zion’s many backcountry canyons, Andrew Nichols and I stumbled onto a gem of a wall. “The Temptress” is 800 feet tall, sleek, sheer, and straight as a rail. From the ground, the most distinguishing feature is a massive, double-tiered roof, each tier totally horizontal, 40 feet across and ten feet deep. The roofs are inset between opposing comer systems, the left coming up from below and the right ascending out to the sheer headwall above.

The approach starts with 1,000 feet of gain, first in a wash and then up fourth-class slabs. The slabs lead to a saddle. This is the head of a few different canyons, the largest splitting the East Temple and the Twin Brother formation. From the saddle, we scrambled down into the wash bottom for about a quarter of a mile until we came to the first rappel. We fixed a rope to the single-bolt rap station for our later return. The rappel left us in a beautiful, rarely traveled hanging canyon less than 200 feet wide with a proud stand of giant ponderosa pines. An open meadow right below the wall made an excellent base camp.

The first two pitches cross rightward up a series of right-facing dihedrals. With nightfall coming, but still not high enough for our belay, Andrew drilled one 3/8-inch bolt and lowered off. By morning it was pouring, and we hastily exited the canyon, ascended up our rope and went back to the car. Between weather and schedules, it took us three weeks to return.

Before long, Andrew was back at his high point, 50 feet below the roofs. After four reachy bathook moves, he was back into cams and soon drilling our second anchor. The next pitch was the roof. All of the edges of the roof had cracks up the sides, making its only true bond that from directly above. Scary. About 40 feet above a traverse, I drilled a hanging two-bolt belay under a nicely protective roof. With the next pitch, Andrew broke through three or four more roofs out onto the headwall above, then lashed a large and very loose boulder that we dubbed “the Protozoa” (and which we trundled the next morning) to the wall. We rapped back down to the ground at dusk.

Early the next morning, we ascended our 520 feet of fixed ropes. Our high point was in a transition of the rock’s layers. The softer, lighter-colored rock ahead deteriorated in quality. One more steep section, then the angle began to kick back. Barely able to see and wearing only hiking boots, I freed up pancake-stacked ledges and gritty corners for 110 feet to a large tree. The slabs got easier above. With a large tree-covered ledge in sight, we quickly fifth- classed up 300 feet of slab to the top of the buttress. With only half a liter of water and an ocean of slabs between us and the summit of the East Temple, we called it good and rappelled the route in five raps, adding one rappel station on a ledge 120 feet above the ground to facilitate the descent. In the morning we thanked the Temptress for her gracious hospitality and began hauling loads up out of the canyon the way we had come in, leaving only one set of anchor slings and footprints as visible evidence of our adventure.

David Littman, unaffiliated

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