American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Utah, Zion National Park, Angel's Landing, Lowe Route, First Free Ascent with Variations

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005

Angel’s Landing, Lowe Route, first free ascent with variations. After a successful spring trip to Yosemite, I resolved to establish my own long free route, somewhere near my home in Utah. Zion was the obvious venue, and with some advice from the prolific Brian Smoot, I settled on the Lowe Route on the north face of Angel’s Landing.

My first attempts were foiled by a short bolt ladder, but to my amazement, I found a series of holds to the left. Their mere existence on these sheer walls was unlikely, but that they would offer a route of passage seemed downright impossible. With optimistic naivete I bolted three independent pitches, hoping they would be climbable.

I wanted to work on the route in October, but the one-two punch of a Master’s thesis deadline and atrocious weather conspired against me. By the time I was ready to “send,” it was November.

That late in the season, free-climbing on this sunless wall is barely tolerable for about six hours per day, when the mercury breaks 40°. A one-day ascent was out of the question. I resorted to the typical Zion “fix-and-fire” style. On November 21 I led half way up the route without falling. That night it snowed.

My naïve optimism was turning to cynical realism. My employer, the Air Force, was moving me to Colorado Springs in late December. My commute time to Zion was going to double, and I was sure the NPS would close the route soon for nesting raptors. As I was losing hope, a high pressure system moved in.

On December 11, my wife Janelle Anderson and I quickly climbed to my previous high point below the 8th pitch. I had TRed it a few times but had not successfully led this scary C3 pitch. I pulled through the strenuous roof moves, clipping three fixed pins. I milked a rest above the crux to warm my fingers and psyche up for the runout above, but was forced to move on by dwindling reserves in my calves. I strained to stay relaxed as I wiggled tiny nuts into the thin aid seam to protect the 12a moves, and I let out a scream of relief when I latched the final dyno, 15 feet above a #3 peenut.

The next day we rapped in from the summit, and I quickly red-pointed the first of the three new bolted pitches. The overhanging 10th pitch took me three tries to redpoint, and the delay was costly. I was unable to climb the final hard pitch, despite five or six desperate tries in waning light. We returned a third day and I climbed the last hard pitch on my first try, at 12c. The last four pitches were just a formality, and we were relieved to meet the warm rays of the sun on the summit. (15 pitches [3 new], V 5.13aR)

Michael Anderson, AAC

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