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North America, United States, Utah, Zion National Park, Various Free Ascents

Various free ascents. I will look back on 2005 as the year I became obsessed with Zion free climbing. It started a few weeks before 2005, when I nabbed the first free ascent of Angel’s Landing, via the 15-pitch Lowe Route. After that climb, I was addicted to Zion.

I returned in June with my brother Mark. Battling scorching heat, we got the first free ascent of the classic and oft-tried Spaceshot (9 pitches, 5.13a) in a one-day push on June 16. We climbed variations on three pitches, adding three bolts, in addition to the eight installed duringa previous free attempt. It was a nostalgic climb for us, because we had cut our teeth on the route in 1998 as our first-ever big-wall climb.

Over the summer I sought cooler climes in the Kolob Canyons. I reconnoitered the route Golden Years with Colby Wayment, but decided to return later in the year when conditions were more reasonable. I returned in September, this time with a new acquaintance, Rob Pizem. On September 17 we freed Golden Years (8 pitches, 5.12d) in an exhausting 20-hour day. We added four protection bolts, with permission from first ascensionist Dave Jones.

Rob and I made a good team, so we got together for a more challenging line on Angel’s Landing. The mysterious Dunn Route (Angel Hair; 11 pitches, 5.13a R/X) had been tried by the all-star team of Brian McCray and Ammon McNeely, but their attempt ended in a near-fatal brush with the loose rock that chokes the route. Nevertheless, Rob and I freed the route in a one-day push on October 22. We were proud to be able to free the route without placing any bolts or fixing other gear. This would also be the first one-day free ascent of Angels Landing.

Not yet satisfied, Rob and I returned again in November to attempt the Lowe Route on Isaac, in the Court of the Patriarchs, having been assured by the route’s namesake that it would easily go free. We were sandbagged! The opening chimney section was the most exciting and terrifying rock climbing I have ever done. Higher on the wall, we lost track of the Lowe Route, but found another line we liked. After three days of prep, we established Freeloader (12 pitches, 5.12d R) on November 24, in an all-out, one-day push.

Michael Anderson, AAC