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

Various first free ascents. In February Brian Smoot, Colby Wayment, and I free climbed The Locksmith Dihedral (IV, previously 5.11 Cl), located on the wall to the left of the Watchman. This formation was dubbed “The Gatekeeper Wall” by Dave Jones, though locals had been calling it G-l [Peak 6,482']. The first four pitches are excellent, and would make a great half-day outing at a very attainable difficulty of mostly 11+, with one short section of 12-. The upper pitches have sections of loose and/or sandy rock, which must be weighed against summit fever. The entire route can be rappelled with two ropes.

The very next day I walked up to the Apex Wall (erroneously also called the “Angelino Wall”) with Eric Coleman to try Hello Mary Lou, which came highly recommended by its first ascensionist Dave Jones. Despite a valiant effort, the route did not succumb within our time frame. Eric then remained in town to woo a cute local, while I returned home to work and family. In March we freed the route (V 5.12+/13-). The first pitch is the technical crux, falling somewhere in the 12+ to 13-range, depending on finger size, ape index, and astronomical sign. Nevertheless, less quantifiable challenges await higher on the route. I learned to be cautious with recommendations from Jones.

A week later I returned to climb the Silmaril with Brian. Another Jones route, it is located on the Watchman and had been repeated a few times. Brian had spotted a promising three-pitch variation around an A2 pin crack, so we went for a free ascent. The variation climbs a major left-facing dihedral 100 feet left of the original start. I was nearly stymied by the first pitch, which recent rains had coated in a layer of fine sand, but we succeeded (V 5.12R) and found enjoyable 5.11 corners above. The key to the free ascent was a critical ledge that allowed us to regain the original route, and the Incredible Hand Crack on Steroids pitch six was a highlight.

Michael Anderson, AAC