Meridian Tower, First Ascent
North America, United States, Utah, Zion National Park
Over five days in April Dave Everett and I did the first ascent of Meridian Tower, one of the last major unclimbed formations in Zion National Park. The formation is to the right of the Altar of Sacrifice and most prominently visible from Oscar’s Café in town. On the 27th we hiked the West Rim Trail from Angel’s Landing approximately to Camp 4 and rappelled into Phantom Valley, drilling two rappel stations. We found water in Phantom Valley and filled up. A stove would have been an asset, because there was snow in places where there was not water. We hiked to the top of Church Mesa and descended the gully east of Point 7,375' via many rappels into Birch Creek (the creek that ends at the waterfall in the Court of the Patriarchs that is the descent from Abraham). If we had descended farther east and tried to hike up Birch Creek, we would have been blocked by deep pools where the canyon narrows to a slot. This also made our position committing. While descending Church Mesa, it had appeared that the formation across the way was Meridian Tower. We climbed several pitches up this formation and bivouacked close to the summit before realizing we were on the wrong formation.
In the morning we descended back to Birch Creek and continued scrambling up the creek to the base of Meridian, the tower next door. Steep waterfalls and deep pools forced us into dangerous scrambles up loose scree on the side of the canyon. We finally traversed onto the north side of Meridian Tower and bivouacked midway up. We found the climbing harder than expected. After hauling our packs on a few pitches, we reached the base of an unclimbable-looking wall and bivied. In the morning we left our packs and found the climbing on the final ridge and summit not too difficult (5.8 A0), but the white sandstone was extremely rotten and protection minimal. We descended by rappelling into the gully on the west side of the tower, into the valley between the Altar and Meridian and rappelling into Oak Creek Canyon, behind the old visitors center.
We climbed eight pitches on the tower, and made about 20 rappels on the approach and descent. Of all the Towers of the Virgin, Meridian Tower is probably the most difficult to access, but the approach is worth the effort. This is one of the most beautiful locations in the park.