North America, United States, Utah, Zion National Park, West Temple, How the West Was Won

Publication Year: 2009.

West Temple, How the West Was Won. In April I teamed up with the Greer brothers, Jared and Brody, to attempt the previously unclimbed 2,000'+ west face of West Temple. We started with the path of least resistance in the center of the face, following 4th- class terrain with an occasional 5th-class boulder problem for 500'. The route then has three steps, interspersed with vegetated ledges, which we climbed in five pitches (taking the cleanest 5.10-ish looking crack) to the major vegetated ledge. We then scrambled skier’s left down a ramp system, fixing three ropes, and returned to the ground. On day two, above the previous day’s climbing, we followed a left- angling crack system for three pitches, aiming for a prominent, right-leaning, easy-looking ramp and gully system. This “easy ramp” had steep chimneys and an unexpected snow-filled gully, taking far longer than expected. We reached the upper exit dihedral, just before sundown, and found the only real stand-in-your-stirrups aid climbing of the route. After a foolhardy attempt to climb the pitch clean, resulting in a 20' whipper, I placed a large pecker that remains as the only fixed gear on the route, followed by two drilled beak holes to get around a disagreeable bush.

At this point the boys started to bonk. Our inadequate food and water supplies began taking its toll. Brody was leading a challenging pitch while Jared and I watched the sun drop over the Pine Valley Mountains. “Ever spooned with a man?” I asked Jared. He yelled at his older brother to “Hurry the #%@$ up.” What appeared to be the final 50m was over 150m, and darkness washed over the west face. The final pitch, up a loose corner, remained hidden from us until the last possible moment. We topped out on the plateau well after dark and spent the night shivering in down coats. Morning finally came; we hiked to the summit, signed the register, and took a photo. We descended a zigzagging ramp system to climber’s right of our route, down- climbing with five rappels. About 30 hours after departure, our tired bodies relaxed in the sand back at our camp. The remainder of our food didn’t last long, nor did the vodka. We’d roped up for 14 pitches and soloed some 1,000' to find out How the West Was Won (V 5.10 Al).

Bryan Bird