American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Tucupit Point, New Free Climbs

Utah, Zion National Park

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Brandon Gottung
  • Climb Year: 2015
  • Publication Year: 2016

In November 2014, Cullen Kirk, Karl Kvashay, and I climbed the first of many new routes on Tucupit Point in Zion's Kolob Canyon. Astrolizard (IV 5.11) climbs a clean, mostly wide crack system on Tucupit’s south face and is comprised of mostly Indian Creek–quality cracks.

In June 2015, Karl and I established a new free route on the west face: Tucupit Occidentalis (800’, IV 5.10+). The west face was first climbed by Bill Forrest and Bill March (V 5.8 A2, AAJ 1982), and our route shares the first two pitches with the obvious crack system of that route. [Editor’s note: Tucupit was incorrectly spelled "Tucapit" in the original 1982 report. Tucupit is Paiute for "wildcat."] After that, our route branches left into crisp, clean cracks and corners, linked with spectacular face climbing, to the top of the wall. I’d say the route represents one of the best of its length and grade in Zion. Expect great morning shade in a spectacular setting, exciting positions, consistent quality, and great rock. As a bonus, climbing in Kolob has a magical backcountry feel that the main canyon does not offer.

Karl and I continued to have a busy year following our ascents of Astrolizard and Tucupit occidentalis. Just left of Astrolizard, we climbed a two-pitch route we called Lead-Free Gut Pile (II 5.11). We also climbed a variation to pitch three of Tucupit occidentalis, which we called Red Morph (5.11+).

[Editor’s note: The remainder of the routes described here were established with free climbing in mind but have not yet been redpointed.] After this, we climbed Tucupit nova (IV 5.11+), which follows the obvious pillar on the left side of the west face for two pitches before traversing further right into the next pillar feature for another two pitches. The fourth pitch is the crux, which we led with one fall and then followed clean. After this we joined the final three pitches of Tucupit occidentalis to the top of the wall.

Next up was the Stone Age. This climb starts via one pitch of aid (A2 beaks and hooks) to access the obvious splitter crack system on the northwest buttress. The fifth pitch is the crux (proposed 5.12+) and has a difficult traverse right into a right-facing corner, ending at a beautiful bivy ledge. Six more pitches of excellent free climbing top off the route.

Finally, we climbed two shorter routes. Skeleton Key starts on an obvious weakness below a giant corner system on the north face (proposed 5.12+). The Pain Chamber is equal parts strenuous free climbing and wild caving. We accessed the climb by moving left under the west face and then rappelling off a tree to a lower ledge system and traversing left behind a flake. The follower freed every pitch, but it has not yet been freed on lead (proposed 5.11+). 

– Brandon Gottung

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