Peak Climbed: Great White Throne

Peak Height: 6,744'

Route: South Face Diagonal

Difficulty: 5.8 C0

Location: Zion National Park, Utah

Trailhead: Stave Spring

Mileage & Gain: 12 mi & 2,800 ft RT

Date Climbed: November 24, 2018

The Great White Throne is a famous Zion landmark that is situated across the Virgin River from Angels Landing. It has a commanding presence when viewed from Zion Canyon. The proud formation was named by the Methodist minister of Ogden, Utah, Frederick Vining Fisher, in 1916. As the story goes, late afternoon light gloriously lit up the Great White Throne prompting Fisher to state: "Never have I seen such a sight before. It is by all odds America's masterpiece. Boys, I have looked for this mountain all my life but I never expected to find it in this world. This mountain is the Great White Throne."

The Great White Throne was first climbed in 1927 by W. H. W. Evans, solo. After reaching the summit via the south face and lighting a fire for proof of topping out, he made it most of the way back down before slipping and falling the remaining 200 feet or so. A few days later, suffering from delirium and a cracked skull, he was rescued by park staff.

In 2003 Brian & Jonathan Smoot established a new line on the south face that utilizes diagonaling ledge systems. They installed a few bolts and a solid anchor for each of six highly traversing pitches up the sandy, crumbly, white Navajo sandstone face. The route is very runout, but is a somewhat reasonable endeavor for those with experience on sandy slickrock and a cool head.

I was super stoked to finally climb this thing. It had always been on my "probably not" list, but Dom was keen on giving it a try. He led all six pitches on this chilly, windy day and I was nervous enough following most of them. The traversing nature of the route means large pendulum potential for everyone. Fortunately we didn't get to find out what the fall looks like when a person slips on this terrain, though I, for one, was certainly on the verge once or twice.

The job isn't quite done after conquering the south face. A short scramble leads to the summit plateau. We spooked a group of bighorn sheep up here and I am dying to know which route they use! The south face too? The true highpoint of the Great White Throne is a grouping of hoodoos near the center of the large summit plateau. A short, awkward, poorly protected pitch is required to reach the tippy top. This might have been as hard as 5.8. A friend (who climbed this before us) fell off of it and landed in the big bush below.

The descent back down the south face is a royal pain in the ass: six largely sideways, double rope rappels down low angle slickrock means very tedious rope management. Luckily there aren't many bushes on the face so there's not too much worry about sticking the ropes.

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