Johnson Mountain & The Watchman

November 28, 2009

Link to my Trip Report

Two incredibly complex peaks involving much routefinding and scrambling

Towers of The Virgin

The Towers of The Virgin are highly technical endeavors and have only been climbed by a handful of people. They are however admired by many.

Scramble to Johnson Mountain ridge

Dwight and Dominic on the familiar scramble up the weakness leading to the Johnson Mountain ridge. After some trial and error on previous trips we've got this part nailed down.

Johnson Mountain ridge

Dominic, Matthew and Dwight hiking along the north ridge of Johnson Mountain. We're heading directly away from our objective at the moment, but such is peakbagging in Zion National Park.

East face of Johnson Mountain

Dwight and Matthew on the steep upper east face of Johnson Mountain. This is where the maze really becomes difficult.

Dwight & The Watchman

The Watchman as seen from the steep upper east face of Johnson Mountain.

Steep scrambling

Dominic scrambling up a steep step. "No Mans Mountain" can be seen in the background.

More steep scrambling

Matthew making his way up steep, dirty, third class terrain.


There are some neat alcoves below the summit of Johnson Mountain.

Nearing the summit plateau

Dwight, Dominic and Matthew nearing the summit plateau of Johnson Mountain as The Watchman watches.

Summit of Johnson Mountain

Dwight below the true summit of Johnson Mountain.

Topping out

Matthew topping out on Johnson Mountain. The prominant peak in the background is Smithsonian Butte. Dominic, Dwight and I ended up climbing it the following day.

The Watchman

The Watchman as seen from the summit of Johnson Mountain. From here its easy to see why the routefinding can be so tricky on this complicated mass of steep slickrock.

View to the northwest

View northwest from the summit of Johnson Mountain. Mount Kinesava, The West Temple and the Towers of the Virgin tower above the town of Springdale.

Johnson Mountain's upper sanctum

The area just below the summit of Johnson Mountain is a very special place. A hanging garden of sorts, it is surrounded by steep drops on nearly all sides. Two interesting sub-summits add to the scene.

"No Mans Mountain"

"No Mans Mountain" is reportedly an awesome scramble and climb with plenty of tricky routefinding. It lies to the east of Johnson Mountain.

Heading down Johnson Mountain

Matthew working his way down crumbly ledges high on Johnson Mountain.

Starting up The Watchman

Matthew had never been up The Watchman and Dwight, Dominic and I were keen on repeating it so we decided to go for it as long as the weather held. Here Dwight and Matthew are creeping up the easy but exposed ramp that takes us out of the wash between The Watchman and Johnson Mountain.

Johnson Mountain

Johnson Mountain as seen early on in our climb of The Watchman.

Crux of The Watchman

Dominic belays Matthew as he climbs the low 5th class crux low on The Watchman.


Looking back at Matthew, Dwight and Dominic as I lead the traverse across gullies on the west face of Johnson Mountain. 

Easier terrain

Once above the steep gully system on the west face the terrain becomes generally easier: easier scrambling and easier routefinding.

Summit of The Watchman

Matthew, Dominic and Dwight on the summit of The Watchman. This ascent took hours less than our first one because we knew the way this time! Unfortunately the weather was looking threatening again and we had to cut our summit stay short.

Beginning the descent

Dominic beginning the descent from The Watchman. Johnson Mountain can be seen in the background.

Descending the ramp

Matthew, Dwight and Dominic descending the final ramp to get back into the wash between Johnson Mountain and The Watchman.


Looking north toward Zion Canyon from the wash between Johnson Mountain and The Watchman we saw a beautiful rainbow.

Striking lighting

The combination of ominous, dark clouds and bright sunshine made for some very interesting lighting along Zion Canyon on the descent.

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