A spicy, exposed scramble and climb (5.6) up a majestic peak
The Watchman (left) and Johnson Mountain (right) as seen on our early morning approach to The West Temple. Both summits are accessible with 4th or low 5th class climbing if one has good routefinding skills and a bit of luck. We found our way up the Watchman the following day, but just barely. I failed to find my way to the top of Johnson Mountain on a subsequent trip. The pointy peak on the left side of the photo is Bridge Mountain. It also has a low 5th class route to the summit but it is reportedly quite exposed, hard to protect, and dangerous.
View of Mount Kinesava's steep east face from the approach to The West Temple. The easieast route to the summit is 4th class and utilizes the ramp system in the right third of the picture. Besides the tourist trap known as Angels landing, Mount Kinesava was the first peak Dominic and I climbed in Zion.
A left to right running ramp/weakness in the cliff bands provides 4th class access to the notch between Mount Kinesava and The West Temple. This notch is located left of center in the photo. The West Temple's south ridge climb starts here.
A closer view of the notch between Mount Kinesava and the Watchman. The micro-routefinding across the steep and exposed terrain to reach it isn't especially difficult as far as Zion routes go, but it did confuse us a bit on the return trip.
Dwight checking out the view up Zion Canyon from atop a large cliffband en route to the notch. The East Temple is the distinctive peak in the background.
Dominic watches as Kevin negotiates some typical, exposed Zion terrain. This served as a good introduction for what was to come up on the ridge.
Kevin near the beginning of The West Temple's south ridge. After passing through the slot in the foreground the terrain gets quite steep. We climbed an unroped low 5th class pitch or two before the terrain became more comfortable. We rappelled parts of this section on the way down.
Dominic making his way through the ever-changing jungle gym.
We scrambled and scrambled and scrambled some more. The ridge is about a mile long.
View of the remainder of the ridge from near "Wussie Peak" - quite intimidating to say the least! The crux is the headwall at the very top. It looks vertical from here, making it very hard to believe that it goes at merely 5.6 and is climbable by us!
Scrambling through more interesting terrrain on the ridge, including another little slot.
Mount Kinesava makes for one heck of a backdrop on the upper portion of the climb. The ridge between it and the notch is known as Cowboy Ridge (5.7), a more sustained climb than the south ridge of The West Temple.
Concentration levels rise again as we find ourselves on steep, exposed 4th class terrain. The ridge is wide enough to provide some mental comfort, but the truth is that a slip would probably send a person falling 1000+ feet. to their death.
Kevin methodically works his way up the serious terrain, making sure to test every hold as the rock is very poor.
Kevin near the bottom of the 5.6 crux pitch. This is the only place we used the rope during our ascent. It is protected by three bolts and additional protection opportunities exist with gear. We were happy to have rock shoes along, although more serious rock climbers should be able to make do with normal footwear.
Another view of the crux pitch showing the huge (2000 ft) drop down to the outskirts of Springdale.
Dominic topping out on the plateau above the ridge's headwall. Mount Kinesava can be seen behind him.
The West Temple's summit cap comes into view just after overcoming the ridge's headwall. The scree chute in the center yields passage through the final cliff band onto the summit plateau.
Descending the loose slopes down from the summit cap. There was still some snow lingering, a relief since we were all running very low on water.
We overcame this short, reportedly 5.8ish step on the way up by aiding off gear. A stout bush provided a rappel anchor on the descent.
Looking back at the upper part of the ridge that we just descended, I was no less in awe that a reasonable route exists.
One last shot of the exposed ridge from near the notch.