Vicissitude (and thesauruses) on Moonlight Buttress

Failure is a relative term. Though one that is not often sought out among members of the climbing community. On the weekend of May 3, viagra 60mg 2008 Albert and Shay came to know this phenomenon during our ascent of the Moonlight Buttress in Zion NP. moonlightbutt06.jpg

We had been planning on doing a wall together for a few weeks and Albert had quickly built up an arsenal of aid gear and some background knowledge from hours of bathroom reading during his one month stint of chronic constipation. Thus, 5pm on Friday had come and we exuberantly left UCSD heading through CA, NV, AZ, and UT to Zion NP. After eight hours of driving and a quick nap in Albert's mazda speed 3 (also known as the "red dragon") we boarded the 2nd shuttle leaving from the visitor center heading towards our objective, the massive 1200 ft sandstone pillar known as the moonlight buttress.

Neither the oversized haul bag or the 40 pound rack could weigh down our soaring spirits which danced around the thought of our first night on a portaledge. Our excitement, bounding from our sexy bodies, could barely be moderated by the calming relaxant of a few drags from a hand rolled cigarette. It was time, time for the realization of a dream which had haunted Albert's childhood and early manhood. A dream which had been born during a touristic walk through the verdant fields of Yosemite Valley at the early age of 12. He was about to do his first "big wall".

With all this excitement we jumped off the bus, believing in a matter of moments our epic would begin... and how it did. The first, and possibly most significant crux lay winding in front of us, carving its way through the canyon, creating the monument of which we aimed. As if a right of passage, the path to glory would first force us to pay homage to the god of the canyon, an ICE COLD river wtih a rocky/slippery bottom.


Albert was a trooper. After weighing the risks of crossing the frigid Virgin with a full haul bag we decided to send him across with part of the gear so that he could navigate a route across the river and come back to help Shay across with the haul bag. Within no time we were racking up at the base of moonlight buttress where we spotted a cluster fuck of people on the route. No worries. We brought topos and gear for all three options; Lunar Ecstasy (1st choice), Moonlight Buttress (2nd choice), and Sheer Lunacy. Besides, a few crowds weren't going to stop us, after all, we had resolved to avoid failure. Little did we know that failure was looming just around the corner.

Being the generous climbing partner Shay sent Albert up the first pitch via the 5.10 variation which was both enjoyable and well protected. At the top of the first pitch is where the true cluster began. Ahead of us were two guys aiding up the 2nd pitch yelling at each other at the top of their lungs. At this point our route choice became all the more clear as Shay whispered to Albert "I don't care how fast they climb, we are going wherever they are NOT going". After spending 1.5 hours on the ledge at the top of pitch 1 smoking cigs and playing ukulele with Holly and Andy, a delightful couple from SLC who started up right behind us, Shay french freed us to the top of the next pitch. This is where the route diverged and while giving one of the yelling duos a belay up Lunar X, Albert took the team to the top of the bolt ladder pitch. moonlightbutt05.jpg

On top of the rocker block we joined together in a ukulele fueled melody while waiting for yet another party to start clearing the hanging belay above. Shay leap frogged yellow metolius cams to the hanging belay when we noticed that it was getting pretty late. Nonetheless, we agreed to push on to our planned bivy spot at the top of pitch 5. After dispatching half of the pitch, Albert clipped into the free anchors and we decided that it would probably be best fix the line and avoid the looming burly chimney until the morning.

Next came the crux of the route: setting up the portaledge from a fully hanging belay. Shay was lowered below the portaledge using the grigri to try to assemble the tubing from below while Albert did the same from above. This is easier said than done considering we were a couple of dopes who had never set up a ledge before. Shay can now recall three specific instances that Albert calmed us both down "lets just slow down and do this step by step". After much cursing and frustration Shay was able to lay flat on the cool red fabric of the portaledge. It was probably 60 degrees out but we were both sweating as though we were chimneying at Joshua Tree in July. Albert stayed at the anchor for another 10 minutes or so backing stuff up and performing some general house-keeping while Shay closed his eyes, feeling his body melt into the portaledge.


Soon Albert layed down next to him in the ledge and turned off his head lamp. Relaxation engulfed. We didn't want to eat, we didn't want to drink, we didn't necessarily want to sleep, we just wanted to enjoy the stillness.

Take 1: [youtube]sdtpAeCXdC4[/youtube]

Take 2: [youtube]KfJXQ6THUx4[/youtube]

The following day after our obligatory morning bowel movements Albert led through the imposing overhang and we proceeded to make good progress to the top. After a long exhausting pitch through a Bombay chimney and nice tapering dihedral, he set up belay and sat back in the perfect sky-top sandstone armchair. The canyon winded through land below, ant like figures peered up watching us climb, taking pictures, and then getting back on the bus. Albert rolled another cigarette and fed out lines as Shay took the next long pitch. In the serenity of the moment he realized the ultimate sense of peace, high on the route, smoking a cigarette with the most incredible view all around¡­ it was a perfect. He waited for Shay to set up anchor and decided to roll him a cigarette, which he would bring to his at the top of the next pitch. It was here that failure was finally realized.

In a most glorious gesture of brotherhood the "friendship" cigarette had passed hands at the top of the second to last pitch. The gear was exchanged and Albert began his last long haul to the top, a fantastic pitch of mixed aid/free with a final section of easy (underprotected) slab. This was when he heard the most dreaded two words "oh shit". "What happened?" He replied, clenching the teetering nut placement in front of him. "I think I dropped the cigarette!" Shay replied, knowing full well he didn't have the experience to roll another one on his own. We sat staring at the abyss below, pondering the fantastic journey of the coveted cigarette. Should we bail? Should we call for help? NO! We decided to push on.

The last pitch soared above the canyon, zigzagging up a winding crack, Albert developed a bit of rope drag. He called down to Shay explaining the situation, only to convey a muffled sting of inaudible words. In the confusion Shay heard the word "green", and being the stout and vigilant climbing partner that he was decided to put the green haul line on belay as well. Now Albert pushed through the final short section of unprotected slab, over 1200 feet of air. With one last final effort the line went static and screams of joy were heard at the top! [youtube]fyrRrGKgWY8[/youtube]

A few moments later we both stood above the moonlight buttress passing a bottle of whisky and reflecting on the journey taken. Although the loss of the "friendship"cigarette had been a painful moment for all, it was a small failure in the face of a great triumph. We decided to one day return and do it free, not dropping anything.


* Note: This TR was a collaborative effort. Making our 5th grade English teachers proud, Zussamen style.