Hintersands: The Full Process

February 2018

Over multiple trips from December 2017 to February 2018, I established and freed a new route on the steep southeast face of Mt. Spry. Hintersands (900’, IV 5.12) is almost completely hidden from view on the tunnel road, and I originally spied the line while climbing Lovelace (a.k.a. Fang Wall, IV 5.12+) on East Temple a year earlier. The new route links multiple overhanging crack systems with a few improbable face connections.

Over Christmas I found myself partnerless, and not wanting to waste precious days away from my desk-based career in Salt Lake City, I decided to head toward Zion with bolts, ropes, and a Silent Partner. Over three days, I rope-soloed Hintersands ground-up at 5.10 A2, establishing three pitches per day and fixing back down to the ground each night. I aided or French-freed as necessary to get the rope up, while cleaning sand and trundling many blocks. Pitch three involved nailing a seam to hand-drill lead bolts; this is the only pitch with fixed protection, and it now allows clean ascents. I left Zion suspecting that my new line might just go free.

Within weeks I had piqued interest in my friend Andy Anderson for a free attempt. Our effort in mid-January left us exhausted, both physical and mentally. We found calorie-intensive wide climbing on every pitch, combined with challenging movement on friable holds. I freed up to the final pitch on this first attempt, but the overhanging 5.12 laybacking to a horizontal roof on the last pitch proved the enduro crux of the day, and I only managed to one-hang this pitch despite multiple tries. We drove home leaving Hintersands nearly free at 5.12- A0.

Weeks of searching for interested partners led to one final attempt before seasonal falcon nesting closed the wall for the season. I teamed up with Zion local Ethan Newman, and we found the route surprisingly more stable than the previous attempt, as many of the most friable holds had peeled away.

I once again arrived at the last pitch with no falls. The first two attempts at the final roof ended when I was unable to keep tension on the undercling with opposing foot smears. I tweaked my sequence and lowered to rest for a third and final try for the day. After the familiar pumpy laybacking up the corner, I found myself at the marginal rest, staring across the roof traverse, trying my best to ignore the deep fatigue. I worked my way into a shallow stem and a thin hand jam, but I couldn’t securely reach a jug around the roof. I wound up for a dramatic, feet-cutting deadpoint and stuck the jug, heel hooked the lip, and pressed out a bouldery mantel over the roof. I anxiously moved through the tricky terrain above and topped out the pitch.

As a free climb, Hintersands presents a wild arrangement of novel movement on soft rock. The steep climbing necessitates multiple heel hooks and knee bars—unique fare for a Zion wall. All pitches have fixed anchors to rappel the route.