Zion Big Three Free
Climbers in Zion National Park flock to three specific trade routes, adding up to the majority of route traffic in the park. Moonlight Buttress, Spaceshot, and Touchstone are mini big walls nearing 1000’. Each is often aided as a first foray into the big wall world, with Moonlight slowly converting into a popular free route. The other two also go free, though are repeated much less often. Below are mini reports for my free ascents of the Big Three trade routes.
Moonlight Buttress 5.12c, 1000’ - 2017:
Climbing Moonlight was a huge step in my hard multipitch climbing arc. I first attempted the route a year prior in 2016 with my Salt Lake friend also named Brent. Other Brent, or “OIder Brent”, had a huge base of years in multipitch climbing. I was a novice from the midwest flatlands with low confidence, not yet considering attempting the famous Zion route. Having climbed together much in LCC, older Brent thought we’d have a good chance of free climbing on the whole line in reasonable style.
This first attempt was eye opening in believing in my abilities! While neither of us sent, I had only fallen a few times on the crux pitch, and once each on two other hard pitches. I knew I could free the route with another attempt or two, realizing for the first time that I could be up on the big stone, climbing with my hands and feet like the climbers I’ve looked up to.
In 2017 I went back with a strong Minnesota sport climber friend, Craig. In a hilarious foot race against two other groups, we got off the shuttle bus and ran to the base of the route to be the first party for the day. We planned to swap leads as he certainly had the guns to be free climbing on the route. Though, the intensity of placing gear midlayback quickly got to Craig, and I took over rope gunning the majority of the route. We topped out early in the evening. I had sent THE Moonlight Buttress in a day with no falls! I was immediately thinking towards other free walls through Zion and Yosemite.