Sunlight Buttress is a fine Zion free climbing route and is described in the book Fifty Favorite Climbs where it is listed as Charlie Fowler's favorite climb.
I didn't think it was as good as many of the trade free routes in Zion canyon proper. That being said, it's a great route to do, particularly after you've done the classics in Zion. It can be free climbed at 5.11b or done with some aid at 5.8 C1.
If you're going to do this route in a day, you will probably want to free most of the route or at least French free the difficult sections.
A good topo is available in the Fifty Favorite Climbs book as well as at the Zion Visitor Center.
The climbing is very straight forward with a number of pitches featuring bolts or drilled angles to protect face climbing features. Some of the face climbing is made more difficult due to fragile rock, but it's the desert so what do you expect?
I'll keep the pitch-by-pitch description to a minimum as it's easy to follow on a topo.
Pitches 1 and 2 are easy to link. Pitch 3 climbs the obvious right-facing corner and pitch 4 climbs the face with bolts/angles and some fixed gear. For pitch 5, traverse left from the belay and ascend a short corner to a ledge. From the ledge a crack cuts up and right. You may want to back clean gear from the short corner to prevent rope drag. At the top of pitch 5 is a big ledge.
Pitch 6 is the route's crux, 5.11 face climbing protected by bolts/angles. You can connect pitch 6 with pitch 7 which is probably preferable because then you belay at a large ledge, rather than a hanging belay.
Pitch 8 has a couple of variations. You climb underneath a loose, junky roof. If you stay low, it's easier than staying high. From there you climb into a left-facing corner to another large ledge where the belay anchors are out left.
Pitch 9, the final pitch, seems to be somewhat devious and not totally obvious. We didn't do it so I can't say with certainty which crack it is. There are a number of options that exist and we couldn't decide which one was best. None of the options looked super appealing and we were under the impression that many parties skipped the last pitch or two as the rock quality seems to deteriorate. You're supposed to traverse right to a fixed bolt or pin and into a left-facing corner.
Double set of cams to #4 Camalot and a set of stoppers. Runners and two ropes. It's also been recommended to bring a Chouinard hook for aid climbing between bolts on the crux sixth pitch.
Sunlight Buttress is located on the south-southeast face of Paria Point, looking into the canyon created by the South Fork of Taylor Creek.
To approach, hike up the South Fork trail that's across the road from the parking lot. Go well past Sunlight Buttress and pick your way up the hillside, encountering some third and fourth class scrambling close to the wall. Look for a faint climbers' trail although there appear to be a few trails that will work.
Once at the wall, traverse left to the top of a prominent ridge of rock that meets the wall and goes down to the canyon floor. If you can't hike along the wall anymore, then you're at the start of the route. Slings and drilled angles will also mark the start of the route.
To descend the route, rappel the route with double ropes. You may want to have a knife and some expendable slings to replace worn anchor material.
|By Dave Vaughan|
From: Boulder, CO
Oct 30, 2007
If you go to do Sunlight Buttress on Paria Point, make sure to take 2 ropes for the descent. The information in "50 Favorite Climbs" is incorrect as it says you only need one 60m rope for the route...
|By Nathan Furman|
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
Mar 29, 2008
rating: 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a
There's some beta in this, so don't read it if you don't want it.
This was a pretty interesting climb. By interesting, I mean it was surprising, thoughtful, cool, hard, had some good rock and some loose rock, had good cracks and plenty of well-protected face climbing. Our team of 3 had a good day on it.
There's a trip report here: www.wwwright.com/climbing/?report=tripreports%5C2003%5CCrest>>>
I read this report a couple days prior to our climb, and was psyched to free the moves that the author had suggested were hard or devious. Now, having climbed the route, I feel that the authors' observations are dead-on. The topo, and the text in Fowler's write-up, are a little misleading. I'll list several of the surprises we encountered, because they run counter to the published information available. Stop here if you don't want the beta.
Surprise #1: On the third pitch, above the bolt, there is a very thin (black alien?) dihedral with bomber rock and no feet. When I looked up at the corner, the immediate (and accurate) assessment was "There's no way I can climb that!" You would need fingers the width of cam hooks and massive ass muscles to stem up the blank, chocolate corner. Instead, place a red alien at the flare at the bottom of the crack/seam and bust out left to the arete. I climbed on the left side of the sequency arete. At one point I was able to reach over to the crack/seam and place a marginal #4 HB brassie. The crux is getting back into the corner once the crack/seam gets wider. (10+/11-)
Surprise #2: On the sixth pitch, getting to the first bolt is quite difficult. I don't know how hard because I didn't do it--I used the anchor as a foot hold. On the Fowler topo there is an annotation "stick clip". By stick clip, he may have meant "AO". As I said, I didn't do the move, but it would seem 12- at the least.
Surprise #3: On the sixth pitch, moving onto the face from the small corner (about six bolts up), the moves get amazingly hard. I couldn't even see the sequence up the steep face with rounded, sloping knobs and downward-facing edges. 5.11+/12- without a doubt. I could, however, pull on a draw quite well. There were several broken edges, so maybe, at one time, it was easier. Or maybe the weak sauce I usually bring on game day was extra weak, and the move really isn't that hard.
Surprise #4: On the eighth pitch, the Fowler topo lists "hard way" and "easy way". It should say "AO way" and "dangerous, no pro, broken rock way" We AO-ed off the first piton and then the rest of the pitch went fine.
Surprise #5: How tired we were. Not very many easy moves on the route.
I did think that the last pitch was straight forward, intuitive, fun and relatively secure. A little sandy at the top. There really isn't any OW on it, and the routefinding was easy.
All in all, a wonderful experience. The climbing is challenging, almost always well protected, a little exciting due to friable/sandy holds, and fun. Probably not "super classic"...more "well-protected, interesting adventure on a gorgeous buttress in a beautiful canyon" and well worth it.
|By Jer Collins|
Apr 19, 2008
Nathan, thanks for the topo and comments.
I used your topo for the route and just read your notes, and had some thoughts.
Your "surprise 1"- the wording and labeling was confusing on your topo. In the end we just stemmed the corner at 10+. Bark was worse than the bite. A couple pee-nuts and tcus were the ticket.
Your "surprise #2"- We also pre-clipped, as indicated on the topo. We then freed and felt it at 11b/c (bouldery)
Your surprise #3- agreed, this was difficult for "11b". I broke a foothold, but it still went.
Overall, we felt Charlie was laughing at us from the grave. A famous favorite? More like a famous joke amongst friends. Interesting adventure; agreed.
|By Nathan Furman|
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
Apr 20, 2008
rating: 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a
Nice work Jeremy. I'll amend the topo and re-post it in a couple days with your comments.
Yeah, Fowler laughing from the grave is probably correct. Might be cool to have Ron O. chime in on this one.
|By Stan Pitcher|
From: SLC, UT
May 24, 2012
I remember it being solid 11 on that 6th pitch when we did it in 2005 and thinking that it was gonna get harder with time prolly. Not a climb to do if its been raining recently! Give it a few days to dry out!
|By Vlad S|
Sep 12, 2013
rating: 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a
Ratings are funny sometimes. I did this route in 2010 the day after doing those awesome overhanging sport routes up the canyon. Well, the 12c "Huecos Rancheros" felt easier for me than the crux 11b pitch of this route. The 11b is stiff and pretty hard for the grade (compared to H.R. which is really only 12a max). However, I lost my onsight not on that pitch, but on the very thin corner lower that's mentioned in the other comments. The bolt placement is pretty weird (on the right), while the easier way to climb is on the arete on the left. I wonder if the micro stopper that I fixed on that pitch is still there?