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Alpine Start in Zion? (Driving to Moonlight Buttress?)


Original Post
Tim Maas · · Isla Vista, California · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 15

A friend and I are going to try Moonlight Buttress in a day. We'd like to start at 4am but I know that to get into the central part of the park you need to ride the bus. Can you drive into the main part if it's early enough or are there other options to get an early start? Any help is much appreciated!

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 20

Usually no, but talk to the ranger station when you get your climbing permit, or call ahead, and they can tell you for sure. Also be aware that there are nesting bird closures in various areas right now so Moonlight might be closed. Check on that too. 

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 13,772

River is very high too.  Most likely not fordable.

Ryan Hill · · Oakland, CA · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 30

You can get a permit to park in the canyon during the bus(y) season.  It has been a few years since I have applied for one, but typically they were a little challenging to get, so call ahead and see what hoops you need to jump through these days.

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Brian in SLC wrote:

River is very high too.  Most likely not fordable.

Currently peaking at around 400cfs during the day, with a guage height of ~9' in Springdale at the Visitor's Center. For comparison, the NPS closes bottom-up Narrows hikes when the flow hits 150cfs.

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 20
Ryan Hill wrote:

You can get a permit to park in the canyon during the bus(y) season.  It has been a few years since I have applied for one, but typically they were a little challenging to get, so call ahead and see what hoops you need to jump through these days.

I climbed Moonlight about 18 months ago and asked about possibilities to park in the canyon and was told there wasn't any option for that so we loaded up on the first bus of the day. 

Andy Novak · · Golden, Co · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 355

Do you have a bike? And exercise caution crossing that river! Chest deep at least. 

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Andy Novak wrote:

Do you have a bike? And exercise caution crossing that river! Chest deep at least. 

And c-c-c-c-cold. Hypothermia cold.

Tim Maas · · Isla Vista, California · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 15

Awesome, will look into it. Thanks guys! It seem that Moonlight Buttress should still be open even with the closures. 

Dakota from North Dakota · · Golden, Colorado · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 803
Brian in SLC wrote:

River is very high too.  Most likely not fordable.

Went up Moonlight last week. River is very much crossable at the moment IF you go to the right spot. Just make sure to scout it out ahead of time in the day light.

Sam Keller · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 30

Local here, you can get a white pass since you are going in before the first bus.

It's not an overnight pass

You don't need a climbing permit for IAD.

River is high as shit. If you can't cross it then cross at the Grotto and follow the river. It's longer but better than drowning or losing gear.

Thank you for not hauling moonlight. IAD is the way to go.

Tim Maas · · Isla Vista, California · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 15

Hey Sam how/where would I get a white pass?

Greg Gavin · · SLC, UT · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 718

Get it from the wilderness desk at the visit center.

Rob Warden...Space Lizard · · Between Zion, Vegas, LA, an… · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 115

Sam keller has all the right beta. go to the Wilderness desk on the side of the Vistors center (VC) closest to the busses. tell them what you want to do, the Wilderness rangers are mostly climbers and will applaud you not hauling. You have a Valid and resonable need for a WHITE PASS. Walk from the Grotto trailhead over the bridge a(angels landing/ west rim trailhead) it will take you less than an HR if your quick and not carryng too much. (which you should not be.)


HAVE FUN GUYS

Jesus H. Christ · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 0

Crossed the river last week on my way to Sheer Lunacy.  I had never done it before and was slightly apprehensive, but before I knew it, my partner was already hooting and hollering his way across and I had no choice, but to follow.  It was just under waist deep for me at 5'10", but looked to be about waist deep for him at around 5'6".  It's definitely a cold, yet invigorating start to the day.  I recommend taking your pants off and carrying a big stick to brace yourself.  I was pretty much dry by the time I got to the base.  My partner got his pants a bit wet so took longer to dry off, but ended up being fine.

bearded sam · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 145
Jesus H. Christ wrote:

Crossed the river last week on my way to Sheer Lunacy.  I had never done it before and was slightly apprehensive, but before I knew it, my partner was already hooting and hollering his way across and I had no choice, but to follow.  It was just under waist deep for me at 5'10", but looked to be about waist deep for him at around 5'6".  It's definitely a cold, yet invigorating start to the day.  I recommend taking your pants off and carrying a big stick to brace yourself.  I was pretty much dry by the time I got to the base.  My partner got his pants a bit wet so took longer to dry off, but ended up being fine.

Jesus H. Christ, you didn't walk on water? Didn't want to make your partner feel bad, or?

Trevor · · Cottonwood Heights, UT · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 175

Regarding the river, do know that the flow rate fluctuates significantly throughout the day due to snowmelt north of the park in the Spring.  During this time of year, it is generally lowest ~6-8 pm and then increases rapidly to where it crests around midnight, and then slowly recedes for the next 18 hours or so and repeats- rises rapidly until about midnight.....  I learned this the hard way a few years back.  I drove down on a Friday afternoon, crossed at Big Bend (around 6pm) with water just above the knees and went to fix a couple pitches on Angels Landing.  By the time reached the ground and was coming back across it was right around midnight.  My headlamp had been on for a few hours and was getting pretty dim.  I couldn't see more than a few feet but I was convinced I was crossing back over in the same spot I had went over.  Things didn't seem right as the water looked a little higher.  I walked up and down the bank but was sure that was where I had crossed a few hours earlier so I took one step out and it was chest deep ice water.  I ended up downstream several hundred yards before I was able to "catch" myself and get to an island.  Fortunately the next section wasn't so deep. Careful out there.  

If I am reading the graph properly, this year the flow rate is more than double the average for this time of year: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?09405500

Sam Keller · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 30

The river has gone up around 80cfs in the last week. It's still rising.

Not saying you can't cross, but I'm going to be climbing a nearby route this Saturday and we are going to cross at the grotto.

JK- · · SLC · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 58

If you ask at the Wilderness desk (not the main desk) I've never had any problems getting one for an early start. You just need to be polite and tell them why you want one (that you're not just some random hiker).

Disclaimer: I've only ever done it for canyoneering, don't know if they're as easy to work with for climbers, but I don't know why they wouldn't be.

Sam Keller · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 30

Mea culpa time!!!

I crossed the river right by moonlight last Saturday when the river was at 550cfs. 

It was nuts level on me (6'4") and almost knocked me over many times, but it was passable.

I went to do the walk around but remembered how much it sucks so crossed at big bend instead.

Good luck!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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