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Moonlight Buttress in the Winter


Original Post
Daniel Evans · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 85

I am looking to get on Moonlight Buttress in a few weeks, and am wondering if the Angel's Landing descent is a safe option with heavy packs. I've heard it's in the shade and can be pretty sketchy if frozen/snowed over (I've never been to Zion). Worst case scenario, is it possible rap the route?

Greg Gavin · · SLC, UT · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 766

You can rap the route, and recross the river. Or you can bring microspikes, and do the walk off. Zion trails in the winter tend to be snowy, and icy in the shady areas. But it's been pretty dry in Utah this fall. Weather permitting you should be ok.

Rob T · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 10

FWIW, thoughts from one of the FFA party on the route beta page;

“melonhead  
Friends of mine who have done the route on numerous occasions over the years tell me that the crack in the crux corner has widened substantially from use. Back in 1992, on the thinnest part, there was a 15' section where I could just force the first pinky knuckle of my right hand into the crack and the rest was nothing more than a tiny bit of first joint flesh and fingernail. My hands are those of an average male.
It is an indication of just how we affect these sandstone routes of the desert SW simply by being on them, and the methods we use for our ascents have various levels of impact on this soft rock. We usually make these choices of our own free will and thus each one of us determines the long-term outcome of the routes over time. Without intending to pass judgement I must make the following observation .... with a paved descent trail coming within 100' of the top of the climb, choosing to rappel the route is one of those high-impact decisions.

jw
SLC”

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,535

I did the route in January 2004. Topped out at 2am and hiked down a mostly ice covered descent trail without micro spikes. Wasnt too bad- the main trail is an army corps of engineers project, so it's pretty low key going down even in full winter conditions. 

I don't know if I'd do it with a fresh snow pack, but if the weather has been clear, it's fine. 

D-Storm · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2007 · Points: 300

Yeah, but did you have a heavy pack, John?

A heavy pack on black ice without yak-trax or micro spikes could pose a real challenge in some of those spots. I recently went down that trail with an over-loaded haulbag after soloing Prodigal Sun. I had trekking poles and I was still concerned about the possibility of stumbling over the side of the ramp (dry conditions). The trail is basically a bike path, but the incline is relentless with few safe places to stop when your legs are tired and a haulbag is sliding around on your back. To the OP—depending on how much weight you're carrying down, I'd be wary and pack traction just in case.

grog m · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 70

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,535
D-Storm wrote:

Yeah, but did you have a heavy pack, John?

A heavy pack on black ice without yak-trax or micro spikes could pose a real challenge in some of those spots. I recently went down that trail with an over-loaded haulbag after soloing Prodigal Sun. I had trekking poles and I was still concerned about the possibility of stumbling over the side of the ramp (dry conditions). The trail is basically a bike path, but the incline is relentless with few safe places to stop when your legs are tired and a haulbag is sliding around on your back. To the OP—depending on how much weight you're carrying down, I'd be wary and pack traction just in case.

Yeah, we did a two day ascent of Moonlight aid climbing it. Epic adventure, and I hiked down it at 2am with a full rack and pack, back up it at 8am with a light rack, then back down it at 10am with a haul bag on my back with two ropes in it. The trail was frozen over all three times. It wasn't my favorite thing to do, but it really wasn't that big of a deal. 

Daniel Evans · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 85

@Rob: I don't plan on rappeling the route--I was just asking if it was an option in the worst case scenario given poor weather conditions. @D-Storm and John: Thanks for the info. Appreciate it. We will probably just play it safe and bring micro spikes.

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

The only safe option is to go bouldering.

greg t · · Chevy, Silverado · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 1,040
Rob T wrote:...choosing to rappel the route is one of those high-impact decisions.

I'm just confused how rapping the route is considered "high-impact". The main damage to the route itself comes from the large amount of novice / beginner aid climbers. Chains can be easily replaced, sandstone can't. 


Back to the original point... I'd be more concerned with crossing the freezing cold river than the paved walk off; just be prepared for some numb toes. 

Cameron Anderson · · Ogden, UT · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 95
greg t wrote:

I'm just confused how rapping the route is considered "high-impact". The main damage to the route itself comes from the large amount of novice / beginner aid climbers. Chains can be easily replaced, sandstone can't. 


Back to the original point... I'd be more concerned with crossing the freezing cold river than the paved walk off; just be prepared for some numb toes. 


I haven't been on Moonlight, but if you've been through any of the slot canyons in Zion, you can see how bad rope grooves can get in the soft rock. Obviously a lot of those canyons see much more traffic and have lower angle rappels, but I could see how some grooves could be forming. It doesn't really affect the integrity of the route, but it isn't pretty. I think this guy's point is just that walking off on a paved trail is close to zero added impact, and we should just use the obvious, easy way down when it really doesn't affect us that much either way.


Brad G · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 2,660

When you place cams in that corner place them in deep! If you place them right on the edge the rock will break and your cam will pop. Plus it takes away from the beauty of the crack. Something that’s getting worse and worse as climbing gets more popular. Also, deep grooves have formed at the top due to hauling and rapping. You can pinch them like tufas 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Southern Utah Deserts
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