Type: Trad, Aid, 820 ft, 8 pitches, Grade V
FA: Ron Olevsky 1977 solo FFA: Mike Anderson, Rob Pizem
Page Views: 46,500 total · 227/month
Shared By: Craig Quincy on Sep 25, 2002 with improvements by Alex Temus
Admins: Andrew Gram, Nathan Fisher, Perin Blanchard, grk10vq

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Access Issue: Seasonal Raptor Closures ***** RAIN AND WET ROCK ***** The sandstone in Zion is fragile and is very easily damaged when it is wet. Holds rip off and climbs have been and will continue to be permanently damaged due to climbers not respecting this phenomenon. After a heavy storm the rock will remain wet, sometimes for several days. PLEASE DO NOT CLIMB IN ZION during or after rain. A good rule of thumb is that if the ground near your climb is at all damp (and not powdery dry sand), then do not climb. There are many alternatives (limestone, granite, basalt, and plastic) nearby. Seasonal Raptor Closures Details

Description

Hype

Touchstone is an excellent adventure and one of the greatest big walls of all time. Angel's Landing looms across the canyon and makes a scenic backdrop. What the route lacks in height it makes up for in wonderful aid and free climbing. Bivy ledges atop pitch 5 and on the summit make this an excellent first wall since no portaledge is necessary. Don't forget that a bivy permit is required for all overnight routes! This route was one of the earlier big wall routes done in Zion and was put up by the prolific desert rat Ron Olevsky.

Lecture

The route goes all clean and has good anchors, so leave the pins, hammers and drilling equipment at home. Credit for the fact it can be climbed with only nuts and cams goes to the vision of Ron Olevsky who realized early on that in order to preserve the classic walls of Zion they needed some fixed gear and some constructive scaring. (I guess that makes this a chipped route?) Otherwise, the route would have become a mess of unclimbable pin scars.

Unfortunately, even when done all clean, the route can still be trashed by the careless cleaning. So, when trying to decide whether or not to leave a $4.95 nut or whether to get it out with all means necessary, think twice and do the right thing. And it goes without saying, leave all fixed pins in place.

Pitch-by-Pitch Beta

Note: there are intermediate/belay anchors in the middle of the first 4 pitches to allow parties to bail safely with one rope. Pitches are described based on skipping the intermediate anchors.

P1 (5.6 C2 or C1, 35m) Unlike other Zion big walls there are no nasty pitches getting to the good rock. However, there are two choices for the start. Climb the tree to some fixed pins and interesting free climbing and belay on a nice ledge or climb the bolt ladder on the left which requires some top-stepping. The tree start is very interesting and was the original start. It also requires a little 5.6 traverse to start pitch 2. The bolt ladder start is easier and more straightforward.

P2 (C2, 41m) This is possibly the crux of the route. Climb some fixed gear up to the roof and traverse left under a roof. The traverse culminates in hanging on a fixed Rurp. Exciting! It's probably better to use the ease-on-to-it method of testing rather than bounce testing, which will inevitably loosen the fixed gear. Continue by aiding through the C2 roof. A creatively-placed 0.5 tricam works nicely here.

After the roof, start cruising up the beautiful crack that splits the walls. This crack eats nuts. Ignore the first set of anchors on the right. Belay at chains on the right side of the crack. This pitch is very exciting to clean since it traverses. The haul bag will probably get stuck on the roof, so have the second wait there and flip the bag over the roof (Big Wall Tip #23).

P3 (C1, 42m) This is what it's all about. A beautiful crack on a beautiful wall with good exposure. Aid climbing never gets any better than this! Put stuff in the crack and cruise. Pass the midway belay station and continue to a nice ledge. This pitch goes free at 5.11-.

P4 (5.10, 45m) Get out the cams and climb a sandy crack. This can be aided or free climbed at 5.10. End at Halfway Ledge which is not a good place to bivy.

P5 (5.8+, 25m) Choose the best off width climber and get out the phat cams. Climb the four inch crack and be mindful of a loose block before the Virgin Berth Bivy Ledge. There's room for two people here. Next, eat all the Chef Boyardee.

P6 (5.9, 27m) This makes an interesting wake-up call after the bivy. Climb a 5.9 crack on the left then choose either a 5.6 crack on the left or a sweet 5.8 hand crack on the right. This section can be french freed if necessary.

P7 (5.9, 26m) Climb a weird, wavy and wide fist crack up into a short squeeze. Leapfrog gear as necessary. Belay at a very large tree.

P8 (5.9, 26m) The original route rated this pitch T4, as in climb the tree and swing onto the juggy wall to the left. Luckily, a variation exists that climbs excellent jugs up the steep wall with fixed pins. Pumpy! Belay near the lip at a manzanita bush, fixed pin, and crack where you can make an anchor. A nice bivy can be had on the Summit Prow.

P9 (5.6) To get to the summit, a little free climbing is necessary. This last, little pitch is nasty to haul. It might be possible to do this as part of pitch 8, but the summit prow is very cool to hang out on.

Free Version This route has been freed. That's something to think about while happily hanging in the aiders.

Protection

Answer 1: Standard Clean Big Wall Rack.

Answer 2: Olevsky's original recommendation - 25 wired nuts 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch. 25 to 35 nuts and Friends to 5 inches.

Answer 3: A more exact rack:
  • Three sets rocks, mostly medium, no RPs (extra #5). HB Offsets work very well in Zion.
  • 0.5, 1, 1.5 Tri-cams
  • #4-7 hexes
  • Two sets TCUs #1, 2, 3 (no #0)
  • Three #1.5 Friends
  • Four #1 Camalots
  • Three #2 Camlaots
  • Two #3 Camalots
  • Two #4 Camalots (or just one if you're not afraid)
  • Loads of slings
  • Loads of biners

Descent

What goes up, must come down. The established descent goes over the summit and then begins rappelling down the hanging canyon which is to the climber's right of the route and forms the right side of the Cerebus Gendarme formation. The last couple of rappel anchors can be seen while climbing up the route. This is a lengthy canyoneering adventure that involves lots of rappelling and scrambling. Experience says: it's not fun in the dark! There are lots of bushes, sand and the potential for the rope to get stuck. By the end of this, the haul bag will not be your friend. Have fun!

Here's the descent beta based on Olevsky's original topo that used to be available in the visitor's center: From the true summit, walk north along of the top of the Gendarme (about 500 feet) and then look to the right for two bolts with slings. From this anchor, do a short rap to the NE notch. Scramble 10m south (that will be to the rappeller's left). Rap 35m. Rap 35m from a large tree. (Sorry, but I can't remember if I'm repeating myself or if there're two raps.) Scramble 40 meters down the gully. Rap 30 meters from smaller tree to ledge with two bolts. Rap 35 meters. Scramble 100 meters down hanging canyon to an abrupt drop off. Make two 35 meter raps down and left. Two ropes are needed for the last two raps. Kiss the ground, it's over! Go to the Bit and Spur.

BTW, another means of descent that involves rappelling can be employed if no one is on the route.

There are intermediate/belay anchors in the middle of the first 4 pitches, probably placed to allow parties to bail safely with one rope. There seems to be some confusion about this.

Photos