Type: Trad, 380 ft, 3 pitches, Grade II
FA: Brian Smith & Dana Geary, 1975
Page Views: 30,813 total · 158/month
Shared By: Jakester on Mar 22, 2003 with updates from Hyrum j. C
Admins: Andrew Gram, Nathan Fisher, Perin Blanchard, grk10vq

You & This Route

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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


The Headache is anything but its namesake: an über-classic line with hands, fingers and a short, offwidth section.

Before undertaking, check at the vistor center as this climb has been subject to raptor closings in years past.

Climb gets summer shade after 11 am. 

P1 (.10b) The climb begins with two options: either a one inch or a three inch crack, both splitter. Pick one and jam beautiful cracks to the first short, 10b offwidth crux, which protects really well with a 3.5 Camalot.

P2 (5.9+ or easy 5.10) Pitch two goes at 5.9+ or easy 5.10, depending on your height. Cruise up and left from the belay, working through some great .9 terrain until you clip a good bolt on the "puzzle piece" before a splitter roof. Surmount the roof, then up more .9 to the second belay, a tree with slings.

P3 Begins with some really fun, easy, lower-angled cracks and gets progressively more difficult as you near the chains. Save those green Camalots. The pitch ends on a large ledge, from which you rap off 60 meters to a hanging rap anchor. Rap another 60 to the ground.


At minimum, two sets of cams from 3" to 3.5" (heavy on green and yellow camalots), a set of stoppers, 8 draws and 5 shoulder length slings.

All three belays are bolted with bomber bolts.

Bring two 60 meter ropes.
Joe Auer  
best three pitch route in zion. pay attention to perigrine falcon closures. we almost got ticketed due to the vague description of closure dates in the bjornstadt guide. Nov 29, 2003
Steamboat Springs, CO
Teleman   Steamboat Springs, CO
Don't do this climb unless you love to jam!Just did this route 4/16/04 and found it to contain more quality climbing per pitch than anything I can remember any where. Right off the deck you have in your face hand jamming that just leads in to all forms of jams. It is good to remember how to do a face move or two, since every pitch requires at some point that you step a little outside the crack to gain a move.I had no beta going in to this climb other than bring a lot of gear. The #3.5 Met cam was very useful on the off-width on P1 and was even used on P2 when I ran out of #2's and the cracked flaired enough to accept the #3.5. Having 3 #2's would have been useful, I could have left the small nuts and the #4 cam at home, but a couple of tricams and the medium nuts could be useful.The roof on P2 is an interesting problem, but once you identify the hand crack you are there. Apr 18, 2004
Why do I see aiders in that picture? May 19, 2004
I thought it was a killer route - especially if you don't have time to do something long. The approach was also perfect if you're short on time - 5 seconds of flat walking. The guidebook says its5.9 + start pitch, but it felt more as described here.We used a #4 camalot as we didn't have a 3.5, and my friend had to scoot it up and through the first pod to retrieve it. Pitch 2 is really cruiser and the last pitch is the best. Dec 16, 2004
Awesome route! I may be mistaken,but pretty sure it is rated 10a. First pitch is standard Zion 5.9+, no harder. Simply straight forward jamming for the first 30 feet. Jan 15, 2005
Springdale / Zion UT / Moab
Gaar   Springdale / Zion UT / Moab
A 70m doesnt come close to rapping off the last pitch, USE 2 ROPES!!!! May 25, 2007
S. O.
S. O.   logan,ut
One of the best around. First pitch is 5.9 with no real OW that I remember. (If there was 5.10 OW I would have remembered it) May 19, 2008
Dr. Dan
Steamboat Springs, CO
Dr. Dan   Steamboat Springs, CO
Have done this route four times now. It is a bunch of good climbing with a very short approach. Would agree P1 is no harder than 9+, but a 3.5 is nice and other than one wide move is not OW. P2 is just fun made more interesting with the bolt slab problem and a very secure roof (#2 BD cam) to move through. P3 is the most challenging climbing at 10a/b. Good to bring a bunch of finger and small hand sizes for P3, but the wide crack near the top will happily take a #3. Apr 22, 2009
Andy Laakmann
Bend, OR
Andy Laakmann   Bend, OR  
Wow - one of the best short multipitch routes I've done. Three varied pitches, bomber gear, and fabulous views.

I had 4 #2 camalots and found plenty of places for them. I had 3 #0.75 camalots and could have placed more if I wanted. The last pitch takes as many green camalots as you can throw at it.

P1 - 5.9+ (the offwidth is littered with handholds)
P2 - 5.10a
P3 - 5.10b

Conservative rack:

Nuts, from medium to large - tricams can be placed as well
Set of TCU sized cams to red alien. Maybe extra yellow alien.
2-3 x #0.5 camalot
3-4 x #0.75 camalot
2 x #1 camalot
4 x #2 camalot
2 x #3 camalot
1 x #3.5 camalot (not sure if a C4 #4 camalot would fit)

We had a C4 #4 as well, and found a few places for it - but it definitely wasn't required.

Wonderful AM sun in April. I suspect in the depths of winter this wouldn't see any sun. Apr 14, 2010
Rob Duncan
Salt Lake City
Rob Duncan   Salt Lake City
I am curious if anyone knows how this route came to be named 'the Headache'. There has got to be a story there, and it might be a good one!

Might be the best 5.10 coupla-pitch route I have ever done. each pitch could stand alone and still be pretty darn good. Oct 11, 2010
Greg Sievers
Bozeman, MT
Greg Sievers   Bozeman, MT
splitter climbing at its finest !! a nice way to wrap up a visit to the NP. bag this route before you hit the road. Oct 28, 2010
Courtney Pace   Sandy
If you like hand jams then this is the route to do and it will feel easy, if you can't jam it will feel really hard. Various short cruxes followed by good rests. This route also gets shade since it is north facing. Oct 16, 2011
Peter Valchev
Truckee, CA
Peter Valchev   Truckee, CA
Absolutely awesome climb. Link pitches 1 & 2 for one amazing 200 ft pitch (save a #2 for the last 50 ft)!!! A bit chilly in late November as it never sees sun (one more reason to do it in 2 pitches) Nov 28, 2011
Springdale / Zion UT / Moab
Gaar   Springdale / Zion UT / Moab
Nice...but he forgot to climb the 3rd pitch! Puss Aug 15, 2012
Landon McBrayer
Salt Lake City, UT
Landon McBrayer   Salt Lake City, UT
Some quick beta:

-a #4 isn't needed. The "OW" pod on P1 is very short; a #3 BD protects above and below.
-I think that four #2's and four .75 BD cams are useful. You'll use them all.
-the second pitch doesn't end at a tree with slings (as stated). It ends at an obvious bomber bolted belay on a small ramp.
-Lots of shade. Oct 9, 2012
Peter Franzen
Phoenix, AZ
Peter Franzen   Phoenix, AZ  
Magnificent route! Despite rapping off in an exciting thunder storm we had a great time on all 3 pitches. Our rack consisted of:

- A handful of sub-finger Metolius Mastercams and 2 BD .5s
- 3 each of: BD 0.75, 1, 2
- 2 BD #3s
- A medium Metolius Super cam (great for the wide-ish spots)
- A set of nuts

Superb climbing throughout, although we both agreed that P2 was the most fun. Sep 2, 2013
Tyson Waldron
Reno, NV
Tyson Waldron   Reno, NV
Holy Classic, Batman! Nov 11, 2013
This route was first done clean with passive gear only: hexes and stoppers which was the standard gear and ethic of the day. I called it the Headache because I got one from a 30' backward swan dive out of the final move. It was a great route. Brian Smith Dec 9, 2014
Stan Pitcher
Stan Pitcher   SLC, UT
Awesome story and achievement Brian!

Two 50 meters ropes work fine for the two raps. Apr 13, 2015
Austin Sobotka
Tucson, AZ
Austin Sobotka   Tucson, AZ
Did it on almost all passive gear (5 cams placed in total) and could have done it all on passive had I brought more slings. Every pitch eats nuts and hexes. Don't bother with the big stuff. Mar 20, 2016
Joshua Munoz
Honolulu, HI
Joshua Munoz   Honolulu, HI
A sweet multi pitch route. All 3 pitches seemed stout but at a 5.10 grade level. Pitch one was tough going through the crack and just after. Pitch two was an endurance route. And pitch three was both burley and sustained.

Look for the rap anchors just below and to the climbers left at the belay ledge of the 3rd pitch. Two 2 rope rappel and you're back to the ground. May 17, 2016
Second pitch makes me rethink going to Joshua Tree in Winter. May 28, 2016
Jan Tarculas
Riverside, Ca
Jan Tarculas   Riverside, Ca
Only did the first 2 pitches because of time constraint but SUPER CLASSIC! one of the most fun I've had on a short multi-pitch route. Should be on your top 3 list to do here if not doing a big wall.

Andy's gear beta is spot on.

Did this in June and it gets afternoon shade this time of the year.

Rappel options if only doing the 2 pitches...2nd pitch doesn't end at a tree with slings, it ends on a comfortable ledge with a bolted anchor. You can rap straight to the ground from here using 2 60m ropes OR do two raps with a 70M to the ground. 1 60M rope will NOT reach 2nd pitch belay anchor. Jun 7, 2016
You may find yourself onsiting 375 ft. of this route only to end up pumped and pulling on gear to finish the last five...not that that happened to me or anything. Bring 4 (0.75 for the last pitch), 2 would require serious bumping and backcleaning (I know). A small gray C4 will fit perfect on the crux of the "bouldery" second pitch, you'll figure it out.

If you really had to, you could do it with a single 70 BUT you'd have to down-aid some easy stuff on the last pitch and then rap the route...just bring two ropes Sep 26, 2016
Oak Park, CA
Sean   Oak Park, CA
placed all cams, up to double BD #3, with extra 0.75 and #2. brought stoppers along but hadn't bothered with, not really needed Oct 18, 2016
Chris Mutzel
Seattle, Washington
Chris Mutzel   Seattle, Washington
Great to do this in one 330ft pitch if you are into that sort of thing. Its very straight up and down, and a lot of gear can be found in-line, avoiding the need for lots of runners. Placed a micro-traxion on the anchors on top of pitch 2.

Extras in .5-#2 are helpful for this, but you can place just about anything you bring. .5 - #3 all work to protect the final moves. Dec 2, 2016
The 2nd rappel anchor on the rap route has a loose bolt that wiggles in its hole, and should be replaced. I am only passing through and can't do it myself sadly. May 15, 2017
Greyson   SLC, UT
You can do a single rope raps if you have an 80m rope. 70m misses the chains by about 15 feet. Jun 10, 2017
Joshua Upchurch
Salt Lake City, UT
Joshua Upchurch   Salt Lake City, UT
This climb is pure bliss from start to finish Nov 4, 2017
Trad Man
Trad Man  
This climb was always a 9.

In ten years it'll be an 11 Apr 22, 2018