Avg: 2.6 from 71 votes
|Type:||Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches|
|FA:||Brian Poling and Barry Harper|
|Page Views:||9,533 total, 49/month|
|Shared By:||Kurt Johnson on Dec 20, 2001|
|Admins:||Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac|
DescriptionThe South Face is the standard route on this less-classic cousin of the Petit Grepon with which it's often compared. Although the quality of the climbing isn't as good as that found on the Petit, it's still a worthy objective with a much shorter approach and a beautiful summit.
To get to the base of the route, head up towards the left side of the formation, looking for the line of least resistance underneath the prominent chimney system. The first 2 pitches follow this chimney, but it doesn't extend all the way to the ground.
P1 & P2. Both times I climbed the route, I started up a short section of mostly face climbing, immediately right of a small right-facing dihedral. I'd say it was somewhere in the 5.7 - 5.8 range, but there's an easier way a little to the left of this which is rated 5.4. Regardless of how you get into the chimney system, climb until you get to a big ledge that spans almost the entire south face of the spire.
P3. Move your belay east to the other end of the ledge just below a prominent left-facing dihedral. Head up the dihedral (fun) and up the obvious crack system quite a ways and belay on a good ledge. The guidebook calls this pitch 5.6, but I thought it felt more like 5.7.
P4. From what I can remember, there are a couple of crack systems/dihedrals right off the ledge, and it's not all that obvious which way to go, so just pick the one that looks the most traveled and head up. After this fairly short section, the terrain gets lower-angled. Pick the line of least resistance and aim for the right side of the base of the summit tower and a good belay ledge.
P5. This next pitch climbs cracks on the east side of the spire, and from what I remember, we set up a belay on the east side as well, on a big ledge where you can get a good look at cracks going up the east side of the spire, but at a place where the south face isn't quite visible. Short pitch - 5.6.
P6. This super-short pitch traverses the base of the summit tower from east to west, and in the Rossiter guidebook is combined with the pitch I described above in the description but not in the topo. It takes you to the base of the wide crack final pitch, almost to the edge of the southwest arete. 5.6.
P7. This is the pitch you've been waiting for! This and the summit are the reasons that Zowie is a near-classic. Even though it's an off-width, it's best not to climb it like one. My partner tried to do it like that and flailed for half an hour before admitting defeat and taking the 5.8+ thin crack/face variation to the right (also a classic exit pitch - super steep and exposed, with good pro). The trick at the crux (5.8+) bulge is to stay left of the crack and reach high for the key face hold, which I was expecting to be a jug but is really fairly small (but adequate). There's a pin a little ways below the crux but not after, so it's a bit of a heady move. After this, traverse right and up for a short ways and you're on the summit! Hopefully it's a warm sunny day and you can hang out for a while, soaking up the beautiful views of Sharkstooth and the summit of the Saber.
To descend, there are two rap anchors: one on the west side of the summit and one on the north side. Most people rap off the north side and then head west down the gully on the west side of the spire. The other rappel takes you down the steeper west side and is a much longer (mostly free) rappel. I've done this with double 50 meter ropes and had to do a little down-climbing, but with 2 60 meter ropes you probably wouldn't have to. There's one more short (40 feet or so) rappel near the bottom of the descent gully, and after that you're home free. Don't forget to stop and eat the raspberries if you're there in late summer! Mmm...raspberries. D'oh!