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Cowboy Ridge T 
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Cowboy Ridge 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b

Type:  Trad, 10 pitches, 1200', Grade IV
Original:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: "Jersey" Dave Littman, Gordy Loritz, April 2006
Season: late fall and early spring
Page Views: 15,209
Submitted By: john durr on Nov 13, 2009

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Looking up the ridge from low on the route.

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 MORE INFO >>>


Cowboy Ridge is a long day, hiking, scrambling and climbing through some amazing terrain to a fantastic summit. Mostly easy roped scrambling. Great exposure and plenty of loose rock to help stay focused all day long.

From where you leave the Anasazi Plateau Subdivision and start on the Chinle Trail (marked), hike northwest on the Chinle Trail about 200-300 hundred yards and then turn north up an obvious wash. There should be flat desert to the left (west) and a low hill to the right (east) of you.

Follow this wash a long way, past many side branches, but it is pretty easy to follow the trail here. Early on the NPS park boundary barbed wire fence is passed. A while later spot high tension electric lines on top a split hill, power up this to an obvious break in the Springdale Band.

From the top of the break, hike west along the top of it to the deep cleft leading up to the southwest end of the ridge. Allow about 2-3 hours from car to the ridge crest.

From near the bottom of the ridge, head up into a recess located a short ways up the ridge. 2nd and 3rd class scrambling on blocks and ledges up to and along the ridge, passing any hard looking gendarmes on the right (east) sides.

At some point you will put on a rope, but likely stay in your approach shoes. A narrow passage with great exposure and a short gap will get your heart racing. 4th class up from the gap either straight up or instead head right and then up maybe easier and safer but less exposure. Head back left and up to a big dark chimney, the right one of two on a small buttress. This has a ramp in the back that is class 3 or 4 at the very end.

A great view of the upper ridge comes in view here. Head towards a prominent cleft, then up the fun 4th class ramp/flake in the cleft. A large shrubbery is at the end.

Technical climbing for the next two pitches. A low angled corner with a nice crack steepens and widens as you go up, move left just before the end to gain a flat ledge on top the block. Keep heading down and west to a ledge below the other side of the block. The 5.7 hand crack is right in front of you. Climb it (40') and then work up and left on pretty chossy rock to a big oak and a ledge like alcove.

Very loose, moderate 4th class scrambling for another rope length, then things ease to class 2 or 3 for 200 feet to the south summit marked with a distinctive cairn.

From the south summit, continue north descending on class 2 down to a large prickly pear filled meadow. On the east side of the meadow past a few notches is the top of the descent gully. On the opposite (west) side of the meadow, a short class 3 ascends Mt. Kinesava.


Descent is class 3. Expect some 4th class if you miss the optimal way but no rappelling should be necessary.

Scope out the descent before you pass through the Springdale Band on the approach, it is the blocky green slope and chute on the east face. The chute diagonals down from the summit to the southeast. You will definitely see signs of previous passage if you are going the right way and possibly a few cairns. Look for, but do not enter a very deep chimney about 3 feet wide between the rock face and the ramp near the start, see photo. Head down (south) and zig a little left (east) then zag back south to the end of the 3rd class along the wall and to the other side of a small E-W ravine.

Hike south along the wall for a few hundred yards then down the slope passing south around some large red boulders, head to a low notch in the ridge to the east and down a deep ravine to the top of the Springdale Band. Retrace your steps to car from here.

Plan about 3 hours from the start of the descent back to the car. This would be a real adventure in the dark.


A helmet may be a good idea, a light rope that you don't mind getting sand and cactus spines in. About 4 double length runners and 4 shoulder length runners, a good, but light selection of stoppers and cams to 3" with a couple extra hand sized.

Headlamp, tweezers and cute power rangers bandaids?

Photos of Cowboy Ridge Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down the Cowboy Ridge from the start of th...
Looking down the Cowboy Ridge from the start of th...
Rock Climbing Photo: Her exalted highness demonstrates how the big horn...
Her exalted highness demonstrates how the big horn...
Rock Climbing Photo: Overview of route with approximate location of asc...
BETA PHOTO: Overview of route with approximate location of asc...
Rock Climbing Photo: Approaching the ridge. Arrow points to where we go...
BETA PHOTO: Approaching the ridge. Arrow points to where we go...
Rock Climbing Photo: View from the south summit and looking at true sum...
BETA PHOTO: View from the south summit and looking at true sum...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down at the meadow from the slope of the t...
BETA PHOTO: Looking down at the meadow from the slope of the t...
Rock Climbing Photo: topo.
Rock Climbing Photo: West Temple
West Temple
Rock Climbing Photo: the handcrack
the handcrack
Rock Climbing Photo: the large tunnel-behind flake just before the hand...
BETA PHOTO: the large tunnel-behind flake just before the hand...
Rock Climbing Photo: the summit bump
the summit bump
Rock Climbing Photo: looking toward the west
looking toward the west
Rock Climbing Photo: where the harder Kinesava routes are
where the harder Kinesava routes are
Rock Climbing Photo: Start hike from Chinle TH in the Anasazi subdivisi...
BETA PHOTO: Start hike from Chinle TH in the Anasazi subdivisi...
Rock Climbing Photo: True alpine
True alpine
Rock Climbing Photo: Just as you get on the ridge with the entire climb...
Just as you get on the ridge with the entire climb...
Rock Climbing Photo: Mount Kinesava and "Cowboy Ridge" (the o...
Mount Kinesava and "Cowboy Ridge" (the o...
Rock Climbing Photo: The top of the descent with the deep, 3 foot wide ...
BETA PHOTO: The top of the descent with the deep, 3 foot wide ...
Rock Climbing Photo: the start gully
BETA PHOTO: the start gully
Rock Climbing Photo: choss hopping
choss hopping
Rock Climbing Photo: Descending, just below the meadow.
BETA PHOTO: Descending, just below the meadow.
Rock Climbing Photo: the ridge
the ridge
Rock Climbing Photo: Jump!
Rock Climbing Photo: one of the chimney sections (with bit of 4th at th...
one of the chimney sections (with bit of 4th at th...

Show All 37 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Cowboy Ridge Add Comment
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By Fett
Nov 14, 2009

We will see what Jersey thinks about this post, isn't there some access issues with the approach?
By Jason Nelson 1
From: Ouray, CO
Oct 25, 2014

The approach is very long and much of it is on trail-less loose desert terrain. You really have to look for footsteps in the dirt to stay on track for much of it. Once on the ridge crest, you are rewarded with great scrambling terrain. There were cairns marking the descent (fortunately), otherwise it would be difficult to find. I would describe the descent as being past the main summit a few hundred yards and you walk just beyond some rock hoodoos. At first it does not feel like a gully that you are dropping into. It would be really easy to loose the tracks in the dark. It's a great desert alpine climb, with wonder views.
By Dan Lay
Feb 6, 2016

Ran to base from Chinle parking lot, 1:15. Free soloed route in 2:00, topped out in 1 foot of snow. Descended/ran back to parking lot in 1:45. Total time car to car, 5 hours. When you top out make sure you walk aprx .25 miles north and find the chute the is pointing SOUTH, this is your way down. There is a canyon that is tempting to go down before you get to the actual descent, do not take this, it will cliff out. I also would hate to descend this in the dark. On my way down the descent, I added more cairns for those people that might need it.
Overall a great adventure route. I would highly suggest leaving the ropes in the car and soloing it. Before I soloed this, I was curious about the last crux pitch, but it turns out to be a bomber hand crack and I felt it was a pretty soft 5.7. If you ever feel like it's too hard, there's usually something easier around the corner. I think I calculated it to be about 3 miles from TH to base. Add in the climb, the descent, and the hike back, you're looking at around 7 miles and 4,000 ft gain. Even though this route is easily rated, the approach and descent make it a route not to be taken lightly. Plan a Full day if your taking gear and hiking normal pace.
By steve richert
From: Taunton MA
Feb 17, 2016
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R

Did this route valentines day 2016 (there was a lot of snow on the summit!)

I just wanted to point out that the first half of the route seems to take place on the side of the ridge facing Springdale--trying to get on top of the ridge proper before you're more than halfway up seemed to result in a lot of down climbing and re-routing.

Additionally, this route is anything but trivial climbing. The difficulty of the moves is almost a non issue--doing the 5.7 crack with a pack on was a cream puff. The many many "4th class" sections leading up to that which were unprotectable, sugary rock above huge falls require constant attention and a very cool head. Roping up is often useless because it's harder to move and pro options are scarce. I had the idea going in that any sketchy sections could be protected and pitched out if need be and this was not the case.

The descent gully may be 3rd/4th class if you do it perfectly, but even with careful study it's likely that a perfect descent won't happen. My partner and I read and re-read and re-examined the descriptions and photos and it's really difficult to recognize and list every land mark. We followed all the major landmarks and that got us down ok, but we still had to rap through a few sections of loose 5th class rock on improvised anchors.

I am writing this not to disparage the route or to bitch about my experience, because it was overall a good time for us with some beautiful views and amazing exposure. I think that some of this cautionary language seems the more relevant because it has a moderate grade that belies the real difficulty of the route. I realize that many of the people who can do this route easily and found it to be a cream puff might think it's silly for me to write this--and that's fair, if you're solidly climbing 5.11 in ZNP this might seem way over inflated. I suspect that many people reading this may not fall into that boat and like me (us) would hopefully be better prepared for this route as a result of my feedback.


-5.7 doesn't mean this is an easy climb or a cruise. Being a badass doesn't mitigate shitty or unprotectable rock.
-be prepared to solo significant sections because it's frequently the only available option.
-stay off the ridge proper and to the climbers right for most the first half to move a lot more efficiently
-keep your harness on and rope available through the descent since it's pretty easy to zig when you through you were supposed to zag, creating the need for a rappel or two.
-What Dan L said--this wouldn't be fun descending in the dark and keep a close eye out for the descent ridge away from the cliff that goes THROUGH the sprindgale band. You can see it clearly from the start but you have to keep an eye on it throughout so you don't lose it and wind up cliffed out from taking the wrong ridge or gully down.

Rock Climbing Photo: About 3/4ths of the way up the route looking back ...
About 3/4ths of the way up the route looking back down.
By Ryan Marsters
Apr 4, 2016

As a moderate leader, I felt the 5.7 was a bit soft too. Super secure. I'd recommend 2x BD 1s and one BD 3. I walked the blue up once and a red up once too. Decent bush anchor up top.

We didn't rope up the rest, but I agree there are a few heads up moves that felt spicier than the crux. Luckily, no big time friction slab moves required with careful route finding.

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