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Cracking the Emerald 
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Cracking the Emerald 

YDS: 5.10 French: 6b Ewbanks: 20 UIAA: VII- ZA: 19 British: E2 5b C1+

Type:  Aid, 6 pitches, 750', Grade IV
Original:  YDS: 5.10 French: 6b Ewbanks: 20 UIAA: VII- ZA: 19 British: E2 5b C1+ [details]
FA: Ryan Frost & Brian Smoot, Nov. 2009
New Route: Yes
Page Views: 3,724
Submitted By: bsmoot on Nov 14, 2009

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Pitch 4

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 >>>


This is a great undiscovered mixed free and aid venture. It goes all clean. You have the option to climb moderate aid where you need to, or push the free climbing up the abundance of hand and finger cracks. Each belay has a ledge and the rock for most of the route is exceptional. The last 2 pitches are of lesser quality, but are still worth it especially if you like aid climbing. Mandatory free climbing is about 5.8


Climbs the center of the SW face of Mt. Majestic, following a left leaning corner system. The setting is spectacular.


See Topo

Photos of Cracking the Emerald Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: P2 - splitter
P2 - splitter
Rock Climbing Photo: Topo
Rock Climbing Photo: Awesome views!
Awesome views!
Rock Climbing Photo: P3 - looking down after the C1 roof.  Fun pitch!
P3 - looking down after the C1 roof. Fun pitch!
Rock Climbing Photo: P2 - splitter corner
P2 - splitter corner
Rock Climbing Photo: Descending
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 5, steep climbing above a short tension trav...
Pitch 5, steep climbing above a short tension trav...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 3
Pitch 3
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 2
Pitch 2
Rock Climbing Photo: First pitch
First pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: Morning Shot
Morning Shot

Comments on Cracking the Emerald Add Comment
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By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
Nov 14, 2009

WOW - this looks great. Kudos guys.
By Ben Folsom
Nov 15, 2009

Yeah, sounds/looks like a fantastic route. Nice work!
By Nate Brown
From: Wilson, Wy
Nov 30, 2009

Cool guys, wish I was there! Can't wait to check it out.
By bsmoot
Dec 6, 2009

Ben Williams recently free climbed this route at 5.12-

3 pitches were 5.11 and one, the 5th was the crux...Great job!

Note: One of the bolts at the top of pitch 5 didn't tighten down well. It could use replacing.
By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
Apr 10, 2010

Climbed the first four pitches of this on 4/9/2010.... and here is how it went down.

Quick summary - cool mix of aid and free climbing, mostly good rock but still plenty of bombs waiting to explode as you'll see. Given the short approach, I suspect this will become a popular route - at least the pitches we did.

Approach - follow the signs to the Middle Pool, and after the slot between two huge boulders hang a right on the trail back to the Groto. Go about 100-200 yards and look for a long open area up to the rock. Follow this to the base and then traverse left to get to the route. Almost no bushwhacking is required! 30 minutes tops from the car.

Gear - The topo gear list is right on the money, at least for P1-P4. I didn't use the sliders but they're probably required on P5. I also had a set of medium to big offset nuts that came in handy, but weren't required.


  • P1 - Straightforward C1. There is a bolted anchor now at the belay, even though it is not indicated on the topo.
  • P2 - Classic pitch. 5.10 seems about right. Mostly tight hands to a big rest and then a final layback finger crack. The crack is SHARP and the right wall is covered with razor-sharp calcite. Good luck if you don't tape. Bolted belay.
  • P3 - Fun 5.8 crack climbing to an fun C1 roof. Belay takes yellow and red alien size cams (look up and right in the good rock, not the crappy cracks on the left).
  • P4 - 5.9 chimney/squeeze. And this is where things got interesting..... The "unique hollow crack" is cool, but it doesn't take gear very well. About 2/3 of the way up it I was able to get a small cam behind a chockstone. The climbing isn't terribly hard fortunately and it is cool. Next up was the start of the squeeze chimney, and as I was worming in I reached up for a big hold up to the left... and next thing I know I was falling amidst an explosion of rocks. I think the rock that pulled off must have been at least the size of a small microwave. Fortunately the pieces that hit my wife were small. Amazingly, a large piece remained trapped between my shoulder and the wall when I finally stopped falling. SCARY! I was able to throw it to the side - I hate to think if it had continued falling as it would have hit my wife smack on. And to top it off, a sharp edge severed a good portion of the sling that held my fall.

The rest of the squeeze chimney wasn't particularly fun given the previous event, but it does take gear well and the rock is bomber. I think I must have grabbed the only crappy hold on the whole pitch!

So after that misadventure, we decided to bail.


The first rap was a 60m double-rope back to the P2 anchor. It was a pretty tough pull. Make sure it is flipped out of the Half Dollar, or you will never get it.

The next rap was 30m down the the P1 anchor and the rope buried itself in the crack after the pull. I had to jug the stuck rope (on belay with another line placing gear) and then downlead back to the anchor.

The final rap was about 35-40m I am guessing.

I think the P2-P1 rap will always be a rope eater. With double 70m ropes you can rap to the ground from P2, but it is more like 230' not the 215' listed on the topo. Do NOT try it with a 60m - you won't make it.


As the description indicates, the climbing is fun and the rock is mostly excellent. Just watch out for the bombs that remain - and there are plenty. And expect the Zion Half Dollar to be the crux for most folks.

Thanks for the route Brian and Ryan!
By bsmoot
Apr 11, 2010

You're welcome. Way to get off the beaten path!
By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
Apr 11, 2010

I don't think it'll be off the beaten path for long. With the short approach and good climbing, I suspect it'll become quite popular!

Forgot to put this in my description, but in April the route came into the sun around noon - it is in a west facing corner. In the depths of winter, I suspect Lady Mountain might hide the sun for much of the day.
By Jay 1975
From: Bonedale,CO
Apr 6, 2011

didn't look good after the first 4 pitches. sick roof moves at .11c/d! .11d moves 10' off the deck too, thin!
Jul 25, 2014

Climbed the first 4 pitches. Stellar!

We then bailed due to sun. As of the end of July, it gets shade till 1, then full sun.

Free rack can be a bit lighter than the aid rack. We took a triple set, but could have gotten away with a double set, although extra .75 and 1 camalots for sure, and maybe an extra .5?

Good rock, easy approach, fun moves.
By velvet
Mar 23, 2015

Like lots of the folks here, we just climbed the first 4 pitches, free-ing them at about 11c/d. Amazing route!!

P1: Start in a L facing little corner/bowl. Hard thin moves off the deck, the sand and crumbling holds don't make it any easier. Bolted belay. 11b-ish?

P2: Glory splitter, mostly lowish angle #1's. Also the sharpest sandstone I've ever experienced. Is that hard black/green stuff a form of calcite?? Bolted belay 5.10

P3: Easy crack climbing to an amazing roof move. Still plenty of looseness in the little cave that you stand on to get into the stem. Wild moves laybacking and stemming to make your way around the roof to a bomber lock/jug. 0.3-0.5 BD C4's for anchor. 11c/d

p4: Moderate climbing with good gear leads to a short run out of easy terrain because of the hollow crack. And then the goods. The Zion Half Dollar. Scum, stem, jam, armbar, heel toe your way up and around. Great gear the whole way. Lovely pitch! 5.9OW Bolted belay.

Ledges at each belay, just mind the rope eating ability of 2nd pitch on rappel.

Free Rack: (2) 0.3 and 0.4. (3) 0.5-#1 (2) #2-#4 (1) #5

Could loose the #5 for sure and maybe a #4 if you are solid on flaring widness as other gear abounds.

Thanks for a great route!

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