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Desert Shield Buttress
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Desert Shield 

YDS: 5.11a French: 6c Ewbanks: 22 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 22 British: E3 5c C3

Type:  Trad, Aid, 9 pitches, 1000', Grade V
Original:  YDS: 5.11a French: 6c Ewbanks: 22 UIAA: VII+ ZA: 22 British: E3 5c C3 [details]
FA: Drew Bedford, Tim Stack April '94
Page Views: 21,284
Submitted By: Andrew Wellman on Mar 22, 2003  with updates from EJN

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Desert Shield in sun/storm

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 an amazing route, combining both excellent free climbing and moderate clean aid on an amazing headwall. This is an excellent step up from the standard Zion trade routes but is really not that serious.

The anchors are all bolted and it is typical to rap the route to descend. I have read that it is wise to fix a rope between the 6th and 4th pitch anchors for retreat (which we did not do). You can do this rap with 60 meter ropes and land on a ledge a little down and right of the P4 anchors, which you can then scramble up to.

For competent and experienced parties there should be no problem doing this route in a day. To find the base of the route hike up towards it and aim for the base of a stunning handcrack on the second pitch.

P1 Is a dirty short grovelly bit that is soloable at about 5.4 or so. There are bolted anchors on top of a ledge.

P2 Start on runout 5.7 face climbing to a sport-bolted section of 5.11a which is not really aidable (but you could always just pull on the bolts to make it easier). This leads to the base of a crack that goes from fingers to wide hands at 5.9. This 60m pitch is amazing.

P3 Climb a 5.10 handcrack left of the belay.

P4 A 5.9, left-facing chimney to some easier scrambling.

P5 Climb a bunch of blocky ledges to a steep, and somewhat sandy lieback flake crack system that ends to the left of the obvious prow (5.9). Pitches 3 through 5 are all pretty short and you can take your pick on which two to link, just beware of drag.

P6 Aid the bolt ladder with one hook move up the overhanging prow, around the corner, and then to a set of anchors at the base of the headwall crack. A few rivet hangers are handy.

P7 The first pitch of the amazing crack that splits the headwall. C2+ micro-nutting fun; lots of aliens and offset aliens are good too. This pitch is fiddly and sustained, but never too hard as there is always a good cam or nut before a thin section.

P8 The second headwall pitch that begins easy, but packs a punch. Aid C2 for a while up to a bolt under an overlap. There are opportunities for Camalots throughout this section. Eventually it gets thinner and some hook moves and bathooks are necessary to move right to another crack. This is the C3 crux of the route. A couple more thin micro scars lead to mandatory 5.6 steep free climbing to the belay. This section is extremely loose. Beware of huge loose blocks, but it is possible to climb around them.

P9 Didn't get to do this because of a huge thunderstorm that pummeled us and sent us to the ground in retreat. Apparently a C1 crack to a 5.6 ramp to a short bolt ladder to the top.

Have great fun on this amazing route!


For the first half of the route (which is free) you will want a standard free rack up to a number 4 Camalot. Take doubles in the hand-size pieces.

For the aid, you will want tons of micro nuts, tons of regular nuts, offset Aliens, and a couple other hooks like a cliffhanger, as well as all the usual stuff.

Photos of Desert Shield Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Desert C3 baby!!!
Desert C3 baby!!!
Rock Climbing Photo: Grumpy morning on the shield.
Grumpy morning on the shield.
Rock Climbing Photo: Erik Rieger jugging P6.
Erik Rieger jugging P6.
Rock Climbing Photo: Bivy Tower
Bivy Tower
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbers on the 2nd to last pitch.  Taken from Moo...
Climbers on the 2nd to last pitch. Taken from Moo...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Arete pitch,(pitch 6). Wild as hell but fairly...
The Arete pitch,(pitch 6). Wild as hell but fairly...
Rock Climbing Photo: Crowded ledge on the Shield.
Crowded ledge on the Shield.
Rock Climbing Photo: Greg G. on the bolt ladder.
Greg G. on the bolt ladder.
Rock Climbing Photo: Leland grilling burgers while we fix the higher pi...
Leland grilling burgers while we fix the higher pi...
Rock Climbing Photo: Starting off on the arete pitch -let the fun begin...
Starting off on the arete pitch -let the fun begin...
Rock Climbing Photo: Fixed BBQ what more could you ask for!!!
Fixed BBQ what more could you ask for!!!
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 7 Desert Shield
Pitch 7 Desert Shield
Rock Climbing Photo: The Shield
The Shield
Rock Climbing Photo: Joe Stern heading out the bolt ladder pitch, 2009?
Joe Stern heading out the bolt ladder pitch, 2009?
Rock Climbing Photo: Cleaning near anchors 2nd last pitch.
Cleaning near anchors 2nd last pitch.
Rock Climbing Photo: Cool bivy
Cool bivy
Rock Climbing Photo: Splitter!!!
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 8 Desert Shield
Pitch 8 Desert Shield
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 2 of Desert Shield
Pitch 2 of Desert Shield
Rock Climbing Photo: Chilling at the belay ledge for Thanksgiving.
Chilling at the belay ledge for Thanksgiving.
Rock Climbing Photo: Nacho Libray getting the eagle egg
Nacho Libray getting the eagle egg
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 4 Desret Shield
Pitch 4 Desret Shield
Rock Climbing Photo: The headwall. The line looked VERY thin from the b...
The headwall. The line looked VERY thin from the b...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 7 completed! I had no idea the next pitch wa...
Pitch 7 completed! I had no idea the next pitch wa...

Show All 30 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Desert Shield Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Mar 22, 2016
By Heinz57
Dec 1, 2003

Great route to escape C1, C2 classics barbecue on ledge on tower where chimney ends (pitch3), so bring sausages and beer. Last pitch thin crack and a bit free climbing. Rappelling no problem. strategy: fix to pitch4 (3 ropes), start very early next morning and push it in 1 day.
By Wayne Harney
Mar 26, 2004

Anyone know if offset aliens are mandatory? How many? What sizes?
By Wayne Harney
Oct 19, 2004

Well I'll answer my own question. Did it last weekend with no offset aliens with no problem. Offset nuts (lots of them) work fine. Superb climbing that felt a step harder than Lunar X.
By Anonymous Coward
Jan 24, 2005

Pitch 2 can be aided past the bolts on straight forward hooks. It is pretty fun hooking with good bolts for pro, of course it also an excellent free pitch.
By Anonymous Coward
Feb 24, 2005

Thinking about a solo ascent this spring and what kind ofbig gear do you need after the bolt ladder on the head wall?? Anything bigger than a #1 Camalot?? Beta would bemuch appreciated. Thanks...M.N.
By Aaron S
May 20, 2007

Regarding big gear on the headwall, I would reccomend a single set of camalots. They aren't necesary but you can get a few bomber placements which I was plenty happy to have.
From: broomdigiddy
Apr 28, 2008

Please dont hook on the P.2 5.11 sport pitch please. We would all like to have a chance to free this pitch.

Thats just sillyness.
By Luke Malatesta
From: Moab Utah
Sep 18, 2008

Just did this route yesterday-excellent free climbing down low and great aiding up high on the exposed need to fix a rope for the decent to ptich 4.
We used:
2x blue alien - #4 C4 (nothing bigger)
many offset brass
no normal stoppers
hybrid aliens
aluminum offsets
assorted hooks
no camhooks
2x 60m ropes
rivet hangers
--May want to bring new webbing for anchors--
By Jesse Zacher
From: Grand Junction, Co
Nov 12, 2008

On the last hard aid pitch you hook left not right. The Supertopo topo also shows it going right. Unless I was out of my mind and on a different route, you hook (one move) left.
By Joe Stern
From: Moab, Utah
Oct 18, 2009

Did all but the last pitch last weekend (Oct 09)...really fun free and aid as everyone says. Lots to add, though.

Approach: Maybe 5 minutes with a daypack, or on the way down, but schlepping huge pigs up that sandy trail took at least 20 minutes I think. Maybe I just really don't like hiking. Okay, I just really don't like hiking.

Rack (idealized): 3-4 sets offset stoppers (mostly #3-7); 2 sets offset cams (mostly the smaller sizes); 2-3 sets normal cams up to BD .75 or so; doubles #1-4 (not sure if we used the second #4 actually); set of hooks (talon, cliffhanger, grappling). No normal stoppers, no cam hooks (this is desert C, eh?), no tricams, no rivet hangers.

P1: carry a single #2 camalot. You can walk this up the 5.7 ramp, pull it, then it protects the little "5.8" move up higher too. Go light!

P2: pretty full value if you're not in free climbing shape!

Bivy ledge after P3: has one biohazard bolt and one good. Charcoal grill, with charcoal up there currently.

P4: We took a crack system off the left side of the bivy ledge, to the right of the crack shown in the supertopo. Probably 5.9 and links up with P4 anchor. Can link this with P5 in one loooong pitch with 60m ropes.

P6: carry a grappling hook, a gray alien (or orange tcu), and a bunch of draws/biners. Enjoy the security of bolts!

P7: jugged it.

P8: excitement! Bring the full arsenal. I only brought one set of the hand-sized pieces and wished I had both. Very sustained, I thought...don't leave too much small stuff down low. Jesse - agree that the primary crack switching hook move is to the left (the bat hole). That said, I think I hooked every possible direction on the pitch at some point. There's a small stance at the top of this pitch for the belay.
By Kurt Burt
Mar 12, 2011

Here is a trip report from a one day solo of the route... lots of fun...
By greg t
From: Chevy, Silverado
Jun 27, 2011

just attempted this route, and I have no realistic explanation of why I am still here, unharmed. The "5.7 R" start to the second pitch is not cool. I found it to be more like 5.10 x dirty slab. ( keep in mind I can climb 5.12 cracks, but I'm probably the worst slab climber I know ) moving on, I traversed right and placed 2 mediocre-at-best cams in a flake so I would have some chance of not hitting the ground. I was 6 inches away from the first bolt, my foot slipped on the dirt, and I fell, both cams blew the rock apart, resulting in a 25 ft ledge fall to my side / head. Landing a foot away from my belayer. I got up, drank a beer, and went home, untouched. A woman on the bus said a prayer for my friend and I, maybe someone was listening, I dont know. but do yourself a favor and just bring a stick clip. Keep in mind I climb in zion a lot, and I am very familiar with the inherent risks of the poor-quality rock. So please consider my warning, and not disregard it as another gym rat trying to go big. I love climbing, but no hobby is worth dying or getting disabled over. Just be safe and enjoy this excellent route.
By Dustin B
From: Steamboat
Jun 30, 2011

Might have something to do with this:

"Pitch 2 can be aided past the bolts on straight forward hooks. It is pretty fun hooking with good bolts for pro, of course it also an excellent free pitch."-AC
By Gaar
From: Springdale / Zion UT / Moab
Jun 30, 2011

Getting to the first bolt is not hard or scary. (pretty standard affair in Zion.) If possible Please dont hook between bolts, this is really fun free pitch in it own right.
By greg t
From: Chevy, Silverado
Jul 8, 2011

I don’t think that your opinion is too far off from how most climbers would feel about that section, but I just thought I would offer my own. Who knows, if it helps someone else to not hit the ground, I would consider that a good thing. At least I didn’t try and hook it :)
By Caleb Padgett
From: Rockville, utah
Aug 27, 2011

Regarding pitch #2

The pitch starts to the left of the belay up a layback with some gear and then makes easy moves to the first bolt. the "slab" moves are clean and the climbing is not harder than 5.7. the previously described epic above was as a result of climbing to the right of the belay, off route, placing crappy gear (which is probablly all you get over there), and then traversing in on mossy, sandy, uncleaned and unclimbed terrain.

Please do not hook on this pitch. It goes at 10+/11- and is only one or two thin moves. hooking could damage the thin patina holds. Bring a cheater stick if you do not think you can bust the free moves.

I did the first 5 pitches for a nice half day free climbing outing. There are some stellar pitches up there and it gets morning shade.
By Eric D
From: Gnarnia
Apr 1, 2012

The grill at the bivy needs some lovin. It has a baseball sized hole in the bottom that will quickly get bigger, and that leaks charcoal. Three options.
1) Bring a new grill to attach. The existing one is just a coleman camp stove with all of the innards taken out. If you bring a new one you will need to put chains or steel cable on the sides to suspend it. Basically, you can remove the old one and have a single biner from which you would need to hang the new one. The old one has chains on it that can't be removed thus the new one would need to be pre-rigged. See the photo of the guy next to the grill on this page for ideas.
2) Bring a small regular grill that won't be attached to the wall and just leave it on the ledge. There is enough room.
3) Bring a solid flat 12" x 8" or so piece of metal to cover the hole.
By Greg Gavin
From: SLC, UT
Mar 14, 2013

Luke M's rack beta is spot on. We brought a sky/talon/bat hook combo and used all of them multiple times.
By climber73
From: Fort Collins, CO
Apr 8, 2013

Climbed to the bivy then fixed to P5 anchors on day 1. Single fixed 60m rap back to the bivy from there. The bivy is frickin sweet!

Day 2 we climbed P6 to the top. I took my climbing shoes but did not need them for the top pitches. I free climbed a few times and was comfortable in my approach shoes. The 5.6 at the end is on a ledge... Approach shoes felt very comfortable to me here as well. We didn't use offset cams, though they may have been useful in smaller sizes. Used lots of small and med offset nuts on C3 pitches. Non-offset nuts are useless up there. Took a talon and a BD grappling hook... used them for sequential moves at one point on P8. The C3 pitches are amazing!

Followed the Supertopo descent and it worked great. The swing over to P4 anchors from P6 anchors was a little tough, but a little creativity helped.
By Carter Bailey
From: Logan, Utah
Dec 3, 2013
rating: 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c C3

thanksgiving 2013 - stellar route. went to the bivy ledge the first day, fixed ropes to 6 from there on the second day. Made summit push on 3rd day but bailed after pitch 8 was finished in the dark.

Somebody has repaired the grill temporarily at the jungle bivy by placing a piece of sheet metal on the existing grill. Seems relatively recent. works great brats and beer for our first night.

Best Bivy Ever!
By Colin Coulson
Apr 20, 2014

It’s already been said, but this really is an excellent and varietous route. The bivy really sets it apart and certainly justifies the three pitches of hauling. I’d think it’d dissuade even fast parties from the single day push. A quick note on strategy - Fixing: If you fix from the bivy, you can fix one rope from the bivy to the top of 4, then a second rope from the top of 4 to 6 – however, it is much more efficient to tie this rope off to the anchors at the top of 5. Less free hanging jugging will speed your day and save your steam. Next, the Descent: Rap from the top of 9 to the top of 7 with double 70’s if you’ve got ‘em (and you should). Next, rap from the top of 7 to the top of 6. Now those double 70’s will stretch from the top of 6 to the top of 3 and your Jungle Bivy. From the top of 3, a single rope rap gains the top of 2. From there it is exactly 70m straight to the ground. 9 pitches up, 5 raps down. One of the better climbs in Zion. Definitely be prepared with all hooks – I found there to be several sequential hook moves on pitch 8. And as previously stated, multiple sets of offset nuts will take the teeth out of the harder aid. No cam hooks, no peckers, no hand placed pins – just good old fashioned nuts, cams, and hooks.
By Kevin Wagner
From: Tucson, Arizona
Mar 23, 2015

I probably just missed them, but we never managed to find the 4th pitch anchor - even on rappel. I led P4 and headed for the 5.10 5th pitch (passing the obvious 5.9 flake on the right), hoping that the anchor would appear. I never found it, so I stopped at the gully and built an anchor with 2 #3's and a #1. I then climbed straight up the face (felt like bouldery 5.10c) protected by small C3s and did an airy 5 ft traverse around the corner to the P5 anchor. This was probably my favorite section of free climbing on the route. We planned to stop at the P4 anchor on rappel, but couldn't see it in broad daylight from above. Luckily, our double 70m rope rappel reached from the P6 anchor (top of the bolt ladder) to the jungle bivy in a single rap. With two 70s we rapped summit -> P7 -> 6 -> 3 -> 2 -> 1 -> ground.
By Matt Glue
From: Boulder, CO
Mar 25, 2015

Great route! With the right rack though, only the very end of P8 is C3. Maybe even C2+. One hook to small offset cam to either 5.9 free move or another hook, then 5.6.

3 - 5 sets offset micros (depending on how much backcleaning you can do)
1 - 2 sets offset aluminum (same)
1 - 2 sets offset cams (same)
2 grappling hooks
1 set medium nuts (we used em and they were great)
double set of cams, micro through #3
1x #4
medium tricams also would have been nice

The bolt on P8 is currently loose and wiggly, but there are bomber large cams above it.
By michael voth
From: Ft. Collins, CO
Jul 23, 2015

hows the BBQ lookin these days? wondering if I should bring a stove up or just some brats and coal.
By Ben Kiessel
Mar 4, 2016

The grill is jacked. At this point it just needs to be replaced. Someone has taken the grate out and built a substitute grill on the ground.
Rock Climbing Photo: Grill
By Brayden Netelbeek
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Mar 22, 2016

Rock Climbing Photo: Grill Repaired by my partner and extra water and c...
Grill Repaired by my partner and extra water and charcoal at the bivy for next parties

Grill is in working order for the time being, rusted out bottom was covered with the other free metal sheet.
As on March 19th there was a bit of charcoal and about 4 gallons of extra water at the bivy as well.

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