There is nothing like the fall climbing season in the Utah desert. Since moving back to Salt Lake City, I had visions of taking weekend getaways to former roadtrip destinations like Zion and Indian Creek. I had goals to climb long multi-pitch desert sandstone routes, Shune’s Buttress being one of them. In late September, I managed to escape the bustle of Salt Lake City and my new job as an ICU nurse. In just two quick days, I was again reminded of the gifts that climbing and the natural world continue to give me.
Shune’s buttress ascends the north face of Red Mountain Arch. The approach is less than 30 minutes and requires nothing more than walking up a few switchbacks and scrambling over a few rock outcroppings after getting off at the Grotto shuttle stop. The route consists of about 8 amazing pitches mostly in the 5.10 – 5.11 with everything from face climbing to finger cracks to offwidths. Here is the beta:
There are two options. My partner, Matias opted to lead the left variation. Basically, this isn’t a warm up pitch and it is in-your-face 5.11+ climbing from the ground until the anchor 165 ft later. It basically ascends a finger crack in a left facing corner. The middle of the pitch relents a little bit and there are some gear placements in the #3 camalot range. The final moves are funky and techy face/crack climbing. Matias impressively onsighted this pitch!
Uneventful 5.9 chimney/wideness. About 100 feet to the next ledge. There is also an option to do a 5.10 finger crack to the right. I didn’t see it. I also didn’t really look and the 5.9 chimney seemed like the most obvious way to me.
This is the “5.10” OW. Matias and I both struggled on this pitch and had a hard time moving from inside to OW to a layback position so that you could pull over the lip. I’m sure a climber with better OW technique wouldn’t find it that hard.
Another enjoyable 5.10 wide pitch.
This pitch ascends a mellow 5.9 chimney with lots of face holds. You finish by tunneling through a cave and then belay on a little pillar.
Topping out on pitch 5
This short pitch traverses through a couple moves of 5.11a face climbing. I was gearing up for some heady climbing and poor gear and was pleasantly surprised by the well protected crux and lack of trickery. Basically, you want to climb down off the pillar, the opposite way that you ascended. You will see an old bolt. I didn’t clip the old bolt because well it looked old and would cause some directional issues. Instead I awkwardly placed a descent blue tcu in a small flaring crack. After climbing up a few feet there is a nice, new bolt that protects the crux. There is a bit of run out face climbing to the anchor but it is quite easy (5.7ish).
Top of Pitch 6
This is the enduro 5.11+ crux. You want to traverse left and ascend a steep finger crack towards a roof. Your belayer wont be able to see you after the first couple moves. There are some pretty tough moves leading up to the roof and then the roof is quite strenuous. For unknown reasons, Matias set up a hanging belay right after the roof with all of our #1 camalots. His native language is Spanish. Mine is English so we must have had a communication breakdown. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Instead I would suggest continuing up the steep hand crack and heading towards a belay at a little alcove with 1 bolt. The anchor can be backed up with a hand size piece or if your hand sized pieces are all gone, you can get creative and back it up with 4” piece.
Starting up the beginning of pitch 7
Mellow and enjoyable 5.9 face and crack climbing that trends left for almost a full rope length.
The rappel begins to the climbers right of the route and is a combination of double and single rope rappels to avoid all the rope snagging blocks. We brought a 60 m 6 mm tag line to save a little weight. We miraculously made it to the ground with no issues!
Rappel 1: Double Rope to a hanging station
Rapel 2: Double rope trending climber’s left to the top of the 5.11a traverse. Don’t head towards the pillar.
Rappel 3: Single rope down the 5.9 chimney
Rappel 4: Double rope to the top of pitch 2
Rappel 5: Single rope to the top of pitch 1
Rappel 6: Double rope to the ground.
Matias and I after the first rappel
Many cams and nuts. I believe we brought a double set from green C3 to #3 camalot. We brought triples from yellow tcu to #1 Camalot. We brought 1, 3.5 camalot and 1 slightly bigger piece. I wanted a third #3 camalot but that is because I’m a wimp when it comes to that size!
10 runners about half of which were the ange quickdraws and the other half were shoulder length slings
60 m, 6 mm tag line
Small backpack with windshirts, food and water
1 double length slings
La Sportive Muira lace ups which fell apart on the first pitch!