East Temple and West Temple Mountains are the most prominent summits in Zion National Park. They tower over both entrances to the Valley, seemingly a stone’s throw from the highway, and are seen by three million people every year. And almost never climbed. Seriously – East probably had probably seen less than 10 ascents ever by last fall, and West maybe 4 parties per year. It’s bizarre – FAR more people climb Mt Everest than these two bad boys.
Needless to say, this situation had to be rectified …
Full background on East and West Temple: templedoublebackground
October 18, 9:50 AM – I’m real keen, Jared Campbell is real strong, so we start the watch and hit the trail running. I’m carrying only a single bottle fanny pack, and we’re both wearing La Sportiva Exum Ridge shoes (by far the best shoe for this purpose – sticky rubber outsole is key). We know which way to go, make no mistakes, and turn this formerly unknown and formidable mountain into a scramble/run, tagging the top in a hot 58:50. Snapping a few pictures, we turn heel and power back down, with me taking some time on the NW Face descent (death is not a good thing), while Jared films it while running (!). A little more care by me coming down the big gully, and soon we’re motoring across the vast South Face. “‘Slab running’ at it’s finest!” shouts Jared; “I love it!” I shout back. We are giddy with excitement and happiness … once one gets the feel for this (head as well as feet), its beyond fun; it’s exhilarating. We execute little controlled slides on the slickstone, regaining control when hitting little 2″ ledges, and run, scramble, skip and hop back down to the TH with a total elapsed time of 1:44:40. Quick.
We drive back down while drinking water, buy some more food, and are soon at the TH for West Temple.
Noon – We start hiking up, it’s full sun, and plenty warm. The big plum in the bag, we take our time on this, choose the non-optimal route on the approach slope, and don’t gain the ridge until 2:30. Instead of the “South Ridge”, this could be called the “Choss Ridge” route, but the position is terrific, there’s a little breeze up here, and the scrambling is enjoyable. The ridge cranks up to the crux at the very top: 50′ of surprisingly good rock, protected by 3 new bolts with a good double bolt anchor on top. Jared takes the chimney to the left, which I downclimb on the descent; they are about the same. Paradoxically, we now march across the flat brushy sub-plateau, towards the red summit cap, which on West Temple, features an obvious large scree slope providing easy passage to the actual summit. The view is killer, detracted by a telecommunications array installed by helicopter in 2004. At least we get great cell reception now in Springdale.
I drink the last of my water – how many dozens of times have I been this stupid? – and look around at the hundreds of miles of steep, beautiful, and largely unknown Zion Highcountry. “Many Things Undone” becomes our slogan.
We also take our time going down, partially because we are so dehydrated, but mostly because the nature of the rock does not allow safe speed. I wonder aloud if anyone has ever taken a small slip, fallen into a Yucca, and been killed, impaled alive. Everything is unstable. On East we were motoring, but felt in control and safe the whole time, while to move fast on this we would have to take some risks, which we didn’t feel appropriate for the occasion.
Down in 5:29 r/t. We go the park and guzzle a quart of water each, just as starter, and feel great about our day, and the wonderful, amazing peaks of Zion National Park.
East Temple is now on my “Top Ten” list. It has issues, but if one can handle the grade, this is one of the finest routes of it’s type in the world, and is bound to be done more frequently. West Temple: while there’s no getting around that steep and brushy first half, the 5th class difficulties are only 50′ long and are well protected, so more people can enjoy this powerful ridge route.
With these two summits now mostly figured out, it would be possible to do the Temple Double with no car shuttle: up/down East, descend Pine Creek Canyon all the way, run the Parus Trail to the VC, a couple miles of road, then up/down West.
Many Things Undone …