Posted on: December 1, 2005

After a long spring of sport climbing, I was desperate for adventure. Like someone eating junk food, no matter how many bolts I clipped, I didn't feel satisfied. Zion, however, is an all-you-can-eat adventure buffet. I have a long list of projects in the Canyon, but the summer heat and peregrine closures helped narrow it down. Spaceshot is a world-class route that's shady until noon, and I had it on good authority that it would go free. My twin brother, Mark, and I climbed it as our first big wall almost ten years ago. It was a big adventure for us then, and in June we went back for more.

After working the crux fourth pitch the day before, we set off at dawn on June 16, 2005, and simulclimbed the first three pitches. Mark took the first stab at Pitch 4, but fell at the insecure crux. Damn! I was hoping for a toprope. The first moves yanked me from my early morning daze. Climbing through a Dr. Seuss landscape, I was forced to stem between the main canyon wall and the teetering, six-foot-in-diameter Rebozo Pinnacle in order to reach the varnished wall's first features. Sixty serpentine feet later, I slapped my way across the crux rail, stabbed my foot out to the rest hold and exhaled. The final crack went easily, but I lost valuable time arranging the precise composition of gear and holds in the shallow seam.

Pitch 5 might be one of the best crack pitches in Zion: a clean, gently overhanging tips splitter with footholds. I savored the lead, though I again wasted precious shade time working out a sequential section. Mark took Pitch 6, where we deviated from the aid line again. By climbing left rather than right, we exchanged thin C2 for wide 5.11. Above the offwidth, Mark led out of the crack on a thirty-foot rightward traverse over untested and unprotected patina to regain the original route. He did it without flinching. As I followed, I couldn't believe our luck that the necessary holds appeared where they did.


We gained Earth Orbit Ledge around 2 p.m. An hour's rest later, Mark started the notorious final bolt ladder. After three hours of 100 degrees F sun, he onsighted the 5.12 roof and reached a good belay ledge below a final blank section. A ten-foot vertical sandbox stood between the topout and us. Twice, snapped holds and glorious whippers repelled our direct assault. After a short discussion, I aided to the top in order to work out and bolt a promising line to the left. While I shouted beta, Mark flashed the final three-bolt variation. I quickly followed, and we collapsed under the soothing shadow of the summit ponderosa, having made the first free ascent of the route (IV 5.13a, 9 pitches).

Mike Anderson, Colorado Springs, Colorado

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