Moonlight Buttress

My bucket list has always included two specific items sleeping on a port-a-ledge and climbing a rock cliff that is at least 5 pitches high. I never really intended to knock off these two items will one swipe. Truthfully, I had already accepted the fact that my "sleeping on a port-a-ledge" experience was going to be setting one up 5 feet off the ground just to say that I've slept on one. I love rock climbing do it all the time, but I had never really considered myself as a big wall/alpine/mountain climber, so these bucket list items didn't seem that easy to obtain...until Abe came along.

On Monday, April 25, I received a voice message, text message, and a Facebook message from a climbing friend, with whom I'd only climbed two times with previously. Abe was in need of a climbing partner to aid climb a big wall in Zion National Park that following weekend, April 29 - May 1. I had mixed feelings about going. I didn't think my wife would want me to spend the money and vacation days to go. I didn't think that my boss was going to let me take more days off, having just returned from a climbing trip the week before. I also didn't know if it would be a smart idea for me to go and aid climb a big wall with such short notice and never having climbed that style before.

To my surprise, my wife encouraged me to go and said that I'd be stupid to turn down a chance to learn how to aid climb. This made sense, seeing how within the previous months Jennilyn and I had been curious to venture into aid climbing, but didn't have the gear and the knowledge. My boss also gave me the thumbs up to miss that coming Friday of work. So I was a go.

The Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park, Utah
Abe and I decided to climb the Moonlight Buttress route of the Moonlight Buttress. Our plan was to aid climb this 9 pitch, 1,200 foot wall of sandstone in three days and spend two nights on a port-a-ledge. That was the main objective, to sleep on a rock wall, high above the ground for more than one night.

Our bivy on the top of Pitch 5. (730 feet off the ground.)
Abe Shreve waking up after a long night of sleeping in the air.
Our approach to the base of the climb was a bit epic with an unexpected 3-hour hike through bushes, sandbars, and steep hillsides. So our first day of climbing consisted of climbing the first pitch, hauling the gear-bag up, and setting up the port-a-ledge. We felt a little sheepish for sleeping so close to the ground, but we had ran out of time to go higher.

The next two days were spent climbing some great pitches and spending one more night sleeping 730' above the ground. Unfortunately, due to my unracked nerves and our lack of time, Abe was a bit forced into leading all the pitches accept for pitch 1, 3, and the top-out slab. He was an animal. And I continually thank him for fixing all the lines for me to jug up and for hauling up the gear-bag. It was a great experience observing his style of aid climbing and having him teach me the techniques. I can't wait to get back on a big wall and actually lead more using aid gear.

The one thing that I have to say about sleeping on a port-a-ledge is that it is the one time that your body and mind can just let loose. The whole time on the wall, you are constantly holding on to something and your mind is unceasingly double checking everything you do and projecting the next moves. It was amazing to just let myself go unconscious knowing that the only thing keeping me safe was the two loose "life-lines" that connected me and my harness to the rock.

Ben Eaton at the top of Pitch 6 or 7 of the Moonlight Buttress. (830 or 930 feet off the ground.)

Ben Eaton leading Pitch 3 of the Moonlight Buttress.

Pitch 3 of the Moonlight Buttress - one super fun bolt-ladder.

Abe Shreve leading the way up Pitch 4