Zion - Prodigal Son

Angel's Landing, Prodigal Son climbs the right hand side of the face.

After a day of rest Mike and I started fixing on Prodigal Son (5.6 C2), the ultimate Zion trade route that climbs the prominent Angel's Landing. From what we could see, there seemed to be an almost constant stream of people going up the route. We were feeling lucky then when there appeared that there wouldn't be anyone on the wall with us. This would be important for us to succeed with the fix and push strategy. Of course when we show up at the base of the route, there is a party just starting with a portaledge and all. Through talking to Jason, the belayer at the base, we figure out that I know the guy leading, John Miller, from when he used to go to the UW. They're real friendly, and seeing as we all want to get to the top of pitch 3 before it gets dark we join forces on pitches 2 and 3.

We decide to bivi at the base so that we can get up early enough to pass John and Jason before they start up. Mike solos pitch 1 while I go back and get a crap load of bivi stuff. After hauling the load up the hill I clean the first pitch. Pitch 2 was now done, so Mike lead up and fixed our rope from the top of 3, finding some pretty tricky aid on the third pitch (pink tricam essential!).

Bivi party, complete with 'imported' beer and spinnin' tunes.

Dave jugging the lines early the next morning. You can see John and J's ledge on top of pitch 3.
Photo by Mike.

I joined the guys at their bivi just as they were packing away the ledge, having spent a somewhat rough first night. The 4th pitch is a long and involved one, so it was quite nice of them to let us pass. I crawled up over the bag and could juuuuust reach the first rivet with a small nut. Several fixed pieces followed to a hook move past a "mandatory 5.7" section (Homey don't free!) and on up into pod-ville. Offset nuts worked well in the pod/pinscars (#6 HB), then small to medium cams lead up to an airy pedestal belay. I used a #3 Camalot twice on this pitch.

Mike following Pitch 4.

Pitch 5 goes up a crack off the belay, then pendulums over to another crack that leads through a small roof. More tricky aid in this 30m section leads to an intermediate anchor before a bolt ladder to the belay under pitch 6. Mike short fixed the bolt ladder while I cleaned the gear half of the lead, and we were soon starting pitch 6, the so called "arched roof" pitch.

Dave makes it past a sketchy pod at the roof on Pitch 6. Photo by Mike.

Looking down.

After the roof it's pretty strait in C1 until a bolt ladder over to the exit grooves. There is one sketchy rivet here that I could just barely use a small nut to sling, seeing as it pointed downwards!

Mike starts up the first exit groove pitch (7).

The last two aid pitches are mostly bolt ladders. Mike lead pitch 7 and found the only tricky move to be a hook or something about half way up. I soon started up pitch 8, which had a few gear placements off the belay before the bolts. Many, many biners adorned the bolts above me, attesting to the difficulty the prior party had had while cleaning the pitch. After clipping through the bolts and fixed gear, there is a short and sandy free section that's 4th class. I clipped a draw to the last piece after getting off of it, and then proceeded to climb 6 ft. higher. At this point I realized that my dangling aiders had unclipped the rope from the piece, and conveniently clipped them selves in. Biner envy I guess! I carefully reversed the moves down the sand-slab, and fixed things up. The belay above is on 3 drilled angles at the base of the chimney.

Mike topping out. Beware of the loose death blocks on the ledge!!!

Dave grunts up the final chimney.

"Hey, hurry it up Dave, I hear thunder."

Hmm, the blue sky had disappeared, and it seemed as though a storm was a brewin'. By the time I reached the tree atop the route, lightning was arcing right overhead and it was hailing sideways. Mike dutifully jugged the chimney, unsticking the ropes at every corner. It was fully pouring when he reached me.

"Let's get the hell outta here!"

The rain washes the other parties off Angel's Landing.

We hiked down, caught a ride back to the Big Bend stop, and recrossed the river to retrieve our bivi gear. Dinner was again had at Oscar's with our new friends John, J, Andrew and Dave.

Recommended rack:

  • HB Offset nuts 3-6
    1-2 set of Aliens Black-Red
  • 1 - Yellow-Red offset Alien
  • Tricams Pink-Brown
  • 1 - set of nuts, with extra small and medium sizes
  • 2 - #1 Camalots
  • 1 - 0.5,0.75, 2, 3 Camalot

The Visitor Center has a great topo in their collection for this route. The SuperTopo published recently (Feb/Mar 2003?) in Rock and Ice also looked pretty nice.

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