Cracktrip 4th Episode: Streaked Wall, Zion National Park
This autumn, Philippe Batoux, Millet's technical advisor for climbing and mountaineering, went to the US to look for great walls and faces to climb in the different National Parks. Today he tells us about his ascent of the Streaked Wall, in the fabulous Zion National Park (Utah).
"Zion is a sandstone region in Utah, 2 hours North of Las Vegas. It is a National Park, with thousands of climbing routes. The atmosphere is very mountain-like, it is sometimes difficult to find a way to go down after climbing a route. The rock is beautiful but fragile, very smooth, like conglomerated sand.
Our project was to repeat “Tale of the Scorpion”, a route in the Streaked Wall, opened in 1990 by Dave Webster, Rick Nelson and Jeff Mayhew. The Streaked Wall is a 400-metres overhanging cliff. To reach it the access is not simple: you must climb in a steep, wild forest ground for about 200 metres, then you find yourself on the big Rubicon Ledge, at the very bottom of the route. It took us two days to reach this point with all the equipment needed.
After this point, the face is overhanging, slicked, with only four different possible lines corresponding to four cracks in the wall; Tale of the Scorpion is the second one from the left. Apart from the cracks, there is absolutely nothing to put your hands on, no holds, the wall is perfect!
The pitons and protections are tricky: sandstone is so fragile that you cannot rely on pitons; cams are more trustworthy in this kind of rock. Pitch after pitch we get used to this way of climbing, and our progression gets more even.
First night on Portaledge, I am still wondering how it did not fall, because the belay pitons were really bad…
The difficulty lays not in the width of the crack, but more on the hardness of the rock. The crack ends only one pitch and a half before the summit. The first climbers have dug holes in the rock with a drill tool to finish the route.
The summit is a geological plateau, almost a desert with sand dunes just next to us. Our first reflex was too put off our harness and to walk on that flat ground, without thinking about any belay or fragile pitons. It was absolutely heady… Then we found a kind of oasis under the pines, for a last dream night."
During the whole trip to the US Philippe was climbing with Millet's new climbing shoes Yalla. The test is passed!