Led by Sheep
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The East Side of Zion is another magical place of a very different variety, separated not only by a mile long tunnel. but by the nature of the landscape. Drivinging up the switchbacks of Pine Creek. Out of the shadowy depths of the imposing Navaho walls. Into the tunnel dark as the starless night., only to exit into the bright sun and wind in a land of smoothly swirling slabs gliding upward to softly sculpted pyramids. This is a land of a different venture entirely from that of the sheer big walls down below. Much of slabs may be easily navigated following ramps, ridges, and wandering up the sedimentary shelving. While the rock is generally solid, it is consistently gritty. Often parties rope up and climb in scrambling (approach) shoes, for the exposure more than the technical difficulty. Pro is scarce, cams are at best marginal, bushes may become pro and or anchors out of necessity.
For many years I scrambled over these slickrock domes and valleys enjoying the easy of movement, unencumbered by the large racks of gear needed in so many of Zion’s exploits. One peak has stood out as it’s own island summit in the sky. I had circumnavigated the peak numerous times looking for a weakness, on all sides the slab angles are consistent. A rope will defiantly be needed, but a rope alone might not be worth much if there is nothing to clip it to.
I returned in the spring of ’05 with my good buddy and long time zioneer Jeffe. Armed with a light rack, a small pile of pitons and a hand drilling bolt kit. I showed Jeffe our different options saving my first choose pick for last when we got there my proposed route was cover with big horn sheep all up and down it. We agreed that the sheep knew what was up and we watched them for the details of their secret sheep path.
Giving the sheep a chance to move out from above us we started up the slabs. The rock was solid and provided enough ledges for good drilling stances. The soft rock drilled quickly, I placed four bolts on the first 200 foot 5.6 pitch. I put in one fat long ½ inch bolt and brought up jeffe. We drilled a second anchor bolt as we watch a thick black-bottomed thunderhead seemed magnetically drawn towards us. We abruptly retreated as this menacing bully of a cloud closed in on our playground, kicking sand in our faces.
Jeffe and I were back the next day psyched up for more. Jeffe led the next pitch with three bolts placed in 150 foot 5.5 pitch. Some loose patches of rock here and there where easily navigated. The third pitch was probably the crux, 5.7 200 feet with four bolts. The forth pitch is 5.5 with two bolts in about 100 feet. A short scramble and we’re on an amazing isolated two-acre summit only ever visited by Zion’s big horn ambassadors.
We rappelled back down the route with two 60m. ropes. The route was sustained at a 5.5 level with the occasional harder bulges. The route is now well equipped for future ascent. We had later returned to tighten up and glue in the bolts for longevity. This route is the first of it’s kind in Zion, an easy well protected adventure route to a beautiful summit, that’s already gaining popularity with the locals.
from the saddle south of the butte scramble north up a ramp on the southeast corner of the butte. start belaying at a tiny pinion bush.
(see photo and topo for more info
10 long slings, 2 60m. ropes,
small nuts and cams to 1" optional
wide spaced lead bolts on moderate terrain(5.5) with bolt protected cruxs(5.7)
BETA PHOTO: topo
BETA PHOTO: aries butte photo topo
Bomber first belay anchor!
Typical sandy white slab climbing
That butte is its own topo map! Astounding view fr...
BETA PHOTO: This is shot from the top of the route and shows r...
Looking up from the top of the 4th pitch. This sh...
Approach as you come through the saddle.
The approach looking from the initial sandy approa...
Two climbers on their approach to Led By Sheep.
All the belay stations were as bomber as the one p...
Coming through the saddle on the initial approach.
The initial sandy approach gully coming from the r...
Looking down at our packs from the approach ramp t...
Looking down from the top of the pitch 1 belay. I...
Looking down from the top of either pitch 2 or 3.
Looking up at pitch 3.
Looking up at pitch 4. The final technical pitch.
Looking up at Pitch 2.
Glued in Piton.
Couple from Italy starting their first rap of the ...
The base of the climb and a good picture of the ma...
Climber at the top of the first pitch.
View from the top. Worth the 3rd class scramble f...
jessie leading on a cruxy-er spot on pitch 3
Courtney Purcell and friends ( I have a few other...
Led by Sheep is on the other side of the Butte
|By Matt Thorum|
From: Urbana, IL
Mar 30, 2010
I took my fiancée up for her first multi-pitch route and we had a great time. The climb is fun and easy and the bolts/drilled pitons are well located near the cruxes and less secure moves, although the run-outs are substantial on the easier terrain. My only complaint is that there is not much of an anchor available at the base of the first pitch and the rock is very crumbly here, best not fall before you clip the first bolt.
Here is some approach info:
The butte is on the north side of the Zion-Mt. Caramel Highway just over a mile east of the small tunnel and is marked on the USGS topo as elevation 6492'. There is a good pull-out with a wooden fence on the south side of the road to park at. You need to scramble up to the shoulder between Aries Butte and a smaller dome just south of it, from the shoulder work your way up a ramp towards the east side and some small bushes keeping an eye out for the first piton about 30' higher (not hard to spot).
Getting to the shoulder requires some hard 3rd/4th class scrambling. On the approach we walked up the dry stream on the west side and then up the slickrock bowl to the shoulder. This took a bit of trial and error on the slickrock and there were a few slippery seeping sections. We decided to go down on the east side which was great until we were traversing above the Keyhole slot canyon a few hundred yards from the road. We used a tree to rap down when things got too dicey for our tastes. This was a hassle since our ropes got wet/muddy in the water in the slot canyon (we were able to step over and come off rappel on the lower angle west side).
Apr 10, 2010
This is a great, moderate route. The belays have good ledges and the bolts were well thought out. For the most part, they are still solid. It will be interesting to see if the bolts develop the cratering around the edges like on the South Face Route, on the Great White Throne. We noticed that the last 2 belays had some bolts that were loosening up a bit. We didn't place any natural gear. The setting is magnificent!
|By Andy Laakmann|
From: Bend, OR
Apr 17, 2010
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b
Super fun! A great change of pace after you get tired of freaking yourself out in the canyon.
Bring your sun glasses, with the white rock I almost felt snow blinded!
The climbing is very straightforward, though be ready for it to be sandy. Once you find the first pin, the rest of the climb is easy to follow - particularly if you have the topo.
Approach: 1.4 miles east of the second tunnel, park along the wooden fence. Go down the road and drop into the canyon passing the petroglyphs to the left within 100'. After climbing out of the sandy canyon, the butte will come into view. Find the path of least resistance up the saddle to the right - we zig/zagged along ramps as much as possible. It was definitely 4th class at times - you wouldn't want to fall. A flat bench separates two steeper bits getting to the saddle. On the way back down, we discovered a tree with rap slings for the lower steep section below the big bench and happily used it. It is located to the right of the bench as you are coming down. Once at the saddle, keep walking all the way around until your are on exposed but easy slabs. 30-45 minutes depending upon your speed.
Start: Per the topo, it is located up and right of the big canyon/holes at two small pinyon bushes. They are barely connected so not sure how long they'll last. The first pin is hard to spot but is up and right about 40 feet from the bushes. The belay anchor sucks as mentioned above. I had a green alien and bush. I couldn't find the "cam slots" mentioned on the topo.
Climb: I think I placed one nut for the fun of it, but it definitely wasn't required. I really didn't see any other worthwhile gear placements. The climb generally trends up and left, and you can always spot the next bolt/pin from the previous one. 4 pitches and then a quick scrambled to the summit. The crux I thought was the final "dismount" to the loose crap, though YMMV :) Nice fat anchors w/ chains.
Descent: First rap is 85' and you want to single rope it, as your knot will guaranteed get stuck in the loose debris. Then double rap back down from there. The pulls are nice and clean after the first one. Wander back down from the saddle aiming for the first big pine tree on the right when it starts to get steep. Then zig/zag back down to the bench. After the bench, go down and right to the rap tree if you plan on using it.
A great time in a stunning setting. Do it!
|By Jason Burton|
From: Pinedale, WY
Apr 27, 2010
Great route Jersey! Good find for sure. Love this route. 6 quickdraws + some slings for the anchors is really all you need. We took some other stuff up the first time but didn't see any placements that looked good enough to bother. Summit register is up there too, so sign it and add to the flavor.
Step up, wipe shoe on pants, step up, wipe other shoe on pants. repeat.
I like the petroglyph canyon approach better than the keyhole approach.
|By Asa King|
From: Mountain Home, ID
Oct 19, 2010
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b
Fun route, there aren't very many placements for gear, but the climbing is easy enough to just runout between the bolts about 50 feet apart. Sand can make some of the spots pretty slick.
|By Nick Smolinske|
Mar 14, 2011
Great route! Can't believe those sheep free solo it.
We took Petroglyph canyon (the 1.4mi one) to the route, but on the way back decided to take an alternate route via the other canyon (when you hit the saddle, head down southeast instead of southwest). We ran into some pretty nasty slabs and had to jump over a 50-foot deep slot canyon to get to better stuff on the other side. Highly recommended. Decent trees to belay the jump, and just a few minutes of road-hiking to get back to the car.
Oh, and if you want to use the "cam slot" for a belay on the first pitch, bring a #1. And a toothbrush. And a hair dryer.
Sep 17, 2011
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b
Just amazing, well worth it. If you are a confident lead climber, you really only need 5-6 long alpine draws for the entire thing. Don't waste the time looking for gear placement and packing the extra weight. Just climb and have fun only stopping long enough to clip the next bolt... Pitons are old, but everything looked good. Anchors looked as good as to be expected. Felt as though pitch 4 anchors were hard to find. Ended up running it out to the top only to have my partner find the anchor on the way up. The fifth pitch was chossy and very loose not recommended unless you just want to summit. Easy climbing though.
From: West Jordan
Mar 15, 2012
After a few days teaching ourselves aid climbing and me getting injured we decided to take it easy on our last day in Zion and do this long sport climb. It was one of our favorite days of the trip. Great for a rest day. The climbing itself gets boring quick but the hike in and the view from the top are totally worth it. We went the wrong way around the base at first so make sure you go right and up the saddle. If you feel like you should start seeing camels you're in the right spot. We lounged around in the sun at the bottom where you rope up and then ate lunch at the top and explored the summit for a good hour at least. It looks like lightning strikes this summit on a regular basis from the looks of the exploded charred trees. Didn't use any extra gear except long slings and even then ended up skipping bolts and running it out on accident. If you get off route it's tricky getting back on. We both climbed in approach shoes. Watch for lots of rocks at the very top as well as a spinning anchor bolt at the top of 3. Be careful the whole time, not just while climbing. I slipped on the sandy slope after untying from the last rapp and almost rolled over the edge and resorted to butt scooting more than once on the deproach.
|By Sarah Meiser|
From: Boulder, Colorado
Apr 12, 2012
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ MS 4a
THANK YOU, thank you, thank you to those who bolted this route! Absolutely wonderful. Fun climbing in a spectacular setting. I'm a timid leader (though very familar with Zion slickrock) and both times I've led this 4 quickdraws and a personal anchor were all I needed. Leave the trad gear at home.
|By Ryan Chelstowski|
From: Colorado Springs, CO
Jun 1, 2012
Just did it last week. Bolts seemed bomber and glue looks new. Definitely recommend it to all. Do not bring extra gear besides the trad draws. In my opinion, you should not be placing pro because it will not hold a fall on this climb. Only the bolts will save you. rock is crap for gear
|By Ryan Anderssohn|
Jul 18, 2012
Has anyone done this safely with just one 60m rope? Any conjectures? I've only got one rope, and I'll be passing through ZNP with some friends that have only done a little climbing, and thought this route sounded easy enough yet rewarding. Thank you for any advice!
|By Zack S.|
From: Prescott, AZ
Oct 2, 2012
This is my favorite hike in ZNP.
|By Kristen Rowe|
From: Kanab, UT
Oct 29, 2012
Lots of fun! The only sketchy part of the route seems to be the approach... For those worried about the descent into petroglyph canyon after the climb, as of Oct 2012, we found some nice rap tat with a ring left on a pine tree above the last steep section. There are cairns near the pine tree and it allows you to rap past the steepest part of the approach.
|By Ty Morrison-Heath|
From: Bozeman, MT
Mar 19, 2013
While this climb may only require draws to climb it is not a sport climb as you usually think of them. 30-40 between bolts is the norm so a fall would have some serious consequences. That being said...I loved every second of it (Okay maybe I cursed a bit when I broke a hold 20 feet run out...). The top-out is gorgeous and is well worth the "5th" pitch of scrambling. The easiest way to find the base is walk up the slabs towards the saddle from petroglyph canyon. The saddle should be visible within 10 minutes of walking down the pretty canyon from the car. If you've walked up the sandy draw and have reached a very tight slot canyon you need to start up the hill on your right. Head up over the saddle (weird place with no trees or life!) to an area with short little trees. At this point you should be past the butte on your right. Look up the slabs to your left to see a large ring that has been installed in the rock. This is the start of the route. Two ropes were absolutely required to complete this route. You can barely make the first true rappel (top of 4th pitch to top of 3rd) with a 60 and I'd suggest doing it this way to avoid pulling loose rock down upon yourself while pulling the rope but the rest require 2 ropes. We simul-rapped to save time in getting the ropes down the slabs. Go have an adventure!
|By Nate Muncy|
From: Thornton, CO
Apr 20, 2013
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b
The route goes up the SE corner of Aries Butte.
Approach: I hiked north from the parking spot (on the right side of the road just after the bend south, next to a wooden fence, just a few minutes after the shorter tunnel driving east). At the bend in the highway there is a small path that descends to a sandy gully/canyon. Follow the gully north, an after 100 yds or so a scramble a slab to the right (east) and headed for the saddle (about 50 yds up the gully there are petroglyphs through some trees on the left/west side). 4th class scrambling, but was able to zig zag up ledges for most of it. Make sure your party has good shoes, this part gets heady.
Start: After the saddle head up and north-northeast to a small grove of trees. Follow the ramp through the trees taking you north-northeast and continue appx 50 ft. (or about 150 ft from the northern most tree) on a smallish ledge. Look for two plants about 5 feet apart on a ledge a few feet above you. About 25 ft. above that is the first piece of gear, a burly rap bolt. I'm 6' and could barely see it over a small ledge while standing next to the bushes. Class 3/4 scrambling to that rap bolt, and started climbing there. I would not belay from the bushes at all.
Topo was super useful and very accurate. Should definitely print both the hand drawn and photoshopped images to have an easy time getting started. Our group spent a bit of time trying to find the start.
Climb: Easy climbing with great clipping stances. Phenomenal belay ledges with plenty of space for 3 people at a time. Not PG-13, but make sure to place a draw on the anchor to not risk a fall factor 2 in case your leader slips before the first bolt. I'd say its all 5.5 or 5.6. Class 3 scrambling for summit.
Descent: Try not to start knock down rocks when descending the class 3 top, there is lots of loose stuff waiting to land on a climber/rope. Two ropes is a must. Descending the approach was the hardest part. Take your time or rap a tree, I down-hiked it, but had to be careful to choose a good route. Gf almost slipped once, which would have been really bad, and she is rather experienced in climbing/hiking.
Extra: While the route wanders, it does not wander that bad. I did not miss slings, nor did I feel a need to place trad gear. I did the whole climb with hiking boots and didn't have a problem at all. Print the topos and look at a map (or google earth) to see the approach from the highway, one could go the wrong way for sure.
From: Las Vegas, Nevada
Nov 12, 2013
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ MS 4a PG13
Fun route....Had a great day with perfect weather. Thought the climbing was 5.4 to 5.5 and I am a 5.7 trad leader. We brought some small gear with us, but ended up only clipping the bolts. IMHO I don't believe there are any placements on the route that would hold a fall. Definitely be comfortable leading 5.5-5.6 fiction, as a fall will most likely result in injury. Overall, great fun and a awesome view from the top......!!!