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Prodigal Sun 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c C2

   
Type:  Aid, 9 pitches, 900', Grade V
Consensus:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c C2 [details]
FA: Ron Olevsky
Page Views: 32,296
Submitted By: Aaron Shupp on May 19, 2002

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You gotta love tricams... Last aid pitch placment ...

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Description 

P1/P2 (C1, 160') The first bolt is about nine feet off the ground (have your buddy give you a boost to clip it). The first two pitches can be combined.

P3 (~70') Gain a comfortable ledge.

P4 (C2) Attack the Wrinkles which calls for a series of pendulums (reach right) and tension traverses to the left. When good placements run out move left.

P5 (C1) Climbs through the arch roof via a nice crack.

P6 (C1) Takes a crack to a short bolt ladder.

P7 (C2) Takes a left-facing corner up a few trickier moves to a decent stance for the last aid pitch.

P8 Continues up the corner system and then makes a clever pendulum out left to gain access to another corner. (Fixed point) This pitch ends on a big, dirty, sandy, down sloping ledge (be extremely careful of the loose stuff here).

P9 (5.5) Free climbs a low-angle chimney filled with loose debris to a ridiculously crappy chute filled with loose sand, rock, and plant material. After suffering through this mess, you arrive at a good trees to belay from.

A few recommendations:

1. Bring a belay seat as the stances are not always very comfortable.

2. Do not haul if you can help it. If you think you'll take more than one day, fix the first two or three pitches.

Protection 

This route is all clean. No hammer is necessary. Bring a full clean aid rack including: cams up to 3" and many smaller sizes (especially small aliens and TCU's), 2 sets of nuts down to RP sizes are essential (offsets are really helpful), a few rivet hangers are nice, and whatever you do DO NOT FORGET A HOOK. There are some moves that can only be done with a hook. Also, have about 25 to 35 spare biners as some of the pitches can be long.

Approach 

Approach the route from the climbers' trail that ascends to the base of the northeast face of Angel's Landing. Near the top of the wall, there is a large, A-shaped, in-cut section of desert varnish. The route begins right off of the trail under a prominent roof.


Photos of Prodigal Sun Slideshow Add Photo
Starting the final Aid Pitch. (Photo: Doug Davis)
Starting the final Aid Pitch. (Photo: Doug Davis)
shot I stitched together from John's pics. John As...
shot I stitched together from John's pics. John As...
Mike Morley on Prodigal Son, October 2003
Mike Morley on Prodigal Son, October 2003
Tristan hanging on a hook on P8. Sep 26, 2009.
Tristan hanging on a hook on P8. Sep 26, 2009.
Shot I stitched together from John's pics. John As...
Shot I stitched together from John's pics. John As...
This is the loose crap you must face at the end of...
This is the loose crap you must face at the end of...
Watching the shuttle buses (and being watched by t...
Watching the shuttle buses (and being watched by t...
A tourist took this shot of me from the Big Bend b...
A tourist took this shot of me from the Big Bend b...
All over the route but esp upper pitches require t...
BETA PHOTO: All over the route but esp upper pitches require t...
Prodigal Sun Topo
BETA PHOTO: Prodigal Sun Topo
Dave Levy leading Pitch 6. Photo by Rocco Vartania...
Dave Levy leading Pitch 6. Photo by Rocco Vartania...
Tony Bubb searches for the right piece to fit in t...
Tony Bubb searches for the right piece to fit in t...
nice fork
nice fork
Tony Bubb leads on the upper pitches of Prodical S...
Tony Bubb leads on the upper pitches of Prodical S...
rivet section
rivet section
Moving up my fifth pitch (Arch Crack Pitch) on Pro...
Moving up my fifth pitch (Arch Crack Pitch) on Pro...
This is the ledge at the end of pitch 3.  Sleep ti...
This is the ledge at the end of pitch 3. Sleep ti...
The view up-canyon from 1/2 way up 'Prodical Son (...
The view up-canyon from 1/2 way up 'Prodical Son (...
Starting P7
Starting P7
"Prodigal Sun" as seen on the cover of A...
"Prodigal Sun" as seen on the cover of A...
Looking down the sandy, loose gulley from the top ...
Looking down the sandy, loose gulley from the top ...
Daniel Thrasher
Daniel Thrasher
The 5.5 Gully after the last aid pitch. I hauled u...
The 5.5 Gully after the last aid pitch. I hauled u...
hi
hi

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Comments on Prodigal Sun Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Nov 1, 2014
By Aaron Shupp
Jun 4, 2002

Some guide books call this route grade IV or IV+. Though it can be done in one long day, it is far more technical than many grade V's in Yosemite. For example, the South Face of Washington's Column has only 3 pitches of C1 aid (the rest is free with a total of 10 pitches). Also, other Zion routes like Touchstone Wall have substantially less aid at the grade IV level (only 3 pitches in this case). I think that Prodigal Sun deserves its original rating of grade V.
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 6, 2002

Be aware that climbing this route involves crossing the Virgin River. No problem in the fall, but this can be an interesting proposition at dawn in the spring (no problem this year, however). Scope this out the day before, if it really looks bad you can cross on the Angel's Landing trail bridge, and then bushwhack upstream to the route. This is quite brushy.

Some years this route is reputedly closed in the spring due to Peregrene Falcon nesting, but this hasn't been true the last few years.
By TuffGong
Jun 21, 2002

No Hook is needed. Simply sling the rivets with a nut cable, synch and stand up high.
By Andrew Klein
Jun 28, 2002

A Standard Black Diamond (Chouinard) Hook is needed for the 6 and 7th pitches even if you topstep in your aiders you'll need the hook. The 7th pitch hook is solid but somewhat reachy. Offset alliens (I have one) are very useful in some of the old pin scars. Enjoy!
By Tyson S Arp
Sep 30, 2002

Just did this climb about a week ago. First of all, regarding the hook controversy: I only used a hook once on the third to last placement of the 8th pitch--and that was only because I was too chicken to commit to a #5 swedge that I could only get halfway in the crack. I don't know why you would need a hook anywhere else unless you're short. I'm 5'9" and was able to reach all of the fixed gear from my top step (although I was probably on my tip-toes a couple of times). How tall is Ron Olevsky? Some of those bolts are definitely stretch.

Second, I'd have to agree with the Grade V rating. Unless of course you really like climbing in the dark or in the hot summer when the days are longer.

Third, while it is possible to survive a night at the third belay without a portaledge, I wouldn't recommend it. I had heard that ledge described as "3 foot by 10 foot", but it isn't really that big and it isn't really that flat.

Fourth, don't disregard the info about the ledge above pitch 8. There is an incredible amount of sand and loose rock (some very large) just waiting to fall on your head if you look at it wrong. Worse yet, you have to climb almost directly through this loose stuff with probably the worst rope drag you can imagine. Be very careful! Fortunately your belayer shouldn't be in path of any rocks you might dislodge, but be mindfull of any other climbers that might be below you.
By Anonymous Coward
Dec 9, 2002

Ron Olevsky is very short! If you ever meet him ask him to show you how to top step! He has a very good technique for it! Also you do not need a hook! I don't know what people are thinking telling you to bring one!
By Anonymous Coward
Mar 26, 2003

Geez folks, what's all this discussion about a simple hook? What does it weigh, like 3 ounces!?!?!

I climbed this last year, did not have a hook, and wish I did. Bring one - it's cheeep, light, and can save your bacon if you decide you need it.
By Jakester
Apr 1, 2003

DId the route last week. Many shiny new bolts placed by the ASCA on the bolt ladders. DId one hook move off the third belay. Lots of loose shit on top. Also alot of garbage...if you have garbage, PACK IT OUT! Like the other Zion trade routes, I found the red TCU an indispensible piece of gear...probably placed it on evey pitch! Off set aliens and nuts make life much easier also. DOable in a day...
By Anonymous Coward
Apr 16, 2003

Lot's of hook talk. Finished the route 3 days ago. I own no offset Aliens or tri-cams and relied on dubious nut placements in flared pin scars and a few hook moves to reach a decent placements. Pitches 3, 7, and 8, especially 8, were quite exciting. I'd vote for taking the hook.

Jeff
By Andy Johnson
May 16, 2003

I just got off this route a few days ago and must say that I found it to be very enjoyable. I brought a sky hook and found it useful but not mandatory. Offset stoppers work unbelievably well on this route. Seriously, bring every one you can find and I promise you that you will be happy you did. I would agree that this route is indeed a grade V. Also, I freed a lot of the sections of this route in Garmonts. None of the spots I freed were harder than 5.9. Don't hesitate to get out of the aiders every now and then. It can really save a lot of time.
By Magic Fingers
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 2, 2003

Did this route last week. heed the comments at the top of the page, the one about avoiding hauling especially. we started at 9:30 in the morning and reached the top at about 11:15 pm going at a moderate pace. There was a group that started about 10 minutes after us, and were hauling this bag that you could of parked your car in. They got off at about 11:15 pm the next day, which was totally fine in their case. They said they were just practing for bigger walls, and there really wasn't anybody behind them. It really just depends how you want to climb the thing. However, if there is a line at the bottom, you should really consider not hauling. other parties can always pass, but this too can get rather interesting at some the belays. Also, we didn't have a hook, and we wished we did. My buddy was tossing strings of stoppers at the pins on the 7th pitch, trying to hook them over the top, and had to use this crazy scary micro offwidth in this shitty placement on pitch eight. It actually blew out juuuust as he clipped the next pin. Fun stuff.
By M.Morley
Administrator
From: Sacramento, CA
Oct 25, 2003

A few thoughts:

- Regarding the approach: Stay on the trail! We made the mistake of losing the trail and trying to bee-line to the base and got into cliffy, loose, shrubby terrain. The access trail heads well right of the start of the route to skirt around the lower cliff band before cutting back left to the base.

- To hook or not to hook. There is no mandatory hook move off the fourth belay anymore (with the addition of a rivet, I am assuming). At a mighty 5'6", I was able to clip it by top-stepping. The last real pitch has one hook move which can be eliminated with a simple cheater stick (about 8' between the pin and next bolt).

- C1 or C2? I've seen the route listed as both. I'd say there are certainly a handful of C2 moves but it's mostly C1.

- Concerning the "pendulums" through the Wrinkles. I don't think pendulum or tension traverse is really an accurate description. It's more like step over 3' into the next crack system. Not a big deal.

- Top-stepping - gotta do it sometimes! Everything is going to feel "reachy" if you're not willing to topstep.
By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Mar 29, 2004
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c C2

Well, I used the hook pretty frequently. A few times to avoid crushing out the flaring tricam placements any further. At least 3 hook moves were 'enhanced' in appearance. I'm not making an ethical qualm about this (after all, it seems the same as a bolt or pin, but cheaper.) but am rather pointing out that the placements are 'near perfect.'

I'm giving the wall 3/4 stars. If it ended after the aid was over, it would get 4, but the last bit SUCKED! It sucked hard, that black-hole powered sucking sucked in some of the stars from neighboring pitches. We finished below another party and while on Pitch 7 were ducking rocks they were bumping off the ledge... it's almost unavoidable.
By Andrew Winslow
Jun 7, 2004

It would be cool if this route went to the top on Angels Landing. Maybe with another bolt ladder!
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 15, 2004

Hey, there is already a "bolt ladder" to the top. Have you checked out all the fixed hardware on the trail?
By James Haugen
Oct 3, 2004

Make sure you call ahead to find out if the route is open! This summer we drove all the way there (from Salt Lake), purchased our backcountry permit and hiked to the base of the summit. Then a park ranger called us down and told us that the permit was issued by accident and that the route was closed due to peregrine falcons nesting 25 yards to the left of the route near the top. One other note... Zions is like an oven in July!!! You would either need to climb at night or find a route that is in the shade.
By Nick Storm
From: Lander, WY
Feb 9, 2007

Anyone know about linking pitches with a sixty meter rope? How about pitch lengths? What about retreating from the wall? I've seen posting that say link:
1 and 2
3 and half of 4
half of 4 and 5
Can this be verified? Lastly, after much debate and no concensus, it looks like a rack of this description approximates what everyone in talking about:
2 ea. blue-red alien (or tcus of similar size)
1 ea. green-blue camalot (or slcd of similar size)
1 set nuts
1 set offset nuts (including micros)
1 hook
-draws, slings, xtr carabiners, lockers, etc.
-rivet hangers, stickclip, offset aliens, tricams useful but not necessary.
Any additions?
By Tyson S Arp
Mar 8, 2007

I can't answer all your questions, Nick, but it seems like linking the pitches as you describe should work. There certainly was an extra anchor in the middle of the fourth pitch. It'd be kinda a shame, though, to pass up the only nice ledge on the whole route! :)

Your suggested rack sounds pretty good, however, I would strongly suggest adding another set of the med-large offset nuts--they fit extremely well!
By John McNamee
Administrator
From: Littleton, CO
Oct 11, 2007

This is the rack I used the other day.

2 sets Black Diamond Wires plus extra 4 - 9 wires
1 BD Hook (Used once mid 3rd pitch)
2 Rivet Hangers
4 Tricams (Pink, Blue, Black, Red)
1 Set Metolius ultralite TCU'S (5)
2 Metolius Utralite Offset TCU's (Orange and Yellow)
2 x .5, .75, 1 Camalots
1 x 2, 3 Camalots
4 smallest Aliens
40 free biners

I backcleaned cams most of the time.

I didn't use any wires smaller than a size BD 2. No hb's or peanuts or offsets of any type. BD wires seemed to work very well. Some of the pods are getting really blown out.

If anyone whats detailed beta about soloing this route please email me.
By Dustin Wildermuth
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Mar 3, 2008
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c C2

I was on this route on Friday and there was a bolt missing from the third pitch bolt ladder. I was able to hook the bolt hole but it looks like you could get by with some trickery out left.
By Scott Bennett
Apr 28, 2010

Glorified bolt ladder. Fun though.
By T_jones
From: Salt Lake
Aug 6, 2012

Did this route 8/4/2012. Here is all the info I can offer...

1) The route was only in the sun from 7:30AM-11:30AM. We fixed the first 3 pitches the first afternoon and then did the whole thing the second day. By the time the route went into the shade the canyon hadn't even warmed up yet. Made it totally reasonable to climb this thing in August.

2) On pitch 3, there is a bolt/drilled angle missing on the final bolt ladder. I didnt have the right kind of hook to hook the whole so I threw on my climbing shoes and free climbed for about 5 feet at about 5.11- to clip the next bolt.

3) For some reason, pitch 4 took me a long time to lead. It is probably the longest, most sustained aid pitch on the climb but in retrospect it is straight forward. I used LOTS of gear on this pitch.

4) BRING OFFSET CAMS. They worked wonders in the many pod-type cruxes of the route.

5) BRING PEENUTS. I probably only placed 3 or 4 on the whole route but when I did, there was nothing else I could have placed.

6) I didn't use a hook until the "reachy hook" move on the last aid pitch. I tried everything to avoid it, but I deemed it mandatory. So, bring at least one hook or you might get stuck 20 feet from the top.

7) We fixed one 70M rope from the top of P3 to the bottom on Day 1. If we had had more time, definitely would have fixed P4 at least also with the second rope we brought. This would make day 2 alot easier.

8) The last pitch BLOWS. "5.5 chimney" expect full on misery. Also, we encountered about 10 pieces of shitty toilet paper in the sandy grovel to the Angels Landing trail. Apparently this is a popular place for people to drop a deuce.

Gear: As many small cams (BD .4 and under) as I could bring, triples of BD .5 (used this cam alot), doubles of BD .75-BD #3. 1 set metolious offset master cams. 1 set peenuts. 2 full sets of nuts. Lots and lots of carabiners.

Only had 3 aliens. Wish I had more.

Hope this helps anyone getting on the route. It's good!
By Darin Berdinka
Nov 22, 2013

Climbed this route for a second time in November 2013 something like 12 years after my first. Beautiful position with long stretches of excellent moderate aid climbing. Definitely not just a bolt ladder.

P6, P7 and P8 each had 1? very blown out placement. Bring very small brass or possibly medium-large tricams and a cheat stick just in case. A hook did seem crucial at a few spots.

Those blown-out placements will at some point need to be retro bolted if the route is to retain it's original grade/challenge.
By Dan L
From: ZION
Dec 3, 2013
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b C2

As previously stated, a piton is missing on the 3rd pitch bolt ladder, making a hook move mandatory (unless you feel like making hard free moves).

Pitch 4, never made a mandatory free move as stated in S.T.

For me, pitch 5 was the crux; I remember making at least three body weight placements in a row. I used peenuts and brass rp's on this pitch.

Pitch 6 was tricky, but my blue totem got me through the crux easily.

Pitch 8 had a bad blown out placement (could use a bolt), I bypassed it with a stick clip. My follower had a fun time following pitch 8 with a 30 ft fall/penji while having a lowering out incident.

Pitch 9 sucked, I would never take a haul bag up that thing! A big rack and camelback was hard enough to get up the chimney.
By Alec
Aug 25, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c C2

Fun but overrated. Doesn't follow much of a natural line and WAY too many bolts, except when you really need them. The last pitch has the hardest aid move of the route right in the middle of a pitch-long bolt ladder; a bit silly. Lower down, some easy free moves get you past many of the suboptimal placements.

Do the other classic trade routes in the canyon first.
By Ben7979
Nov 1, 2014

In the Supertopo book it says that pitch 4 has a mandatory 5.7 section. This is not true. Pitons are spaced close enough that it can be aided.