Friday, May 19, 2023

Progeny Peak, 6,275', Zion National Park

Essence: The hike to Progeny Peak shows off the best of Zion with a staggering amount of variation in terrain features within just one mile, including an unusual arch. The peak's relatively short stature gives it a supreme vantage point over surrounding higher summits. The hike has many strong attributes: the approach and peak are entirely composed of Navajo Sandstone, the short hike works well on a travel day or when afternoon storms threaten, it is attainable for most hikers comfortable off-trail, it is simply beautiful from start to finish and solitude and peaceful silence are assured. The hike is such fun it merits the greatest compliment of all--worthy of repeating. The mountain is located north of Utah State Route 9, just east of the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel. The hike is within Zion National Park.   
Travel: Park in a pullout on the north side of the highway 0.3 mile east of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, just past Pine Creek. For those traveling west, the pullout will be on the right 0.9 mile west of the much shorter tunnel you encounter after the entrance station. There is room for 4-6 vehicles in the pullout. No facilities.
Zion National Park: Visit the website for information on fees and campground reservations.
Distance and Elevation Gain: 2.0 miles; 1,150 feet
Total Time: 1:45 to 3:00. For reference, it took us 1:05 up and :50 down.
Difficulty: Off-trail; navigation moderate; Class 2+ with mild exposure; wear boots with good grip; hike on a cool day and carry all the water you will need.
Reference: AllTrails has an annotated GPX file you may download.
Map: Springdale East, UT 7.5' USGS Quad
Date Hiked: May 19, 2023
What I ask from you, Nature,
is a deeply interfused confidence and peace,
a reprieve from fear and from hope
a sand grain of joy, an ocean of oblivion…

Antonio Machado
A hiker ambles up sheets of sandstone while rounding the summit dome of Progeny Peak.

Route: The route bears north-northeast up a minor drainage that is just east of the confluence of Pine and Clear creeks. Upon gaining the northwest ridge ascend southeast to the summit. The Springdale East topo has 80-foot contour intervals so the terrain is steeper than it appears on the quad.
Get your bearings from the parking pullout, elevation 5,160 feet. The peak is visible nearby in the north. The route passes right by the arch and makes for the northwest ridge at skyline, image-left.

The access drainage is seen from the roadway.
Locate a use trail at the east end of the pullout that drops into the wash. This image looks back at the pullout from the footpath. We concluded our hike before the rains came at 10 am. Clouds shrouded peaks to the west: Mind's Eye, Shelf Point, and The East Temple.

The waterway splits almost immediately. Take the branch upcanyon-right. Your confirmation is the unusual speckled white and tan slab, shown. The entire hike is on swaths of sandstone, so very pretty. A word about navigation in subtle terrain. It's more challenging to stay the course while going upcanyon because you have to decide which branch to take when the waterway splits. It's easier on the way back--just follow the evidence of water downhill. As seen on the map above, on our return we blithefully followed the wash to the immediate west and very soon intersected our original route.
Climb a steeper lip at 0.2 mile. This presents a minor friction test for your boots.
Follow the waterway up the shallow pink drainage holding a north-northeast bearing. Showers were occurring daily and the sand was moist.
The arch is clearly visible at 0.3 mile. It's not a skyline window but rather a thin ribbon of stone fastened to the sloping sandstone surface. Aim for it.
Three crusted black boulders that eroded from a different formation rest on variegated bedding planes.
At 5,540 feet the slope steepens. On our way up we veered to the west looking for shallower terrain. On our return we took a more direct line. Just work your way up the friction pitch at an angle that's manageable for you. Below, the arch is image-right partially hidden by a ponderosa pine.
Arrive at the arc natural arch at 0.5 mile, 5,680 feet. The initial perspective is unusual. The steeply sloping lintel is wider than it is thick. The arch is not indicated or named on the topo. AllTrails assigns the informal name "Two Pines Arch" but there is only one significant ponderosa remaining, its roots spreading down and around the base of the arch. Please resist the urge to climb on the fragile span.
Could anything match the beauty of an old growth ponderosa and a delicate thread of iron-red Navajo Sandstone? (Thomas Holt Ward, photo)
Proceeding, a visible crack extends north from the arch. To its left is a buttress. The easiest strategy is to climb left of the small buttress. We put our poles away (and never wished for them again) for the Class 2+ pitch. It was steep enough that I found myself climbing with my fingers bracing off the slope. Absent exposure, it was a delightful little interlude. (THW, photo)
This image looks from the buttress into the upper crack. I've included it because the whole scene is quintessential American West. (THW, photo)

Keep heading north and soon you'll top out on the buttress and arrive on a westward flat at 0.6 mile, 5,880 feet. Move to the east of the cleanly sliced fin, shown. Be sure to locate this obvious landscape marker.

From here, the summit is visible to the east. The easiest approach is via the northwest ridge. The route wiggles around a bit to gain the ridge. Turn east toward the mountain. While you may get some help from cairns, the way is intuitive--follow the lay of the land. Walk east until you head a shallow drainage and turn north.
Transition onto a bench. Stay on the terrace until the bedding planes on your right lay back enough so you can work your way up to the east. The bench was so irresistible we didn't want to leave it behind.
Heft up onto a low-angle sloping slab with the peak right in front of you. Yes, perhaps you could climb it straight on but why would you do that when the easier and more beautiful approach is on the ridge?

We passed by a penstemon blooming despite having taken root in a ever-so-thin crack in the slab. (THW, photo)

The sun reached under the clouds to illumine The East Temple. (THW, photo)

Walk over a sheet of brilliant rust-colored sandstone. 

Arrive on the northwest ridge at 0.8 mile, 6,040 feet, 0.15 mile from the summit. (THW, photo)

It was simply astounding that we hadn't even walked a mile and the vista was already overwhelming. Deertrap Mountain is the blade-like peninsula in the northwest.
The Scarlet Begonia is the confounding informal name for Peak 6,995' to the northeast. (THW, photo)
The final climb up the ridge begins with roughly 80 vertical feet of rubble on bedrock at a pretty steep incline.
Groups should spread out horizontally. Be on the alert for sliding slabs. Practice good slickrock techniques--avoid stepping on thin bedding planes and breaking off edges of stone, take baby steps to keep your weight over the earth and imagine smearing the soles of your feet into the stone. Make it elegant, not crude. This rock was laid down 180 million years ago and doesn't want to be dislodged by sloppy foot placement. (THW, photo)
The slope moderates and it's just pure pleasure finishing off the climb. (THW, photo)

Arrive on the roomy, relatively flat-topped summit in just under a mile. We were not able to locate a peak register in 2023. You wouldn't necessarily think so, but sometimes well positioned lower prominences have a visual advantage. Surrounded by a ring of taller peaks it felt like we were in the center of everything. Progeny is a ranked summit with 475 feet of prominence.

We were a world away but we could look way down on the highway, parking pullout, and tunnel entrance. On the horizon left to right are: Roof, Hepworth, Gifford, and Destination peaks, G2, G3, and conical Bridge Mountain.

Look southwest and you will see more of the snaking highway below Nippletop, The Fin, The (geometric) Triplets, Second Triplet, First Triplet, and Lost Peak.

Retrace your steps. The trickiest part of the hike is the downclimb off the lower summit dome. Once you are past the slope below the arch, just follow the stream course back to the start.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Hepworth Peak, 6,520', and Roof Peak, 6,551', Zion National Park

Essence: Climb two informally named Class 3 ranked summits on the Gifford Canyon and Hepworth Wash divide. The hike showcases Zion's diversity of sandstone terrain with creek bed walking, friction pitch slopes, expansive Navajo Sandstone bowls with ponderosa pocket gardens, and scrambles to small-knobbed summits with far-reaching views. Route finding is complicated throughout. A GPX track is helpful; map reading skills are essential. The hike is within Zion National Park. It begins at the east entrance of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel and heads south in Gifford Canyon.
Travel: Park in the first paved lot east of the tunnel on the south side of Highway 9. The 9-space lot fills early, around 7:00 am. There are additional pullouts further east on the highway. You must turn right out of the lot at the end of the hike. There was a major backup at the tunnel so we traveled miles up the road before we could turn around and get back in line. Vault toilet, no water.  
Zion National Park: Visit the website for information on fees and campground reservations.
Distance and Elevation Gain: 6.6 miles; 2,600 feet
Total Time: 5:00 to 7:00
Difficulty: Off-trail; navigation challenging in complex terrain; Class 3 with moderate exposure (can get into extreme exposure without any difficulty); hike on a cool day and carry at least four liters of fluids; wear shoes with good grip.
Reference: We referred to a track from a friend who did a technical climb up Gifford Peak followed by the scrambles up Hepworth and Roof. AllTrails has a description of this hike by an individual familiar with Zion. The site has an annotated GPX file you may download. The author provides alternate ascent lines to both peaks and a descent route from the Hepworth-Roof drainage into Gifford Canyon.
Map: Springdale East, UT 7.5' USGS Quad
Date Hiked: May 17, 2023
If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Rainer Maria Rilke
On Roof Peak the great immensity of Navajo Sandstone covering the Colorado Plateau to a thickness of 2,400 feet has eroded to reveal cross-bedding laid down in ages past. The apex is but a stacked array of thin disks poised to slide off the mother rock. The route comes up the pitch on lower left.

Route: Hike south-southeast in Gifford Canyon for one mile. Mount 500 feet out of the creek to the west and bear southeast through complex terrain to the saddle between Gifford Peak and Point 6,260'. Drop south to the drainage between Hepworth and Roof peaks. Climb west to their shared saddle. Hike roughly north to Hepworth and south to Roof. Retrace steps. Note: the Springdale East quad has 80-foot contour intervals so the terrain is steeper than it appears on this map.

The hike begins literally steps from the east entrance to the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel at elevation BM 5,124 feet.

Get your bearings. The image below was shot from parking. It looks down on the confluence of Pine Creek coming from the east and Gifford Canyon which ends at a pouroff, the crack at image-center. The bypass slab is left of the crack. Locate a rubbly trail dropping into the wash just before the vault toilet.

Absent advance information we merrily walked a few paces up Pine Creek, pictured. Heading east was not the plan so we backed out. Yes it is beautiful but it's the wrong canyon.

Rather, once past the pouroff mount the inclined slab, shown. At the top of the pitch a use trail bears south and wraps west into the creek bed above the dryfall.
This image looks from the top of the dryfall into a pool of early morning shade. The confluence of the two canyons is directly below, plus the talus "trail" from the parking lot. Shelf Point and Mind's Eye, the terminus of the southeast ridge of The East Temple, radiate dawn sun. (Thomas Holt Ward, photo)

Bear south in Gifford Canyon, a narrow idyllic streamway with a flat sandy floor and towering walls. It was a wet spring--footprints and deer tracks were imprinted in damp sand, ferns lined the riverbanks. (The sand may well be an impediment when dry.) Soaring ponderosas were fragrant with the scent of vanilla.  (THW, photo)

At 1.0 mile, 5,200 feet, arrive at a 200-foot vertical wall that serves as an unmistakable landscape marker. Leave the creek here making a hard right to the west.
There are a couple of good exits from the waterway.

Climb 500 feet up the steeply inclined slope. This segment of the hike was the most difficult for me mentally. The friction pitch worked the edge of my ability to stick to the rock. We found shallower terrain on our downclimb, shown on the map above. Pick your line thoughtfully. Work your way up the center toward the high cliffs at the top of the pitch. There were a few cairns, too sporadic to be of much help.
As you approach the top of the slope, you'll see a couple of cracks going south. You want the deepest one with the tallest sheer wall at about 5,720 feet. It is accessed by a short, rubble ramp doubling as a social trail.  

You'll be able to reach out and skim your fingers along the vertical wall on your right. (THW, photo)

When the crack gets cluttered with brush, turn up onto a ridgelet with an eastward vista. Pictured below is the inclined slope emerging from Gifford Canyon, the vertical wall at the turnout, and the water line plunging down from the Jenny Peak massif. (THW, photo)

Still on the ridgelet, follow a sandy social trail south up to a little reprieve at 5,800 feet. Turn northwest and climb the stone nose, image-right. (THW, photo)

At about 5,880 feet, you will come to a boulder with two micro arches, shown. There may be cairns heading further up the nose (leading to climbs west of Hepworth Wash). Ignore them and crank a hard left heading a small drainage. Continue following the trail south.
The path leads into an open bowl northeast of Gifford Peak, the white prominence at skyline, shown below. Contour around to the back of the basin holding 5,880 feet. It is a great pleasure to walk on the natural shelf where big trees have taken root on bedding planes. The incline to the bowl's rim is shallowest at the waterway.
We climbed southwest alongside a slip of water. This moderately steep ascent isn't as challenging as the friction pitch out of Gifford Canyon. (THW, photo)

Emerge from the bowl onto a terrace below the east cliff face of imposing Gifford Peak.

The route bears south passing the gap between Gifford and Hepworth while staying west of Point 6,260'.
The cryptobiotic soil on the terrace must be avoided. We used the rock runner, shown, on our way to the peaks. It put us a little high so we corrected on our return, using another swath of rock further west.
From the Hepworth-Point 6,260' saddle at 2.3 miles, 6,200 feet, we had our first view of the all-stone summits of Roof and Hepworth. Exciting and wondrous!
The route continues south along the base of the east face of Hepworth. Give up about 200 feet to contact the drainage between the two mountains, 2.7 miles, 6,000 feet. (THW, photo)

 Enter an elemental world of stone and ponderosa. 
The fractured purple blocks and cubes resting on the surface are floaters from a terrace north of the bowl.
The bowl pitched up as we closed in on the rim. Our favored route with the shallowest incline (and impossibly beautiful) was on the north side of the bowl. (THW, photo)

Arrive on the Hepworth-Roof saddle at 2.9 miles, 6,200 feet. Below, Hepworth's west ridge is image-left and the peak is hidden by the prominence on the right.

Hepworth Peak
The peak has a rise of 320 feet from the saddle and took us 20 minutes to achieve. I will describe our route but please see AllTrails for alternative choices both up and back. From the saddle we headed northwest staying west of the three-knob prominence, shown.

Below, I'm ascending the west slope. Due west, red Stevensworth Peak rears radically up out of Hepworth Wash. 
(THW, photo)

We decided to make the final approach from the west ridge. We were forced to bypass an obstacle on the north. Exposure on the workaround was serious and the footing poor on sliding rock. Committed, I climbed the summit stack from that approach, a nice little scramble, pictured. I thought it unlikely that the tiny nubbin was the highpoint but indeed it was.

I recommend that you approach by way of our descent route. From the saddle, work your way up toward the west ridge but stop short and climb east to the left side of the aforementioned three-knob prominence.
Claw your way up through sliding slabs to the right of the ponderosa, shown. While it is something of a nuisance, it's the safest alternative.

You will arrive in a pocket garden with the peak an easy 50-foot scramble to the north. This image was taken from the top of the sliding slab pitch.

The Hepworth Peak zenith is about three feet in diameter with room for two people. We topped out at 3.2 miles. The westward view encompasses innumerable sandstone peaks and yet they are but a fraction of the ranked summits within the park. This panorama swings from Mount Kinesava, The West Temple, companion Gifford Peak, and The East Temple. The radical color variation in Navajo Sandstone is one of its most appealing attributes. (THW, photo)

Below, I'm standing on the slightly more roomy sub-knob. The recommended route comes up between the two summit stacks. The image captures the view to the southeast. You can surmise the location of the East Fork of the Virgin River in front of the purple cliffs. (THW, photo)

Roof Peak is the neighboring summit to the south. Seen from Hepworth, there are two principal prominences. Point 6,542' (on the left) is marked on the Springdale East quad. However, the highpoint is on the west buttress, the pointed dome second from the right. Please see Lists of John for an explanation of the extrapolated calculation of its height at 6,551 feet and rise of 431 feet.
Roof Peak
Return to the saddle and climb south. We mitigated the incline by favoring the west ridge but you may wish to cut the arc short and aim directly for the peak. Our route took us up through the two summit knobs, image-left.

Ebony black iron concretions are scattered about on swaths of coral sandstone.

There's nothing tricky about this climb. I found it easier than Hepworth and very quick. The only dicey bit is the final friction pitch between the summit domes.
Roof Peak extends well to the east, rolling over Point 6,542'. The highpoint is unmistakable when you get up there. It is shown in the feature photo of this post. The form of the little apex is aesthetically incomparable and the views are sensational. It's an easy scamper up onto the west stack overlooking the Stevensworth ridge and Parunuweap Canyon. (THW, photo)

Given the melding of forms and color it's a little hard to sort out the westward view. In the midground at center is G2 and the higher peak to its right is Bridge Mountain. Both climbs originate in Gifford Canyon and climb the 500-foot friction pitch just as we did.

In this image Hepworth Peak is directly in front of The East Temple. You can see the terrace that the purple chunks of rock eroded from.

Ominous thunderheads were developing so we left a summit register near/under the peak cairn and scurried off the mountain. We had an excellent look at the summit of Hepworth from the west ridge of Roof. (THW, photo)
Navigation guesswork behind us, we maintained a quicker pace back to the trailhead. This image was taken as we flanked the east side of Hepworth. We managed to hone a cleaner line west of Point 6,242' but you'll be climbing no matter how you work it.
We planned to search for a scrambler's route up the south face of Gifford Peak but cracks of thunder in the near distance were nerve-racking. We discarded the idea and booked it back to the trailhead moments ahead of the rain.

Blooming flowers were plentiful. My favorite was the fragrant white sand verbena. (THW, photo)