Just over eight years ago, I completed a free solo ascent – unroped – of the one of the most beautiful and challenging climbs in the world: a 350 metre crack called Moonlight Buttress in southwestern Utah’s Zion national park. At the time, Alpinist magazine called it “one of the most impressive free solos ever achieved.”
While I find it hard to articulate exactly why I’m drawn to this type of exposed, unroped climbing, the setting certainly plays a big role. Zion is aptly named: it’s a promised land of striking multicolored sandstone cliffs soaring from a green valley below. Though I’m intensely focused when I climb, the gift of doing it in such breathtaking places is not lost on me.
Unfortunately, Zion and other parks and public lands around the US are at risk from a variety of threats. It’s easy to assume that these lands are protected, but that’s not the case. Especially out west, our shared lands are, as Navajo Nation president Russell Begaye and other tribal leaders recently wrote, “under siege”.