Prominent Zion Aid Line Free-Climbed

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Rob Pizem above the five-inch roof crack on the sixth pitch of Gentleman’s Agreement. Photo courtesy of Mike Brumbaugh.

Rob Pizem above the five-inch roof crack on the sixth pitch of Gentleman’s Agreement. Photo courtesy of Mike Brumbaugh.

Rob Pizem and Mike Brumbaugh have free-climbed Gentleman’s Agreement on Zion National Park’s Three Marys formation at 5.13b. The 1981 aid route, visible from the town of Springdale at the mouth of Zion Canyon, has long been a target of free climbers, but the first-pitch liebacking crux had blocked a free ascent.

Pizem and Brumbaugh spent three weekends, starting in December, working on the line. Pizem said the 5.13b first-pitch crux is 30 feet of dead-vertical tips liebacking protected by fixed pitons in solid sandstone. “It makes you choose one of two things: clip them all and feel safe slamming into the corner, or run it out and get scared,” Pizem said. “Since I’m not strong enough to clip them all, I took numerous 20- to 30-foot falls while attempting to free the pitch.”

You can scope the big corner of Gentleman’s Agreement while sipping espresso in Springdale. The obvious line, first climbed in 1981, drew numerous free-climbing suitors, but none had managed to free the first-pitch tips lieback. Photo courtesy of Rob Pizem.

You can scope the big corner of Gentleman’s Agreement while sipping espresso in Springdale. The obvious line, first climbed in 1981, drew numerous free-climbing suitors, but none had managed to free the first-pitch tips lieback. Photo courtesy of Rob Pizem.

Above this are three 5.12 pitches, with a variety of crack climbing and stemming, and then three 5.11 pitches where the crack widens to offwidth, including an offwidth roof on the sixth pitch. The two climbers redpointed the route on January 18, with Pizem free-climbing every pitch and Brumbaugh freeing all but the first pitch.

After the first pitch, “the route climbs a brilliant splitter that drives up the wall in a corner system that runs from top to bottom,” Pizem said. “Varied climbing on great stone makes this route a true classic.” He added that it’s easy to aid the crux at the bottom and free-climb the rest of the route at 5.12; the climb can be rappelled with a single 70-meter rope. Pizem and Brumbaugh added no protection bolts, but they beefed up some of the belay/rappel anchors with bolts.

Date of Ascent: January 18, 2009

Sources: Rob Pizem, Selected climbs in the Desert Southwest

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The joy of offwidthing. Blood from Mike Brumbaugh’s ankle splatters onto Pizem during the two climbers’ first trip up the route in December. Photo courtesy of Rob Pizem.The joy of offwidthing. Blood from Mike Brumbaugh’s ankle splatters onto Pizem during the two climbers’ first trip up the route in December. Photo courtesy of Rob Pizem.

The joy of offwidthing. Blood from Mike Brumbaugh’s ankle splatters onto Pizem during the two climbers’ first trip up the route in December. Photo courtesy of Rob Pizem.The joy of offwidthing. Blood from Mike Brumbaugh’s ankle splatters onto Pizem during the two climbers’ first trip up the route in December. Photo courtesy of Rob Pizem.

Simple rack: the big cams used for the wide, 5.11 upper pitches of Gentleman’s Agreement. Photo by Rob Pizem.

Simple rack: the big cams used for the wide, 5.11 upper pitches of Gentleman’s Agreement. Photo by Rob Pizem.