Zion's Lunar X Goes Free at 5.13

Nik Berry on Lunar X (5.13). Photo by Jeremiah Watt

Nik Berry on Lunar X (5.13). Photo by Jeremiah Watt

Photo by Jeremiah Watt

Photo by Jeremiah Watt

4/25/11 - Utah climber Nik Berry has made the first free ascent of Lunar Ecstasy (aka Lunar X), a classic aid route on the Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park. The Salt Lake student spent about eight days total cleaning and working out the moves.

Berry, 25, was motivated to free Lunar X after climbing Sheer Lunacy (5.9 C2 or 5.12+/5.13) in early March, when "one has an incredible view of Lunar X," he says. "I could not keep my eyes off the line the whole time I was climbing Sheer Lunacy."

The nine-pitch Lunar X falls into the mid-5.13 range, with the majority of pitches mid-5.11 and harder. "The pitch that gave me the most trouble was the splitter 5.13 pitch," Berry says. "It is both technical and powerful. If I did not do the sequence just right, I was always off."

On his blog, Berry says the bulk of the hard climbing comes in three pitches: "the first being a boulder problem traverse pitch; second, a beautiful splitter that involves tight fingers, fingers, and some powerful face climbing; and the third hard pitch is a twin seam that takes small gear and is mostly face climbing with a few finger locks." Another problem on the route was the loose, sandy rock on the upper moderate, but runout, pitches. "This makes the climber always keep on his/her toes and never let your guard down," Berry says.

Aside from climbing, Berry's biggest challenges were finding partners and fending off inclement weather. "The weather in Zion this spring was horrible, and getting a partner to dedicate a whole day to belaying is difficult," he says. Even so, "I love long and difficult free climbing that is exposed," Berry adds. "Climbing is way more fun for me when I am hundreds of feet off the ground."

As an aid route, Lunar X goes at 5.10 C2+. It was established by Linus Platt and Brad Quinn in 1992.

Look for an interview with Berry in the Photo Annual issue of Climbing, on sale in June. Not a subscriber yet? Click here to save some paper and subscribe to the digital edition.

Date of ascent: April 2011

Source: Nik Berry