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Moonlight Buttress

Dominating Zion’s valley floor, the striking and majestic Moonlight Buttress rises a formidable 1,300 feet. Renowned globally, this is arguably the most iconic and challenging multi-pitch sandstone route in existence. Standing at its base, your gaze is drawn upward to a solitary, flawless splitter crack, a vertical pathway winding seamlessly to the buttress’ summit.




United States




1,300 feet

First Ascent

Jeff Lowe & Mike Weiss

Date of FA


Moonlight Buttress

Ascent Log

To find more ascents of Moonlight Buttress by climbers all around the world, take a look at

ClimberSuggested GradeDate of AscentNotes
Jeff Lowe, Mike Weiss5.8 (aid)1971Jeff and Mike made the first ascent of Moonlight Buttress
Peter Croft, Johnny Woodward5.13b1992First Free Ascent
Alex Honnold5.12c1st Apr 2008First Free Solo Ascent. Alpinist Article
Ethan Pringle, Tiffany Hensley5.12c24th Apr 2018Ethan climbed the route on his flash attempt. Instagram Post and Video

Climb Profile

The Route

Zion National Park is one of the most awe-inspiring climbing areas of America’s Southwest Desert. Seemingly endless routes scatter the park’s enormous sandstone walls. Moonlight Buttress is perhaps the most classic of all these routes and is up there with one of the most iconic climbs, alongside The Nose.

The route is best climbed as a free route which clocks in at 5.12c. Many climbers also choose to ascend the crack using aid techniques (5.8), however, this has resulted in the fragile crack gradually widening over the years. In its original state, the crack only permitted the fingertips of most climbers.

Moonlight Buttress Topo
Moonlight Buttress Topo

Now many can find better jams, fitting their knuckles into the crack, which has softened the difficulty quite a bit. In order to preserve the challenging experience of the route for future generations, it is best to avoid repeatedly weighting cams, as is done with aid climbing.

The line follows a perfect finger crack all the way to the top of its namesake wall. Of the route’s ten pitches, six of them are 5.12 making for an incredibly sustained and difficult climb. Most of this difficulty arises from the need to stay composed through the pumpy and insecure thin sections, which require a plethora of small cams for protection.

Although the route can be reasonably climbed in a single day, most parties will take two or three to complete it due to its sustained nature.

The Ascents

Jeff Lowe is notorious for having put up a number of difficult walls throughout Zion in the 1970s. In 1971 he and Mike Weis made the first ascent of Moonlight Buttress. It wasn’t until slightly over 20 years later in 1992 that Peter Croft and Johnny Woodward made the historic first free ascent. Croft and Woodward’s ascent was groundbreaking and would be considered the most sustained and hardest free climb in the world at the time of their ascent.

The route was originally graded at 5.13b since the crack was much thinner. Since then the route has seen countless ascents, both aid and free. The next historic milestone came on April 1st, 2008 by a young Alex Honnold who made the first and, to this day, only free solo ascent of the buttress. Honnold rehearsed the route between March 28th and 29th, climbing it twice a day two days in a row – an impressive feat of its own!

Alex free solos Moonlight Buttress
Alex free solos Moonlight Buttress back in 2008

Honnold felt secure throughout the climb as most of the finger locks were very solid for his hand size, and it mostly just came down to endurance; something that has never been a problem for him. He climbed the route in an astounding 1 hour and 23 minutes. Speaking of this Honnold said the following:

“What gets me really psyched is that this is surely the speed record [of Moonlight Buttress], I don’t know if anyone can beat it, either. I turned on my iPod at the beginning, played my Top 25, rocked that to the top, and had a couple of songs to spare.”

What many do not know is that Honnold later returned to Zion and linked up a second free solo ascent of Moonlight Buttress with Monkey Finger 5.12 and Shunes Buttress 5.11+ in a single day, in the snow! This barely got any media attention, despite being one of the most impressive free solo link-ups in climbing history.

More recently, Ethan Pringle flashed Moonlight Buttress back in April 2018.

Ethan Pringle flashes Moonlight Buttress ©francoislebeau



Video Library


Born and raised in Northern Vermont, Zak's parents were hardcore adventurers, and the appearance of a child in their lives did not slow them down much. Each summer, they would toss him and an assortment of gear in the truck and gun it for the American West. After his first year at college, Zak applied for a job in Yosemite National Park, and for the next decade, he worked seasonally in Yosemite and on the Sierra Eastside, doing whatever he could to be close to those mountains. Currently, Zak lives on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, piecing together a living as a climbing guide, bartender and writer.

The Nose
Lurking Fear

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