This last weekend Price and I went for an attempt of the longest route in the lower 48, The South Buttress direct of Mount Moran in the Tetons, it was beautiful, woke up early after a drizzly night, morning mist hanging over the crystal clear lake, a short break in the clouds and Mount Moran’s East Buttress was glowing golden high above us. We paddled the canoe filled with gear across String Lake, river otters watching us as we passed on the calm glassy water. We portaged the 300yds to Leigh Lake, paddling for another half hour to the North Western shore where the lake is fed by runoff from the Falling Ice Glacier. We packed our racks with food and water for overnight, a 50m rope each and started hiking up the beautiful glacial drainage eating wild raspberries along the way, talking philosophy.
Our plan was to climb 11 pitches that day and bivy in the small meadow before the final ridge, a longer than expected approach put us on top of the 2nd ramp and the first pitch of climbing at around 10am. Price had the first lead, and started up the pitch that was supposed to be 5.7 but felt much harder, my guess is that we were on a variation (later confirmed to be South Buttress Wrong). Thirty feet up he placed a yellow metolius cam, then weighted his right foot for the next move when a giant block the size of a mini-fridge broke off and headed straight for me. The rock made a sickening grating sound as it slid, after one bounce the block exploded sending football sized rocks raining down towards me and my unprotected head. Everything went into slow motion, behind me off the ledge was an 8 foot drop to a rock below and my only real option to escape the falling rock rapidly approaching. As I was trying to let out slack I jumped, football sized chunks falling around me, somehow I succeeded in dodging the most murderous ones but ended up coming up just short on slack and pulling Price off, slapping his forehead on the rock as he fell.
After a brief moment of silence, we gave a few war whoops in reaction to the adrenaline rush. What a close call! Price continued slightly shaken to the first belay. Six or seven pitches later we got off route and into some tough 5.11 climbing, I had to pull through a hard roof protected only by my smallest micro nut that is not intended to hold a fall and a screamer with a 20 pound pack, it was some of the scariest, coolest movement on rock I have ever done.
After this pitch we sat down and looked at our topos of the route. It looked as though we were on a route called “South Buttress Wrong” 5.11a A1 grade V, we didn’t have much more than an hour and a half of daylight left and knew we couldn’t make the bivy spot by dark so we decided we had to bail out.
We know now that we need to cross the lakes on the first night,and hike to the top of the 2nd ramp and bivy there for a bright and early 6am start up the first pitch and that we need to traverse left after the third pitch to the third class ramp. We’re going back for another attempt next weekend.
“Where there is no peril in the fight, there is no glory in the triumph”
I sit staring into the morning sun; I wish to run, to be free.
Ponder, wander, diddle daddle not.
To never fall, hit a wall, stall,
get a dead end job and acquire an overworked, underpaid, fatalistic modern mans drawl.
Our time here is short after all!
We hardly have time to blink if we just sit and think.
Some are content living dreams merely dreaming.
Afraid of uncertainty, plagued by insecurity, ever vainly seeking notoriety in this society of false propriety.
Settling for corporate lives, acquiring wives, houses, homes, dogs and phones.
I would rather live touchy, risky, rocky, rugged adventures.
Ride the thin line while you’re still in your prime.
Spend some time forgetting time.
Of course, with copious amounts of wine.
Its as good as you make it!
Dont be complacent. Latent side effects.
Live it, love it, love it, feel it, push it, never stop, never settle
live it how you like it,
Take a journey on the road in the grit and grime,
Thats not a crime? Try it some time.
It feels like it sometimes.
the “Man” begins to whine.
Ive made up my mind.
The first decent party having bridged and stemmed their way with back and feet pressing against opposing canyon walls for half a mile at a snail’s pace, knowing all the while that one wrong move would send them plummeting into the slowly constricting chasm 50 feet where they would be either wedged indefinitely or mangled beyond belief, just got intimate with the twisted personality of the canyon.
They thought the hardest sections were behind them, they had arrived at the chock stones above the first strenuous upclimb known in the world of rock climbing as a offwidth. A vertical crack too wide to jam securely with hands, fingers, or fists, where instead one resorts to outrageously insecure methods of jamming, knees, elbows, and sometimes the entire body into the crack, moving upward inches at a time…
Chou and I decided earlier in the week that we needed to get out for the weekend. Monday marked the beginning of a new semester for him and he was motivated to make the most of it, I proposed we return to Castleton Tower in Moab to redeem ourselves from our utter failure to even make it halfway up the approach last fall because of the severity of our self-induced sickness intrinsic to our known call sign of the Alcoholic Alpinists. “Hell”, I said, ” lets one up ourselves this time and do Sandthrax in the same weekend”, “why not?” “The vast canyoneering public are all middle-aged and overweight anyway right?” “No big deal, how hard could it be?” In hindsight, this very attitude, we both agree, is largely what contributed to our failure.
Friday night rolled around and we were more than ready to get out of the city. Braiden picked me up around 5pm and after realizing that my printer wasnt working, made a quick stop at my dads house to print off the Sandthrax route description, taking one and leaving one with him. We rolled into moab around 10:30, filled up our water jugs at the river road spring where we realized we had forgotten a tent, quick trip to the moab market for some ten-dollar tarps that we were comfortably wrapped up in shortly after in Castle Valley bunkered down for a semi-rainy night.
After the tower, and a brilliantly bright star filled night, we got going and started gearing up at the Sandthrax trailhead, it didnt take very long as we didnt really bring any gear other than 60 feet of webbing, our climbing shoes, harnesses, belay devices, nalgenes, a 1/4 bag of trail mix and a smashed sandwich. The route description we had said the canyon would take no more than 6 hours.
We decended into the canyon using our webbing, and navigated the first and only small sections of water filled potholes without getting wet. Only a few hundred feet into the canyon the stemming begins, fairly benign at first, 15 -20 feet above the bottom of the V for a short time, then the canyon quickly gets deeper until you are stemming 50 or more feet above the canyon floor. Falling here would be pretty terrible, especially if you went head first, pinballing off the sides of the canyon until you wedged in at the bottom.
The canyon seemed to go on forever, and an two or three hours in, still working our way downcanyon, I started to become aware of how slow we were moving, Braiden was getting a little spooked at the higher wider sections, and taking breaks frequently. As we got deeper the canyon started to change rapidly, we were now stemming over, descending into, and stemming out of 60,70, and 80 foot silos. Silos are formed when the canyon turns a sharp corner, or hits a softer pocket of rock, the water, reacting to the sudden change in direction, swirls around, boring enormous holes that extend to the bottom of the canyon. The feeling you get compares nicely to standing inside the bottom of a giant grain silo, hence the name.
Just after descending into the silo in this picture was the first hard up climb, an offwidth and chimney section that was around 45 feet high to some chock stones lodged between the walls. The sun was going down quickly, and we both were starting to get worried, we had run out of water an hour or so before and were starting to realize how quickly we would become dehydrated. On top of the chock stones Braiden told me he was so exhausted and scared that he couldn’t keep going. At this point I was really fighting to stay calm because I had the undeniable feeling that shit was really going to hit the fan quickly, I had to move and move fast. The plan was that I would finish the canyon alone and return to the car where I could get our ropes and gear to get him out. Reluctantly, I started stemming off the chock stone ledge down canyon, at this point it was about 80 feet to the canyon floor, and with the light fading quickly I was starting to get a little spooked. A few hundred feet down from the chock stones I hit the edge of a massive silo. I could see one drilled piton with a quick link, and chimneyed down another 20 feet to reach it, once there I took the webbing out and attached it to the quick link and proceeded to belay myself across, at the other side the canyon constricted for 20 feet or so, still 80+ feet off the ground, then opened up into an even bigger silo that was impossible to stem. I rappeled down into the chimney at the edge of the silo as far as I could using the webbing, untied, and chimneyed down the remaining 40 feet or so. The bottom of the canyon turned sharply to the right, where it dropped off an additional 40 feet into a hole with nasty sandstone fins. Cautiously I skirted the hole to take a look at the crack that obviously was the only way out. Oh Shit. Were screwed. The crack is hard, I mean really hard, a nasty offwidth about 6″ wide, sandy, and impressively flared, my adrenaline surged just looking at it, said to be around 5.11c for 30 feet and still another 20 feet of hard 5.10 climbing. I have the feeling I can do it. I’ll give it a shot. Shit. No way. With no gear and faced with a catastrophic fall even in the first few moves backwards and into the depths of that nasty man-eating fin filled hole it was just too heady, there would be no warm up run, blow a move, you die.
I called up to Braiden to let him know I couldn’t do it, the risk was too high, and that we would have to figure another way out. For a second I panicked, my adrenaline surged, it was damn near dark, and I had never been so thirsty in my life.
I climbed up about 30 feet into the chimney heading in Braidens direction, dropped into the bottom of the silo where the webbing was hanging, and climbed out hand over hand 60 feet. When I finally made it back to where Braiden was perched on the chock stones, we started going over our options, our probability of rescue, and how long we had to live if the rescue didn’t come. At this point we knew we needed to keep our cool, it was turning into a really bad situation quickly, it had been 9 hours since we entered the canyon and I was starting to get muscle cramps and spasms resulting from dehydration. Braiden was pretty worked at that point as well, fatigued mentally and physically, exhausted and scared. While sitting on the chock stones an idea occurred to me, there was a good-sized rock that was available right there in between the chock stones (loose rocks of the right size in any other part of the canyon were almost impossible to find), we had webbing, and we had the harness bag Braiden had been using to carry the webbing, smashed sandwich, and the trailmix. When I told Braiden what I was thinking his demeanor noticeably changed with that small bit of hope as we moved to attempt the escape. We emptied out the harness bag of all unessential items, and replaced them with the rock.
I left the chock stones first, trailing the webbing. When I made it to the bolt in the silo, I reattached the webbing and belayed myself across just as I had before, I then went as far as I could into the next section of mae west slot, and wedged my body into a fairly comfortable belay position. Braiden clipped into the webbing while I held it tight, using it as a tyrolean traverse to get across the silo. We traded positions, and while Braiden rappelled into the crux offwidth silo, I moved back up the canyon to the edge of the last silo. Since I couldn’t get to where the webbing was tied to the bolt and make it back to where I currently was at the other side of the silo, and I needed all the webbing I could get, it would have to be cut. I know that it is pretty stupid that we didn’t have a knife with us, but that’s how it was, all we had was a lighter. I started burning through the webbing, but it was taking a little more time than I thought and as a result the lighter overheated and the spark wheel popped out extinguishing the flame. “Jesus we’re going to fucking die!” I exclaimed loudly, “Shut the fuck up you piece of shit!, dont fucking say that!” Chou yelled back. It was definitely not the best thing to say outloud given the situation… Back to operation webbing plan B…there was no plan B. That was our last and only chance of getting out of the canyon by ourselves, and I just single-handedly fucked it up big time. I remembered that I had my reverso, a belay device unlike most others in that it is made with two die cut and dissecting pieces of aluminum plate, allowing me to use it essentially as a very dull chopping blade. After about a half hour of adrenaline fed desperate hacking and chopping, and knuckles cut damn near to the bone I finally made it through.
I quickly chimneyed the 80 or so feet down to Braiden, and after tying all the necessary knots, the webbing was tightly secured to the rock which was still inside the harness bag. I stemmed my feet up and over the 30 foot hole to the bottom of the silo, while Braiden held me so I wouldn’t fall, I swung the rock at the end of the webbing, and tossed it up into the crack… Perfect! A little lower than what I had hoped, but enough that I could tie in and have some protection past the hardest section, the bottom 15 feet. After getting high enough that the webbing was getting tight, I unclipped, all points off, free soloing for the remaining 20 feet or so.
It was completely dark at this point and after catching my breath in the slot above I continued down the canyon at a pretty fast pace, excited to get the hell out of the canyon and drink some water, the thought of drinking an entire gallon of water was tantalizing. A hundred or so yards from where I climbed out of the silo I hit (what else) another silo, and in the darkness I could not see how deep or how far apart the walls were, I tossed in some stones I had collected on the approach hike to try to gauge the depth.. bottomless. Obscenities of the highest order were heard echoing off the canyon walls as I informed Braiden that we would be spending the night.
After the sun went down it started to get chilly, we were both in our cutoff shirts, I in my climbing pants, and Braiden, still down in the crux silo, had cutoff shorts. Sometime around 11 pm and 12 am we pissed in our nalgenes and huddled up with them in our shirts to keep warm. I was contorted into the bottom of the slot 10 feet away from the silo with my feet jammed in the crack so as not to slide towards the edge, changing to a squatting/ head stem position and back every half hour or so. Braiden was sleeping in his harness, hanging off the rock and webbing on the crux pitch. Badly cramping, shivering, and dehydrated, it was a pretty terrible nights sleep. Throughout the night we would yell to each other to make sure the other was still ok, probably around 1 am I hear Braiden say something, “Hey Dude…(pause)……Dude………” “Whats up?” I replied,…… “Don’t try that dude, its terrible”…. “What?”, “The piss man, don’t drink the piss”, “It’s really bad”. About an hour later I smelled my nalgene and dry heaved a few times.
I woke up from a short doze around 5am, it was still pretty dim down in the canyon and I felt like I had just done a few sheets of acid and spent the night in the rabbits hole from Alice in Wonderland, then run through a dry cycle inside a dryer a few times, dreams in delerium, an epic in sandthrax. Everything was loopy and strange, my eyes didn’t want to focus, I dont want to be here anymore.
I stood up with my back on one wall, trying to gather my thoughts, trying to pull myself together enough to get a clear and concise plan going as to the most efficient way out. I looked again at the silo, it looked pretty hopeless, way too high consequence for me to attempt myself. The only other way would be to go up, straight up the canyon wall. I have free soloed 400 feet before, but never in my running shoes on sandy crumbling sandstone. I saw a small edge and flake system that traversed a bit to the left from where I was, directly over the lip of the silo, then trended back to the right, 50 feet up it looked like it might be low angled enough to climb easily. I started up the face slowly, I blew the first move twice and had to step back down to where I could stem again, on the third shot I committed and moved through the hardest section cautiously, meticulously, calmly, trying to keep it together, one wrong move and I was a pile of hamburger at the bottom of the silo. I would say it was around 5.10c face/ slab climbing for 50 or 60 feet before that thing rolled over and mellowed out, pretty intense.
I yelled to Braiden that I had gotten out, and that I was headed back to the car to get the ropes and gear to get him out. From my high vantage point, the sight I saw was humbling, we were only a half mile from the road, I was 120 yards at most from the end of the canyon, our calls for help had been drowned out by a fucking generator on a motor home.
After making it back to the car, downing a can of soup and a half-gallon of water, I packed up 4 ropes and what gear I though I’d need, a full gallon of water, and Braidens poncho since he was still shivering in the silo. It took me about an hour to rig up the anchor and ropes, and another 3 to get him out. We had spent over 24 hours in the canyon.
Lots of Lessons Learned.
I am creating this blog to do document the adventures of the Vastly Superior Summer, and our various climbing exploits and epics.
The idea of the Vastly Superior Summer was the vision and creation of Price to top the summer of 1998. During this summer Price had some kind of adventure every single weekend, whether it was the Ice Caves in Idaho, Canyoneering in southern Utah, or getting lost somewhere in the wilderness using sticks to build fires. I have adopted the idea myself, and am fully committed to making it happen.
So far we are 7 weekends in and its only mid April! We have 28 weekends left until the end of October, combined with the previous weekends thats 35 weekends total!
Mar 6-8th Price, Devin, and I all piled our copious amount of camping and climbing gear into Devin’s truck and began our journey to Moe’s Valley. After listening to good music and pouring over the guidebook on the drive we arrived in Saint George after dark and I proceeded the attempt to guide us into Moe’s. That was interesting, the guidebook had ok directions on how to find it but we still managed to circle around all the main streets in Saint George for over an hour looking for the un-marked entrance and dirt road. By this time Price had woken up from his cozy crashpad bed in the back of the truck among all of the gear and asked Devin, “Don’t you have a GPS?”, ah that might help.
We pulled into Moe’s to see the grand sight of good quality, (though extremely sharp) sandstone pebbles to be wrestled! Of course we couldn’t wait and strapped on the headlamps for a night bouldering session among a sky of stars. Whooping and hollering we ticked off several problems on the 15 foot monolith boulder before proceeding to set up camp in the howling wind.
Morning! ” rice and beans for breakfast” says Price. Oatmeal and tea for me. Sunny day! Leave camp and head to Blackrocks, a wash lined in 30 to 40 foot basalt sport climbing cliffs. We hiked in and met up with Chad and the Logan crew along with Julia and Kali, ended up doing one route before we decided we weren’t digging it and left for Chuckwalla. After a good sunny day of juggy 10’s and a beautiful 12 on a prominent arete, we all headed back to camp, cooked dinner, and hung out around the fire telling jokes (led by Price) and played the Greeeen Glassss Doooor. I wont tell you what that is if you dont already know but hope you arent as hopeless figuring it out as I was.
The next day was Livin’ On the Edge (10c) day in Snow Canyon, a beautiful 4 pitch line up the face right side of a huge amphitheater carved into the sandstone. One of the coolest face routes on sandstone I have done. I later learned that this was a new route and we were some of the very first to do all 4 pitches!
March 13- 22nd 2009
Possibly the most EPIC spring break i can remember! I slogged through the week at school barely able to concentrate, all I could think about was caressing beautiful sandstone cracks, yes i’ll admit it I am a crack fiend. Friday finally came and Price and I slung our grotesque amounts of gear into the Trooper. Another excellent drive south that is never complete without good music and Prices enormous bag of Hot Tamales.
San Rafael Swell, mystic land of deep canyons and enormous sandstone bluffs. It began its formation 50 million years ago. Over time the sandstone has slowly been lifted, through years of erosion thousands of brilliant cliffs and canyons have been carved. Pressures from a deep fault have pushed Wingate and Navajo sandstone on the eastern edge, the “San Rafael Reef,” near vertical. Just what we are looking for. Through millions of changing seasons, freeze/thaw conditions, in conjunction with geological pressures, water has slowly pryed open these cracks to various sizes: fingers through disgustingly wide, GOLDEN!
We enter the swell on the Buckhorn Wash road scanning the cliffs for anchor chains. Two short hand cracks beg us to stop and climb them, we both led them and were craving more. A short way down the road we spotted a monster 130-140 ft route that looked awesome from the road. When we arrived at the base, it still looked good except for some rotten rock at the start… little did we know… Price racked up and started up taking his time as he worked the moves through heignous rotten rock, then he got to the pods, almost man eating offwidth pods. After a tense half hour price clipped the chains and whooped..got it… Clean! “Im glad I did it, I dont think ill ever do it again though!”
Survivor man Price spotted a stand of cottonwood trees off the road, “cottonwoods mean survival” he says as we pull off the road aiming the Trooper for them. The bark is prime for starting fires for one thing, or for cleaning dishes, but the biggest reason is that cottonwoods are big thirsty trees, and in the desert water means life.
After rolling out our pads and bags under the stars Price teaches me how to make fire using only materials found in the wilderness.
Rice and beans for dinner again, and after a crisp night under the stars we head up to Pine Canyon. I had been thinking about Rabid Muslim the whole trip so far, so we decided to make that the first of the day. I was feeling bold and confident as I started up the perfect hands start, hand foot foot hand foot foot plug in a #2 and repeat. The roof had looked intimidating from the time we stepped out of the car. “you got this man, keep your shit together man, you got this” talking myself through it I pulled the roof and shook out a bit “that was gnarly man” i said to myself, or so I thought. Above the roof it turned to thin hands, inherently scary, all you can fit in the crack is the meat of your hand below your pinky on your right hand and the meat below your thumb on the left. I gritted my teeth and continued, this size has always scared me but it felt more solid today, like I had finally unlocked the secret, everything was flowing until I ran out of gear, I still had 70 feet to go. I knew I was far above the ground and the fall would be clean so I continued bumping the last of two pieces that fit for 40 feet, left it in and chugged it to the top. Scary. Adrenaline…I Love Climbing.
Yet another brilliant day of climbing, and another page in the VSS! We headed home the next morning and Price dropped me off at the dinosaur museam in Price with all of my gear. I made some oatmeal and coffee and then just hung out reading and listening to music until about 3:00. Braiden, Netelbeek, and Ashley finally arrived in Ashley’s subaru that was looking rather burdened with 3 people and almost as much gear as Alara and I had taken on the trip last summer. So I strapped my big pack on the roof with some of the 100ft of webbing I had brought and cuddled into half the back seat with Netelbeek. After a quick food stop at a Wendys where none of the employees knew what was going on, probably not even what day it was, we were off. I really love the drive, it gives you just enough time to mentally note where you left off in the grind, and file away all your cares, as you find yourself getting farther and farther south it is not uncommon for you to feel your smile getting bigger and bigger. We pulled into a nice sandy area across from a ranch and set up camp. I rolled out my bag and pad in the sand and went searching for wood. Yes! not many people get to experience a campfire in the most desolate place in the lower 48 smelling the sweet smell of a long dead Cedar burning (started with sticks of course). Robbers Roost, located between the Colorado, Green, and Dirty Devil Rivers, the Roost is a wild, remote land of deep hidden canyons, used by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as Butch and his “Wild Bunch” in the late 1800’s.
The next day we headed for Larrys Canyon, a deep picturesque slot canyon, we cruzed through the canyon to the last rappell. There we found a full 60 meter rope tied in a single overhand knot through one rap ring for a 40 foot rapell “huh?” let me say that again, a full 60 meter rope = 197 feet for a 40 foot rapell tied in a single overhand knot through a rapell ring, roughly 1.5″ diameter= scary dangerous rapell, “either these guys had something happen, or got hurt and had to bail, or they were completely retarded”, “wait… they tied a single overhand through one ring!?……i will be surprized if there isnt a body down there” after we all rapelled we were shaking our heads at the stupidity of these mystery canyoneers, we pulled the ropes along with the note they had left about where to return the rope, and headed out the wash to find the exit. We started seeing a trail of blood, maybe no more than a severely bloody nose or busted knee, but alarming nonetheless. We kept hiking and still were seeing blood, you could actually follow the trail out of the canyon, by this time our imaginations were running wild. Bizzare rope? Blood? What happened? It wasnt until we got back home and Ashley called the number on the note that we found out it was some drunk guy who didn’t even remember tying the knot in the rope. The blood was from his dog who had worn through its pads on its paws, he was drunk when he answered the phone and wasn’t too nice, looks like Braiden got a new rope!
Wednesday we looked for “Not Mindbender” to no avail, it seems we ended up on the wrong side of Robbers Roost Canyon proper? We seriously considered just dropping into the canyon we were skirting the rim of and see where we came out (if we got out). We had 100ft of webbing, one 50 m rope, a granola bar or two a peice, our full water bottles and a purifier. Not really knowing what canyon it was where it went or how we would get out, it seemed the general consensus was washy on the idea so we decided we ought not.
We were dissapointed that we didnt end up finding the canyon, and it was getting too late to start another so we headed back to camp and enjoyed the beautiful weather. The next morning we woke up and did Chambers Canyon. Short, no rappells, but a fair amount of technical stemming and waist deep wading in icy water got us through.
That night after the crisp breezy sunset Mitch, Kelsi, and KP were waiting for us at camp. We all sat in the sand around the campfire, listening to music (thanks to netelbeeks massive headphones), and after loosening up with a fair amount of carbonated beverages around an awesome fire, we decided Blue John was tomorrows canyon. It would be Mitch, KP’s, and Kelsi’s first canyon experience! Blue John was a spectacular canyon, it was fun to see the canyon virgins digging it! We were all beat from the miles of slogging in the sandy washes and we piled in the subaru and headed back to camp. By this time the subaru was voicing its concerns with us, it was over heating badly, and we kept feeding it more and more water. After cooking dinner KP, Ashley and I decided we were going to leave that night, I had to get back to Salt Lake in time to catch a ride back down with Price to Indian Creek to finish out the 10 days of camping, canyons, and climbing. It is usually a four hour drive back to Salt Lake when you dont have a gear laden car with a blown head gasket, it ended up taking double with stops every half hour or so to fill the radiator back up, i wasnt much help, out cold in the back seat, we ended up pulling in at around two in the morning! loong drive.
I went to sleep for a couple hours, woke up, and called Price. “Sorry dude, we left last night” he says over the phone, “well im not sitting at home while your at indian creek this weekend”. I packed the fourunner and headed out solo to meet them. Moab Brewery. Price had brought Marianna from Russia. We chatted, had burgers and made our way to the creek where we found our “secret camping spot”, that has proved to be our bread and butter during our stays at the Creek. The next day we climbed at Super Crack Buttress where price took a 20 footer off of “The Wave”
Another awesome weekend of climbing at indian creek, what a way to end the week!
Snow. Salt lake in the spring, go figure. I was getting antsy to climb sitting in front of the computer wasting time on Facebook and Mountainproject once again. Price logged on. “hey” I typed, “hey”, he typed….. “wanna go aid School Room Roof in the snow?” ….. “are you serious” says Price. “it will be heinous but yeah”… after implying that I kept reinforcing his idea that I was a crazy bastard, we met at the Little Cottonwood park ‘n’ ride, headed up the canyon and parked in a foot of snow at the pullout for the schoolroom. We slogged up to the base through 2 feet of snow covered boulders.
Price took the first pitch cleaning snow out of the cracks with bare hands to place gear. Some insecure hook moves, a frozen bush mantle, and screaming barfies (when your hands are so cold you feel like you might throw up) he built an anchor on a scrub oak tree. This same pitch when dry might take 15 minutes, it took two hours in the snow. I followed up his route cleaning the gear, and prusiked (ascending the rope with a special knot) the rest of the way. It was dark and we decided to fix the line and come back for assault #2 in the morning.
The next morning was a little warmer and the sun was out. We headed up the boulderfield to our fixed line, and ascended the rope to our high point. Chunks of ice were coming down all around us. It was my lead, we were directly below a gigantic shelf of ice, a 20 foot wide shelf with three and four foot tall icicles. I was trying to move quickly so we could get out of its path but just as I was about to start up the next pitch it broke, pelting us with dinner plate sized shards of ice and cold slush, burying our rope. Price took the brunt of it, we were both ok, laughing about it, we were both glad it was out of the way.
I finally pulled through a small roof and onto the slab above, moving up through the snow, the roof was in sight, guarding the roof however, was a fairly nasty offwidth crack section (a crack that is too big to hand, or fist jam, usually 4-12 inches wide or wider, special techniques such as knee jams and chicken wings are usually employed) in these conditions with clunky boots on, and with no gear to protect that wide of a section I decided to back down, so close, but so far! I traversed to the right up to a big ledge and belayed Price up.
Not about to admit defeat we intended to traverse almost 80 feet on a blank slab. Kneeling down, Price (6′ something) stood on my knee and clipped the rope into a bolt. He lowered me far enough to pendulum swing to a flake that would take me back up to his level. After aiding up the flake, and back level with Price (20 feet to the right of him) I placed two small cams above me and clipped the rope in. Again Price lowered me and this time I ran across the slab towards Price as far as i could, reversed and started running (sideways) towards the bolt, barely missing it with the draw, i swung back towards Price “man i hope those cams hold”. Running to the left, and even faster this time I swung higher “click” “got it”. I needed to be one bolt higher though, and the only way to get there was to use the one hook we had on a tiny crystal edge. I carefully, slowly weighted the hook pushing it into the wall so it wouldnt blow off and send me tumbling down the slab. I slowly and gently stood on it and reached as high as I could to clip the bolt. “Phew!” We finally made it across, the last pitch was an easy walk up the snow shelves to some scrub oak above the roof.
We had a great time aiding out of the roof on fixed rusty pins. Our first experience!
I realize that I may be making this blog a little too wordy and long winded. It is as much to remember these experiences and the finer details myself, as to share them with you.
Price has been one of the most influential people I have met, and probably the most centered, inspiring, and wise. One of those guys you meet that put everything in perspective for you, to make you humbly aware of your weaker points, and wholy aware of your strong, one of those guys that you feel lucky to have met, an excellent teacher, and someone to look up to.
No, I dont have a man crush.
I just got a new job, working for ITT Integrated Systems Defense. The best part is that unlike my previous employer the paychecks are garuanteed. Its my first “real job” with good pay, and benefits. I know its not a life sentence, an open ended deal, I can opt out at any time, I see it as a stepping stone, a means to an end. Having said that, its my first taste of a major corporate company, starting as a nobody (especially in NDT until you are a level II), incentives to conform. I intend to use this opportunity to budget wisely, pay my debts, obtain my level II in ultrasonics, and squirrel enough money away for the next Big Adventure.
For the next three weekends Price and I made our weekly pilgrimage to Indian Creek. Honing our skills on the sandstone cracks, gaining confidence in thumbstacks, thin hand jams, big hand jams, offwidths, and rattly fingers.
Feeling strong and confident on the third weekend, with the company of Alex and Ceci, I put up a new route.
It was the second pitch to an existing route, an amendment, a pitch that should have been put in by the First Ascent party to realize the full potential of that particular piece of rock.
Putting in first ascents is an incredible feeling, it was my first one, once you have done one its all over, you have the bug, the itch, boosted motivation, determination, a wild primal rush, and feeling of accomplishment, virgin rock no longer. A huuge thanks to Price, for the belay, and his quick reflexes to dodge falling rock, and for the bolt hangers, Alex, for the hand drill, hammer, and bolts, Summers, for the pictures and good company, and Ceci, for support, and smile.
Several weeks ago price loaned me “The Sharp End” an incredible climbing movie that since I have watched 8 or 9 times, in fact I think ill put it in right now!
In the movie, Steph Davis (a professional rock climber) free soloes the 5.11b north face of Castleton Tower in Castle Valley, UT. I had been wanting to climb the tower for quite some time and since I have been getting stronger I didnt want to climb one of the easier routes just to get to the top. The north face is an extremely aesthetic line up a prominent dihedral, through a fingers roof, and up an offwidth crack system to the top. I decided to go for it, and mentioned it to Price, “Lets do it” he said, of course.
After a night under the stars once again on the cool desert earth, we woke up early and started the approach hike.
It was a beautiful sunny morning and we hung out and racked up on the sundeck boulder at the base. “On belay?” “on belay”, I started up the dihedral, 30 feet up I realized I didnt bring near enough #3 cams, two or three times I down climbed, refusing to take, or be lowered (I wanted to get it clean…bad) , to take gear out to use higher up the pitch. I milked the rests, and kept chugging, I got to a so-so rest just before you pull through the overhang and start into the crux when a dude pops around the corner to my right on rapell. “Dude, sick photo op, can I take some pictures?” he says, “Sure, but uh, this is kind of the crux man…so make it quick”. He continued down, and with some choice words, and some self motivating screams, I pulled through the 11b crux on rattly fingers. AHHEE AAHEE!
I pulled the rest of the rope up and belayed Price up. He was’nt feeling it as much as I was today, so I took the second pitch too. The second pitch was a spooky offwidth that (of course, as usual) i didnt have gear for. I finagled in a #4 and ran it out to a good placement in a small roof. The next section, you have to pull right out of the offwidth, traverse, and back up into a hand crack, being kind of short I ended up having to do a small dino to a good crimp and finished it out.
I led the third pitch as well through more offwidths and a chimney where i dropped prices yellow master cam (sorry Price) to the summit!