The plan was to climb Utah’s Castleton Tower and then haul a full-size Weber grill, food for a few dozen hungry climbers, and 60 beers up the North Chimney. About 36 people attended, and only about half of them knew about it before the climb—the other half got the surprise of their lives when they topped out Castleton to a full-blown backyard barbecue. As each unaware climber neared the summit, someone would lean over the edge and take their order: cheeseburger, veggie burger, or hot dog. I left a can underneath my truck in the parking lot so the unsuspecting partygoers could throw a few bucks in when they got back. Between the beer and the Costco bill, I broke even.
The theme of this year’s barbecue was cowboys, so my wife and I wore oversized 20-gallon foam cowboy hats for the climb. Heading up the North Chimney, I was leading the funky offwidth squeeze that extends about 20 feet off the belay. I got myself in the crack and immediately realized I had a problem—the tight slot had pushed my jumbo cartoon hat down over my head, so much so that it was sitting on my shoulders. My entire head was inside the hat. Oh no, I thought. I can’t fix this. My hands were locked in a stack, and I couldn’t take them out to adjust the hat. My only choice was to keep going until I succeeded or whipped. I climbed through the whole section blind, somewhat deaf, and completely dumb.