Surrendering to the circumstances…
My body is tired and weak. Five showers later, I still feel as if my hair is heavy with sand. The void of my world was replaced by the wonders of the baked desert earth, and the brown river that ebbed through the wandering canyon walls. Letting go of that connection to everything in the outside world, and allowing the “great emptiness” to sustain me for the next seven days of my life.
I showed up a day and an afternoon later then I’d originally planned… I got there in time to pack; observe deep shame; watch as one salvaged the trip with an extra thirty-pack and loaded the bus. Everything flowed along from one task to the next… We loaded up our canoes and strapped our valued possessions onto the rig and Celin, Dan, Chris, and I set off toward the bow-knot bend. We would scope on the way to see if there was worthy climbing to be done. We ended up foregoing quite a few first ascents and established climbs to continue further, closer to the goods…. The wingate layer littered with the most impressionable towers and first ascents!
Docking and loading ended up being the most tedious effort about our boating, and thankfully we decided early on that we would post camp only twice. After posting up our second and more permanent camp, we got down to business. The afternoon sun was in full effect, blazing away. We didn’t have time to climb, so we decided to start huffing our gear to the base of the cliff. The approach was not super long, but it was a gulley with many loose blocks, and at times it was very slow moving. One had to be light on their feet.
Our camp was a sprawl of tents, one per person, and a kitchen. We quickly realized that our greatest challenge would be to make sure we had enough drinking water, since we only brought one and a half days of water. Luckily, we had gotten a cleanstream gravity filter right before leaving on the trip – it was the only thing that could handle the excessive amount of silt in the water. For the next four days our lives consisted of coffee and a quick breakfast while packing a lunch; hanging the next bag of brown water to filter for dinner; full-blown assault-style climbing, the inevitable lull of the mid-day heat; afternoon brewskies while discussing the next line to be had; the descent through the gulley; Celin’s portraiture; cooking the evenings ration of food; fire starting with a round of scotch; clean-up; and the ever daunting task of filtering more water.
Our lives were simple. We were living the dream, waking up every morning to the grandeur of the towers and the next new ascent. The first three days were dedicated to putting up first ascents, so we eagerly looked upon the towers, wondering what size cracks would be yielded once under them. Over the course of those three days, we put up six new climbs ranging in difficulty from 5.10 to 5.12-, with two outstanding projects. We sorrowfully packed up all of our gear, which was a lot, and proceeded to return to camp. This realization that we just didn’t have enough time to complete everything left us yearning to return without even having left. We rewarded ourselves by reserving our last climbing day for the towers; which in the end proved to be much more extreme after three days of fatigue, sore muscles, and the depleted remains of food and beverages.
We got through the day although it was a rough start… Today was our first morning to sleep in, and we needed it to conjure up the psyche to finish our last climbing day. Chris and I put down a flask of scotch while enjoying our second cup of morning coffee. It seemed like the best way to motivate those weak wobbly-legs that would be huffing the load: two ropes, a selective but varied desert rack of gear, water, beer, food, binoculars, and whatever other random things that we considered necessary. It ended up being the coldest of all our climbing days. We lounged in the sun in full get-up while scouting the lines. Celin and Dan had gone up ahead of us to see the tower routes before heading over to our newly established buttress. We passed them in transit. Our already compromised motivation was waning further when we realized most of the lines we planned to climb were offwidths, the most tormenting style of them all. Celin and Dan kept cruising to scope more lines for our return trip and requested that we delay, so that they could gather their belongings from camp and get up to the buttress. Seeing no reason to rush, we took the lapse of time to envision all the possible climbs and find the means to polish off the trip with a tower in the cache.
Everything went as planned, and we celebrated on top of the tower; which left Chris and I with one nagging question: what lines came up the other side of these towers? When we returned to the base, we packed and ditched everything but ourselves, then quickly set off on an excursion to see what we should look forward to on future trips. Sure enough, we found more reasons to return.
Our last night at camp was one of restlessness. Already broken off from days of labor settling into our tired souls and the realization that we would have to breakdown camp and load the boats all before 8 a.m. We had a half of a day to get to our take-out and at least 10 miles of paddling on a flat river. Like the well-rounded efficient crew we were, we got it done and even managed to get to the take-out a couple hours early.
We celebrated our trip by ending our escapade with an evening of food and fun at Eddie McStiffs. It was a full-circle from beginning to end! My life will forever be altered by the generosity of friends and the serendipitous way it all comes together. Many thanks to Ken Meidel and Eric Hobbs at Cascade Designs, Boa at The Desert Rat my local climbing outfitter, and Brian from Pagan Mountaineering.