Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gossiping with Penguins and Owls


 Annie and I had decided we didn't like SLC this past week due to the ridiculous amount of snow that fell and ruined our enjoyable fall. So we don't do this often, but we took a one day trip to Moab to climb some desert towers and escape the foot of snow on our lawn.

Neither of us had been to arches in the past 10 years, and there are quite a few towers there that are shorter with easy approaches, so we borrowed some cams from James and set off Friday night with hopes of desert summits. It was raining on the way down, and we were afraid it would ruin our plans, but after a night spent sleeping in the car at Klondike Bluffs the day dawned partially cloudy but with lots of sun.

Our first objective was a short, 35m tower called The Three Penguins. It is right off the main Arches road and is the first tower formation you can see from the Visitor Center. We hiked the brutal 3 min approach slabs up to the base and got started. "The right chimney" goes at 10d, and is the best route up the tower. Pitch 1 is a 5.10a/b fingers to OW right facing corner that packs a punch despite its moderate rating. The crux is cupped hands through a bulge, Annie's favorite size. Pitch 2 was all #3 camalot size and bigger. I placed 2  #3's in the first 10 feet then it widened to #4, and finally a  15 foot section of #5 camalot. I got to work with my hand/fist stacks and knee locks while walking my bootied #5 up with me. Finally the crack widens out to where you can squirm inside the crack horizontally using chickenwings and thrutching. A short boulder problem guards the top. This pitch goes at 10d, which felt accurate. Its pretty secure, just strenuous. Annie hated it. "Can we go find a nice thin hand crack?" she said. "Nope, the desert requires mastery of all disciplines, and we have two more towers to go". Annie unfortunately rolled her ankle on the way down and we were fearful of our afternoon plans being botched, but after some ice from the cooler and ibu, she decided to sack up and climb some more. Hardcore.

The penguins

Pitch 1, cupped hands through bulge

Annie showing excellent hand/fist stack technique on pitch 2 OW.

On the summit. My impression of a penguin. I think its more like a chicken.

Side view of the penguins.

Tower 2 on our list was the Three Gossips, located in the Courthouse of the Towers 4 miles past the Penguins. "The west face" route is 3 pitches and climbs to the summit of the North Gossip.The motto of Arches is, "don't bust the crust", referring to the cryptobiotic soil that is crucial for desert life. Anyone who had been in the desert with Annie knows the severe wrath that you can bring upon yourself by trampling the precious soil in her presence. So we carefully made our way up to the tower in washes as there isn't a defined trail to the route.

 Pitch 1 was stellar hands/wide hands similar to 3am crack in the creek, minus the crux 10+ hard bulge guarding the anchors. You get a good cupped hands jam in the roof, but then its #5 camalot size over the bulge and you have no feet to speak of. For the life of me I could not campus off a hand/fist stack! Eventually I managed to lieback the roundy OW and then beach whale it onto the belay ledge. Ugggh. Annie yarded off my #5 camalot which I think was the smart way to do it. Pitch 2 was the crux 11c pitch. A long section of thin hands/ringlocks was hard, then another OW bulge that I had to fall on a few times, and finally one last roof of flaring red c3 size. Needless to say upon seeing that I didn't even try and made like the Red Cross and aided that thing. No idea how you would free that. A 30 foot squeeze finished it off landing me at the shoulder of the gossips. A easy runout 5.7 chimney put us on top. Great views from up there.

Artsy Black and White view of Three Gossips

Hands baby, till the end. Pitch 1 West Face.

Yarding on top of Pitch 1 heinous bulge. The #5 got a full workout
11c crux bulge. AKA hard.

Final chimney to summit. Annie face climbed it.

Doing the Hula summit dance
 Our final tower was Owl Rock, a single 1 pitch 5.8 in the Garden of Eden that I thought had magnificent climbing on it. Huge horns everywhere made for great handholds, a welcome respite from the crack intensive, sandy, and strenuous previous two towers. Rapped down at sunset to the gasping throngs of tourons taking photos. "how do you get the rope up there?" 

Annie on top of Owl Rock

Our knees, ankles, and shoulders hurt quite badly today. There isn't much finesse in this business. Towers kick your butt.

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