Monday, March 16, 2015

Zeus gave Moses a Charlie Horse

Aphrodite, Zeus, the Ark, Moses, Thracian Mare(left to right)

I've made several trips down to Canyonlands now, and every time I am still amazed at the remoteness and beauty of the landscape. Whether is rafting Cataract Canyon or biking the white rim, every aspect is stunning. While hoards of folks were out jeeping, road biking, mountain biking, and roadside cragging around the adventure mecca that is Moab, Steve and and I never saw more than a few folks down in the barren but beautiful Canyonlands. Sure Castleton and Ancient Art are desert tower classics, but I'm not interested in waiting in line. I can do that at Disneyland. The classics of Taylor Canyon and the surrounding area have some of the best climbing I've done, and we had them all to ourselves.

Steve and I have very supportive wives, and with 3 kids between us they were gracious enough to let us go play by ourselves over a long weekend. This trip kicks off the last week of work before I quit my job for the next few months before PA school starts in July. We set off in the blue 4-runner around 7pm, and arrived below the mineral bottom switchbacks around 11 pm, threw out the bags, and enjoyed a miraculous star gazing night well outside the park boundary and potential camping fines.
Zeus from below Dunn route. Sisyphus ascends the obvious corner(squeeze)

Friday morning our first priority after chocolate muffins was Zeus, a 300' tower up Taylor Canyon. Its right next to Moses, which I had summited before, so I knew the logistics. Sisyphus is the route, and it has 3 5.11 pitches to its summit, including one that is R rated. Steve manned up and took the first pitch, and did quite well through the insecure stemming section with old desert hardware for gear. He took a whipper on a piton, building his confidence in the security of the mank, and with smart use of the piton as a foothold managed to finish the pitch. I attempted to follow it clean but alas, the piton received a 2nd climbing shoe imprint. One pitch down.
Steve in the thin of things on pitch 1

I led pitch 2, which included mostly finger crack and then a tips lieback which got french freed after desperation set in. The squeeze chimney made me dust off my very rusty wide technique, and after some futzing around right side/left side in, I thrutched up to the belay. Gotta love the squeezes.

Fingers off the belay. This was the easy part

Pitch 3 was the 5.11 R pitch. The first 3/4 is amazing fingers with great gear, and the R part turned out to be a sporty boulder problem, which suited me much better than the 5.11 insecure stemming of pitch 1. The gear was a little low to avoid decking if I fell, but after resting and scoping it the move went off without a hitch and I was on top. Steve struggled a bit, but managed eventually and the raps off the old summit anchor went smooth.
Steve's face says the 5.11 R move is hard. 

Classic desert rap anchor

We ate lunch and then headed over to Moses to do the Dunn route. I had done the ultra-classic Primrose with Annie back in 2011, so a different route sounded fun. Steve led a shorter 5.9 OW pitch off the deck that was easier than it looked due to face holds. My camera wouldn't turn on for awhile so I failed to acquire any pictures.

I took pitches 2-3, which was a  Burger King whopper of a linked 60m pitch, which just kept going and going, but allowed for great belay ledges. My triple cam rack was gone when I arrived at the belay, but it was by far one of the best pitches I've done. Lots of well protected 5.8-5.9 climbing. Nothing stressful, tons of variety, just good fun, though Steve said my last two pieces were garbage. I admit a nut in a parallel crack usually isn't ideal. Mental pro is better than none.

Pitch 4 is the crux 5.11 fist pitch. Hand crack gets to you a #4 camalot roof, then mostly fists and arm bars for another slightly overhanging 40 feet. Way harder than any 5.11 sport pitch at the gym where its just your finger tips that hurt. My whole body hurt after this one. My skills were far from adequate, and despite hundreds of watts and precious skin expended from my frail boney body, I managed to only move half a body length at a time before exhaustion set it, so much hangdogging ensued. Sometime later than hoped I arrived at the belay cave. Steve seemed to have similar issues as me, but after much effort got up. "Take!" and "tight!" echoed many times throughout the empty canyon. Steve had some weird severe cramping in his abs and had to lie down and arch his back in the small cramped cave to appease the pain. It abated in time for the hole squeeze.
Attempting to stem to relieve pain in my forearms

Pitch 5 was a short vertical squirm through a tiny hole, but our caving experience gave us proficiency to dispatch this one without much effort. 2 easy pitches led to the top.
Go steve go! 

When the wifer and I did Moses back in 2011. It was windy this time too. 

Steve stoked to be on top of Moses. The Pocatello 50 arm sleeves look dirty for some reason

Horrible hanging belays but easy pulls led us down Pale Fire and to our warm Dr Pepper. Fantastic day in the desert.

Another night under the stars and a whole lot of condensation brought us to Saturday. Charlie Horse Needle was up next. Steve got the wide 5.10 fist pitch this time, and did well despite his soreness from the previous day's activities. He managed to bypass the huge belay ledge despite my apparently unclear directions, but set up a fine belay slightly higher.
Charlie Horse is the highest tower of the 3 spires

Splitter fists! I'd try the 5.12 finger crack next time

I did 5.10 fingers with stemming into yet, another squeeze chimney, and flopped onto the belay ledge after a much shorter time than Zeus' squeeze took me, though I still needed some proactive self talk to get started.
splitter fingers before the squeeze

Exiting the squeeze 

The 5.11c pitch was last, which again got french freed through the initial .5 camalot acute corner flare(say what?) then a beautiful long red camalot section. A short wide section created some anticipated stress from below, but wasn't too bad, then a final chimney to the top! 3rd tower of the trip.
Thin hands master enjoying the red camalots 

Bomber rock on the summit

After rappelling safely we headed back to the car and up to Island in the Sky. We were both pretty tired and sore from climbing, but wanted to take advantage of the remaining afternoon. We finished the trip off by doing a fantastic run from the mesa down to the White Rim road via Lathrop Canyon, around 12 miles and 3k' vert in 2.5 hours. The NPS sign said it was 5 miles from Island in the Sky to the White Rim, but the sign at the White Rim indicated it was 6.8 miles back to the road. The guy making the signs must have been watching March Madness while engraving. Gorgeous and almost no one on the trail. The 24 mile full escapade down to the river and back will have to be done another time.
Fantastic views to the East side of Canyonlands

Similar only color

Really cool singletrack ridge running 

I didn't have compression shorts or a tech shirt, which resulted in horrific inner thigh and back blisters due to chaffing, but it was worth it. Steve didn't have a water bottle or a pack, so he just ran with his dr pepper bottle sans Bottleband. Where is Court and Nick when you need them? Oh yea, Atlantic City.

The trip couldn't just end peacefully with delicious Arby's curly fries, as Steve had to pick up a scary hitchhiker in the dark just outside of Price("he had a pack on, I though he was an ultrarunner!"). I had already talked him out of a previous opportunity at Crescent Junction, so I guess he needed his good turn done for the day. "D.C." had a rich history of being in jail, being medically dead in the hospital, brain damage, prior residences in 2/3 of all the US states, and apparently had just escaped from his mental institution. Curse you generous and extroverted Steve! Way more dangerous than desert towers. Luckily we dropped him off in Spanish Fork unscathed(us, not him), though we did a quick check of our belongings after he left.

This lead to a lukewarm discussion about how Steve was too friendly and needed to be more like me, the antisocial introvert who thinks giving out Oreos to strangers at the crag is a bit weird. Like most of our opinionated social conversations, we agreed to disagree.

Another great trip!


  1. Oh come on everybody (minus you) loves Oreos from strangers at a crag. I have a couple of additions. The “mental-nut” in the crack was not so much in the crack but more dangling in air at the next draw, but yes that was a long pitch and I was impressed you managed the gear as well as you did. Later that night, after dropping you off in SLC, I called the police to check up on our buddy DC. They immediately knew who I was talking about and said they had already been out to visit him. Haha. And don’t forget if one of us had not cold walked up to a stranger in a climbing gym and asked for a belay then this epic trip may never have come to pass. :0