Vision Quest: A photo TR


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Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 13, 2007 - 09:30am PT
The sibilant hiss of the propane lantern quietly harmonized with the wind rustling through the few remaining cottonwood leaves, yellowed and shivering on bare November limbs. I pawed through stacks of big cams in front of me, miming each piece as I might want it for the coming day’s pitches. Our motley collection of plus-size cams gleamed in the gas light while the campfire’s crackle added timbre to the symphony.

Rousting from my warm downy bag before sunlight proved more difficult than desired. We opted for breakfast at the base, and were driving through the Bridger Jacks while most were still sleeping off the prior night’s booze. The King of Pain loomed above us, our intended route an obvious weakness between the two imposing summit towers.

At the base, a plaque read not the name of the climb in traditional Indian Creek style, but rather: DEATH BLK, 1 PTCH. Sure enough, 100 feet above an obvious chalked X marked the stone in question. This looked like it might be a Vision Quest indeed!

Rob tidily disposed the thin fingers in a varnished corner for his warmup.

Continuing upward he was able to carefully lead around the massively frightening loose block without pushing it outwards, and reach the belay. I hovered under a roof at the base planning my route of escape should the situation get ugly. For future ascents, I recommend climbing around to the right of the block on face holds, rather than to the left and over as the guide indicates. You can faintly make out the X on the huge block to Rob's left, with the rope running over it.

The view from above the belay. Look at that sucker waiting to go!

The first wide slot above went quickly with hands and feet in the right wall, leading to a good rest on a ledge. Above soared a beautiful hand and fist corner, which widened to a gaping full body slot some 40 feet above. I took care to savor each section of the corner, knowing the offwidth ahead came closer with each move. I tried to calm my breathing and focus as much energy as I could for the task above. A good foot ledge gave me chalk and rest before entering the slot and I cast off with my left side in and my right hand on small edges. After a few short moves I quickly lost traction and found myself grunting and thrutching with little noticeable upward progress. It took most of my remaining power to down-climb, and my ragged breathing almost took me right off the small foot stance. It was quickly apparent that all the huge cams I toted up for the purpose of protection were several shades too small, and cursed that infamous Dr.-come-guidebook author for the umpteenth time...

As my breath stabilized, I remembered the photo of this very section of the route from the guidebook. Jeff Achey has a slight smile on his face in that photo and was definitely right side in… So, I carefully swapped the big cams from one side of my harness to the other, turned myself around at the rest and set off again upwards. This time the right arm wedged nicely with a chickenwing while the left hand provided pressure on the outside edge of the crack. Success! I slithered upwards until my hips could enter the slot, briskly shoved the huge cams aside, and wedged my entire person as far into that sandy hole as I could. If one were claustrophobic, it would certainly have been terrifying. In my rather anxious state, I found it quite calming. Amazingly, the slot widened in the back just enough to allow one to square the hips and turn oneself around. A sandy hand crack then led out the roof to the right, and a few reachy jams saw me to a nice little belay shelf. I clipped the old drilled angle, sunk a few big cams, and slumped gratefully onto my harness. You have a perfect view of your partner coming up the corner, and I snapped several photos of Rob styling this incredible pitch.

The third pitch is listed as the technical crux but is not as physical as the slot below. A few offwidth moves led to a wide hand/fist crack. Digging deep into the back of the crack I found traction and was able to hike the feet up and over the lip, providing the key to the next belay.

We were deep within the cleft between the two towers now and the quality of the rock began to change. I stemmed out of the cleft and above me the two summit towers finally came into view. A deep crack ran between them into the depths of the tower, and I could feel cool air coming from the bottomless void. I began stemming upward between the two towers, alternating between good hands and feet on either side.

The improbable movement led upwards until the towers diverged too far to stem between. I committed to our intended summit and gingerly manteled the last few friable rock shelves to the top. For me, there is absolutely nothing like being on the summit of a desert tower, flat, sandy, and exposed on all sides. The view of the Canyonlands took my breath away, and I sat for a moment taking it all in before sinking the belay. Rob followed up quickly and mantled onto the summit with a huge smile already stretched across his face.

We exchanged high fives and sat for a moment of reflection. I looked out at that incredible landscape and thought about all the amazing, positive memories I have from the Creek. The Six Shooters stood proudly in my gaze and I remembered standing on top of those spires on other days, tasting other hard won summits and too-brief summit moments shared with true friends. A visceral sense of completion and satisfaction washed through me and I understood again why it is I seek out climbing, sandy slots and fine desert vistas. The vision quest does not end on the summit but rather continues each time I tie into a rope and cast off into the unknown. We racked the gear with knowing smiles and began lacing the rappels.


Sneaking up behind you...
Nov 13, 2007 - 10:57am PT
Great Stuff! Thanks for posting!

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Nov 13, 2007 - 11:16am PT
Nice. The route looks pretty cool.

Trad climber
Nov 13, 2007 - 11:17am PT
Nice post!

Great fun to be had in the Bridger Jacks...

Social climber
Ventura, California
Nov 13, 2007 - 11:26am PT
The vision quest does not end on the summit, but rather continues each time I tie into a rope and cast off into the unknown.

Right on!

Nice TR

Social climber
A prison of my own creation
Nov 13, 2007 - 11:34am PT
Nice TR!

I liked the sequence of photos of going into the wide section.

That big block sure looks scary
handsome B

Gym climber
Nov 13, 2007 - 11:39am PT
Thanks for the puckering TR!

right here, right now
Nov 13, 2007 - 12:13pm PT
That's a good one!
Lots of work to be done on that route.
One of the most stimulating spots is that stem between the final towers on the last pitch, a very airy scenario ineed.

Trad climber
berkeley, ca
Nov 13, 2007 - 01:36pm PT
Mister CT, nice to see the back of your head! Are you (or will you be) back in CA?

slobmonster aka seth

Trad climber
Nov 13, 2007 - 02:27pm PT
wow. really nice.

Thanks for posting

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Nov 13, 2007 - 05:11pm PT
Nice work gents.

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Nov 13, 2007 - 05:20pm PT
Good TR and well photographed. Love desert stories.

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Nov 14, 2007 - 09:47am PT
Wow, t-shirts. Y'all are hard men indeed!

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
Nov 14, 2007 - 07:24pm PT
Sometimes words can capture the experience. That was definitely the most physical route I've been on, and it's all worth it for the last pitch. Missed the lead- but got my photos taken in the slot! Can't wait til next creek trip. PS- a 70m just barely makes all the rappels.

Social climber
Newport, OR
Nov 14, 2007 - 07:35pm PT

Trad climber
SF, aka: Dirkastan
Nov 14, 2007 - 07:41pm PT
Love the CHRIS/BERTO! Nice work fellas. Very jealous!


Trad climber
Nov 14, 2007 - 08:37pm PT
Red rock and blue sky. Awesome!

Social climber
Flatland, Ca
Nov 14, 2007 - 10:04pm PT
Awesome TR!!!

Great photos and great story telling....

Feel like I was almost there!

Trad climber
Vista, CA
Nov 14, 2007 - 10:23pm PT
Great Trip Report, and I love the chalk-less ascent, or were you
using colored chalk? Either way, great report!

Nov 15, 2007 - 09:12am PT
chris and rob, sounds like a killer trip.

is that my #6 in some of those pics? wish i could have been there.

sounds like you guys had a great time. awesome pics and t.r. miss ya
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