Tse-n-t'ytl

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survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 14, 2009 - 01:23am PT
Story by Brian Povolny
Ascent Vol. V

Tse-n-t'ytl means "High flat rock".

A super cool story which includes many references to our very own Todd Gordon on the first ascent?

Maybe Todd will reprint it for us here?

I could even scan it and post it if I had permission.
It's a great story.

"That evening Todd led the roof pitch. It was engrossing to watch him delicately place and test pieces that seemed ever ready to pop. On the ground, Todd reminded me of the "before" picture in a comic book bodybuilding ad: he was just plain skinny. But once on the lead, he became a master in his medium. His smooth deliberate technique deceived me into thinking he was on easy ground."

I got an almost mint copy of Ascent Vol. V in a funky little bookstore in ABQ for $5!!!

How many of you have read it?
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 01:35am PT
Done in the early 80's....and yet to have a 2nd ascent......that I have heard of , anyways....





Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Apr 14, 2009 - 01:37am PT
"Tse-n-t'ytl!"

Why, bless you! My allergies are bothering me, too. It's that time of year.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 01:37am PT
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 14, 2009 - 01:41am PT
Thanks Todd!!

I was hoping you'd see this and chime in.

More pictures please? Any idea about the legality, since that part was never actually fully answered in the write up?
What were your impressions of the climb?

More pictures please?

It would be pretty sizeable to post the whole thing on here, but I'd be willing to try....

More pictures please?

Thanks for jumping in here!!!
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 01:49am PT
It's the giant mesa to the right of Spider Rock......It's illigal to climb or even hike in Canyon De Chelly without a Navajo Guide.....and to make things even more restricted, much of the canyon is also overseen by the Nat. Park Service too;....so you have that element to deal with as well......the climb is really in a very isolated area with little or no humans nearby........it's a 3 hour approach to get to the base from the east , and an hour or two from the Spider Rock overlook Bat trail......it's a big adventure.....We fixed for 2 days, then Brian went back for one more fixing day (only got 40 feet higher), then we went back and climbed for 3 days, spending 2 nights on the climb.....total of around 9 or 10 pitches.....and then we rapped the route to get off....Big scary adventure for Brian, Dave Evans , and myself.....


Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 01:55am PT
Here's Dave Evans and I on the untrodden summit;...a proud moment for us......I had a really good time on this climb;...it really pushed us and challenged us, and we made it to the summit. Dave and Brian were great partners for this climb;...it was Brian's climb mostly, and Dave and I were the shipmates while we called Brian " The Captian."......

survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 14, 2009 - 02:00am PT
That is flat out awesome. What a great picture!!

I was sure that it was a pretty deep experience for all of you.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 02:19am PT
Dave was probably 24, I was 26, and Brian was the old man at age 28.....the climb went up crack for nearly 1000 feet, except for the first 40 feet;....Brian stood on our shoulders to drill the first bolt right off the ground, which really hurt and started the suffering off from the very first placement.....there were 8 bolts at the start to get to the crack system, then a 200 foot wide crack...

Dave on the raps down....I think Brian can be seen a few raps below Dave....


Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 02:30am PT
Before we ever roped up, we hired a guide to take us legally into the canyon, to scout out a route up the unclimbed mesa;...we told him of our intentions, and he didn't seem to care....he just wanted to get paid for that day, and went out of his way to make sure we had a great day hiking in the canyon with him, so we would give him a big tip at the end of the day....( which we did....).....Then, after we found our killer line to climb, we rented had a friend rent an airplane for us (I have my pilot's liscense too), so we could scout a way off the climb....which we found out there was none other than rappel the route.......We had 7 ropes, maybe a hundred cams, and probably 50 pins.....and all sorts of food and drink....it was a mobile party.....

survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 14, 2009 - 02:44am PT
How cool!

Have you posted this stuff before?
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 03:05am PT
After the climb, we had a mountain of gear for the 3 of us to carry out;.....it was a slow painful walk out, but we were happy to have completed our adventure, and psyched for burgers in Chinle........We had planned to fix for 2 straight days, and spent the night in the Canyon, and we were also with this dude Jeff from Ganado......after one day, he missed his girlfriend too much, and talked us into hiking out.......after a 3 hour hike, we got to the top of the plataeu, but couldn't find our car....after another hour or two, we found it....that night I went to a party, and I hadn't had much to eat or drink that day;....a full day of humping loads, hard climbing, and more hiking......then I did what Michael Phelps does sometimes.....and I started to faint.......I was in someone backyard, and I grabbed a fence to steady myself;......but I felt my legs going....I started to get tunnel vision, and with one last effort, I threw myself up and over the fence...sort of like a blanket drying on the fence.......I was slumped over the fence barely able to talk;.....a Navajo neighbor came over to me , and was laughing saying "Dude;...you had too much to drink......you are wasted......."....to which I replied;....go get the white guy with the glasses....quick.......".......Brian carried me out to his car, took me to his house for a meal, lots of liquids and and bath....and the next day we got us WAY early to return to the canyon without Jeff, and continue fixing our route........I have posted these pics on Mtn project and maybe here on supertopo a few times, but never gave my version of the climb....Brian is a very good writer and a better speller too......my version would be more gritty, adolescent, and raw.....

MH2

climber
Apr 14, 2009 - 03:15am PT
Brian Povolny, eh? I knew him in Seattle. I think he told me that Todd Gordon, "loves loose rock."

I called up Brian once in the very early days of answering machines and listened for 5 minutes to a splendidly erotic ode to "her curves" before realizing it was about skiing.

Seemed like a creative guy.
pip the dog

Mountain climber
planet dogboy
Apr 14, 2009 - 03:17am PT
outstanding thread

(i've seen that wall up close - had a friend working at an archeological dig nearby in the late 80's. you softstone people are kinda different than my people. though impressive stuff, surely.)
John Moosie

climber
Beautiful California
Apr 14, 2009 - 03:28am PT
".Brian is a very good writer and a better speller too......my version would be more gritty, adolescent, and raw..... "


Me likey gritty, adolescent, and raw... Besides, even if he writes it up, its great to have different perspectives.

survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 14, 2009 - 03:29am PT
Todd,

Your description is excellent. I'm stoked to have dragged this much out of you. It's great to relive those old routes eh?
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 09:44am PT
Brian and I were way in over our head......and Jeff was not so interested anymore in the climb;.....it seemed an overwhelming task for just Brian and I;....we had been on the thing for 3 days fixing now....and still sort of just nibbling at the toes of the formation.......so I called up Dave Evans, who was in California;...we were living 20 miles from the canyon...but Dave was 600 miles away, and never climbed on sandstone;.....as soon as I told Dave about our climb, he got his gear together, hopped into his VW van, maybe a couple dozen Old English Malt Liquors, and put the pedal down...(that meant 50 to 55 MPH).......he arrived maybe 15 hours later, ....the old E was gone, and he was fired up to go...We drove over to a friends place to relax....(ie. shots of tiquilla and other party favorites.....)..then...got in the car for Moab and maybe 3 hours of sleep...for a warm up, we climbed the Finger of Fate route on the Titan (and got stuck over night without bivy gear...that's another story...it was getting on winter too, and cold..)....and a few days later, hopped on the Mesa with Brian......With Dave, we were more confident and less scared, and ready for anything.

Dave fully psyched to be near the summit......he's so happy his eyes are bleeding.....

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 09:57am PT
OUr bivy spot had only enough room for 2, so Brian climbed higher, and bivied about us.....that night he fired up the stove and made us hot chocolate to go with the beer, and sent it down on a rope to us.......the Captain looking after his shipmates.....That night it rained, and I didnt' have a bivy bag.....just as the sun came up, my bag was soaking through...so I was OK......above this pitch, the rock widened to a massive chinmey with many teetering blocks and climbing that looked way too dangerous.......that's where we found a worm-hole that lead to another chimney system that went deep into the bowells of the mesa, and was the key to our victory......

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 10:05am PT
After Dave's first trip of local cragging, The Titan, and The Arachnid Mesa, he got addicted to the sandstone towers....and took many many many more trips out to the soft rock;.....for new routes as well as the classics......and Dave, myself, and Brian Povolny would go one to climb again together for many more big adventures...

Here's is Dave's mode of transportation at my hogan......life was simple then.....

survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 14, 2009 - 11:12am PT
Sweet!!

Todd, this has been even better than I'd hoped for.

Your reference to the worm hole is timely. I was wondering if you'd mention it, or if it made as big an impression on you as it did on Brian. I was sure that it had.

I guess the story has not been read by as many sutopians as I'd expected. Surely you have a copy of it?

Your account is better because it includes the photos to increase the "feel" of the thing. In Ascent there was only one B&W and it wasn't even your route, right?

Living history on Supertopo again. It's what makes the site!
Mike.

climber
Apr 14, 2009 - 11:38am PT
Awesome 24k entries, Todd. Thanks for the tellin' and historic pix.

Way to instigate, survival. Good shee, brother.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 14, 2009 - 12:05pm PT
Soft T sound..sort of like tSEH.

Sotyl, I hopyl thatyl helpyl....
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Apr 14, 2009 - 02:13pm PT
Thanks, Survival Man and Todd Master. Great adventure, told in an inimitable way!

-Jello
yo

climber
I drink your milkshake!
Apr 14, 2009 - 02:14pm PT
That was pretty awesome.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 14, 2009 - 02:23pm PT
Todd,

Am I tripping again, or did you say 200 foot wide crack?
I'm sure that's what you said, but finally realized.......... as my mouth fell open. Is that what you meant to say?

I'd like to see a picture of that.

Geez, I thought the Crescent Arch on HD Direct was big!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 14, 2009 - 02:47pm PT
Great story and photos - thanks for sharing!
crunch

Social climber
CO
Apr 14, 2009 - 06:43pm PT
Sounds like quite the adventure Todd.

here's a random rez photo.

survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 14, 2009 - 06:48pm PT
Nice crunch!

We'll take another if'n you don't mind....
just to keep the flavuh flave goin'!
kubok!3

climber
Austin, TX
Apr 14, 2009 - 07:08pm PT
Great stuff!
hossjulia

Trad climber
Eastside
Apr 14, 2009 - 08:37pm PT
Nice bit o' history on that route however you say it

Thanks Todd!
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 08:56pm PT
On the raps down, Brian went on ahead, setting stuff up......we had the anchors in place, and Brian was putting slings and biners on everything so it was all good to go;....Dave and I were still high up, with the haul bags...we decided to cut one loose, and surely Brian was far enough to the side to be out of danger;......We cut a bag loose, and it went flying, hit a ledge, then took off a terminal velocity over towards Brian;.....missed him by maybe 5 or 10'.....scared the hell out of him, and Dave and I nearly crapped our pants........Brian was a great "Captian".....he took command, but was never a dick about being the "leader" and making the decisions......he had a head of steam going a wouldn't take no for an answer.....Dave and I rode his wave of focus and conviction....

Here is Brian on Spider Rock....


Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Apr 14, 2009 - 09:15pm PT
Pretty sweet Todd Gordon, DE and partners ! Another thread that should go on Chris Mac's emag of the month. Your youthful faces, gear and shoes bring back lots of great memories.

Thanks for taking the time and obtw TG, we like the rough, unvarnished, slightly frayed around the edges, naked truth versions....:)
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 09:24pm PT
Once we discovered the "worm hole"...which lead to another chimney system, we were so happy that we could continue the climb.....one of us stuffed gear to another in the middle, and then the third was on the other side.....the next pitch went up a bit, then started to go "in"....inside the mesa.....walking in the narrows type walking.....soon I started to climb up again....but it was dark and deep and chimney systems went in all directions........after a pitch or so of this, we entered an almost round room.....with a flat floor, and walls all around and a window peeking out into the light......the floor was dusty and any movement sent duck in the air, but the dust just sort of hung in the air.....the dust looked yellow from the light streaming in from the window and the outside.....it was creepy, but a cool place, and we knew we were getting near the top.....it was also good to be out of the maze of chimney and the decision making stress of being in the chimneys.......exiting the round room through a weakness in the ceiling, we were back in the sunlight, and an easy pitch to the top and we were mint........never really knew we "had it in the bag" until we found the room and the exit from the room;....a nail biter until close to the summit........

Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Apr 14, 2009 - 09:26pm PT
Thanks, Survival and Todd!

Todd, you amaze me. Here comes a little query, and there goes Todd with a killer story of the unrepeated FA of a route and an entire formation. Yet another one. Tunneling for glory...



Little note on Copyright: Nice of you to be respectful, but honestly don't worry too much about it. Ascent may have copyrighted the magazine, but the rights for the article revert to the author. So Brian owns the story. Ask him, or be reasonably sure he won't care at this late date, and scan it up for us.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 14, 2009 - 09:36pm PT
DR, COOL!! Does that sentiment go for you too Todd, or would you rather keep it to your awesome version??

Thanks a ton for filling me in Todd. I was wondering about it from the moment I started reading.
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Apr 14, 2009 - 11:07pm PT
This climb was one of the best of my life (so far). I didn't even really know Todd, I had seen him at the crags. Out of the blue he calls me and demands, "come out here and climb this FA with us!" He said,"we will climb the Titan first." I'm thinking, "the what?" Who was I to say no?

At one point we were in a hanging belay and saw a local riding towards the mesa on a horse. We were several hundred feet up. We all got real quiet while the horseman stopped and looked around, I think the hairs on his neck were getting prickly. After awhile he rode off without seeing us.
The summit was an unreal powerspot, several acres that had never seen a human visitor, only spirits.

I do have a copy of the Ascent with the story that I cherish.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 14, 2009 - 11:59pm PT
Here's the route description I posted from Mtn. project;



By toddgordon
From: Joshua Tree, California
May 9, 2007

EDIT COMMENT
O K...here goes. Pitch one; start with a shoulder stand, then 7 bolts and one piton in a bolt ladder that leads to a wide crack to a ledge (5.10 A2). Pitch 2; Up a wide crack to a sling belay. at one point, climbing out outside the wide crack on thin seams to the left of the crack.. Some bat hooks too. (5.10 A3/A4). Pitch 3; Continue up the wide crack (some loose sections) a few more bat hooks, to a big ledge. (5.10 A3/A4). Pitch 4 ; A2 cams to a small roof, above the roof, tension traverse (right)off pins to cracks in a pink colored headwall. Continue up cracks to a sling belay on the left. Pitch 5 ; Up more crack systems to an alcove with all sorts of scary-looking loose balanced blocks above you. Pitch 6; instead of going up through the loose balanced blocks, tunnel through (squeeze) about 20-25' to the left like a mole to a huge chimney system, and a nice bivy spot. ..Belay here. (short pitch). Pitch 7 climb up chimney (5.8),..then chimney/walk/tunnel/squeeze forward INTO the bowells of the formation;...WAY back in there......(It's bizarre...). Pitch 8.....tunnel/climb/chimney some more until you pop into a circular "room/cave" with a window looking out......Pitch 9; Climb out of the chimney (finally) into the light of day (5.9 slot or 5.9 face to the left)and climb anothe 30 feet to anchors (on top). Unrope and walk to high point of the mesa. There is a description of the first ascent of this climb in an old Ascent Magazine. The rock and climbing on this route is not the best in the world; it;s sandstone, and there are long sections of wide cracks and chimneys. The route and adventure of this experience is top notch. It's a long, involved, challenging, scrappy route to the top of a huge mesa that has seen few feet, in a wonderful, magical place.

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 15, 2009 - 12:13am PT

On one of the rappels, I left both my aiders tied together as an extention so the ropes would pull without a problem.....we didn't want any funny business on the way down.....all rap stations had double biners in opposition too.....safe and clean.....
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 15, 2009 - 12:27am PT

Brian Povolny

Trad climber
Seattle, Wa
Apr 15, 2009 - 02:28am PT
I'm amazed that anyone is even aware of Tse-n-t'ytl. After all, it has never had a second ascent! This climb became an obsession for me during a hike in the canyon where I realized that despite the illusion one gets from the Spider Rock overlook, the canyon wall behind Spider rock is part of a huge detached mesa. The summit was more like a lost world than a summit in the conventional sense. And the crazy eagle's nests, endless dark chimneys, wormholes, and secret chambers ... it was really more of a B movie than a rock climb. I would be intigued to hear any subsequent party's impressions of this bizarre climb -- but in the 25 years since we did it I doubt anyone has even eyeballed the route ...
MH2

climber
Apr 15, 2009 - 03:30am PT
Brian, I remember a fine day on Mastadon Roof.

I don't know if I am a Supertopian but I have read the Ascent article, an intriguing piece of writing.

Todd, a great story and illustrated!
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 15, 2009 - 09:25am PT
dee ee and Brian both come to the party....whoa.

WE GOT ALL THREE FIRST ASCENTIONISTS ON THIS THREAD PEOPLE!!!!

See what a curious old school dog out in NM can do with a little probing???

Todd, thanks again for bringing your photos and your insight to the story.

Brian, Can you scan and post the story you wrote for us?

I am willing to try it with your permission, but I've not scanned big text pages before.....

Thanks a million guys.
drljefe

climber
Old Pueblo, AZ
Apr 15, 2009 - 09:40am PT
Thank you. Incredible.

Todd, any photos of the cave/room/bowells?
That sounds really cool.

The beauty of ST right here.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 15, 2009 - 09:51am PT
All three FA members on the post;...it's like a phone conference.....It was a strong team of youngsters;.....We can get together today and talk about gray hair, liver spots, geritol, our children's challenges, and our home morgages.....

Dee Eee styling at Momument Valley, Ariz.....


Dr. Povolny and Steve Prakken Many Farms , Ariz.

survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 15, 2009 - 11:17am PT
"All three FA members on the post;...it's like a phone conference.....It was a strong team of youngsters;.....We can get together today and talk about gray hair, liver spots, geritol, our children's challenges, and our home morgages....."

Indeed Todd, indeed.

When I get together with the old gang, it is very much like that. We always have a gas reviewing some stuff from BITD, but there's a lot going on in the present too. Have to cover all those bases as well, gray hair, less forearm/more ass, kids, ex-wives, aches and pains, bills, etc.

Luckily, we all like to look forward as much as back, so there's always a good dose of planning the next adventure too!!

I hope Brian and Dave are going to return...
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Apr 15, 2009 - 01:45pm PT
When I arrived at Todd's Hogan with my dog Washoe Todd warned me about "Mr. X." X was a local dog, fierce, brazen and a known puppy eater (that's what survival means to a dog on the res, after all they don't get any dogfood). He dominated the local canine population by rule of terror. I didn't know what to expect but I wanted Washoe to steer clear of the monster.
The morning after my arrival (seen in above snowy photo) here comes the beast to check out Washoe. He is mid sized (same as Washoe), a dirty yellow color, scruffy, mangy, ribs showing, he looks pretty badass. He comes over like he owns the place because, well, he does. They instantly go at it, barking, growling, snow flying, a 30 second tornado of dog fur. Washoe kicks his ass! Mr. X is forced to bow down before the city boy. After that they got along pretty well!
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 15, 2009 - 05:52pm PT
Ha!!

All hail Washoe the bad*ss!!

It's the little historical fillers that never make the big book.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Apr 15, 2009 - 07:22pm PT
Wow! great story, thanks for the historical enlightenment.
Olihphant

climber
Somewhere over the rainbow
Apr 17, 2009 - 11:06am PT
That was a joyful journey. A prideful accomplishment! Awesome pictures. Thank you for posting this up Survival!

Crimpergirl

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Apr 17, 2009 - 11:23am PT
Wow. I wanted to long to click on this thread! Very cool stuff!
Olihphant

climber
Somewhere over the rainbow
Apr 17, 2009 - 11:47am PT
It is really wonderful when the stories (histories and herstories) and pictures get shared like this. It must be a lot of effort but keep it up.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 17, 2009 - 12:47pm PT
I'm so glad you all are enjoying this. Me too!!

I was stoked to see an older story about a desert cliff, and then the first name I saw that I recognized was Todd's. Plus the coolest name!

That's all it took to get me started. And to get all three of those guys to pitch in, is all gravy.
Zander

Trad climber
Berkeley
Apr 17, 2009 - 01:00pm PT
Thanks for his thread all
Zander
TKingsbury

Trad climber
MT
Apr 17, 2009 - 01:09pm PT
AMAZING TR! Wow!

really interesting elements for sure

Any pics of the worm hole stuff or the round room? sounds really crazy!

This is what makes this site great!

Cheers!
MisterE

Trad climber
One Step Beyond!
Apr 17, 2009 - 02:13pm PT
Great story, Todd.

SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Apr 17, 2009 - 05:15pm PT
Awesome, Todd!
Woohoo! You guys rock!!!!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Apr 17, 2009 - 06:11pm PT
I'm just gonna say that I wish I were so fortunate.

double radness, with a chimney bump...
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 17, 2009 - 07:57pm PT
I tried to scan the article, but somehow my lackatechno scanner storage photobucket interface got all tangled up in my bummafukkacord......AARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!

I finally gave up in trembling frustration.

I was mad. Luckily this here 'lectric picture radio is still in one piece.
noshoesnoshirt

climber
dangling off a wind turbine in a town near you
Apr 17, 2009 - 08:24pm PT
Holy crap Todd, you rock.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 17, 2009 - 10:07pm PT
Brain don't care;.someone should scan the Ascent article;....I would but I'm too stupid......he's probably out lookin' at the senior's menu at Dennys anyways;.........but should we write him off now.........not just yet.......He's in his 50's, but when he takes off his shirt, he's got he abs of a 16 year old......

Brian in his heyday;.......climbing rocks and drilling teeth...

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 18, 2009 - 12:12am PT
Here was another fun day out with Brian

The Whale

Ancient legend has it that young Navajo bucks used to have contests to see if anyone was studly enough to shoot an arrow over the top of the huge sandstone formation near Rock Point, Arizona called "The Whale". The name "The Whale" refers to two formations; the tallest and the bulkiest being the head of the whale, and the short distance away the tall sharp pointed spire forms the whale's tail.

We were too intimidated to climb the whale a snout or front face, so we decided on a route up the sloping backside of the head. The excitement of the first ascent of such a major formation coupled with the fact that it was my 28th birthday had me super-psyched for the adventure.

Dirt tracks led directly to the base of our proposed route, with a Joshua Tree belay-off-the-bumper approach. Standard free/aid first pitch up the ?Cutler? layer lumps led to a hanging belay at the end of the first pitch; belay from one pin and a bolt.

Brian gets pitch two and I caution him to carefully avoid a refrigerator-sized block precariously balanced directly above me, as he cranks up a cool 5.10 hand crack in a corner. Hanging belays leave one feeling so vulnerable to failing rock; can't really move out of the way to dodge anything coming down.

Upon following, I really don't need to be so careful of loose rock, for there is no one below to worry about. When about even with the massive loose block, I palm the top of it with my right hand for balance as I jam with the left. As soon as I touch the block, it rocks off its dirt pedestal like a huge fallen statue. Before I could even think, the stone has rolled over my foot on it's way to earth, and my whole leg instantly goes numb and into temporary shock.

The big-ass boulder exploded into a million pieces, sending dust and rock in all directions flying like an explosion. The burnt smell of brimstone fills the air, and I scream for tension as a wave of shock-induced nausea hits me like a freight train.

I refuse to look down at my foot, for I'm afraid there will be no foot left to even look at. I'm convinced there's only a stub left and the mental image of this sends my mind catapulting into freak-out. Not only is my foot probably 200 feet below in the talus, but I also heard the trundled boulders landing on my car, which is parked at the base; this is a nightmare!

Calming my nausea and gritting my teeth, I convince myself to pretend to be momentarily brave and glance down at my foot. Hey, what do ya know; it's still there! I limp up the pitch on full high-E-string tension and we decide to finish the climb with Brian leading the rest of the pitches.

The buttress we were climbing has narrowed to a 6 foot wide fin consisting of steps both vertical, then horizontal, with not much for protection. Brian surmounts the first step from a shoulder stand, then walks horizontally to the next vertical step. He gets up more steps via free or aid and is soon wedged in a giant gully near the top. Following the fin pitch, I bat-man up each vertical section, keeping the rope centered on the ridge. If the rope were to pop off the ridge to either side, I'd pendulum from here to Forest Lawn.

The summit was deluxe; the view and vibes worth a million dollars. The light now quickly fading, we start our complicated descent after only a brief moment on top. Rappelling down was exciting right off the bat, considering our first rap anchor was a single piton. Brian did the second rappel, which left him at the end of the rope, hanging in space, no ledges in sight. After much wiggling and thrashing, he was able to touch his feet to the wall, and get a huge pendulum going, which took him around a corner to, thankfully, a belay ledge. By now it's well after sunset, and we take out two rock drills and simultaneously drill anchors for our last rappel. Looking down, we can see a few silhouettes of lean human figures milling about; black forms moving in the night like coyotes. Finally touching down to the beautiful earth, we rejoice in our lives and our survival, and exchange words with a few Navajos who had been watching us for many many hours. Seems they came over to investigate after they heard the huge rock fall.

By now, I can't walk at all, and Brian carries me to my car, or what's left of my car. In the dark and in the evening cold, I see a football-size rock has gone through my side window, and landed on the front seat of the car, directly on top of my walkman cassette. The passenger door is peeled over like a sardine can, the front windshield shattered, and another unidentified projectile seems to have smashed the front fender into the wheel.

After I muscle the smashed fender off the wheel, we drive to the Rock Point Trading Post to get much needed and deserved drinks. Stumbling and limping in, we pay the cashier for the drinks just as a fight breaks out between two drunken Indians who have just stepped into the trading post. We don't give a sh#t about any fight, and as we zombie back to our cars, we look back to see one of the Indians spitting teeth into a trashcan outside. It looked like he was spitting popcorn out of his rubber mouth. I sure know how to have a good time on my birthday.


(Taken off of joshuatreeclimb.com)

survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 18, 2009 - 09:26am PT
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TODD!!!

What a great story. You got me busting up over here!

I might try and scan that story again Todd, but not until my pissed factor at the grrrrr.............
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 18, 2009 - 10:00am PT
The Whale's Tail (I used to be skinny;.....what happened?)

survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 18, 2009 - 11:02am PT
(I used to be skinny;.....what happened?)

I don't know.....I used to be skinny too.
Join the club!
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Apr 18, 2009 - 11:42am PT
Fantastic thread. Simply fantastic...

Todd - I really like the way you spread everything out over multiple posts.

MH2

climber
Apr 18, 2009 - 12:33pm PT
Great pictures, too, Todd.
drljefe

climber
Old Pueblo, AZ
Apr 18, 2009 - 12:54pm PT
The imagery in the Whale story is awesome.
Gotta say that I see some "coyote and the roadrunner" visions!
Mar'

Trad climber
Fanta Se
Apr 18, 2009 - 01:12pm PT
Yeah Todd— I remember hearing that tunneling story at your house over 20 years ago. Finally i got to see some pictures! Classic van. I sat on it at Rock&Ice and Dave got pissed. I guess he didn't wanna sit on my '57 chevy!

Great score at the bookstore, suvival— can't wait to see it. So glad you got Todd to bite. Thank you so much!
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 18, 2009 - 01:21pm PT
Home , sweet home....Lukachukai, Ariz.

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 18, 2009 - 01:30pm PT
Chinle Hospital Crags......So nice to find a crag with no routes done on it;.......makes doing FA's simple.......everything is a first ascent....

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 18, 2009 - 07:07pm PT
You won't have to wait in line........It's not Castleton or Ancient Arts......

survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 19, 2009 - 09:06am PT
I don't care whether it's great climbing or not....

That is a seriously cool looking rock!!!
MH2

climber
Apr 19, 2009 - 03:15pm PT
Yes, I see an odd combination in the photo above. On the right a simple spire but the lines are not as long or clean as you would like, while on the left a melting mesa.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 19, 2009 - 10:15pm PT
More res treats;....



survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 20, 2009 - 01:10am PT
That kid reminds me of my days on the Ramah rez.

Thanks Todd.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 21, 2009 - 04:14am PT


Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 22, 2009 - 02:40am PT
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2009 - 05:53am PT
Man, I am seriously glad I asked you out on this little sojourn Todd. This thread has turned out far better than I ever expected!
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 22, 2009 - 07:43am PT

Double D

climber
Apr 22, 2009 - 10:44am PT
As always, the Todd Gordon factor has made my morning...thanks for this inspiring tr Todd. I've pondered that wall myself, but logistics, humping the loads and sheer panic of choss (I'm a granite guy at heart) always kept me at bay in those extra "soft-n-large" projects.

One quick question... your ploy of hiring a guide for the "walk" satisfied your multi-day and multi-trip excursions? What would they have said if your intentions were Spider Rock? Did you use a guide for that trip as well? I mean it's not as if you can do a stealth ascent back there, at least after mid-March when the canyon dwellers are back. Just curious, and I understand if you don't want to elaborate publically.

Nice pics...as always.



Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 22, 2009 - 10:50am PT
Spider Rock and Arachnid Mesa are pretty far back in the canyon;...not too many people have their summer homes there;....maybe only a few families.....and no one during the winter months.......the few times I have been in that part of the canyon, I have seen people only a handful of times;.....a pick-up truck here, a horseman there........it's an out-there place......Note;...when climbing on the res, make sure you have your manbag with you;.....

Double D

climber
Apr 22, 2009 - 10:57am PT
Yeah I know it's out there for sure. As I recall the Western approach is a tad bit longer than two hours...but then again maybe it's just cause I was with a couple of "valley boys." There were only 2 families living back there when we were there, but it's not like you can be stealth getting the loads in there. Proud send for sure...love the exit opening through the room...wild.

"man bag" ... details please!





Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 22, 2009 - 10:14pm PT
The "manbag" was just my camera bag;......I got teased because it looks like a purse;.......(I have a blouse and skirt that looks really cute with it......)
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2009 - 11:12pm PT
Nice flix guys!

Yeah, the man bag. I've been teased too.

But I gotta have a place to keep all the stuff for my mangina!
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 23, 2009 - 09:52am PT


dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Apr 24, 2009 - 03:18pm PT
resolution test

dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Apr 24, 2009 - 03:20pm PT
Riotch

Trad climber
Kayenta, Arizona
Apr 24, 2009 - 03:21pm PT
I can read that.
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Apr 24, 2009 - 03:25pm PT
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Apr 24, 2009 - 03:26pm PT
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 24, 2009 - 03:26pm PT
Yaaay dee ee!!!

Keep 'er comin'!!
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Apr 24, 2009 - 03:26pm PT
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Apr 24, 2009 - 03:27pm PT
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Apr 24, 2009 - 03:35pm PT


My scanner was balking so I used the poor man's m.o.

Brian was a fine "Captain" on the FA and a fine writer of the story thereof.

Thanks Survival for unearthing this obscure classic, you da man.
Will you be at the Libido Fest this weekend?
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 24, 2009 - 03:45pm PT
I freekin' wish!!!

I'm at home doing dad duty. Mom's out of town for a few days.
It's cool, I sent the Savage MacRudy in my place!
He baked my arms the last few days....owwwwwww.

My pleasure getting this thread going. I knew I had to as soon as I unearthed that book in an obscure little place here in ABQ.

Hide the women, Look who's headed to J-Tree.

crøtch

climber
Apr 27, 2009 - 06:23pm PT
I read the Ascent story a few years back. It's nice to have the added perspective of Todd's account.

Are there any photos of the room with the window that you chimneyed into?

Thanks to all who contributed to this thread.
Olihphant

climber
Somewhere over the rainbow
Apr 27, 2009 - 06:53pm PT
The thread that keeps on giving. Many thanks.
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Apr 27, 2009 - 08:28pm PT
After rereading this story I have come to really re-appreciate Brian's beautiful prose. Not as a great climbing story but for it's beautiful description of what it means to some of us, and feels like to some of us to climb in the desert.

ps. The "room" was a feature that defies description. When I followed that pitch I was immediately drawn to the window. I poked my head out and the feeling was like hanging your head off the "Visor" on Half Dome, or imagine doing the Shield on El Cap and poking your head out of a window half way up the Triple Cracks from inside the wall. My heart was in my throat.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 28, 2009 - 12:46am PT

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 28, 2009 - 12:53am PT
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2009 - 11:11am PT
Sweet Todd!

Every time I think you're done posting the rez, here you come with a couple more!!

Wish I could've been at your place a couple days ago......
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Apr 30, 2009 - 01:42am PT
Hardly Visible

Social climber
Llatikcuf WA
May 26, 2015 - 09:46am PT
A classic account of the first (and maybe only) ascent of a desert mesa with input from all members of the ascent team. What could be better?
A bonus is that this old thread still has all of the photos which is rare for threads of this vintage.
thebravecowboy

climber
liberated libertine
May 26, 2015 - 09:55am PT
This is the good stuff.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 26, 2015 - 10:27am PT
Such cool stuff! So are there no pics of the "room" or the "window"?
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
May 26, 2015 - 11:05am PT
Hmmmm

Which Ascent is this in?
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Topic Author's Reply - May 26, 2015 - 02:02pm PT
So, Hardly Visible drew this out of the WTF archives?

Nice grab dude, out of the blue!

Well done!
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
May 26, 2015 - 03:31pm PT
Hardly Visible ≅ RyanD
Hardly Visible

Social climber
Llatikcuf WA
May 26, 2015 - 03:51pm PT
Survival,

I've been on the lookout for quality old threads to add to nah000's collection, you should take a look over there as I've dug up quite a few nuggets.

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=2595617&tn=0&mr=0


MH2 = wrong
overwatch

climber
May 26, 2015 - 04:16pm PT
Good one
Psilocyborg

climber
May 26, 2015 - 04:51pm PT
Nice. No....dont post up pictures of the room. If you want to see it, you have to climb up into it.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Topic Author's Reply - May 26, 2015 - 05:06pm PT
Thumbs up!!
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
May 26, 2015 - 05:10pm PT
I'm in!
Now to court some local involvement...
little Z

Trad climber
un cafetal en Naranjo
May 26, 2015 - 05:24pm PT
yeah, Super Topo so sucks!
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
May 26, 2015 - 05:41pm PT
Quite a waste of time,
I think I will go see if there is any thing to read about over there
in my region the great climbevrs are all telling each other to smoke cigars and wear deet because there are bugs that bite, where they top rope all day.

Yeah the Taco stand has no interesting climbing stuff at all, sheesh.
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
May 26, 2015 - 06:56pm PT
MH2 = wrong


That's for sure. But the symbol I used to compare you to RyanD was NOT an equals sign.
dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
May 29, 2015 - 10:16am PT
Rereading this thread has brought back some memories of that trip, my first out there to climb...and we were chatting about it at the gym last night.

One kinda' funny part was my epic drive. As Todd related, he (almost a stranger) just called me up out of the blue and insisted that I come out. I had nothing going on job wise or family wise and basically hung up the phone and packed and left.

I had just barely enough money to make it there and back with gas and food and the clutch and brakes on my van were just barely working. I looked at a map and drew a straight line from Newport Beach, CA to Lukachukai and started driving. It never occurred to me to take the interstates. This route was almost all secondary 2 lane roads and even took me through Jerome, AZ. It added several hours to the overall trip.

I remember the white knuckle drive down the steep windy road through Jerome because I had to pump the brakes to get any response, there was a slow master cylinder fluid leak. I added fluid repeatedly on the drive.

Somewhere along the way the clutch gave out and I had to double clutch to make shifts. Starting out was tricky.

I finally pulled into a convenience store in Lukachukai in a raging snow storm to fuel up. There was the most beautiful young girl (Navajo) I had ever seen working in the store. I felt like I was in a dream.

The next morning Washoe had his brief battle with Mr. X we repacked Todd's Toyota and headed for Moab.

The part Todd mentioned regarding the case of Old English wasn't true. I had more appropriate and organic libations.

Here is Mr. Gordon at the Spider Rock overlook.

survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Topic Author's Reply - May 29, 2015 - 11:32am PT
Wow, best thread follow up post of the year!!



I had nothing going on job wise or family wise and basically hung up the phone and packed and left.

I had just barely enough money to make it there and back with gas and food and the clutch and brakes on my van were just barely working.



That's when you know it's gonna be good.


HA HA HA HA Hhahahaaahahahaaa!!!!
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