When I get my fix I feel better - for a while. But after a few weeks away from the mountains my thoughts inevitably turn to sketchy runouts, bomber hand jams and big exposure. I start perusing trip reports on internet forums and training hard in the gym.
With winter coming and the draw of the mountains pulling I caved in a major way. Draining a significant portion of my bank account I purchased a plane ticket to Puerto Montt, Chile to climb for the month of February in Cochamo Valley, Chilean Patagona. With that trip on the horizon, it seems only logical to get out as much as I can to get myself into good climbing shape. So naturally, more plane ticket purchases quickly follow. Last weekend, for example, the destination was the desert towers outside of Moab, UT.
Leaving Des Moines, IA at 6:30 Thursday morning and touching down in Denver at 7:30, we rent a car and drive west, which lands us in castle valley by 3:00 and ready to climb. Since the chosen campsite was a small area directly under the Fisher Towers it made sense to take a run up the famous Ancient Art.
The climbing of this route is slightly…whats the word… Shitty. But the last ‘catwalk’ and summit make the outing more than worthwhile.
Its gotta be the coolest summit I’ve ever stood on. Its hard not to stand in awe while looking out at the massive valley, with a sea of red sandstone stretching out as far an your eye can see. The winding river meandering its way through the bottom of the canyon, an oasis of green, as the cottonwood trees hug close to the shores.
The following day the tower of choice was The Honeymoon Chimney on The Priest.
Starting up the initial offwidth, the climbing led to an old drilled pin on the face. I should have left the rack behind because I would soon find out that this was to be about the only gear on the 100 foot pitch. Grunting, cussing and thrashing my way up the 30 feet of unprotected 5.10 squeeze / offwidth that followed sure got my heart pounding! Eventually making it out another one and a half pitches through the chimney system lead to an incredible stem, wildly exposed between the main tower and the subsidiary. I make a committing leap onto the arête of the main tower and crimp up a few moves of 5.11 – the exposure is wild and the wind almost blows me off balance while standing on the minute foot chips. This is what I came here for! With my heart pounding in my head, and fingertips quickly greasing, I desperately cling to the holds, making my way to the next belay ledge and build my anchor. Whew!
The remainder of the day was wasted away with a `12 pack of beer and some site seeing in Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. And the rest of the weekend was filled with more hand jams, arêtes, offwidths and laybacks. Some clean, classic splitters and some not-so-classic, loose, run-out-cluster-f*#ks.
It was a perfect weekend with the just enough adventure to be exiting, just enough downtime to be relaxing, and enough climbing to keep me psyched about my upcoming winter trip. Bring it on Patagonia!