Bad Memory, Good Aid Climber
Less than one month after climbing Beaking in Tongues on the Oracle, one of the wildest climbing adventures of my life, I find myself in the Fisher Towers at the base of another improbable route. Ah I am starting remember now the process of ascending one of these anciently congealed crud towers. All of the less favorable experiences and feelings are flooding back into my head attempting to replace the fonder memories, the only ones that I seemingly hung onto. While belaying the first pitch my mind attempted to explore many different scenarios. I silence the possible outcomes I dread as Keiko navigates her way through the crusted mud shale. Using equalized assortments of body weight beak placements, pin stacks and questionable small cam placements she creeps upward into the unknown abyss. After a very long belay and much reflection, the sun goes down and we have fixed the first crux pitch on the Rasta Wall, our goal for the day establishing ourselves on the route.
My mind struggles to prevent the association of ratings on a pitch with how difficult the climbing will actually be. I have yet to climb a pitch in the fisher towers that wasn’t mentally challenging be it 4th class or be it A4. There are no gimmes here. Leading the second A2 pitch was no different, and of course I assumed it was going to be “cruiser.”
Scraping, scratching, and excavating I made my way to the anchor. Pin stacking in ways I never knew to be possible. This pitch was a good dose of what I needed to get my head on right for the third pitch, another technical aid crux of the route. I fixed the first half of the third pitch and we retreated to the ground. The sun was setting, and I’m afraid of the dark. Falsely assuring myself that I had already made my way through the trickier parts of the pitch. I should’ve know better not to assume anything out here. The next day I would be tested. Placing horrendously precarious small beaks, equalized bad pitons in terrible rock, and the occasional bomber spectre while being suspended above a rotten hollow mud pillar would be my only passage. “Equalize it yeaha yeaha, and I will advertise it yeaha yeaha.” Peter Tosh is in my head.
By now the consistent trickle of sand and crusted mud balls raining down to the anchor and my belayer was just one of the variables in a complicated equation we would have to solve to gain another summit on one of these towers. Time was beginning to feel irrelevant. It didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing in the moment because that moment wouldn’t last forever, and soon enough I would be on to something else.
Methodically ascending the major weakness in one of the weakest rocks I have ever climbed we continue upwards. My pockets filled with sand and my once white tee shirt now permanently mud stained as if we were slowly becoming the part of the rock. These towers are very much alive, and they were slowly beginning to devour us. The difficulty of the climbing seems to ease as we get closer to the summit, but even the easiest of climbing grades can be absolutely horrifying in the Fishers.
Early in the day, we gratefully arrived at the summit after negotiating some very interesting fourth class climbing. Another great trip to the Fisher Towers. Easily one of the most creatively and mentally challenging places I have ever climbed. As far as the medium of difficult aid climbing goes I am certain that the Fisher Towers is a perfect canvas. I have already forgotten enough about this climb to start planning the next adventure.