I decided to ditch law school graduation for climbing. Granted, my dad was a little disenchanted by my choice but he knows me to be a fringe character and had adequate warnings of my intentions well before June 3rd.
Barney Rumble tower sits across the Colorado River from scenic highway 128 a couple of miles from the intersection with highway 191. The entry in the guide book tells us that we must find a way across the river and up the mesa wall to the base of the tower. I thought I heard somebody say adventure. DID YOU HEAR THAT?? ADVENTURE!!
Although his bag looked to be waterproof, this was not so. Ryan set his gear down in the back of the kayak and the rope sucked up water like most of you people suck down beer. Well, when life gives you lemons, lay the rope out to dry in the sun and go swimming.
After a refreshing dip, we packed up, set along the lower wall of the riverbed, and bushwhacked through the cactus until we came to a break in the vertical wall. I persevered despite the prick of those prickly pears and the not so subtle brush of the brush.
From there, we scrambled up the rockfall to a large block and then climbed a short pitch to get over the wall, probably about a 5.8 and short of 20 feet. I'm sure some people would have just climbed this without roping up but with the gear and mystery of what lied beyond, roping up seemed to be in order.
At the top of this pitch was some shady looking webbing that we later used to quickly rappel to the ground. The hike from this area took about a half hour and required climbing down into a gully and back up the other side. Since we began our mission at about 1 in the afternoon on a day where the high was supposed to be 101 degrees, the relief of not having to climb in the blazing sun was glorious when the earlier deduction of the east facing nature of the route proved to be true.
If the current acquisition of adventure wasn't satisfying enough, the procurement of a stuck master cam certainly was. And not only this but also a lesson on how not to place a tri-cam and nut tool!
The "belay" at the top of the first pitch was three nuts tied together with some webbing. I've never seen anything like it before. Rather than die on graduation day, we decided to do the whole tower in one pitch. The book says 5.9 and that might be a slightly sandbagged rating but it was fun all the same. Make sure to bring all your #1s or get ready to slide the cams up.
Given the high profile yet remote location, Ryan determined that some extreme carin building was in order.
The scariest moment of the day was when I looked at the anchors for the rappel. Two shady old pitons holding the webbing with an o-ring. What do you do in this situation? I was skeptical. Ryan said he'd go first since he outweighs me by about 70 pounds. But if he goes first, does that compromise the anchors even more? Because he weighs more? If he goes first and everything goes incredibly wrong, what do I do? Maybe I want those pitons to fail on me, not him. Is that self interest? STOP BRAIN, STOP! Set your ATC and get down to the base!