“Boredom is an emotional state experienced during periods lacking activity or when individuals are uninterested in their surroundings.”
Yeah, it was time to go get some sand in the eyes and fell the grinding of knuckles on the sandstone of Zion. School was overwhelming, starting a new job, and hey got a really smoking hot new girlfriend… I am a busy guy.
So before my next epic push through life I needed to go do something, kill the boredom, so a push solo of Desert Shield sounded like a plan… one problem I only had Friday, that means leaving class at 10pm on Thursday, driving to the park, starting at night, climb the route, then drive back to Vegas that same day. This is gonna hurt…
I have been avoiding Desert Shield for many years now. In the late 90’s a friend of mine was going through a rough patch in his life. We talked about it some, but I was a 19-year-old kid, and Dave was in his 30’s. Not much advise I could give him. We drowned ourselves in climbing and Dave was really into wall climbing as I was. After a few trips together we attempted a winter ascent of Desert Shield. Three pitches up, we got hammered by a storm. We spent the next few days in the ledge laughing as spindrift fell down the route onto us from the gully above. We came down planning to come back soon. As he worked out his problems we lost touch for well over a half a year. One day at the local rock shop we ran into each other. Dave looked not himself. He begged me to go climbing; he said he needed to get out. I was so happy to see him and we agreed on Desert Shield, leaving the next day. I ran home so excited to climb with Dave again. I packed, loaded the car, and just had to work a few hours before our adventure began. As I pulled into work my phone rang. A mutual friend of ours called to inform me that Dave just took his own life. I was floored. I couldn’t move. Not Dave. Why did I have to work for those few hours? Why didn’t he call me? Why did he do this? I have lived with these questions for many years. I have avoided this route ever since, but look at it every time I am in the park. I needed to go up there.
4 hours of sleep the night before, because a 7-page paper on mechanical ventilation and how heat and humidity vs. HME style devices affect VAP rates (ventilator associated pneumonias)… wow sound fun eh?
I thought for sure I could nap before class but that didn’t happen. I looked at the supertopo (Chris I am expecting a new book for this product placement) of the route and it calls for 4-5 sets of offsets… huh… 2 will do, that’s all I have. The girlfriend is new to climbing and was not impressed with this at all. I assured her that Chris Mac was just trying to save the world and probably gets a kick back from the offset companies to recommend so many pieces, besides that is just merely a guideline… but hardmen like myself just back clean I told her. Deep down all I could do was wish the offset god would rain down 3 more sets of these badboys, but come on I couldn’t admit that in front of her, remember new girlfriend, smoking hot, and I needed to look as bad ass as I could… try and keep up.
10pm in the school parking lot with my haulbag, am I really doing this? F*#k I am. Stop for some 5-hour energy drinks, 3 coffee Monster drinks, and candy. I needed to stay awake for the drive. So I took the plunge and bought an iPhone a few weeks ago. Wow the drive was so short, I just watched episodes of Family Guy and Jackass… those guys are weak. I mean stapling your balls to your legs? Come on! Solo a wall in a push, it’s just about as stupid and I didn’t get paid millions to do it. So who is the dumbass now? Oh wait, me. Sh#t, Parking under the wall I wanted to puke, either the nerves of puddy or the 15,000mg of sugar and caffeine I just ingested. I am still really tired and all I could think about is for the next 20 hours I am not going to get to sleep. I am f*#king retarded.
The bag being heavy, I dreaded the approach… have you seen this thing? Sherpas, or troubled youth need to be for hire to haul my sh#t up there. It has to be at least a full 7 minutes to get to the base. I need to take up power knitting or something. This sh#t is for the birds. Flake the ropes; get the rack out, check the watch… 3am. Wow I have already been up for 20 hours.
The first pitch is an easy one, really just a solo with a weird move at the end. The rock was super sandy and wet from some snow melt above, so trying to climb as easy as possible and avoid the water streaks. As I rapped down the energy lightning bolt hit me and the doubt started to fade, I wanted to climb this thing. I needed to climb this thing. With school and work commitments that I have, this will be the last adventure for until summer more then likely. I made a goal, top of the 3rd pitch by sunrise.
As I started up the 3rd pitch, some easy free to what the topo says “5.8 awkward chimney or 5.9 stem” all I could think is 2 things… one, great one of these, and two, if you are stemming on the outside of a chimney how on earth are you getting pro? Well I charged into the chimney and quickly realized with my solo device, rack, and fat ass, I am not fitting in this mother. After a heart stopping slip on the reversal of this maneuver, I stemmed the damn thing (5.9 and scary and dark and sandy yikes) and linked with the next pitch. I hit the ledge on the top of pitch 4 as the sun came up.
Pitch 5 is a steep 5.9 lieback (or A1 hehe) that is loose and sandy, but I made quick work of this, and as I hit the anchor I had plenty of rope so I linked the bolt ladder pitch with this one. Holy crap this thing is steep and cool.
Rap down, kick the bag loose and away we go.
The headwall is stellar. The cracks are tasty from this point on.
Pitch 7 is straight up and thin. No real hard sections, just eats up the offsets and offset cams.
The dreaded arm locks started at this point. I was bonking. I rapped the pitch cleaned as fast as I could, hauled the pig and stopped for a half hour break. I was so smoked at this point. I wanted to go down, I wanted some sleep, f*#k rock climbing and hello NASCAR. Couch sitting, beer drinking, and steak eating sounded perfect.
I listened to some great music on the Ipod, ate four packages of clifblocks (the only food I brought) and pounded two 5-hour energy drinks. I wanted to link the last two pitches. The raps make it, so why not the lead I told myself. Without knowing, I convinced myself that it would be no biggie. It is truly amazing what we really talk ourselves into when in certain situations. I mean damn that is why I am up here in the first place. So I charged off on lead,I needed off this thing so I committed.
Pitch 8 is the crux for me by leaps and bounds. I was so smoked, cooked, and hung out to dry at this point. Every time I pulled up to move onto another piece my arms would lock and I would have to force them straight. I had ripped the crap out of my cuticle earlier, so every time I touched something it would catch, bleed more, and hurt like a son of a bitch. Yes, for all you keeping up, I broke a nail and it hurt. Shut up it really hurt! (the girlfriend said she would kiss it and make it better)
I am a baby, and really I should have been wearing a skirt. The crack high on this pitch really pinches down, and for ten minutes I got stuck. I was out on some hooks, some really small brass, and I was two moves from the anchor… WTF! I didn’t have much gear in that inspired confidence for some ways, so I did the best thing I could think out. I started screaming and throwing a tantrum.
I am sure the guys over on Space Shot got a kick out of that one!
Finally right in front of my face was a #1 HB placement, I yelled more cause I am a jackass, stood up freed the loose crap to the anchor and said SH#T! I wanted to link this pitch with the next one. That pitch took me close to 2 hours or longer to lead and I wanted down. I knew that if I rapped to my bag I was going to bail one pitch from the top. I didn’t have as much rope as I had hoped for since the pitch traversed some, but I looked at the next pitch saw that most of it was bolts so I was off. I made it to the anchor at pitch 9 a few minutes later. I was wasted. But Stoked.
In all I had a great time on a great route. My time was right about 13 hours to the top of the route, but I rapped cleaned the last pitch so whatever. It took me longer to lead one pitch then for Ammon and Chris to climb the route… just brings everything into perspective for me. I really do suck. From the time leaving the last pitch I was on the ground 30 minutes later. One small snafu on the decent, I was rapping off the top of pitch 6 to pitch 4 but its way steep. You land on this slab and one must swing way over to get back to the ledge on top of pitch 4. I couldn't, I was so tired. Well with 70M ropes it kinda made it down to the bivy on top of pitch 3. With tails in my device I just let them pop through and landed on the ledge a few feet below. IT worked... but a few minutes later I was on the ground. I was so tired, but this overwhelming sense of accomplishment flooded over me. I was really stoked about this one. I missed my friend. Dave thank you for the memories, I hope you have found peace my friend. I had a few minutes alone at the base; I leaned back on the haulbag and looked up. I felt like I was nineteen years old again, sitting there like I had with Dave wondering what this route was going to dish out. I quietly picked up my bag and started off to the truck. I was planning on sleeping in the truck as I got tired, but somehow I stayed awake all the way back to Vegas. I arrived home around 8:30pm after almost 40 hours on the go. It was a great trip.
Rack I took (I linked a lot, so back cleaning was a must)
2 70m ropes
2 sets offset mastercams
2 sets tcu (over kill)
3 sets cams to 2 camalot
2 ea 3-4 camalot
1 ea 5 camalot (not needed)
2 sets DMM brass offset
2 sets DMM alum offset
1 set BD nuts
1 big bd hook