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Ascent of a Mud Giant, part II

The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, brings you part two of Bill Grasse‘s ascent of a “mud giant” just north of Moab…

Day two started relatively early.  Up at 6:30 and hiking by 7:15 we arrived at the base a half an hour later.  Once again, my new Mutant 38 makes for yet another comfy hike.  No time to spare, we geared up and were on our way and climbing up our fixed ropes to the previous days high point.  Ben went first, then me, and then Brad.  This way I could arrive at the top and could start climbing the next pitch while Brad cleaned the gear from the last pitch the day before.

Shortly after arriving at the top belay, I was off.  Twenty minutes later after screaming though an overhanging offwidth and obtaining a new set of cuts and scrapes, I arrived exhausted and beat up at the shoulder of the tower and built the belay.  Next, Ben, helping the haul bag on his way up, arrived at the belay.  Within seconds he freed up some rope for him to lead on and headed off on the shoulder traverse to go inspect the coming gap we had to jump over.  After Brad was at the belay, Ben jumped, then Brad, and I stayed back to take pics of Brad leading the next pitch.

Brad’s pitch went like this: nervous joking, then cursing, then quiet, more cursing, then more quietness, then more nervous joking, then the clinking of a hammer, then more quietness, then more cursing, then panting and groaning, and then a holler of success.

A strong lead, Brad was psyched and Ben and I were feeling the energy.  We all were pleased that most of the hard climbing was done and the top was only two pitches away.  Ben was off leading and meanwhile I placed a bolt to back up the anchor.  But, when Ben yelled “off belay” on what should have been the last major pitch of the climb Brad and I knew that something was up.  He was too close and the top seemed a lot farther.  When Brad and I arrived at the belay we all figured out that we were at the real top of Brad’s pitch and now looming ahead was the real last tricky pitch of the climb.

Time was of the essence considering that it was about 6:00 PM and we still had to get off.  Ben quickly got started on the lead.  After a hand crack, a tension traverse and some magic arming to a bolt ladder, Ben was at the top of the pitch and Brad was jugging up while I yet again, got to jug the other rope hanging in free space.

On top of the shoulder Ben wanted to lead the last pitch up the summit boulder because he had climbed another route on the tower and went the wrong way up the pitch. So it seemed that he wanted to find the real way up this time.

The pitch was relatively easy, starting with a worm move through a hole and then up a wide crack to a bolted slab move.  Ben pulled the slab move and seconds later was on the summit.  Brad and I joined minutes later but the fun wasn’t over yet.  It was 6:45 and we had some tricky rappelling in front of us.

The first couple of rappels involved some traversing back the way we came.  While this was a relatively smooth process getting off of the summit boulder, the next rappel was not so easy.  This rappel involved rappelling off of funky threads around a horn and through a hole, and then jugging back to the anchor – a tricky and time consuming process.  After the first two rappels there were six more not as tricky but close rappels to get us on the ground by 8:00 PM.

All in all, it was a great adventure with good friends and a beautiful setting.  This climb and others like it tell a story of triumph and tragedy, determination and defeat, and a bond shared between friends.  For me, this is one of the main reasons I climb; to have another adventure in a in a lifetime of adventures, for a guy refusing to let his life just float on by.

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