Unlike most autumns, October in Montana remained sunny and warm. In many other years I have been climbing ice during October… Not this one. The autumn of 2010 will go down in my books as one of warmest and sunniest I have ever had. I spent most days climbing near home but did take a one week trip to Utah. The plan was to climb five big routes between Red Rocks and Zion in six days. Like many climbing trips and plans this one was subject to weather, physical well-being and many other fates of the universe.
It had been raining for one week in both areas prior to our arrival. The soft Navajo sandstone face holds are notorious for breaking after such saturating storms, and camming units slide out of cracks with much more ease (especially the smaller sizes). Fortunately we had a back up plan: the severely overhanging limestone routes at the Cathedral crag and its neighboring Wailing Wall. These sport crags lie just outside of St. George, Utah roughly half-way (by road) between Red Rocks and Zion and tend to stay dry due to its geographic location and the steep nature of the rock.
We departed Vegas and drove through the night planning to arrive around 10am. The “old reliable” truck, Earl Grey, decided to stop operating in the midst of the New River Gorge on I-15 right around 10 pm. After being towed we got a new battery at a 24-hour Walmart and replaced the alternator the next day.
The following day we pulled up to the crag and soon realized we were outnumbered 10-1 by gun-toting folks in orange — it was opening weekend for Utah’s short five-day hunting season. I was personally missing out on Montana’s opening weekend, but lucky for me our season lasts nearly a month. We found a spot to throw down and camp and stayed there the following three days waiting for the rain to pass out of Zion. In those three days we climbed many a dazzling steep lines (see photos) on some of the best limestone I have touched.
The skies finally cleared the evening of our second day, but we needed to wait at least 24 hours for the stone to dry in Zion. So we checked out the Black and Tan wall. No where near as good as The Cathedral, but at least we were climbing.
And finally we made our way to Zion, and got right on the route Monkey Finger (5.12 8 pitches). The climbing was going smoothly though the rock was still a bit wet. At the top of the 3rd pitch I put my body in an odd position and suddenly my whole shoulder sublexed (not quite popping out of socket but damn close). It had never happened to me prior to that incident, and I sure as hell didn’t want to become the guy with the chronic shoulder problems. The trip was over. I finished the pitch, then we rappelled.
Unfortunately this particular climbing trip did not quite go as planned. However I did get to pass many a good days with a great old friend. We plan to reunite in the future to carry through with our larger objectives. In the mean time I am back here in Montana diversifying my outdoor life, riding the bike a lot more, hunting, running and just taking it easy on the shoulder and rehabbing until it gets better.
On this very fine day the sun is still shining with temps in the 60’s, I have an elk roast slowly steaming away in a crock pot, and I just finalized some plans to do a rock trip to Spain and Morocco this winter! Injuries do suck, but it forces me to tap in to other outlets and embrace some new creativity.
hast la proxima,