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.
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 a post from Durango, CO.’s Bill Grasse. We welcome Bill to the blog with a two-part post about his ascent of a “mud giant” just north of Moab…
I was free; leaping from rock to rock. I was a pool of energy, I never seemed to tire. The feeling of wind in my hair and with weightless youth, I just leaped. Hopping from rock to rock, and then mountain to mountain, each jump had grown to be a short flight through the clouds. It seemed for hours when, upon landing on one mountain top, I came to a sudden and peaceful halt… silence.
Looking around me, I became filled with emotion. Peacefulness, solitude, and joy surrounded me like a warm blanket as I began to look at the beauty all around me. Gray-green peaks jutting through misty clouds and gleaming in the midday sun. Valleys with green trees and rushing silver creeks lay thousands of feet below and all with the sound of a slight breeze whispering past. In this state of relaxation and peace I just sat and looked. And thought.
I was pondering the beauty of life, of trees, and of this pastoral scene when it all started…”Squill!
A noise came from a close rock. “Pill!” It came again. “Pill? What?” “Fill!” once more. “Who is Phil?” I thought. “Bill” it said clearer. Then I heard it again: “Hey Bill, are you up?” “Are you up?” Suddenly realizing I was in some sort of bag, I was now awake. “Bill!” it said again. It was dark and I as I was squirming around I found a hole. Straining, I pushed for the hole and reaching it I looked through… stars. Then it hit me. I was sleeping. It was all a dream. “Bill!” said my friend Ben as I awoke from my daze. “Get up! Aren’t you psyched, were going to climb Brer Rabbit! Brad’s up. Let’s freaking go!”…And so it began.
Brer Rabbit lies in a group of sandstone towers known as the Fisher Towers located 30 minutes north of Moab, Utah. Climbing one of the formations known as Cottontail Tower, Brer Rabbit ascends the south ridge via an adventurous climb on Fisher Towers’ loose and muddy Cutler sandstone.
Though they may not look it, the Fisher Towers are responsible for some of the most adventurous, dangerous, and spectacular climbing routes in Utah. Some friends and I have been slowly ticking off the major formations for years and Cottontail was one of the last. So, when one of my buddies called all fired up about Cottontail, I had to go.
Here is the story:
Day one consisted of five pitches, curse words, wide cracks and an array of gear placements that left me surprised at how many times we had to climb out of our aiders and into wide and unprotected terrain.
We left the car at 7:45 with my Mutant 38 loaded to the brim with ropes, food, cams, stoppers, harnesses, clothes, runners, carabiners, climbing shoes, helmets, water, headlamps, tape, med kit, and gloves. Let’s just say that the load was heavy and the new pack had me cruising down the trial. After a not-as-long-as-remembered hike we found ourselves nervously racking up at the base.
My buddy Brad took the first pitch and judging from the words coming out of his mouth, it seemed like not the easiest pitch in the world. After jugging up to him, it was my turn. The pitch started off with some relatively straight-forward aid climbing that lead through a roof to an unprotected mantle. The rest of the pitch consisted of more wide slots intermixed with easy aid to a couple of ancient bolts that were easily backed up with a cam.
Pitch three started out with the plan to link it with the last but upon rounding the corner, I found myself hanging on crap gear, looking at even worse placements ahead and with enough rope drag to stop an elephant. So it was back to the belay to ask Brad and Ben to come on up to join me.
After their arrival, I quickly found myself above the bolt ladder that I was initially trying to reach and at yet another impasse looking for the right way to go. “Why do I always get the pitches with the free climbing over bad gear?” I thought as I was mantling over a lip with only some funky slung horns for pro. Well let’s just say that after some sphincter exercise, I found the bolt I was looking for and reached the belay.
The next pitch was Ben’s lead and he easily negotiated the run-out traverse. Then, Brad went and sarcastically said, “why am I always the one to be the last on run-out traverses??” To which I replied, “Well played Brad, well played.”
So now, late in the day, Ben readies himself for the crux. He makes his way out to an old bolt and before long he is off in a world of unprotected trickery, peckers, and free moves only to arrive at the belay an hour and a half later. “Nice lead Ben!”
Now, to get down which, from the base of the crux, was easy due to Brad rapping down and placing a new bolt at the otherwise old anchor below us.
That night consisted of celebrating a friend’s birthday and learning of Brad’s fear of spiders. And in the words of Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that.”
Check back on Thursday for the conclusion of “Ascent of a Mud Giant” and take a look at Bill’s profile for more info.