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Ascent of a Mud Giant, part I

May 26th, 2009

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.

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