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Desert Commutes
Trip Report

Desert Commutes

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Desert Commutes

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Utah, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 32.84000°N / 113.91°W

Object Title: Desert Commutes

Date Climbed/Hiked: Apr 22, 2007

Activities: Trad Climbing, Aid Climbing

Season: Spring, Winter

 

Page By: rpc

Created/Edited: Apr 26, 2007 / May 3, 2007

Object ID: 288518

Hits: 3391 

Page Score: 93.81%  - 44 Votes 

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New Years - Drive From Hell

So the projected 22 hour drive has just stretched to 23 and we are still not out of f…ing LA traffic. Where do we go? Moab? Why drive 14 hours for a forecast as shitty as Smith. Red Rocks looked wet too. Four days is not enough for anything further. Never been to J-tree but that’s a lot of driving for single pitch stuff. OK, how about Cochise? Here we are 2 days later listening to Saddam’s impending execution broadcast live on NPR wishing the same fate on the asshole just in front hitting his breaks intermittently without any reason. 3am we arrive in Benson and all too soon the alarm clock rings. Stumble out of bed in Motel 6 and before I’m fully awake, we’re at the trailhead and hiking toward our climb. What is this? Where are the sunny skies? OK, at least it’s not raining (yet). Harness up, tie into the rope, and as I turn towards the start of my lead my right foot blows off of a wet log at the base. 18 inches lower, it finds a landing zone atop a fist sized rock. Somehow the air is knocked out of me as I drop to the ground. Shirley is standing over my contorted, squirming body with a look of “what the hell??!!” Obviously events looked less dramatic from her point of view. My foot swells, Shirley coils the ropes, and we hike down. 10 hours after finishing our first 25 hour drive, we’re off on another. This time pissed off and headed back towards the rainy Oregon. The only highlight of the outing was running into Eric and Lucie on our way out of the Stronghold. We had dinner with them that night and as always found them inspirational!
Gift From Cochise
The gift.

Four Months Later Things Went Better

Director
 

Approach:
So I find these cheap airfares that should get us out of the rainy Northwest and into the desert. Unfortunately they’re for Boise and not Salt Lake meaning that the Moab outing will still involve 17 hours of driving time that weekend. Saturday early afternoon finds Shirley and me picking up the remainder of our ten essentials: a 2 gallon jug of water and a six pack of beer from a supermarket in Boise. Off we go. We arrive at a trailhead in Canyonlands a tad after 11pm Saturday. Eight hours of beauty rest in the back of the rental and we’re packing up the gear in the breaking daylight.

“I thought you packed the bottles?!!”

Oooopsie daisy. We’re faced with a dry climb or alternatively with Shirley carrying the 2 gallon jug of water in her backpack up the tower….I like that option and my inner Taliban would like to toss in two bottles of beer into her pack as well. I’m brought back to the reality of western civilization with a solid smack to the back of my head. OK, no water, no climb. Switch gears and hit our day 2 target first.

We head for Arches via a detour up River Road in an attempt to find Brad’s campsite. He had expressed interest in possibly joining us on this climb in our phone conversation earlier that week. Many campsites but no Brad to be found (& no reception on his phone). OK, back to Arches.

The Climb:
So there it is! 300 yards across the desert looms our adventure of choice. At 440 feet (per Eric Bjornstad’s guidebook), Sheep Rock is likely the 3rd tallest (after Tower Of Babel and The Organ) tower in this here National Park. The resemblance to the farm animal is indeed striking. A five minute hike up a nice wash brings us to the base of the tower.

Sheep Rock
Approach.


Things start out reasonably well – a mantle move up onto a ~45-degree slab and soon I’m clipping the first brand new bolt (see below). The familiar sandy crunch is felt between my teeth – it’s good to be back on Entrada. The slab is sandy (did I mention it’s Entrada) but featured with old (and blown out) angle holes that provide holds. Couple of free moves and the terrain steepens. Transition to aid climbing mode is immediate – starting with standing on bolts to taking out the aiders shortly thereafter. A C1 bulge and more bolts. Back to semi-free: I mantle one of my feet onto the bolt and throw for a two finger hold in an empty piton hole just at the edge of my reach.

Virgin Wool
P1


What is this mysterious force trying to pull me down??!!!

I’m a moron! I realize that I forgot to unclip the aider from the bolt on which I’m now balancing my foot. I’m a f…ing f…ing moron!! I can’t move up as I’m held in place by a shortened daisy tethering me to the aider and bolt. The bad news is that I can’t reach down to unclip it (I have a bulging wall in my face now……yes, I’m a f…ing idiot) nor can I place any pro above me to clip into. The anticipation of a bone rattling 3-footer onto the static daisy is exciting. Easy, easy… OK, here we go: “falling”. The impact is surprisingly soft as 3 stitches rip on the daisy dissipating the fall energy gradually before the rope catches me. I’m a dumbass. Take two. Rest of the pitch is uneventful.

Shirley arrives on the nice belay ledge and we both look at the start of the C1 traverse pitch.

Virgin Wool
P2


Another sandy mantle to reach the crack. Looks hard. A hook comes out and a bomber foothold in the form of an aider step presents itself. The rest of the pitch is fun – perfectly horizontal leftward traverse with some nice exposure. Shirley quickly follows and we are soon both looking up at the 45-meter “Ewetopian Crack”.

Virgin Wool
P3


I have a (sinking) feeling that I’m about to try the most sustained aid lead of my (non-existent) aid career – the crack is thin. It goes from none (couple drilled pegs get you started) to about a green to yellow Alien sized for the final 20 feet. Now how do I reach the first peg just out of my reach? Try cams & tricams. Try hooking. Nothing will provide even the most tenuous placement in the blown out piton hole. Free move looks unreasonably hard and so I end up cheating the first 8 feet with a stick clip – oh well. Visible above are at least two more drilled angles – safe havens from the thinness that lies in-between.

Ewetopian Crack
Ewetopia


The first series of thin placements take a bit of getting used to – it’s exciting to see a series of #4 to 6 offsets (some attached to purty new Screamaids) in Entrada separating you from the belay ledge 50 feet below.
 
Virgin Wool
P3
 
Virgin Wool
P3

 
Virgin Wool
P3
 
Virgin Wool
P3

Finally, I reach the fixed angle and exhale in relief. More of the same is encountered higher. A satisfying #0.75 Camalot in a horizontal crack offers the next bit of mental rest. I see Shirley below snacking on chips – I should get moving before she takes out the beer and makes a full-on picnic. A #5 offset goes into a yet another slight piton scar – looks nice. A gentle test – still good. OK, step-up and give it one more vigorous test. I hear a ping and a cracking of the rock and feel the acceleration. Though the fall is short (less than 15 feet and probably 70 feet out), I recall clawing at the wall trying to slow my descent. The thrill ride is thankfully over quickly as the #0.75 assisted by a ripping screamer stop me. A 10”X10” plate of rock on left side of crack unexpectedly gave way under the pressure exerted by the nut – good times. The crack soon gets wide enough to slot blue, green, and even yellow Aliens.

Shirley tops out quickly just as a slight drizzle begins. She gives me a look that says “you better hurry up on the next pitch!” OK, here we go. Pitch 3 begins with a nice if short crack to a roof traverse to another piton. Above the pin, a few feet of thin nutting (hybrid Aliens feel better) in crunchy rock would not be so bad if it were not for the lower angle slab directly below. Going eases quickly and I’m soon belaying Shirley up from the top in increasing drizzle. We don’t scramble the ridge to the head but start rapping down. Ropes pull smoothly and soon we’re eating Mexican food in Moab & tossing down DosEquis.

 
Scream
Scream
 
Sheep Rock
Rap


A great route.

The Return:
So the sound of rain wakes us in the middle of the night – OK I guess no need to get up early. In the morning hopes rise as we see a patch of blue sky. We repack have coffee waiting for rock to dry. We drive out to the trailhead just as a full on downpour begins. No blue sky & no hope for more climbing. We’re done. 9 hours later Boise & flight home back to work.

.

Pre-Work Breakfast
Guilty! Finishing the beer before going home.

Images

Virgin WoolGift From CochiseDirectorPre-Work Breakfast

Comments


[ Post a Comment ]
Viewing: 1-17 of 17    

cp0915Love it!

cp0915

Voted 10/10

Another great TR. Entertaining read.

And I thought my own "wake up at 1AM-drive 5 hours from Vegas to South Lake-bag a Sierra Peak-drive 5 hours back to Vegas in time for dinner marathons" were bad...
Posted Apr 26, 2007 2:45 pm

rpcRe: Love it!

rpc

Hasn't voted

Thanks Courtney :)
Posted Apr 26, 2007 4:23 pm

DebDone yet?

Deb

Voted 10/10

Finished or not, your stories are always quite entertaining and thrilling. Rock on!
Posted Apr 26, 2007 3:34 pm

rpcRe: Done yet?

rpc

Hasn't voted

Done now. Thank you very much Deb.
Posted Apr 26, 2007 4:23 pm

KruckYou have a good voice

Kruck

Voted 10/10

That's about all I have to say.
Posted Apr 26, 2007 4:29 pm

rpcRe: You have a good voice

rpc

Hasn't voted

voice?

Was that you in Arches last Sunday? :)
Posted Apr 26, 2007 4:32 pm

KruckRe: You have a good voice

Kruck

Voted 10/10

Writing style. Tone, tempo, etc. It was a good read, etc. Lots of people sound the same when they write; your story shows personality. I read the whole thing (generally I bonk after a few paragraphs of the same old-same old).

Keep up the good work. Hope you have better luck with the weather next time.
Posted Apr 26, 2007 5:43 pm

rpcRe: You have a good voice

rpc

Hasn't voted

Ahhh - thank you very much Sir!! Appreciate the kind word or two :)
Posted Apr 26, 2007 5:45 pm

hkutukIn my book

hkutuk

Voted 10/10

This is a good trip, just wish the weather had been better. Good decision on your part to go eastern UT. You are making good progress on aid, that Ewetopian crack is an impressive lead, nice!
Posted Apr 27, 2007 12:54 pm

rpcRe: In my book

rpc

Hasn't voted

Thanks Haydar!
Post some pic's from your Zion outing .
Posted Apr 27, 2007 1:00 pm

hkutukRe: In my book

hkutuk

Voted 10/10

I just updated the gear sections for some of the climbs and saw your TR :). I'd post more climbing pics if there was more interest in them on SP.
Posted Apr 27, 2007 1:21 pm

rpcRe: another

rpc

Hasn't voted

thank you very much Tazz.
Posted Apr 27, 2007 2:44 pm

Brian CNice work!

Brian C

Voted 10/10

Sheep Rock is high on my list of climbs this year and it's great to see a trip report and good photos. I may shoot you a PM on gear ideas when my trip gets closer. Really nice work and thanks for posting!
Posted Jan 2, 2012 9:48 am

rpcRe: Nice work!

rpc

Hasn't voted

thanks Brian. this stuff is old & probably outdated (was surprised to see it resurrected on sp's front page).
Posted Jan 3, 2012 1:34 pm

Brian CRe: Nice work!

Brian C

Voted 10/10

Didn't notice the date. Good report nonetheless!
Posted Jan 3, 2012 2:57 pm

FRhoderickHa

FRhoderick

Hasn't voted

"The crack soon gets wide enough to slot blue, green, and even yellow Aliens. "

Priceless!
Posted Jan 2, 2012 3:23 pm

rpcRe: Ha

rpc

Hasn't voted

the joys of aid climbing :)
thanks for visiting & the nice word Fred.
Posted Jan 3, 2012 1:35 pm

Viewing: 1-17 of 17