Quick AsideHey SP'ers. Just announcing a few things here related to this & some future trip reports:
1. This report is already posted over at SuperTopo. However, since many SP users do not frequent that site, I figured that for trip reports that would appeal to both crowds I would double post. Since some SPers have missed my reports and wondered if I was abandoning SP for SuperTopo, I think double posting is warranted!
2. I have a few other reports on SuperTopo that I am converting to an SP format (double posting!): Liberty Ridge on Mt Rainier, Ptarmigan Ridge on Mt Rainier, and Moon Goddess Arete + Venusian Blind on Temple Crag.
3. Since I am currently working on a web page that is a more centralized location for my projects, I'm playing around with a workflow that makes sense for sharing on these sites without too much redundant work of posting between SuperTopo, SummitPost, and my web site. I think I've found a good order, so I should keep up better with reports that should be double posted. This also means that I'll probably only post a few select photos to SP that seem to be useful to the site as stand alone images. Otherwise, it is just easier to use the html code for the SuperTopo & web site versions that references the images on Picasa.
4. Lastly, this means my reports might show up initially with less streamlined formatting on SP. I figured I'd settle with this just to get it up, and then take another pass shortly thereafter to clean up the formatting a bit, in regards to photos, captions & tables. So this one should be touched up later tonight or tomorrow. Until then, regard the trip report as complete, but somewhat under construction.
At heart I'd say I'm a desert kid. My fondest childhood memories came from the many trips my dad and I used to take from Salt Lake City to the trinity of Utah desert fun: Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, and the San Rafael Swell. I have hiked, scrambled, and canyoneered many miles in this wonderful landscape with my dad. I also did my first +18 hr day and +20 mile dayhike here. My realization that I could work through my fear of heights with a rope occurred while rappelling on a backpacking trip with my dad as we descended into one of the desert canyons.
I never had a chance to enjoy the desert as climber, though.
Fast forward to 2011. I have been been climbing on and off for a number of years, and have been going for about a year on a lead climbing binge, climbing nearly every weekend. Unfortunately, while I've been getting out and enjoying nature more than ever, my father's Parkinsons disease has by this time progressed to the point that he can only manage short walks, and his tremors preclude the possibility of any scrambling. I nearly overdid it when I suggested we hike Mt. Elbert together, which led to some dangerous freeze-related falls when descending the trail as he tired out from the hike.
In an attempt to find a way to continue sharing our enjoyment of nature with each other, while letting out some of my pent up energy, I suggested that my dad come along on some of my shorter rock climbs to lounge at the base of the cliffs where he could watch me climb. He's not a technical climber, so I figured I could share my new outdoor passion with him while finding a way for us to be outside together. We could walk to and from the climbs together, he could chat with me or my climbing partner while we were belaying on the ground, and he should be able to hear and watch us throughout the shorter climbs. What could possibly be a bad idea about that? :-)
Little Cottonwood Canyon Trad (June, 2011)
A Crack in the Woods (5.8) & Hand Jive (5.9)
I tried this idea out in Little Cottonwood Canyon in June with my friend Alec L. A combination of too much coffee before the lead, and a harder than expected 5.9 lead (it turned out to be my hardest to date at the time) left me feeling more nervous than I normally do on lead. That, or maybe knowing that since my dad was watching, I'd better not fall on lead!
Shameless LCC Climbing Plug Photo Series
Still, the day turned out fine and he enjoyed coming along. So when I thought of trying to do a climbing trip to southern Utah over Thanksgiving, I suggested he join me and Peter G. for the trip.
Indian Creek (November, 2011)I've never climbed in Indian Creek, and I finally felt ready to tackle some of the 5.10 cracks in the area. While Pete & my main objective for the trip was to climb Ancient Art, we spent the first two days over Thanksgiving warming up to desert sandstone climbing at Indian Creek.
Why climb at Indian Creek first?
This is why.
Droool . . .
And a few of the climbs we did:
Generic Crack (5.9+)
You can't hide from using proper jamming techniques at the Creek. I ran up Generic on lead in under 15 minutes. Peter took over an hour as he learned that while he could do some finger jams, he really didn't get the whole hand jamming thing.
Twin Cracks (5.7)
We climbed Twin Cracks, which had much easier hand jamming than Generic Crack. Here Pete got a better hang of the whole hand jamming thing. He should be better prepared for the next visit to the Creek!
Super Crack (of the Desert) (5.10)
There was a line on Super Crack, so we monkeyed around on an unnamed 5.6 offwidth and 5.9+ finger crack + lieback while we waited.
At last I took off. As I'm still new to leading 5.10s, I don't know why I thought it was a good idea to climb this route in front of my dad. Since all of the other climbers were pumping out and having to hang or aid on the upper crack, I was surprised to find the climbing onto the lower pedestal to be the crux. It was a lot harder than any 5.10a's I've done, so perhaps it was my first 5.10b lead?
The upper crack is more like 5.9 if you have good crack technique, as you can keep the weight off your jams and onto your feet. The biggest pump I got was attempting to clip the rope with nearly 100' of it hanging free below me. I learned quickly to place a piece high, move a couple more jams to keep the hand flexing & relaxing, then clip the rope to the piece with the hand that was not placing the cam, now at waist level. This allowed me to avoid hanging out too long and divide the pro placement & upper jam hang work between the two arms.
Ancient Art (November, 2011)The coolest summit I had ever stood atop up to this point was Starlight Pk (14,200').
While the silly summit outfit may have been vital to my success on Starlight, and although I lacked the Gandelf costume or giant Dr. Seuss hat that I envisioned wearing atop Ancient Art, I felt ready to lead the even wilder corkscrew summit.
We were surprised to see just how scenic the Fisher Towers area was. You had excellent views of climbers on the towers merely by looking out your car window at the trailhead. The trail leading out to the towers isn't that long, and every bit of it is so scenic that I never even noticed the hike. It was also very accessible for my dad to hike along at a slow pace and take in the sights with me and Peter.
We were fortunate enough to arrive at Ancient Art before the crowds. There was one party ahead of us, but by the time we were ready to start climbing that party was already heading up pitch 2. My dad made himself comfy at the base to watch the show, and off I went on the lower low-5th sandstone ledges.
Apparently one of the bolts on the bolt ladder had ripped out sometime in recent years, but it had been replaced by now. I stemmed partway up the water grooves then quickly switched to aiding the bolts with a PAS & one alpine aider. I left another alpine aider with Peter so that he could aid the bolts as he followed. While the aiders weren't necessary, they sure made it easy!
My guidebook called this pitch 5.7. Steep, yes. Intimidating crux? Yes. But I'd say it's about right for old school 5.7. You never really do any chimney moves. More like a bunch of wide stems.
Fortunately the roof is split by a wide crack that wasn't too grainy. This made for a great cam placement to protect the crux of stemming out backwards from the chimney and climbing around the roof.
My topo said to squeeze behind the chockstone at the top of the chimney, so I did, at a tight but secure cl. 4. A party behind us later came up the face directly out of the chimney beside the chockstone, which I guess is shown in the ST Topo.
The ledge here was flat & spacious. It would make a wonderful lunch ledge.
Unfortunately, Peter was trailing the second rope for the rappels, and the nice crack splitting the crux roof likes to eat ropes, so just as he pulled through the chockstone, it stuck tight. He had to downclimb on belay to free it. I recommend, if bringing a second rope for rappels, to wear it as a backpack on this pitch instead of trailing the line.
It turns out the climbers ahead of us were base jumping from the catwalk ridge leading to the Ancient Art summit. First they threw their climbing gear off, suspended by a mini-chute. Then each climber took their leap of fate and quickly deployed.
The deployment of the parasails in the amphitheater made quite a loud bang! There were some hikers with a dog below, and with each jump the poor dog made yelping noises like it was shocked to see these bodies hurtling towards their imminent death. Then once they sailed off to safety, the tone of the barking changed more to a higher pitched yipping, as if the dog were excited or confused at the spectacle.
I figured it was a good thing to have the base jumpers ahead of us. Although my dad had his concerns about the safety & sanity of rock climbing, at least now I had some concrete examples that I wasn't the craziest one here! :-D
The third pitch was the one I was most concerned about. Discussions on MountainProject mentioned that the first of 3 bolts had pulled out on this pitch, and as of several years later still had not been replaced.
I placed a cam between a detached flake and the rock wall (heh, yeah right) and scrambled up a bit higher. I could see the old bolt hole, and really it only saved you about a half body length of additional class 4 scrambling.
I clipped the rope to the first bolt and started face climbing, as my topo called this pitch 5.9 (SuperTopo calls it 5.10d). I started into a move and just could not find a final secure hold to move up on. I thought for a while, and decided that maybe since the first bolt had pulled out, and my dad was watching, that perhaps now was not the best time to be taking risks. Plus I had already french freed on P1, and this sandstone face climbing seemed like something I wouldn't mind missing, so I yarded on the cam as a jug and moved up to clip the next bolt.
My experience at the next bolt was the same but with less time spent deciding, and soon I was yarding on that bolt and on top of the final catwalk ridge to the summit.
Even after looking at photos, the walk to the summit spire from the belay was longer and more exposed than I had expected. There was even a notch where the ridge dropped down a bit, which I shamefully downclimbed instead of just stepping down.
My guidebook showed a bolt at the very tip of the camelhead thingy. Happy days! I just had to make it to that cantilevered block. To my dismay, once I got there I didn't see any bolt. I did, however, see a pair of fixed pieces at the base of the protruding rock, but I would either have to mantle the block, or traverse the left side where maybe I could reach the "bolts".
I chose to undercling the camel head and shuffle to the shaft of the spire. The bolts were still out of reach, requiring a committing 5.7 stemming & mantel move to reach. Falling here would send you on a very big pendulum directly off the belay before you smacked into the tower. I'm guessing I was about 20 ft or so out from the belay. Now why did I decide to do this climb with my dad watching?
The move seemed secure enough, so I carefully climbed up the head.
Once again, photos had failed to capture what the 5.9 crux was like. Yeah, I was feeling pretty confident at leading 5.9, but that has been on crack climbs in Yosemite granite. I've been avoiding face climbs like the plague, and this one was a tad gritty and overhanging. Also, overhangs and exposure get to me.
What am I doing here? Oh well.
I carefully investigated the crux and figured out the few moves needed. They seemed somewhat secure, with some sloper holds in buckets to pull on and a nice vertical pincher between the holes to grab as I advanced my stem up a step. From there I should be able to reach past the overhang. I just hoped the higher edges were positive for a secure finish!
They were and soon I was through the crux.
As I pulled on a flake & dish to mantel onto the summit, I felt the flake flex noticeably in my grip, and I quickly changed from pulling on it to pushing against it. Take care on this part.
I clipped the summit slings and then scrambled to the top of the cap. The rock felt very hollow when I tapped it with my palm. Pure junk, but it was bearing enough on the more solid sandstone beneath that it should be stable enough to stand on.
I was surprised that, once on top, Peter asked if I could clean the pieces while being lowered, as he was nervous with the exposure of the route and wasn't sure about following. I would have none of it. He has always been the bolder climber in my mind, and as he led mid-10s on sport, he should be able to handle the 5.9 crux on top-rope. I couldn't let him miss out on such an amazing summit! After a bit of cajoling I talked Pete into being willing to follow on TR to the summit after I got back to the belay (note, that with the constant traversing nature of this pitch, it is only mildly more secure for the follower than the leader).
After summitting, Peter lowered me off the top, which was surprisingly unnerving given the exposure and awkwardness of working around the protruding rock. After lowering down to the catwalk, I awkwardly reversed my undercling/shuffle moves on the camelhead and walked carefully back to the belay, knowing that a fall here would still result in a nasty pendulum, this time back into the summit spire.
The rappels went smoothly, and my dad congratulated us on a great climb. Although he did say that at some moments he was a bit worried, I jokingly tried to ease his concern by saying that hopefully the worst judgment I exercised in my climbing was having a parent along to watch!
Other Pretty Fisher Tower PicturesAfter climbing Ancient Art, the three of us walked out to the end of the trail for more spectacular views of the Fisher Towers and to see the Titan up close (I'd love to climb it someday). Later that night, with temperatures hovering just below freezing, I left the campsite and returned to the trail, armed with my DSLR, 2 bottles of Sierra Nevada beer, and Roper's "Camp 4" book to spend the night reading and tending the camera as I gradually worked my way back along the trail taking night photos. I brought a puffy jacket, puffy pants and bivy sack to stay warm and comfy while lying around waiting for the long exposures to finish (The bivy sack was a bit much and served better as a pillow while reading).
This has got to be the coolest tower in the Fisher Towers, maybe only second to Ancient Art. Next time I'm in the area I've got to aid this thing!
This thing is BIG. It is still hard for me to imagine that these towers are the size of New York skyscrapers, only much more slender and made of rock that liquefies in the rain.
For aid climbers not satisfied with the "50 Classic" climb, Finger of Fate (IV, 5.9, A2+ or C3), you can avoid the crowds and climb Sundveil Chimney (VI, 5.9, C4) on the right. Apparently several parties have worn crampons on the route and thought they were helpful (from Selected Climbs in the Desert Southwest).
This trip worked out perfectly. I've missed the desert and I think I've caught the desert crack & tower bug. I'm seeing the desert landscape in a completely different way than I had in my younger years, both for the climbing and the photographic potential. This spring I plan to come back with a similar agenda with Peter & my dad: Warm up in the Creek for a couple days then finish off with a desert tower or two. Perhaps Castleton is next?
Complete Photo Albums on PicasaFor the complete sets of photos, if you want to see larger versions of some of these photos or if you want to see any of the photo data, check out the albums on Picasa.
2011-11-24to25 - Indian Creek
2011-11-26to27 - Fisher Towers