If you're looking for a story about a hardman pulling desperate moves on a grim 5.12 with nothing but mythological crimps to move on, read no further. If you want to hear a true story about real folk maybe this will do.
On August 29th, 2003 a friend (Eric) and I hopped into a rental in Lexington, KY. We headed for Wyoming and to a long awaited climbing trip. You see both of us had been working like stinking psycho's to accommodate the time away from our jobs and time away from our families this trip would require. Being the weekend warriors that we are, when our schedules allowed time to prepare for this trip, we generally found ourselves in the Red River Gorge carrying big racks and seeking big cracks. Our aim: to become Fat Crack Aficionado's and hopefully keep the Tower from kicking our collective derrieres.
So after fueling with regular unleaded, Chips Ahoy and YooHoo, we were feeling the power of the Tower…26 hours and 1,375 miles later, we were there. When we arrived at the town of Devil's Tower WY. we were greeted by heavy fog, cold rain, and Frank Sanders (a fellow I had a meet couple of years earlier at Devil's Tower). Frank offered us some morning grub; unfortunately we were feeling the effects of the Rosa Esplosa (a greasy spoon we had eaten at earlier). After graciously declining Frank's offer we unpacked our car and got some rest. Later that afternoon, psyched yet reeling from the tour de force drive, Eric and I headed for the Tower for some warm up time. No plans to summit just some time on the rock and then off to a good nights sleep.
September 1st 2003: Still moving kind of slow from our road trip, we slumbered out of our sleeping bags just after 8:00am, munched on some energy bars and then headed for the tower It was off to the deadly Durance Route. We roped up and headed for the leaning column. We cruised through the leaning column pitch with no problems. At the base of the Durance crack we organized our rack, stacked our ropes and in general just prepared for the pitch that lay ahead. I was climbing strong and feeling good as I racked up. I then stepped up the to crack and off I went stem and jam, stem and jam it was a text book lead. As I got to the top I recall stepping in to the off width as a crowd of onlookers gazed in amazement. I gave them a wink and a nod and off I went. I finished the pitch, clipped the anchors then belayed Eric. The onlookers watched in awe and chattered with anticipation as Eric cruised the route effortlessly. When he reached the top of the deadly Durance, applause rang out from the trail below. Elated we stood atop of the durance crack and bask in the admiration of our onlookers. From here it’s a mere walk in the park cruise past Cussing Crack, ramble over Flake Crack, hit the Chockstone Crack running and then to Bailey Direct. A walk in the park provided you don’t get off route. How do you get off route on Devil’s Tower you ask. To prevent boring you I’ll say we could have spit on the summit never the less we found ourselves in no mans land; as the ranger put it (after we got down) it can be done we had to retreat. I’ll leave it at that.
The next day we were up semi-early, we decided that it would be a good day to see the sites of north east Wyoming and, that we did Tinsleep canyon. From there it was back to the Tower and a good nights sleep.
The next morning we were up bright and early made our way to Franks kitchen were he had flap jacks on the grill and coffee brewing. Quickly we scarfed down some grub bid our host and good day and it was off to see the Tower. This day was better than the last we had learned from our mistakes, this time we blastered up through the Durance, cruised Cussing Crack, hopped over Flake Crack and ran up Chockstone after that it was a stroll up through Bailey Direct and on to the summit.
I wish to give a special thanks to my friend Frank Sanders for his hospitality, company and accommodations. For anyone who reads this Frank is the host you always wanted when you needed one. If you need a guide up the tower or lodging for the night I highly recommend a visit with Frank and all the folks at Devil’s Tower Lodge when you’re in the area.