Trip: Zionism and the Sanctuary of Exposure - Desert Shield, Touchstone Wall
Ivan on P6 of Desert Shield
“I slept with a cactus last night.”
I could just wrap this up right now with that little metaphorical synopsis, but why not embullishit with a bit of imagery and a spine or two of fresh wisdom?
For it takes an increasingly not-so-rare breed of seeker to drive over a thousand miles to a place called Zion – “a word interpreted to mean sanctuary or refuge” – in search of precisely the opposite.
We had enough time to piss all over the concept of ‘sanctuary’ more than once, so we opted to leverage our ignorance by attacking the more delicate of our objectives first. Materiel was carefully sorted and solemn oaths dutifully uttered; we would either return with or on our Desert Shield.
Plan of Attack: Desert Shield (bottom) and Touchstone (top)
Desert Shield (L) and Touchstone
I’ve got a 31” waist and a 46” chest. ‘Why should I care’ you might ask?
Because that is the absolute maximum size of human that can extrude themselves like that last squirt of KY through the pitch 3 flake just below Desert Shield’s bivvy ledge. The more svelte might simply levitate up the outside, sans pro, but I’m more chuckwalla than chickadee, so into the slot I slithered.
No Fatties, Please. P3 of Desert Shield.
P5 of Desert Shield
Once at the bivvy, a mixed media installation involving a Russian ice screw and the Coleman Company will challenge your functional art boundaries.
East Meets West
Oh...right. Bivvy atop P3, Desert Shield
A bad case of Comet Leg. Bivvy on Desert Shield.
At P7, the route stiffens like a Protector of Traditional Marriage at a gay bar. The slope can be, indeed, a slippery one – with sugar cookie edges and wafer thin placements that slow things down a bit. As much of a rude awakening as that pitch might be, P8 is much ruder and more wide awakening, although, save a couple of anomalous cam pockets, ‘wide’ is used in the very narrowest sense, here.
Ivan on P6 of Desert Shield
Ladybug Love Attempt
Serrated: P6 of Desert Shield
Ivan clipping on P7, Desert Shield
I’ve clearly lost control of that last paragraph, so I’ll move on – and so did we upon reaching the midpoint bolt on P8 – a mere pitch from the prize. Outta time and outta here. A wise move in hindsight – we failed to fix the rap between the top of P4 and 6 (recommended) – doing that Swing and Thrash in the dark would have been memorable.
So, it was to be on, rather than with, The Shield this time around.
The New Face of China
High Pressure slamming into a Front of Low Ego spawned a second gearnado in the Visitor Center Parking Lot, and by the following afternoon we were fixing pitches on Touchstone.
The New New Coke
Although technically easier than Desert Shield, Touchstone was not without its surprises – mainly in the form of the very last hold just below the very last bolt breaking off – that, combined with a long horizontal pay out and an inexplicably lackadaisical gri, sent Ivan slamming into a nearby tree on his way earthward. Not to be left out, I received some beautiful rope burns in my attempt to motivate the gri to do its only job.
P1 boltpike of Touchstone (pic by Ivan)
P3 of Touchstone (Pic by Ivan)
Top of P3 of Touchstone
When the dust cleared there wasn’t a whole climber between us – Ivan’s back took a hit, and I would soon be in the market for a Dr. Strangelove prosthetic, but we didn’t have far to go. I scooted up to finish the final move. Mercifully, I was able to lasso the final piton, which sticks straight up, with my good hand and French free it, thus avoiding pulling the full Corpus Dei on my thoroughly stigmata’ed fingers.
We managed to ensconce ourselves in the descent gulley before night fell. Out came the headlamps, and with them, millipedes, daddy long legs, ground beetles, bats, Mars, Saturn, and half a moon. After that, it was simply a matter of doing the 7 or so raps on some truly imaginative anchors down through the sandy gulley to the base, where cool water, cold chili, and other comforts awaited us.
Finally, refuge. Inevitably, a string of ‘why’s descends close on the heels of a party that’s just gotten banged up a bit. Pointless, of course. After all, does a swallow ask ‘why’? Oh wait, they can fly – well, how about a ground beetle, then? Does a ground beetle mill around thinking – “well, at least I haven’t been stepped on yet”.
After all, if we knew every cactus we would sleep with beforehand – if we knew what the future held - we might not venture forth to make one at all.
Climbers on P8 of Desert Shield (Pic by Ivan)
The wheels on the bus...