Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trying To Hard

should of went sport climbing. not worth the risk. etc,etc.... (fill in your favorite phrase now).

so, i've being trying all summer and fall to get up in the upper reaches of big willow canyon to shoot and recon some routes. nobody ever wants to go. and i can understand why. i've lived in salt lake for roughly ten years now, and have been to most crags. we all know, that the higher you go, the shitter the granite gets around here (lone peak being the exception). but the routes get stars and monday was the LAST day of the season for rock climbing above 10,000 feet.

by some miracle i've found 2 people willing to go - i'm psyched, i can shoot some real rock climbing photos. one dude bails in the morning (no surprise there), so now it's just pete and i. i give pete ample opportunities to bail, but he's to nice, and is willing to accompany me on the hike.

the day started out casual enough, with a nice 1.5hr stroll up to jon's hideout and the guardian. it all looks pretty decide from afar.

upon closer inspection and a quick solo of one of the 5.10s, it becomes apparent that yes, its kitty litter and we struggle to find answers to why the ruckman's gave these routes any stars let alone two!

so up to big willow cirque we go.

here is a photo of pete shoeing up on the ledge below pitch 3 of giggles. so, in order to shoot, giggles, i decide to boot up the descent gully which starts off pretty mellow with ankle deep grapple from saturdays storm. however, soon i find myself halfway up the gully, half steaming the wall, half trying to pointlessly kick my busted ass tennis shoes into the hard gully ice/snow. i'm past the point of no return. i have to go up. i cannot down climb this and live. up ahead it looks easier. its not. the gully has had recent rock fall, and everything is frozen kitty litter granite with embedded toaster sized decaying granite rocks. more opposition and clawing with my frozen clubbed bare hands. if any piece of the equation fails, i'm done for. i manage to get to the top. post hole up the ridge into the sun and find a viewpoint for giggles. my hands start thawing. the worst screaming barffies of my life. my whole hands, fingers to the wrists. feels like someone has smashed all my fingernails.

meanwhile pete starts up pitch 3 of giggles. he is stopped by a chimney filled with snow and ice. it's overhanging. he yells over. he's bailing. shit, he's bailing. fuck, all of this for nothing. wait, its ok, its good he's bailing. my friend will live. downclimbing back to the ledge, his foot slips on some wet rock. 3 points cut. his face slams the wall with a thud. one hand remains gripped to a icy hold. shit that was close. back on the ledge now. he says he's going down. i yell over that i have to walk up the ridge to lone peak and down the draper ridge to get out. ok.

more post holing up the ridge. i arrive and the saddle with lone peak and look back into big willow. looking for pete. can't find him. he should be at the base by now. start scanning the wall and base below pitch 3 looking for a body. can't find him. yell over several times between wind gusts of the approaching storm. the wall is at least 1/4 mile away. finally he yells back.

he's near the top of the wall! unable to downclimb the first two wet/snowy pitchs of giggles, he traversed over to the corner system of 'better homes and gardens' and topped out. he looks at a different gully and says he can get down. i'm scared for him. it doesn't look any better than the one i climbed up. he knows what he's doing. ok. he says he'll call and have someone pick me up at corner canyon. i don't have my phone. i really don't want to walk down corner canyon. i look into little willow. shit might as well. i descend some jumbotron snowy death talus, traverse some more and hit some beautiful high alpine meadows with no trail. easy walking though. descend more and find a break in the ridge to traverse back into big willow (below jon's hideout). i thought the ridge was going to be short. it's a 1/2 mile wide. the worst bushwacking of my life. descend far into big willow. second guessing myself. did i miss the trail. sticks breaking in the waining light of the dark forest. deer. cougar. don't know. if i miss the trail, its going to cost me a few hours. find the trail. walk out.

keep walking. still walking down, waiting to crest the ridge to see the church parking lot far below. if his car is gone, than thats good. cause that would mean he's down and went over to corner canyon to pick me up. if his car is still there, then he is introuble. likely dead from falling on the descent. stay cool. i can now see the empty parking lot. good. its dark. i descend more, most out of view. i'm closer now and in the dark corner away from the lights i now see a car. shit. i can't tell if its his or not. stay cool. it's not. i flag down a car and make the call. 15 minutes later he's back. i get in. i tell him that i wanted to cry. he says the same.

maybe next time we'll go sport climbing. probably not...


  1. I'm glad you guys are okay. Stay safe out there and remember there ain't no shame in the bolt clipping game.

  2. Wow - glad that all worked out! A buddy once went out of control into the rocks trying to buttslide that gully! I've done that route you did back into BW on skis - great job getting down that on foot!