Oh my god… today is the day of towers… I can barely move… do my fingers even work? Can I even get out of bed?… What time is it… *alarm* … damn… you have to be kidding…
Nestled in the quiet valley of Grand Junction’s National Monument are towers and spires all waiting for adventurous folk to come explore/ quest up their sandy (yet exciting) pitches to enjoy the satisfaction of sitting on top and seeing the world from a very different perspective. Though I have lived here all of my life and have been climbing for 8 years I had very little interest in ever climbing up these monster that lurked within my backyard.
To be quite honest they terrify me. Besides exposure, sandstone has a fun habit of crumbling, wearing away, or even exploding with no warning. Though this is nothing new to me… I have never really enjoyed this experience, however; it was time for me to suck it up and start to grovel my way up.
The plan for the day was a simple objective of climbing four towers in one day. Pitches were to range from 5.6 to 5.12 and hopefully Rob and I were going to be able to crank through the pitches and be home at a reasonable time. Reasonable was before sunset.
The first mission of the day was to leap frog up a tower call Kissing Couple. There was very little leap-frogging… Rob led almost all of it to save time and let me try to warm up (I seriously was not able to function)! It was a fun 5.11 route that presented a few challenges here and there (namely climbing in windy/freezing cold conditions AGAIN!) and a squeeze chimney– I seriously hate those now. Today was a little different than usual considering the fact that the usual banter was kept to a minimum… as we both realized the daunting task ahead of us. The tower went fairly quickly without too many hiccups, except for on the descent when the rope got stuck in a crack above us. After Rob dislodged it we were soon hiking our way to the next tower Independence Monument.
Good old Otto’s Route was the objective with this tower. A simple 5.9 that is always fun. After a slight discussion we decided that it would be best to simul-climb up the tower to regain some lost time from the rope getting caught fiasco earlier. I would be leader and Rob would be seconding (considering he is the stronger climber out of the both of us). I was cool with that. Standing at the base of the route I began to consider what an appropriate rack would be for the route… I knew that most of it was fairly simple so I decided to take 7 draws and a No. 3 Camelot. As I headed up I began to question whether I had made a good decision on my rack but I was committed so I just went for it. I have never climbed so fast in my life. I started to make a game of it to see if I could move quickly enough to have the rope go taught from hitting Rob… I’m not sure if I did or not, but I do remember having to wait for a little bit for the rope to either be dislodged from a crack… or for Rob to catch up. From bottom to top the route took Piz and me about 10 minutes and pretty soon we were on the ground darting towards Sentinel Spire.
The target route is called Medicine Man. As we hiked to the base of the tower I knew I was going to have a problem– I had forgotten to bring food and I knew that this route was going to take a lot of energy for me considering it was a 5.12 splitter crack on sandstone. My energy was low and my psyche from the previous tower had pretty much vanished with the hike over. My feet hurt by this point and to be honest the thought of having to get out of my comfy approach shoes seemed very undesirable. So… what did I do…? I put my shoes on and began to lead the first pitch. Within the first 40 feet I knew I was going to have an issue when one of the lenses in my glasses popped out and plummeted towards Rob.
Dammit… “Uh… Rob… that was my lens from my glasses can you bring that up to me?”
“What? The lens of your glasses?”
“Oh my god…”
“I don’t know… Don’t Judge Me!”
At this point I had two options… finish the pitch with one eye shut so I could see, sacrificing my depth perception for clarity… or take off the glasses completely and try to do the pitch with fuzzy vision. I opted for loss of depth perception and rocked it out to the anchors of the first pitch. I brought Rob up… reassembled my glasses and watched as he tackled the next few pitches. The route went fairly smooth but we were definitely feeling the day as we rapped down to the base of the tower and prepared to hike to the last obstacle between us and bed… the Relics Tower or as the locals call it The Dumping Monk.
This tower was a simple little guy that made the end of the day a win! The both of us cranked through to the top and relished our view of the valley floor below. We had just finished the third day of our challenge and were very excited that the sun had yet to set. All in all we were sandy, sweaty, bleeding, but filled with a sense of satisfaction. Four towers… one day! It was then time to go home and rest for the what we would dubbed the rest day of the trip. We were going to Escalante Canyon to complete 8 pitches of trad. climbing.
As I lay down that evening to sleep I felt a little at ease because at least the multi-pitch climbs were finished and besides after tomorrow we would only have three days left… No problem!