Monday, November 2, 2009

Tower Tales: Chasing Heroes in the Castle Valley

Tower power: Castleton, the Rectory, and the Fishers themselves
The mighty mountains and great walls of the world's largest ranges have and always will provide adventures of the highest intensity. But the overwhelming experiance of being plastered to swaths of ice and rock can be felt elswhere, namely in the uniquely distilled form of "tower climbing".

John praising the Most High on Jah Man (5.11-)
Across the American Southwest, muddy sandstone formations of the trippiest sort twist and convulse from dusty red earth. While only a few hundred feet in heighth, their sheer angles, dark wide cracks, and sandy, insecure stone simulate adventure twice as high, as cold, as forboding. Like kings, they command wide open spaces from thrones of talus, their form against a grainy desert sky unmistakable from miles away.

Inside and on top: Honeymoon Chimneys (5.11)

Into the sunset: Kor-Ingalls, Castleton Tower (5.9)

John saying his prayers on Holier Than Thou: The Nuns (5.11+)
Only days ago I left the comfort of my home peaks, granite cliffs, and pine studded hillsides for immersion in a foriegn landscape of crumbling rock, lonely space, and startiling simplicity. For me, adventure is what I seek in climbing. Grade chasing, redpoints, and onsights provide ways to measure myself as an athlete, but they do not define my life as a monkey. John Schmid, a desert conessuir and long time friend, picked me up in Grand Junction, Colorado and the next morning we raced through the sage towards Castle Valley, a land of towers tamed by popularity and accessability. That said, my longing for excitement was satisfied with each route we climbed. Spending a day and a half in the Valley our ascents included, Jah Man on the Sister Superior (5.10), the Corkscrew Route on Acient Art (5.10+), Honeymoon Chimneys on the Priest (5.11), Holier Than Thou on the Nuns (5.11+), Fine Jade on the Rectory (5.11-), and the Kor-Ingalls on Castleton (5.9). Although none of the ground we covered was too difficult, the giddiness of fear was present on each climb. Humility struck deep as I imagined the desert masters of old executing flannel arm bars, blue jean knee scums, and big boot foot switches all far above less than adequate protection. The self-reliance and creativity of the early explorers echoes in the bottomless chimneys and lonely summits of all desert towers, even the tame ones John and I were on. It was a wonderful reminder that climbing is not about sticky rubber, cams, and big sends, but rather strength of heart, belief in oneself, and a willingness to follow the rock where it takes you.

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