It had been over four months since I last rock climbed outside and over six months since my last big wall, so I felt like it was time to get back on the rock. My time away from rock climbing was a purposeful sabbatical. I had previously spent six months traveling through South America climbing all the time and always being on the go. My friends in the states would tell me how they craved adventure and anything to take them out of their monotonous nine to five. I craved some type of structure to my life and was actually excited to start working again. I just wanted my life to slow down and be "normal." But after four months of normalcy, I was itching to get back on the rock. I talked with Tara and we agreed to head over to Zion and attempt Spaceshot.
I didn't sleep well the night before, spent 11 hours at work and then did a lecture at rei on big wall climbing. Tara had just got back from Yosemite, couldn't find her car keys the night before and only had two hours of sleep during the ordeal. Somehow we thought that driving through the night was a good idea and we both met at Rei and were exhausted even before our seven hour car ride. We took turns driving and arrived at 6:45 in the morning. Crashed for three hours and then started fixing pitches.
The ghost van:
Tara had just bought a Sportsmobile and has been obsessed with living in it these days. We decided to take it out to Zion. We loaded it up with gear and food and set off. There was so much room. It had a sink, fridge, two beds, an upstairs and downstairs, stove, gear storage in the back, a swivel captain seat, an inverter, reading lights, a grill for storage, solar panels, and an awning. It was a total dude magnet. If you call sixty something overweight balding men as your prime demographic.
After a lazy morning, we hiked five minutes to the base of the route and started climbing around 2pm. We only had to fix four pitches and most of them went free, so we were okay on time. After a minor miscommunication, we ended up not taking any food or water, but it worked out okay.
This was a cool looking chimney that Tara lead. Good pro and some creative footwork made this memorable.
I scrambled into a loose blocky vertical ramp that lead to a chimney. I free climbed this section then made my way up to the belay.
This pitch involved a bolt ladder with some C2 above it. The second bolt was about ten feet above the first. I tried top stepping on my tip toes with a carabeaner above my head and was just unable to reach it. So I resorted to the often placed cliffhanger hook move in a bomber placement. Once I got to the C2 section, I was stuck. There was an obvious tricam placement but we had none, so in some frustration I lowered down to have Tara aid past it. An umbrellad number five offset cam and two shitty micro nuts later got her past the section.
We were able to fix the first four pitches with only two ropes. We bought a 70 meter rope for P3 and 4 and an 8 mil 60 meter rope for P1 and 2.
After the shenanigans of the previous day, we decided to bring an entire rack of tricams to ensure we would have success on the route. We ended up using none; so they were good training weight. But we felt they were essential to have just in case because it is very difficult to bail past pitch 5. We took three liters of water, a few bars and goos and a sandwich. We set off. We jugged the lines and I racked up for pitch five, which was the crux pitch.
The pitch started off cruiser C1 then got into some thin C2 with blown out pods. I tried placing tricams but had no success (I am terrible at placing them) so I resorted to placing three offset micros in a row. My third overhead placement blew while weighing it and my second one blew from the fall sending me soaring over 15 feet down the route. It was quite exciting. I batmaned back up the rope and placed an umbrellad offset cam and I was good to go.
I arrived at pitch 6 and started short fixing. I was cautiously making progress up the route gaining about 20 feet when Tara reached the belay. I had rigged the short fix just like I would while solo aiding but we couldn't figure out how to put me back on belay since I was leading with the other end of the rope. So I clipped the top three pieces, lowered down on my original lead end and unclipped the rope from my lower solo pieces. I then re lead the pitch. Looking down while short fixing p6
Tara took over on pitch seven leading some chill C1. We arrived at the belay ledge and started flaking the rope. As we flaked it through, we noticed a huge sheath/core shot. We had no idea how it happened. So just to be safe, we belayed with both ropes on the final pitch.
Tara lead the final pitch. There was a bolt ladder missing a bolt that had previously turned someone around, so we were interested how it would go. She was able to place a purple C3 in a horizontal crack that lead to a bomber nut. This allowed her to access the next bolt and then finish the pitch. It was a cool pitch with wild exposure.
We cruised through the rappels with no rope issues and made it down to the car before sunset.
After not climbing for a while, it felt good to get on a wall. While plenty of things went well, there were some things that didn't go so well. We brought too many cams, went slowly and had some rope issues. But in the end we were safe and climbed smartly. It was cool to get back out there!
We slept in and hiked around emerald pools the next day. We had some snacks and then headed back to Los Angeles. On the way home, Tara's car started making some funny noise and then started to smell like smoke. We pulled over in Saint George and looked under the hood. Her serpentine belt had snapped. We called a tow truck and made it to the only shop open on a Sunday thirty minutes before close. He told us that it would be ready the next day. So we walked around Saint George, caught an awesome sunset, scrambled up Dixie rock and spent the night in the Chevron parking lot. It was kinda cool to have a lay over in a small town. It was a little extra mini adventure built into a great trip.