November 25, 2009
Seemingly to represent defiance, independence, power, Red Arch Mountain proudly sits atop the sandy hill not unlike Lucifer’s Throne.
Risk, intuition, perseverence used to be among the many character building attributes of Climbing. I am sure each generation before me has made the same complaint. In fact, If we see Climbing as a microcosm of the whole of life, this trend of weakness has been threaded through the entire fabric of society and mankind itself. The idea that we are evolving as a species, to me, is a complete lie. We are De-volving. Declining. Destroying. Becoming weaker, fatter, dumber, useless. Who knows how long it will take but i think there are few who can reasonably argue that we are not destroying each other, our futures and our planet.
Ok, back to climbing….
3 days in late December. I swore this rock got more sun! It was freezing cold. My partner, Burt, had eagerly followed me through the gates of Hell again but seemed surprised and appalled at the extreme of our surroundings. He always did this! I could count on him to follow me anywhere! But I would need to get us out.
Many have looked at this elegant line as well. The possibility of drilling up high, the difficulty of the route and the difficulty of getting off of the posterior ensured us the first ascent. The pitches below the roof were thin but, to me, perfect. Almost all placements would have held falls even though it took creativity and skill to find good gear. Burt took a whipper on one of these lower pitches and when I cleaned I felt as though the bolt was not needed. Oh well. I am already hard to get along with! Better let that go.
When I began to go out the Roof I could feel the tension mounting. I think with every placement Burt was psyched to see me progress and horrified at the prospect of following. Our lives hung out on the very intense edge of reality itself. Cold, Alone and Reeling from the exposure.
The headwall did need quite a bit of drilling. More than I would have liked. Much more. It was a full pitch worth of mostly holes. The angle felt at least 45 degrees though it could not have been. I begged Burt to help me through the night to just add 1 or 2 holes. Top stepping and hand drilling was such a delight. Sometimes I wonder what I could have done in a past life to deserve the pain I have put myself through! I had angles for most of the holes but could not afford to leave them. Some rivets scraped off a jobsite helped fill the gaps. We had only a few bolts left.
The top of the drill pitch began to yield natural placements. The last pitch yielded cracks and seams. Very cool. Wild, steep, exposed, extreme.
I topped out just before sunset and watched the colors drain out of the sky. I was proud of Burt to have continued on as best he could despite his fear and fatigue. The reality of another realized dream and my own fatigue and efforts soaked into my soul. I became overwhelmed with indescribable emotion. Tears came to my eyes. My body felt pain. My mind fatigue. My soul felt Joy.
The name Red Awakening refers to this emotional/ spiritual experience.
Neither of us had ever climbed Shune’s Buttress and therefore could not find the top anchors of that route in the dark with bigwall bags on our backs. The sky threatened with storm clouds. Bivy was not an option. We ended up descending, descending, descending down the back of the mountain placing our last couple bolts for rappel anchors. Arriving in the bowels of Hell again we followed the narrow slot canyon northwards until we finally arrived at the end of the slot. A couple more rope descents put us at the base. We hiked back and drove home the same night.