Climbing

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base jumper on Kane Creek in Moab utah, the big picture

base jumper on Kane Creek in Moab utah, the big picture

Base Jumper jumping "The Tombstone" in Kane Creek Canyon

Base Jumper jumping "The Tombstone" in Kane Creek Canyon

I’m sitting in a motel room on Main Street in Moab, Utah, the sun just beginning to peek over the La Sal Mountains. Moab sits smack dab in the middle of the canyon country, a red land of soaring sandstone cliffs and towers, sharp canyons incised by the Colorado River and its tributaries, and dusty outwash plains dotted with sagebrush. It’s a place where I’ve climbed since 1970 when I made my first desert pilgrimage with Jimmy Dunn. The following year Jimmy and I made the sixth ascent of Castleton Tower, a sheer 450-foot-high sandstone monolith that now has over 40,000 ascents. Back in the early 70s few folks climbed in the canyon country. Moab itself was a recovering uranium town; there were no mountain bikers and, like climbers, only a few intrepid jeepers. Things have changed with Moab now being a huge recreation complex.

Last Friday, Brian Shelton with Front Range Climbing Company and Texas surgeon Bill Springer and I, escaping snow and cold, drove over from Colorado’s Front Range for a week of climbing and adventure in the canyonlands. We haven’t been disappointed. It was busy over the holiday weekend with jeepers, pedalheads, and other climbers getting a last hurrah before winter really sets in, but we picked lonely cliffs, sharing them only with ravens, sand, and sun.

Our plan is climb a bunch of desert towers, some I’ve done before and some I haven’t. Bill has never been here before so we want to show him a good time and get him on a few high summits. Yesterday was a brilliant day. We climbed a handful of fun routes at the Sunshine Wall north of Arches National Park and then hiked 50 minutes up a sandstone bench to a hidden valley filled with fins and pinnacles. We climbed an obvious small tower called Tezcatlipoca, named for the Aztec god of the night sky by the late Mike Baker who did the first ascent in 1998 under a full moon. It was relatively easy (5.7) and had a cool summit. We chilled on top for ten minutes, then rappelled down and made the long hike back to the truck. In the distance I could see a long string of cars on U.S. 191 heading back to Salt Lake City and Denver. The end of a long weekend…but the beginning of another desert week.

Local Shops

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Moab Cliffs and Canyons

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Pagan Mountaineering

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