Figuratively (and extremely literally) Climbing has all sorts of highs and lows. The best days don’t always mean reaching the literal highest of highs. Although, I imagine it is an amazing feeling to climb the highest of highs. 🙂
Part 2: The Bad
It was a beautiful spring day in Utah Valley. The weather was 65 degrees fahrenheit. Maybe too warm for the hard core climber, but perfect for casual enthusiast who does not care if their finger skin is a little soft. The wind was minimal, the sun was shining, and both of us had 4 extra hours to climb as much as we wanted too!
Quickly the decision was reached to climb Cosmic Dust and Space Lasers. A multi-pitch found in Rock Canyon. While this climb is technically 9 pitches total, there are places to bail at the end of pitch 3 and the end of pitch 6. With four hours we felt super confident we had plenty of time to do the first 3 pitches maybe even try 6!
My partner and I dumped anything not necessary and wore everything necessary: rope, harness, quickdraws, daisy chains, extra carabiner, small bag and water bottle. You may have noticed it from the list, but as we hiked up to the start of the climb I realized I forgot my climbing shoes in the trunk of my car!! After a short run to the car and back we were finally ready to get started!
Last year I had climbed Cosmic Dust and Space Lasers with a different friend. I was feeling pretty confident in my ability to find the climb. Carefully we matched the photos from Mountain Project to find the start of the route. When I say, “We carefully matched the photos”, maybe I should say we glanced at them. (*Que suspenseful music)
We started the first pitch, and everything was great! I lead it first and my partner cleaned it. The second pitch my partner lead. The second pitch was much shorter than I remembered, but since Britney lead it, I didn’t realize it until we were both at the top of it. Still it had been a year since I had climbed it, so I was ready to believe I did not remember as well as I thought I did. (*suspenseful music still plays only louder).
The third pitch was where I realized we were off course. It started off fine. I clipped into five clips as I moved my way up. After the fifth clip I found a nice large crack that I used to stem in. I was looking for clip six when I realized I was not seeing any more clips. I told myself, Just look harder. It is probably hiding just on top of that rock sticking out. Go up there and you will see it. You climbed this last year and there were bolts the whole way up.”
About 15 feet above my last bolt my denial gave out and I accepted that there were no more bolts. With the crack I was comfortably wedged in. However, I felt better climbing up then climbing down. I yelled down to my partner what was happening, and what I was doing. Then I took a deep breath and continued my climb up looking for bolts. I did not find any until I reached the anchors. Somehow I focused all my attention on looking for bolts instead of contemplating what would happen if I fell at that moment.
As I came over the ledge to clip in to the bolts I was so relieved to have something holding me to the wall. That relief quickly went away as I saw that even though this was the top of pitch 3, there was no way to bail. What route were we on? (*Que horror music)
This really freaked me out. Mostly because of that lack of protection on my 3rd pitch. “I just jumped on a trad climb. I do not know how difficult it is, and I do not have protection. We are going to die.” Once I was ready to belay my partner up, I yelled to her that we have another pitch. I was already up there and decided that if I had to lower down anyways, we might as well have her come up and take a look at our situation.
I raised my partner up, the whole time low-key panicking trying to play it cool. In my panic, I started thinking about worst case scenarios. “I wonder what it is like to be rescued off a wall? What if we continue to the next pitch to find we were stuck on some crazy 12 pitch climb. I thought that 22 pitch was further east in the canyon. Right?!” Even though it was 1 in the afternoon I was struck with dread as I thought to myself, “Oh no! I don’t have a flashlight!.” Thinking about my bag I also thought, “I only have 2 granola bars. How long can we last with that?”
My partner gets to the top of the pitch and we sat down on our ledge to decide what to do. We had two options in front of us: we could rappel down, or we could keep going. We decided to keep going. Once together I was still nervous, but I felt much better about the situation.
While my partner and I climb pretty close to the same level, she is a better climber then me. She kept her low-key panic much better than I did. In fact, to me she didn’t seem stressed at all. She got on the pitch, and it looked hard. I still remember her look of concentration as she inched her way up. Of all the times I have climbed with her, this was only the second time that she could not talk while climbing because she was concentrating so much.
Watching my partner work her way through this challenge helped to calm my nerves as I saw her successfully making her way up. I still had the thought that we had gotten ourselves into a situation we could not handle. However, her calm and the fact that she found two bolts very quickly into the climb helped to calm myself down.
Before I knew it she made it to the top of the fourth pitch. I top roped up to her. While the route was definitely do-able I was still very impressed how calmly she lead this! At the chains on top of pitch 4, we looked around and found we were at the perfect spot to bail.
Happily, we had survived our adventure with no scrapes. As we walked down (well slid due to the steep talus slope), my partner confided how nervous she was. After that experience we have been much more careful about which route we are hoping on. We still have not been able to tackle Cosmic Dust and Space Lasers. Yet. 😉
Curious what route we got on? We are pretty sure that we hopped on Ledgarithm. Anyone out there climbed Ledgarithm? Are there more bolts there that were just not found in Pitch 3? It would have been a LOOOONG fall.