Wednesday, July 30, 2008
No Star Tuesdays
Being a sort who's enjoys scruffy climbing I was pretty psyched to hear about No Star Tuesdays. I wanted to join Zac and the crew this week but it just didn't seem right to leave the dogs behind, especially with a dearth of stars in close proximity where dogs were perfectly accepted. My first round of calls was fruitless. Those I did get a hold of tried to assure me that the whole idea "was awful". As I readied for some rope soloing my wife acquiesced to join me. "Just don't take me up any death scree," her only request. Then Mick called, and our party was now five strong, including the varmints.
We headed up Mill Creek Canyon to something called The Stitches Wall. This, according to the Ruckman guide, had two “semi-popular” routes, each getting a star. Since I’d yet to meet a Utahan who had even heard of them, I chalked this comment up to sarcasm.
Less than 20 steps from the car and we were already on death scree. Well, not death, exactly, but a terrible approach trail that certainly wasn’t synonymous with popular. Mick’s comment upon reaching the crag was “who would bolt this?” Romney then pointed out, just in case we weren’t attentive, that the cliff was covered in wasps.
Not to be deterred, since “insects like me”, I headed up past a route not in the guide. It looked bad, so I figured it would start us off on the right track. It was a bit harder than I expected but, more importantly, the rock was worse than it looked. The bolts ran out and it was unclear where to go. The obvious line was the arête, but this looked to be about 4th class. Above me was a detached jug just waiting to peel off the wall and, by avoiding this to the right, I would hook up with Itchy Stitches, the wall’s plumb line. Two moves in the latter direction and I was greeted by a wasp nest teeming with action. This incited a hasty, yet calm, retreat, as my rapport with the natural world does have its limits. “No star fucking Tuesdays”, commented Romney.
Having blown my chance, I handed the rack to Mick who headed up the line furthest from the nest. This went swimmingly until just prior to the anchors. “Shit, another nest.” Mick delicately picked his way around it and claimed that in its current condition we definitely didn’t need to count the star it had been given. Romney hesitantly followed but called it quits just under the nest. I quietly cleaned it and then gently lowed down the middle pitch. We toproped this, doing our best to avoid the swarm. While definitely agitated, we were never threatened. We agreed this route was actually deserving of a star. It was good intricate limestone climbing, similar to the Sumo Wall near St. George. I sussed the ‘unknown” route on the back of the formation and decided that 15’ of 5.8 choss wasn’t really worthy of our time. There were bigger fish to fry.
Romney headed off for a proper workout, while Mick and I head to Emigration Canyon to attempt a couple of things deemed “looser and dirtier than the Fisher Towers”. Since the Fishers hardly qualify as rock, I figured these would be good candidates to bring our stars into alignment.
The wall, which is hidden but directly under the condos at the mouth of the canyon, actually looked good. Situated very close to Mick’s lab, he thought it might be a good place to get some mileage during breaks at work.
We started up Dripping Alien Wax, a bolted crack line that the info I found suggested rabies shots prior to attempting. It would not disappoint. After three bolts of decent but dirty 5.11 climbing, every handhold Mick touched rained sand down on me. “Take”. After cleaning the holds, Mick made it to the anchors, clearly unimpressed. Despite having to continuously dodge dislodged rocks I commented that “it looked okay.”
The first three bolts had me complaining about the rock. “You just wait,” said Mick. Sure enough, the top was awful. Even with closely spaced bolts I was impressed with Mick’s lead. Everything weighted threatened to peel from the wall.
Next up was Emigration Escape, A1, or “probably a 5.11+ grovel.” We set up a top rope and Mick promptly flashed it. My attempt was more feeble, especially when a large section of the crack—and a seemingly key hold—began to dislodge. Large enough to kill anything it might land on; I decided to let this one remain an aid route. Forever. I’m quite certain “mileage after work” is not going to be on the agenda.
Mick’s review of DAW summed up our first No Star Tuesday: “worst route I’ve ever done.” There will be more.
I’d like to give a shout out to James Garrett, who provided all of the day’s entertainment. The man is not one to shy away from a bit of suspect rock. I look forward to learning more about him over the coming weeks.
pics: Stitches Wall, above, and Mick getting ready to tackle Dripping Alien Wax