In the spirit of the business world, I figured a quarterly update might be more appropriate for a post/trip report rather than breaking this out into smaller chunks.
Coming off of a 2015 that kind of ended with more questions than answers, but with much to be excited about, I focused on work, training, and being ready to take advantage of opportunities as they came. Weather conspired against me which lead to much pulling on plastic, but lead to some nice skiing conditions in Utah. More on that later.
Over the last few years, we have made two social climbing trips which have become an annual staple:
1. The December J-Tree Trip
2. The January Bishop Trip.
Many of the same conspirators from the J-Tree trip were involved in the Bishop trip. We wound up having very raucous campfires the first two nights of the get-together and many laughs shared. No pics from the campfires, but I assure you the scene at The Pit was classic.
Some bouldering went down…
Aaron and Jeff approaching
Weston on an easy but tall problem. Photo Credit: Aaron
Jon looking warm. Photo Credit: Aaron
Jon with his “try hard” face on
Some definite kitty cattin’ occurred. Jeff pictured.
Another shot of Weston on that tall, easy problem. So fun I ran laps.
Aaron making moves up high
Jeff waking up from a nap, Weston booting up.
Way too early of morning at The Pit after way too late of a night. Definitely got a few more hours of sleep after taking this shot.
We also did some sport climbing in the (Owens River) Gorge…saying I did not climb well was an understatement.
Ben descending into the Gorge. Photo Credit: Aaron
Weston (left) on a failed attempt at Grindrite, Jon (center) on Machine Gun Jumblies or Dr. Evil, and the other Jon to the right on whichever 10a the middle one isn’t
Jon making it happen above the point I couldn’t move beyond
Ben on Flex Your Head
Ben on Flex Your Head
Those nightly campfires weren’t just the usual BS babble….I was quite excited for the upcoming weekend. I had some huge plans in the works that I had been meticulously plotting and analyzing for a few months and was excitedly chattering away my plans to anyone in our group who would listen.
“Well, next weekend I’m proposing to Sam on our skiing trip to Brian Head.”
It was met with nothing but excitement, as I would expect….given that we had been together for 6 years at that point. LOL.
The whole next week I could do nothing but think about the whole ordeal, and the night before our trip I was bouncing off the walls excited. This was going to be the last trip we could take before Sam started nursing school and it was also her and my 6 year anniversary. I made Sam think we were staying at the Days Inn in Parowan (the town on the way up the hill to Brian Head) – she was just excited not to be camping in cold temps.
Anyway, I asked the woman of my dreams to marry me on top of the ski hill, she said yes…and in typical Weston fashion, I almost accidentally slid down the hill at the most crucial moment.
I wish we had more pics, but:
Weston and Sam
We took a few more ski runs and then started making all of the important phone calls to tell folks the good news.
After that, we did not retire to the Days Inn – we retired to the Grand Lodge at Brian Head. Super nice spot and a great place to stay the night.
The following Tuesday (I believe it was MLK Day weekend), Sam started nursing school. She has been super busy since…and to answer the obligatory questions…no, we have not set a date. We have a location in mind, but are not 100% yet. Sam is focusing on nursing school and we will likely take on the task of whatever planning we can do during the summer time, when her course load is significantly lower. In the meantime, we are just enjoying being engaged and looking forward to the big day.
On the way home from Brian Head, we decided to check out a place I had in mind to propose at as well…but it was somewhere I had never been before, so didn’t want to have to work those logistics into it: The Kolob Canyon of Zion. One of the most stunning places I have ever been:
Kolob Canyon, Zion NP
After a quick swing through the Kolob, Sam wanted to be back in Vegas to watch her New England Patriots in a playoff game, so South on I-15 we went…
Back to less interesting things, like rocks…
My partners were tied up or busy with other important things, so the rest of January was either bad weather or bouldering….
Weston on Poker Chips
After not plugging a cam for over a month, Seth and I went to go check out Rainbow Canyon near Elgin, NV…had heard rumors of splitter cracks and minimal approaches. Both make me happy…they made Seth happy too….
Weston leading a 5.9 crack as a warm-up…and about to step over the rope.
Seth taking a lap on the 5.9 crack
Next up was a 5.10 corner, Findlay Crack. Photo Credit: Seth
#Selfie with Seth up high.
Approaches were brutal
Irie vibes with funny trains coming through periodically
The sound of one hand clapping. Seth groping the arête on Sexual Basalt
Sunset over the Nevadastani desert as we returned to Las Vegas
That trip with Seth got me way psyched to jam crack and plug cams again, so shortly thereafter I took two back-to-back cragging trips to Zion…a few highlights:
The views never get old. The Organ in the foreground, the Great White Throne in the background
Matt following Dire Wolf
Matt leading the FatHedral
Matt bgrought Frank the Monkey along…
Weston leading Scarlet Begonias
T-Pain leading through the roof of the CLASSIC Fails of Power
Irie Vibes at the base of Intruder in Zion
After these trips Jon, Shane and I attempted an early repeat of a new route in the Kolob. We got skeered due to looseness, hollowness, sandiness, and generally us not being up to the task:
Weston, way too psyched to have that kind of rack for the proposed route the following day
Looking down on the approach pitches. Adventure in Zion is really, really adventurous
View on the way out
You can almost taste the freedom from here. The next morning the three of us went to Cracker Barrel in St. George for breakfast.
Winter decided to make its return to Southern Nevada, which presented us with some fantastic views. Sam and I woke up to snow at our house randomly on a Monday morning…so before work I took my camera for a walk…and did the same the following day:
No Camping, Yo!
Red Spring or Ze Eiger?
Calico Basin, NV
Old Man Wilson
Don’t Fence Me In
Once the system associated with the snow blew out, it was a long wait until the rock was dry enough to climb. In the interim, we trained in the gym, went for trail runs, mountain bike rides, and other fun activities that our outstanding backyard allows us to partake in.
Next thing we knew Jon, Travis and I would be making the pleasant approach up Juniper Canyon to climb a route that a buddy of mine put it “has the WOW factor to it” – The Nightcrawler
The beautiful Juniper Canyon
Weston leading P2
Travis starting the second pitch
Jon wiggling up the interesting chimney-like feature at the top
Weston leading the third pitch
Weston and Travis at a belay
The movement on this pitch is absolutely phenomenal. Jon following P3.
Jon following the incredible 3rd pitch
W leading 4th pitch
Weston leading the 4th pitch
Travis following P4
Thank God jugs for Travis!
Sweet views across the way from atop the pillar
Jon bringing it home on P4
A sunny place for shady people – Las Vegas, Nevada
Jon beginning his descent.
The Nightcrawler was one of the most “WOW” inducing climbs I have done. The route is fantastic and features exceptional movement in a cool position. After skepticism early from Jon and Travis due to the wide nature of the second pitch, I think they almost forgave me for dragging them up that squeeze. Maybe.
Shane came out the following weekend from Orange County and we were going to hop on Inti Watana. We had heard reports of ice in cracks high on Mt Wilson and decided (incorrectly) in advance to rappel the route. While the raps were straightforward, and I heard we didn’t miss out on quality climbing while linking the route to Resolution Arete, if you’re already way the hell up there….may as well finish the job. Also, a strong newer local by the name of Brad passed us free soloing casually while we were rapping. So there’s that too.
Inti Watana climbs very quickly and even moreso if you link pitches. With a 70 meter lead line, we linked 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 9-10, 11-12. We linked all rappels with a 65 meter tagline, but the rap to the top of 6 was pretty sketchy with the 65 meter static line.
Approach takes about an hour and a half, hour and 45.
Vegas Locals, Braj!
Weston approaching. Mega alpine start, yo!
Shane following the P1-2 linkup
Shane following the crux, which comes at you early, on P2 of Inti Watana
Shane efficiently dispatching the P3-4 linkup
Shane leading the S-Crack Pitch
Starting to get up there a bit
Shane following, somewhere on the route…
“and then after that, you drop in, just ride the barrel, and just get pitted, so pitted!”
Major exposure with Shane following the final pitch. Cool belay perch you can dangle your feet off of.
The Opposite of Low
We rapped the route, rapped a gully on established stations to avoid some entertaining and sketchy downclimbing, and were back to the car in no time. When we got back to the house, Sam had some fantastic healthy crock pot chili that we devoured ravenously. That and fresh cornbread muffins. My fiancé is incredible. The next morning, Shane took off for Orange County after high fives were exchanged…feeling quite good about ourselves after romping up Inti.
Seth and I the following weekend decided to do some sampling in Black Velvet….in the midst of Spring Break. It was, in fact, quite crowded, but we managed to mitigate the crowds and climb some quality pitches, even if our pitch count wasn’t tremendously high.
Seth on P1 of Wholesome Fullback. We went on to do P2 of Amber as well
Seth on P1 of Wholesome Fullback
Desert in bloom, even up on the cliffs.
A party over on Triassic Sands
Weston taking off on Raindance
Doing my Raindance. This pitch is totally classic!
Seth taking a lap
The day ended with running into the Uriostes in the parking lot, cool experience! I also misplaced my ipod…in my pocket, which resulted in a thorough search of the area we had been enjoying beverages in near the parking lot. Shortly thereafter we were back home.
This brings me to the part in this trip report where Shane and I take off to Zion to go climb Iron Messiah the following weekend. Many of you reading this have already heard about what happened, but I will go ahead and post the pictures from during the route and then explain what happened.
Roadside bivy, Washington County, Utah
A crack of 11:30 start leads me to not take quite as many pics as normal…
Me leading just after the crux of the route
Shane following P3
Shane taking off and linking the following two pitches
Weston following the pitches taking you into the chimneys
Weston leading up the chimneys, linking more pitches
Shane looking out….somewhere lower on route
Some rad varnish
Shane following one of the mega-linked pitches on the route
Shane taking off on the final pitch of the day…
Iron Messiah was a great route…we were in a great rhythm, climbing efficiently and well, with Shane very high on the final 50m pitch around 5pm, after starting climbing at 11:30.
I was at the belay and felt a pull for slack, which I fed out. Shane had been moving quickly and efficiently prior to this. I paid out the slack and felt the rope go completley limp…I started to pull back slack in case he had just dropped the clip, or clipped something on a sling….and then the slack started piling up on me at the belay. I quickly began yarding in slack the best I could and even had time to ask myself “What the hell is going on up there?”
Next thing I know, I’m getting yanked up at the belay a little bit. I weigh a solid 178 lbs…not easy to do.
He fell about 30’
Me: “Hey Shane, you alright?”
Me: “Are you injured, Shane?”
Shane: “Yes….my ankle”
Me: “How bad?”
Shane: “I twisted it, I think I broke it. Hit a sloping ledge.”
From here Shane quickly asserted he would not be able to continue the pitch, and that he needed down. Quickly. Unfortunately, he was well beyond the halfway mark on our twin ropes. I had him lower down to a stance where he could build a gear anchor, pull his ropes through the piece that caught his fall, and rappel off of the gear anchor, leaving the gear in situ. Shane said he would replace the gear…which he dutifuly did when we were back in Vegas, and it nearly made me sick taking his gear from him.
I gave Shane a fireman’s belay to the anchor while he rappelled, after talking him step-by-step through rigging his rappel, checking systems, triple checking the hell out of everything. When people are injured, under durress, and about 1,000 feet up a wall, sometimes they don’t think clearly. Shane appeared to be thinking clearly, but the last thing I wanted was a bad day to get far worse.
Shane arrives at the belay with his ankle swollen, but nothing terrible. He makes the decision to call SAR. After a short while, and prior to receiving a callback from Zion SAR dispatch, we decide we are okay enough to self-rescue to the base of the route, but not to reverse the 25 minute approach. I plea with Shane that I could carry him down the loose dirt and scree slope. SAR will meet us at the base of the route, we are to call them when we are on top of the first two linked pitches.
We repeat the process of me rapping down first, talking Shane through his rigging of the rappel device obnoxiously, and then giving him a fireman’s while he rappels one-legged down the route seven more times.
Shane is kind of a pretty boy….and from Southern Cal….so it can be easy to discount his toughness. The guy is absolutely nails tough, and proved it beyond the shadow of a doubt in this whole situation. I thought he had just sprained it severely, maybe a hairline fracture…again, I was quite wrong. Other than Shane nearly shocking out a couple of times, I probably made it easier for SAR to find us not by our headlamps, or one of the rangers having done the route before, but by virtue of the string of expletives I was letting out at our incredibly tangled ropes on the second to the last rappel. 3 hours later we arrived at the base of the route.
We received assistance from two Zion rangers at the base of the route. They were very professional and very on top of it. My most sincere of thanks to Zion Rangers Andrew (or Andy? Can’t recall…sorry!) and Darren. You guys made this whole situation significantly more easy for us, still not sure how we would have gotten Shane off the hillside if it weren’t for your outstanding, professional work. They immobilized Shane’s ankle/lower leg, put an aircast on it, and assisted him on his butt-scoot down the hill. 2.5 hours later we would get back to the Rangers cars after reversing an approach that took us 20-25 minutes while healthy that morning.
Shane and I opted to drive back to Las Vegas Saturday night/Sunday morning. I wasn’t feeling tired at all (yet), still hopped up on the adrenaline and the body’s survival drugs from such a situation…and we figured we could probably get better medical care in Las Vegas the following morning. You know, sleep it off, see how the ankle is doing in the morning. We arrive at my house at about 3:45/4am.
Shane’s ankle, the next morning
My fiance prepped the futon for Shane so he wouldn’t have to hobble upstairs and left him some things to help him get a more comfortable night’s sleep…we awoke in the morning to his ankle quite swollen. I loaded Shane into my car and we booked it to UMC Urgent Care. The docs there X-rayed him and indicated the ankle was broken in two places. Shane’s brother and father drove out from Orange County to pick him up and bring him home. Ryan and Randy, you guys rock…thank you for taking care of him.
In the garage as they were getting ready to leave, Shane was settling the gear score….and I felt terrible about it. Even though the incident wasn’t my fault, I still felt awful having one man give me the gear off of his rack due to an injury. Shorly after this, I posted on just about every spot I could on the internet to try and see if someone could get us our gear back. I received an e-mail from a kind soul that will be returning all but one cam (apparently now fixed) that we left up there. Shane’s fall also resulted in core shots to the twin ropes…
Core Shot Twin Ropes
Back to the story….
Shane gets back to Orange County and receives top notch medical care in the ER. Apparently he actually has broken his ankle in 6 places, not the 2 UMC suspected. I’d like to reference back to that part about Shane being nails tough….yeah, that….it’s a fact.
External Fixator on Shane’s Ankle
Shane had his first surgery on the ankle on Monday morning…had another surgery due to the onset of compartment syndrome, and will have a third and final surgery to remove the external fixator in a couple of weeks.
The gang at Joshua Tree in December. From L to R – Travis, Jeff, Weston, Jon, Shane, Aaron
The gang of us from the J-Tree get together felt sick to our stomachs over Shane’s injury. We were all far away from him and had to do something, anything, to try to boost our friend’s spirits. As we were lamenting this, Travis mentions (and sends a link) that we can send balloons to Shane in the hospital. I quickly reached out to Shane’s wife, Allison, and got his room number and confirmed we were looking at the right hospital site….bingo, game time!
We decided on the blue “It’s a boy!” balloons…with baby ducks on them….because why not:
Shane and his balloons
As some of you may have known, Shane and I were training to climb The Nose of El Capitan together in May. At this point I could give a damn about The Nose and I just want my friend to feel better. Whoever is out there reading this, send some positive vibes, prayers, whatever you got…send ‘em his way. Can’t wait to tie back in with you brother.
“We have the technology, we can rebuild him”
We’ll get you back from this thing, stronger than ever, and we’ll make it happen bud.
To those reading this…enjoy your good health, enjoy every pitch you climb, every step you take…because it can be taken from you in a heartbeat. Climb smart and be safe out there folks.