Monday, May 21, 2007

Devils Tower: The First Fall

My friend and I arrived at Devils Tower in the night and was greeted with dramatic introduction. We drove up to base and it loomed as a black monolith on the back-drop of storm clouds whose lightning lit it's shear faces. It was quite intimidating. So being that we arrived late, we slept out in the car instead camping, which made for an uncomfortable and sleepless night.

I woke early the next morning, bought a guide book, and set out to climb. We hiked up the massive boulder field to the Northeast side of the tower. I timidly lead a 5.8- pitch, which proved fairly easy and built my confidence. I then jumped onto a 5.8+ face was slightly tricky with face moves and got my blood running a touch.

I woke the next morning with my leading confidence high and after talking with some locals decided that "Soler" would be our next route. I arrived at the climb with excitement. We decided that my friend would lead the first 5.8+ rated pitch, and then I would follow and climb the next 5.9- section. The route followed a hand width crack in a left facing corner, in which the corner slowly moved towards overhanging. Upon starting the first pitch I could tell things weren't going well. As my friend disappeared out of sight and up the crack, I noticed the rope went out slower and slower until it stopped.... I gave it a moment, then asked, "how's it going?" I recieved a nervous response, "I'm setting up an anchor". Which meant my friend was stuck or didn't prefer to climb further and was going to belay me up to their position so that I could climb the rest of the section. So up I went and found the climbing to be moderate. There were solid hand jams and I moved upwards steadily. Finishing the rest of the section optimistically, and clipped into the section's anchor. The next pitch looked like more of the same yet slightly overhanging. I climbed 20 feet up and placed my first piece, a stopper (metal wedge) and continued. However, the next moves got progressively more difficult...the hand jams became awkward and difficult to hold on to and the crack thinned making foot jams difficult. Soon I my breathing picked and my heart pounded while I looked down at my last piece 7 feet below me. I reached high with my feet for my next step, my hands just holding my weight inward towards the rock...Then suddenly my foot gave out and I fell. I slid down the vertical face 12 feet until the rope and my stopper caught me, while my friend and I hung some 200 feet of the ground. I brushed myself off and checked for injuries. Noting none, went back to re-climb the trouble section. I got to my previous place of difficulty and ascended past it 9 feet and placed a cam in the rock and clipped it. I continued upward 10 feet above the cam when things became difficult again. I found myself breathing hard. My arms and calves began to burn, my hand jams nor my feet felt solid.... I was losing friction...I just needed to get past this one move to find a foot lost it's grip and my hand jam scraped out from the rock as I fell. I fell/slid twenty feet until I was stopped abruptly when the rope and my cam caught me. I looked to see my right hand scraped and raw near my first knuckle and my elbows bruised and bleeding lightly from scrapes. I looked to my friend and decided we should come down. I climb up once more, removed my pieces from the rock and slowly down lead to the anchor. As we rappelled 300 feet down, I looked up and seeing how close I was to finishing the route couldn't help but feel frustration creeping in. I laid down in the grass and warm sunlight near the park office, and with tourists gauking I tended my minor wounds. I sat trying not to be too hard on myself knowing tomorrow was another day. And the next day my luck would in fact turn.... (stay tuned for my next post).

1 comment:

Troy said...

I was wondering if you had taken any lead falls yet.