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By Chris N
From: Loveland, Co
Feb 8, 2016
I remember this rock from November 22, 1980. I was working in Edwards and got a call from Jim Morrison (no, not the dead Doors singer), my climbing partner on many an occasion. He had moved to GJ a couple of weeks before. The conversation was "how is it going" then he went right into how he had found a "350 foot" cliff and how we had to do it that day!
I jumped in my truck and hauled ass to GJ, picked him up, stopped and got some snacks then hauled out of town. The trip was amazing, I had never seen so much untouched granite before. I remember that we parked below the cliff at 12 noon.
I looked up and told him he was a total stoner (we both were!) if he thought that the cliff was only 350 ft high. I let him talk me into giving it a try, so we racked up. We didn't have a bolt kit so we decided to bring a small rack of pins and a hammer "just in case".
We headed to the base of the cliff then took a left up more scree to the base of the south face. Here was an odd left leaning, 75' wide slot that narrowed far up above with an overhang up above to the right. The 1st pitch was dirt & plant filled cracks to a belay on the left. The next pitch was neat and kind of freaky; from the belay head up and right to exit the slot above the overhang. We called this pitch the Jigsaw Puzzle pitch. It seemed like the whole wall was covered with an exfoliated rock that was 2 inches thick and in small interlocked pieces, you could grab a piece (your handhold) and pull it straight out and put it back. Interesting!
There were a couple of more easy pitches trending up and right that led to an alcove-ledge. From here the only way out was straight up, a nice clean looking seam that looked like it might go at 5.9 or 5.10 or 5.11. The problem was you could only see half the pitch and IT WAS GETTING VERY DARK!
Jim suggested using matches. I had climbed with Jim before in RMNP where we had run out of daylight. He lit matches and I led. This time I told him "no thanks, this is your climb". So we knew we were going to have to sit there all night.
After sitting in our little alcove in the dark for about 45 minutes we started noticing down below us that there was a stream of clouds coming in from the west, we could see them because they had a strange glow (from starlight?). They looked snowy. At this point I decided it was time to bail!
I told Jim that I was bailing and started digging out the pitons, when I asked him for the hammer he said that he had forgot to bring it. WHAT? You fucking bastard!
I felt around in the dark and found a likely crack, started a pin in it, grabbed a small rock and told Jim to light a match. I managed to get four pins pounded in with crumbling granite stones. Jim said "are you going to rap on this crap?" I told him "better than hanging out here in a storm with you" after rapping about 30' Jim started screaming that 1 of the pins had popped, after 50' more, another one. A bit further I found the big tree that we had passed along the way and stopped there. Jim sucked it up and followed.
The next rap was the scary one, right off the giant overhang in the pitch black. Jim asked if I was going to kill myself and I said that if I did it would be a very lonely vigil for him.
For once I had tied an overhand knot at the end of the rope. As soon I was at the end of the rope - nothing but my rappel set up, then my hand and then the knot at the end of the rope! Holy shit, what next? Nothing left to do but start swinging around in the dark. A short swing later I felt the rock, a bigger swing got me a great jam and a perfect bomber hexcentric placement - UNFUCKING believable! I felt around and found a couple of backup up placements, NICE!!
Jim was with me in a short while later and one more rap and we were on the ground. A quick haul ass to the bottom of the scree slope, then some bushwhacking to the truck and a 40 minute drive got us back to GJ and some beer!
We were going to name the route "Until the End" from the Doors but never made it to the end. So if you see some old gear hanging below a roof to the right or a couple of pins below a nice seam, think of the hubris of a couple of stoner climbers from the 1970s & '80s.
By Jesse Zacher
From: Grand Junction, Co
Feb 12, 2016
|Love this! Thank you for sharing the story, Chris N! I think everyone has a story or two about an epic in that canyon! The place is magical but will play dirty.|