By Sam Gleeson
I hate climbing with Taras. He has a distinct talent for getting me really scared.
When the plan first came about it was going to be a quick relaxing desert excursion over spring break. We would do a little climbing and a lot of wandering around in Canyonlands National Park enjoying the severity and beauty of desert life. That changed when I invited Taras.
I did manage to get My fuzzy headed Ukranian companion to agree to a full day off climbing which was great. We spent a day doing a seven mile loop in Canyonlands which turned out to be one of the best hikes I have ever experienced. I also Managed to convince Taras that it was a bad idea for us to attempt a 5.11 desert tower seeing as how I was out of shape and he hadn’t done any multi-pitch in a while. Also the long approach and lack of a 4×4 certainly helped stop that idea.
(Meet Taras. He’s always ready for danger)
We settled on the North Chimney of Castleton. It sounded perfect a 4 pitch 5.8 that was well established and had a relatively short approach. So we got up pre-dawn and cruised through the desert avoiding all the deer that come out of nowhere in the wee hours between Canyonlands and Moab.
It turns out approaches to desert towers can be pretty steep. After parking the car we charged towards Castleton Tower. The approach trail got steeper and steeper the farther we climbed. The last quarter mile was over a mix of gravel, sand and loose stone. Definitely a time of two steps up one step down. Finally we made it and despite the imposing monolith in front of us, I was feeling good, for the moment…
Taras fired up the first pitch as expected. Then it was my turn. My enthusiasm quickly waned as I found my self struggling to pull over a minor roof. Turns out carrying the rope made things harder than I had anticipated.
(On the first pitch I was doing my best to keep it together right)
By the time I finished the first pitch I was spent. I don’t know what happened, the exposure was worse than I am use to for sure, but that’s no excuse, I found myself never wanting to climb again. It was awful. Luckily Taras brought me back to earth with some encouragement. Although I think he said bad things about me in Ukranian. So I put him on belay and off he went. No where to go but up. The second pitch was better, I hauled the rope off my harness rather than carry it on my back which made a huge difference. On the second pitch I was only telling myself I would never climb a desert tower again.
Between pitch two and three I was happy again. I managed to enjoy the exposure and the few difficult moves that remained. I stepped across a chimney in awe of the hundreds of feet of air below me. That last pitch was some of my favorite climbs. Taras even set up an anchor right below the top so I could summit first.
As we sat up on top and enjoyed the view, the wind and the delicate nature of where we were and what we did, I remembered again how much I love climbing with Taras.