Editor’s Note–This is continuation of a post I wrote about a trip I took down Labyrinth Canyon in April of 2013 Find the first part of the post here.
“Well that should do it” I say.
“Is she sea worthy?” Anna asks
“Nah, but definitely Green River worthy.” The canoes sit loaded on the banks of the gently flowing Green. The warm sun threatens afternoon heat and the spotted towhee screeches in the tamarisk. Patiently the pitbulls lay in the dirt, not yet having been dressed in their orange life vests. The morning sounds of jangling tags, growls and barks has subsided and they curl up and wait. The dogs are of different sentiments. Henry passes out, sprawled across the canoe’s deck and Emma paces back and forth, whimpering, whining and generally being unsettled. Somewhere down river Henry’s comatose nature succumbed to gravity and he falls off the “deck” splashing into the river.
By eleven-thirty we are already one stop and scout in and we have been floating since nine-thirty. Forty-five minutes of scrambling up chinle and racing across scree and talus yielded only one or two decent looking lines. Now floating, we spy long lines on the northern aspect of wingate, the lichen covered rock yielding splitters and corners.
“Check out that splitter!” Anne yells to me pointing up and river left.
“Yeah Jared, that is all yours” Trish adds.
My eyes turn up and left. “Holy shit. That is like King Cat on steroids…King Fucking Cat” I blurt making a comparison to the Indian Creek classic. We exchange glances, the group process forefront in my mind. “Too bad it is such a hike… I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep.” We float on, my head rubbernecking, mentally noting its location and catching one last glimpse of the splitter off-width cleaving the face to a huge roof.
Soon we round a bend and spy some beautiful red/black buttresses riddled with cracks. Once again the canoe does a 360 as the field glasses go up to my eyes “Hey this buttress looks awesome and there are a bunch of anchors.” Heads crane and features are pointed out. “Check out that corner, yeah, that long one facing us, with the pillar at its base.” Soon we come upon a small wingate alcove and a rocky, mud covered beach. ‘Shall we go up and check it out?” someone asks as the group process begins again.
The light comes slowly on cool, damp mornings. Canyon wrens, Canadian geese, spotted towhees and Henry’s bark all greet the dawn and break the silence. Our position downstream of Spring Canyon’s ATV access has generated a bit of a reprieve from the internal combustion engines and yesterday’s lack of ATV travel did not go unnoticed. Once again, it feels like a remote wilderness.
We are standing around the grey tarp, haulbags, drybags, ropes, harnesses, hardware all lie scattered around. Days of shwacking, crawling, and walking through thick stands of tamarisk, oak and grease wood have left our legs, forearms and feet, scratched, scraped and stabbed. Today Anna and I are going to go try the Boobs, the name we have given to two of the towers that dominate the skyline above our camp. Anna and Scott scarf bowls of potatoes and eggs while the dogs sit underfoot, looking up hopefully. Ken and Trish offer up beta and the three of us digest it as we eat. The chilled morning shade feels wonderful after the heat of yesterday but down river the death star makes itself known again and starts to paint its beautiful light across the canyon walls.
“So you don’t need a number six on pitch two?” I ask
“Nope we actually used both of ‘em in the anchor” Ken replies squatting to shoot me as I sort the gear.
“And I’ll be fine with only two number fives on the second pitch?”
“yeah… you’ll be fine.” Tony’s twisted grin wraps around his face “you might just need one… Fuck, Carl’s beta said one number five and one number six. Hell I woulda’ been scared” he adds.
“Yeah, they’re pretty good” I respond, wondering just how much of a sand bag Tony’s “you’ll be fine…” is.
Later, after two pitches of excellent crack climbing and Anna’s second desert tower, we rappel the west side and make our way around to the base. “Well that was fun, thanks for going rock climbing” I offer up to Anna.
“Yeah that was pretty sweet. Nice work.”
“Thanks, you too. I think I am going to head over and find the others, it seems there is a bit of day light left. You want to come?” I ask, taking a bite of a sandwich.
“No, I think I will head back to camp” Anna replies. We load our packs and head our separate ways. I reach the others just in time to take a lap on a sandy corner crack that was just established and then we move down the cliff line and enjoy another thin traversing hand crack. Tony hangs a rope on The Sideways Smile and it serves up it’s share of challenge. We enjoy a few top rope laps and think about calling it a day.
I lean back on a boulder and gaze upward into the softening evening light. The buttress is slowly changing hues as the sun makes it daily commute to the horizon. “Man that line is awesome” I say. Tony agrees as he leans onto the boulder and stares upward, eyes drawn in by the long splitter corner high above.
“You should do it” Ken says egging me on. “If you don’t look you won’t know and if you don’t know you’ll never sleep.”
We make a few preparations, rack up, and soon I am delicately maneuvering through some loose blocks and choss to the base of an imposing slot. I reach back onto my harness and slide the #5 into the crack. It clangs around uselessly. “All-righty then… numero seis it is” I say to no one in particular. I push it high and launch upward, with fist stacks, arm bars and hidden face holds propelling the upward progress. I obtain a good stance, pull the remaining number six from the rack and push it upward. Its tipping out lobes, probably just less than adequate, inspire very little confidence but I push it deeper and clip a draw to it anyway and continue the upward struggle. Ten feet higher I look down. The Friend, ten feet lower is still tipped out. I turn my gaze upward and see nothing but tight squeeze. I rotate my body, and move right side in. I find a few face holds, smear, stem and move upwards. Nothing. I regain the squeeze. I think about the Big Bros in my dry bag at camp. “What happens when the closer needs a closer” I ask Ken who is perched (precariously) on a chossy, blocky tower not 20′ away.
“You’re doing great man” I move upward then downward from squeeze to stem and then back up.
“Fuck it. Tony I am going to back off” I yell down. “Sorry guys and thanks for your patience” I tell Tony my plan and then slowly, awkwardly and cautiously downclimb the off-width to a good stance near the tipped out number six Friend. “Well at least I know what I need for next time” I quip, trying to put a good spin on it.
“Yeah, now you know” Tony yells up.
“Yeah, now I know so now I can sleep” I reply as we implement the bailing process.
The next morning a welcoming cool once again has settled on camp. We stand in the partially disassembled kitchen, eating and packing for our float to the pick up point. I shovel oatmeal and honey into my mouth and watch Tony walk up. His face takes on a crooked grin. “So did you sleep better last night, now that you know?” he asks.
“Nope. I looked at it all night on the back of my eyelids, thinkin’ about having a piton or big bro” I reply a bit sheepishly.
“Shoulda done this, shoulda done that” Scott chimes in.
“Well it will be here next time, give you something to dream about” Tony adds.
“Yep” I reply. “It’s the canyon dreams are made of.”