Saturday, April 24, 2010

Excuses, excuses

Masturbation, smoking and drinking. These are what Driller, Napoleon and I-- not necessarily in that order-- are giving up until our route is done. Think of it as climbing Lent.

Of course, that we have made these epic vows hasn't spurred us on to actually DOING anything. Napoleon, incipient yuppie cunt that he is, claims he is in the home stretch of a business or accounting degree, and claims to have put away not only his climbing shoes but also his K-Y jelly, his epic stack of XXX DVDs and of course his pink shotgun.

The Driller, marginally further along the path of yuppie cunthood, is actually employed as an accountant. Now, they say April (just FYI, April is the new March) comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.

The Driller is changing that-- for him, March comes in like a tax return, and goes out like another, even longer, tax return-- but is still confining him to his cube, and iPhone fantasies about actually seeing the sun and touching real rock, not to mention his charming girlfriend.

I am the luckiest of the three of us route-stooges. After a delightful three weeks in Indian Creek and Zion, I came back to a girlfriend, cool job and-- after seeing the residents of Ginger Slack's old house smoking weed and doing trackstands-- vague fantasies about converting my ancient pink-and-yellow Dave Scott into a fixie. In other words, only Spring was on my mind and I was fully vacillating between yuppie cunthood and half-baked hipsterism.

But my Dad got sick, and it rained, and I was seduced into climbing with Sarah Spankofsky, she who for the SECOND time last summer spanked Zombie Roof into new-and-improved 5.13a submission. So basically I have been doing with my route what I have been doing with my fixie bike: fantasising.

So in the meantime, let's visit Indian Creek together, shall we?

I got off the plane in Las Vegas and met The Filth, whose wife had departed for work up north the night before. After one evening doing tequila shots, sucking on strippers' toes and getting into fights with Las Vegas' finest, The Filth spent the day cruising around Vegas, trying to not spend $400 to replace his muffler, which, trying to find free camping in the Grand Canyon and high-centering his ancient Subie, he had ripped off and then tied back on with baling wire. Perhaps, he reasoned, some down-and-out Mexican would weld the thing back on, which is what happened for $40. After cramming my 5 cubic feet of gear into the 3 cubic feet available, The Filth grinned as the Subie rumbled to life-- and I mean that literally; the car shook and made a massive, Transformer-sized sound somewhere between a ripping beer fart and a schoolbus being crushed into recycling. You know you're a dirtbag when you're totally psyched that your car starts.

Since we had a six-hour drive to Moab, we bought 12 beers, and by the time we pulled off the 191 into a mud pit, the howling sideways wind and rain were barely noticeable. We woke the next morning to more of the same, and luckily hadn't driven 30 feet further along the gravel track, where a diahrea-like spew of brown flashflood would have made life miserable for the poor Subie.

We provisioned in Moab and headed out to the Creek, where we found camping under the Jacks. Now I am not going to bore you even more than I already am with a blow-by-blow of the next 2.5 weeks, so I will just include a few highlights and pictures.

On the way in, fantasising about an epic Zion day doing The Big Lebowski, The Filth proposed that we have a Half-Dome day: 20 pitches. That would get us in shape for T.B.L.

First, this is what getting into the Jacks was like. We were horrified. However, on our first day off, we consulted a mechanic in Moab about the muffler, which sounded every day more and more like one of those Hummers that the Indo-Canadian Surrey drug-dealers or the Langley pot-growers drive-- fart-canned. The mechanic said that the three inches of mud caked onto the car were actually holding the muffler in place.

Now, sometimes the weather was wonderful.

At other times, we huddled under a tarp that The Filth had gotten from Dickfinger. Yes, that's right: while in J-Tree, The Filth had run into a former fat-kid and now incipient hardman, had a few snow-day drinking sessions and had become climbing buddies with him, and ended up re-naming him Dickfinger.


"Cos he's got a finger shaped like a dick. Industrial accident."

Well, thank Christ for Dickfinger's tarp, because after our first day of getting shit-kicked by Creek Cracks-- the old adage, "5.10 is HARD in the Creek" proved true-- we started getting shit-kicked by the weather. Luckily we managed to drink whiskey, cook beans and talk shit about the endless parade of Coloradan SUVs that paraded in and out of the Jacks. I am always flabberghasted that people complain about how much they have to work, and how little time they have to climb, and here they are, driving $40,000 trucks. The Filth, on the other hand, has it right: he drives a $2,000 beater, and, in the last 18 months, has worked precisely zero days.

So here is The Filth, in the Hole:

Other days were picture-perfect for climbing, like the day we went back to SuperCrowd crag and did some classics. First, The Filth did Supercrack:

We then ran into the unlikeliest of things: a pair of French trad climbers. One of them led Fingers in a Lightsocket. His buddy then led it on his gear, and fell, ripping his third-to-last piece. After many, many attempts, he got to the top. I tried it next.

"You bring ze black Alien" said the Frenchie, which I did, and inserted into the crux, and then fell off, ripping the fucking thing and scaring myself shitless.

We did the usual thing on days off-- fixing the car in grocery-store parking lots, enjoying the views, drinking.

One day a blonde showed up in a truck, her late-teen son in tow.
"You got any big stuff?" she asked.
"Sure do," I said, and we both laughed.
This was Sybille Hechtel, who in 1973, at the tender age of what must have been 14 or so, did the first all-girl ascent of El Cap.
The Filth was unwilling to lend her big gear, and her son said "MOM! Can't we take the day off? I'm TIRED!" and then told us that he'd been climbing (read: leading all pitches for Mom) for four days straight.
But the same grit that got her up El Cap got The Filth and I digging our #6s out of the bin, and she drove off, shushing her son.

On our last night, our neighbours, a pair of bluegrass-playing college students from Colorado, showed up at our fire with two banjos, a keg and a mission. It being in Utah illegal for anybody other than a licensed drinking establishment to have a keg, the Coloradans were breaking the law by schlepping a bi silver keg full of brown ale around.

"We gotta get rid of this!" said George.

"I'm not getting wrecked," said The Filth, "we gotta drive to Zion tomorrow, and rack for our aid route."

Two hours later, all thoughts of Zion had disappeared as a new mission had appeared: kegstands! This involves inverting yourself and drinking beer out of the keg.

I don't remember much of the evening: I know that there was a blonde named Chelsea, who only giggled, and there was bluegrass being played, and that there were a couple of super straight-laced Coloradans who were not amenable to trash talk, and that The Filth did hs usual with me, which is to throw me to the ground in preparation for anal sex, which I, like a corporate wife or a high-end hooker, deny him, in order to maintain his interest, and that the Filth decided-- "in what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity"-- he would learn to play the banjo, and that there was absolutely no alcohol or firewood left the next morning when we crawled out of our tents and into mind-numbing epic hangovers.

We then drove to Zion, where we tried Lunar Ecstasy (V,5.10+, C2). Now this is what I learned about aid climbing.

Well first there is the business of racking. Aid climbing is not like cragging, where you can go and have a bite between burns. Your entire life, from eating and climbing to sleeping and shitting, has to be packed into a haulbag. This proves surprisingly complicated and long:

I also learned that...

a) I will never be an aid climber.

b) It is THE SLOWEST activity that you can still reasonably call a sport. Aid climbing makes golf look like Formula One.

c) Other than, say, invading Iraq, or keeping track of 300,000,000 social insurance numbers, aid climbing is the most amount of clusterfucking that one could possibly attempt.

d) The only thing less comfortable than a portaledge to sleep on would be a cell in Guantanamo, or perhaps a toilet in Abu Ghraib.

e) Free-climbing C2 without offset DMMs is heart-attack material. At one point, I was quite literally screaming at the top of my lungs with fear, before I slammed in a cam and, shaking and whimpering, lowered off, past ten pieces that, when The Filth aided up them, blew, one by one, when he bounce-tested them. I felt "better" after that-- a fall would have broken legs, and likely worse, so retreat was not merely the act of a wuss but also logical.

We ended up being so slow that we only did the first 4 pitches before realising that we were in way over our heads (no offsets = major fear and big falls). So the Filth led the first of the A2 pitches-- 3 hours for 25 meters-- and we bailed. Here's some pics:

This looks like a huge clusterfuck, but it's actually a well-organised belay, set up to not only keep The Filth from dying as he seconds, but to haul the alcohol up to us.

And here The Filth leads some C2+, without offsets, making things scary.

Anyway. The trip ended with getting some presents for the Girl and her girls, and no trip to the US would be complete without a cop encounter. I was pulled over in Utah and the cop said "in Utah, you must signal for at least two seconds before making a lane change." Which really obviously means "this car is such a piece of shit that you guys must be meth dealers or Mexicans." Anyway, he didn't charge us with Driving While Poor and we made it to 13 Mile in Vegas, where Tony and Hannah had saved us a spot. This is them in the A.M., off to do Cloud Tower.

On our last day, we snuck into A Casino, got into the pool, where I underwater-shaved and we enjoyed stunning views of The Pool Attendant Girls. I went back to Vancouver, while The Filth hightailed it back to Zion. And now I await Driller and Napoleon's return to the new-route arena, where we have a couple of lion cubs to slay, and then the Chief to challenge.

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