An Encouraging Disappointment

“Damn this is heavy,” I said as I shouldered the 100 lb haul bag. “I can’t believe that we’re going to this,” I thought as I stared up at the gently overhanging 1200-foot sandstone buttress. I’ve chosen to spend my life piecing together climbing trips, and I find fulfillment in answering the call of different routes throughout the West. Scott Zipprich and I were down south for 10 days, where we did some free climbing in Red Rocks and met up with our friends, Creed and Aubrey. Next, we came up to Zion and met up with Cody Peterson with the goal of aid climbing Moonlight Buttress. I’m not an aid climber, but I’m not a 5.12d climber either. I look at aid climbing as a skill that all climbers should have in their repertoire. When we were planning this trip, I thought, “aid climbing is no big deal—just plug gear and stand up high.” Honestly, I always thought that aid climbing was lame, because if you can’t free climb the route, then you shouldn’t climb it. However, an overhanging pitch is still intimidating, even if it’s only aid climbing. I’d also never factored in what it meant to carry the haul bag. Hiking up to a cliff with a 100-pound pig is fucking awful. The only thing worse than carrying a haul bag is hauling it hundreds of feet in the air. Nay, the only thing that is worse is waiting for weather to clear. I’m a desert rat, and here in Utah we rarely have to take a mandatory rest day due to the rain. We had heard that there was some weather moving in, so we adjusted our plans. “We’ll go up tomorrow and fix the first three pitches, haul the pig, then come back when it’s dry and fire it” Cody said, that evening as we stared up at the wall in front of us. Then the rain started, and it rained and rained and rained. I feel fortunate to have been able to see the canyon look like that. Four hundred foot waterfalls surrounded us, and the canyon was vibrant with the new leaves of spring. The smell of spring was all around us. But the fucking rock was wet. God damn it. We were all fueled by the hope of the weather clearing and the rock drying. I woke up the next morning so psyched thinking, dreaming, salivating about how sick my pitches were going to be. Instead of being sunny and windy it was cold, dark, and calm. Fucked, totally fucked. Another storm was moving in on Saturday. I talked to rangers, other climbers, and even called IME (Salt Lake’s best climbing store) just hoping to find someone that would say it would all be fine, all the time knowing they wouldn’t. The mood around camp was sullen knowing that we had been defeated and knowing that we had to go back up and get that fucking pig. When I started jugging up the fixed lines the rock was still wet. As I ascended, I heard a crash as rocks careened past me. “Fuck! I wish I had my helmet,” I yelled to Scott. Standing on the rocker blocker we packed everything up. “At least no one died,” I said looking at Scott. “We’ll be back,” he replied. We were doing everything in our power to lift our spirits. As mountain people we are driven to perform in all activities. No matter how many times I read The Rock Warrior’s Way, I’m still attached to my performance. However, no one DIED, and sometimes the mountain needs to win (even at aid climbing). In this way, the trip was an encouraging disappointment; I saw one of my closest friends, I did some awesome free climbing in Red Rocks with one of my favorite climbing partners, I experienced Zion National Park in a way very few do, and I learned how to aid climb.

“I think athletes define themselves by how they handle defeat as much as how they handle success” -Luke Mehall

Colin Smith

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