Gold In Them Hills
Here’s the latest update from Arc’athlete Will Stanhope:
The red sandstone cliffs of Indian Creek, Utah are laced with splitter cracks spiking up to the blue sky. Looking for new routes requires steering clear of the old stand-bys and letting your imagination run wild. Walking the clifflines with a good friend: Slip-sliding on talus, wiping sweat from our brows, squinting up at the possibilities, laughing and pointing. Like kids in a candy store with an limitless supply of treats.
"Do you think it'll go, dude?"
"No way. You're crazy."
"Look closer. You can grab that crack from the arête!"
Maybe. Just maybe.
Like two guitarists riffing off each other's notes, my favourite new lines are a collaboration. Two friends at the base of a cliff, miming movements and imagining a sequence, bouncing ideas off each other, pining that it will all come together.
The light of day is critical. If the shadow catches on the rock just right, a sidepull might appear. As the sun dips down lower, the shadow is just that: nothing more than a shadow. Geology can slap you in the face. But I can't shake the feeling that if you truly believe in a line, it will work out.
Andrew Burr captured this photo last year on a route I established called "Down In Albion" at the Battle of the Bulge Buttress. Earlier that day, I had belayed my friend Hayden Kennedy as he put up a new line he dubbed "The Carbondale Short Bus" at the 4x4 wall. For most of the trip I'd been playing it safe, protecting my sore foot that I had broken the year before in England. I was close to throwing in the towel and admitting that I just didn't have the gusto to go for it.
The crux of “Down In Albion” was a few tenuous undercling moves protected by some equalized pins. The toughest move was also the very last one, and the most dangerous: a massive move into the crack of “Ruby's Café”. The penalty for failure being a nasty whipper into a razor-sharp fin. Watching Hayden try his best made me want to rise to the occasion as well. I took an hour out and sat on a boulder, mulling things over. I started to feel that old, welcome, familiar feeling welling up inside of wanting to be there. Not to want to have done it, but to actually be in the moment. Before I knew it, the jitters were gone and I was grinning. I rallied the crew and we marched out to the Battle of the Bulge.
Peaking on good-vibes, I started up. Big, deep breaths, plugging micro-cams into the sandstone, laybacking up the gritty rock. I stared at the crux and went for it. Maxed out, pumped, I barely stretched into the safety of “Ruby's Café”. In moments like this, fear evaporates because there is simply no room for it.
Back on the ground, Hayden pulled out a few 3.2 percent Utah beers and we raised our cans to a great day. While the adrenaline dissipated I recalled an offhand comment Sonnie Trotter said to me a couple years back: "It doesn't get much better than this. Some sandy rock, a little bit of wind, and a new route. I'm going to be waking up in the desert and drinking strong coffee until I'm old."
Amen to that.