Climbing and Music
Knocked one off the bucket list on Sunday.
I’ve rock-climbed on and off over 25 years, and I’ve taken part in what may have been first ascents on some traditional routes.
Trad routes are those where you place your own protective gear, which a second climber removes as she follows you up.
I say “may have been” because unless you drill a bolted anchor at the top, it’s often hard to know whether another climber’s been there before you.
In any case, on Sunday I finished bolting a new sport route at the North Rim of Mill Creek, in the Bitterroot just west of Pinesdale.
Sport routes are climbs that depend on bolts for protection, and they generally are found on walls without significant crack systems in which to place your own protection.
That means drilling holes and placing bolts. It’s the sort of thing you do only in places whether both climbing ethics and regulations allow it, and you do it in the most respectful and safe manner.
If you’ve been following the paper, you know I recently wrote a long Outdoors page story about a new climbing area being developed in Mill Creek. My friends Dane Scott and Ken Turley have done most of the work, but they’ve opened the door to several others, including me.
Over the past couple of weeks, my daughter Kate and I got a rope up and started scouting a new line up a steep face called the Tiger Stripe Wall.
After climbing a variety of paths up the wall, we finally settled on one last week and set ourselves to bolting. But no sooner than we got all the equipment up the wall, we got chased down by some very serious lightning.
On Sunday, I got back to the wall with my friend Brett Klassen Van Ooschot to finish the job. It took us a couple of hours to drill and bolt,but we had the route finished by early evening.
Obviously, a climb isn’t something that’s created in the same we think of creating, say, a painting or music. But as I scouted and climbed the line up the rock, I found that the same part of my brain that goes off while playing the guitar was again firing on all cylinders.
I’ve felt that musical sense on a few other climbs set by others. Even from the bottom, you could sense the beauty of the path.
In this case, that sense was heightened by my role in finding the line. No one can rightly say they created a climb. Nature does that.
On the other hand, I think it’s fair to say that you found it, that you pioneered it, enabled it.
Whatever you want to call it, what it sparked in me was a feeling of musical creativity.
And that was a very rewarding feeling.
The climb is called Sabertooth and is tentatively rated 5.10b/c. It’s on the new Tiger Stripe Wall, just above the Tick Farm Wall on Mill Creek’s North Rim.