Posted by: twistsoffeet | April 2, 2010

Ganja Mon No Wata


I had just failed miserably at my second attempt at marriage, and my whole world was crashing down.  I had to do something to avoid being crushed under the debris.

Easier said than done when it involves walking away from a massive cocaine habit. This habit destroyed my marriage, caused me to lose my home, I nearly lost any relationship  I had with my daughter, and it almost cost me my life.

In my search for sanity, I reached back for an activity that had been a huge and positive part of my pre-cocaine life, rock climbing. When I started rock climbing over 20 years previous to the date of this story, it was still in its formative stages, as I was also in my formative stage. Climbing was in my blood.  The thrill, fear, sense of accomplishment, beauty, rebelion and just an incredible physical and mental workout.

Just what this man needed to clean up.

With no plan in mind, I grabbed my shoes, harness, chalk bag and a few pieces of pro and headed for Eldorado Canyon. Fortunately, my truck failed to start after I went into the store at the turn for the Canyon. Not to be dissuaded, the decision to walk int the canyon was made. A couple of miles down the road, and having no luck hitch hiking, a little Chrysler convertible raced past me then suddenly slammed on it’s brakes and on into reverse, eventually stopping right next to me.

This is when I met Peter.  He asked where I was going, so I told him as his copilot opened the door. Peter and the copilot looked at me, decided to ask me to join them on a multi-pitch climb called The Wisdom, for free. Now the guide book of the time on this route had the headline of “discretion is the better part of valor.” Apparently the climber in me had no valor because I used no discretion and said, “Sure I’ll do it.”  And off we went.

The first pitch was easy, the second crux pitch was a thin 5.11 finger crack up a dihedral that had been worn glass smooth from countless hands and feet.  It wasn’t pretty, but I made it. Then, the direct finish on the third pitch: a hand crack across a ten foot roof, upside down, hanging five hundred feet above the canyon floor.

Needless to say, I was out of shape, no recent climbing experience, and totally unqualified for this pitch at that time in my life. I fell, the copilot pulled me back to the belay ledge, and I fell again and again and again. I was noticing a small crowd on the road watching me flail and fail fantastically. We ended up having me climb an easier route to the left.

Peter was apparently impressed because he asked me to climb with him the next week in Rocky Mountain National Park. I don’t remember the route, but it should have been a seven pitch 5.8 climb.  Peter led a pitch, then I did a pitch, and so on. After Peter’s third pitch, I took over and promptly got off route– seriously off route. A full one hundred forty foot pitch with one piece of protection, twenty feet out. The next one hundred twenty feet totally unprotected. Oh, and did I mention serious 5.9+? After reaching a belay ledge, I brought Peter up.  He was white as a ghost when he reached the belay ledge. He looked at me and said something like, “I guess you got it back.”

He also said maybe we should go to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison next weekend.

Now the Black Canyon is legendary, dangerous and a wonderfully insane place to climb, if you are insane. Just my cup of tea! The big problem was that this was early August, 100+ degree temperatures, black rock, and no water, unless you counted the Gunnison River running through it. We headed down the cruise gully, reached the base, and swam through an ocean of poison ivy.

We were no mere mortals and heat and poison ivy were not going to dissuade us from our goal. After surveying the wall, we decided to follow a line that was not in the guide book.  It looked like a half dozen pitches of decent hard but doable climbing before reaching a series of overhangs three hundred feet below the summit. By this time, we were out of water so we refilled out of the river. Peter led off and we each did a pitch before running out of water again. We fixed ropes and rappeled down to fill our jugs again. Then jumared back up the fixed ropes. By this time, our fingers were blistering from the hot rock. Continuing up the route, we eventually did the first seven pitches. Peter set up a belay and I climbed up to meet him in the dark. Upon reaching the belay I asked Peter for some water, he just looked at me, handed me a pipe and said, “ganja mon no wata.”

We had intended to do this route in one day so no plans were made for bivouacking on the wall, silly climbers. We found a series of three little six inch steeply sloping shelves stacked one on top of the other, Peter got one, I got one and our gear got the third. Did I mention the only clothing we had was the shorts, tee shirts and climbing shoes we were wearing? We were sunburned, dehydrated, and it was dark. With darkness came cold, freezing cold. What a miserable night, hanging in our harnesses nine hundred feet up this wall with no food, water or warm clothes.

I just love an adventure.

The next morning Peter and I wisely decided to back off as we were not in shape any longer to even attempt finishing the route. We rappelled down to the base, swam back through the ocean of poison ivy, and climbed back up the cruise gully, an adventure in itself… but that is another story.

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