Another trip to Slot Canyon

Saturday evening – my first night in four going to bed without taking any acetaminophen tablets. I’d nearly vanquished my cold. I even felt well enough to flip through an album of ice climbing photos before turning in for the night. A sharp-looking group of climbers took on the spring conditions at slot canyon. Climbing on either side of a spray-spitting hole in the icefall, they each made multiple ascents of the nine-story waterfall.


Abandoning the ice, they dry-tooled on steeply overhanging rock. Photo by photo I watched the first climber tiptoe upward, imagining the gritty screams of his ice tools in their fight for traction on the rock. To the hardened steel points of crampons and ice tools, even the roughest rock feels slipperier than ice. A fall ensued. The second climber now attempted the slung-back wall.  Ice tools resting on features too small for even the most skilled rock climber’s use, he painstakingly ascended, taking care not to disturb that delicate equilibrium. A second fall resulted. A third individual repeated the rise and fall of the first two. This was becoming predictable, the only change a growing pile of rock chips below the attempted route. I nearly walked away when a fourth climber also peeled from the overhang. Few photos remained, however, so I persevered.


The fourth climber made a second attempt. Contorting his body to maintain balance, he once again left the ground. His posture radiated determination. Now he removed a tool, a quarter of his tenuous hold on the overhang, and stretched upward to gain purchase in a higher fissure. Confidently, carefully, and yet quickly, he relocated a second tool. Throwing a leg far to the right, as if straddling a massive horse, he threw a crampon at the nearby ice pillar. Emboldened by the security of this placement, the climber transitioned from rock to ice. The final photos depicted an experienced ice climber, confidently tackling a fun late-season climb.

So while I sat in bed, coughing and blowing my stuffy nose, my brother, Dane, was out there dry tooling for the first time. For a beginner, he made a fine job of it. Granted, I’m jealous. I wanted like crazy to be out there climbing. But I’m also proud that my ski partner, trusted belayer, hiking buddy, and brother, tackles extreme recreation with such style and grace. Just the association would be enough to make me look good.


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