From The Past… To The Future

I am the Salmon… Forever swimming upstream towards the source. Swimming great and swift currents to achieve the impossible; battling great and unforeseen obstacles that bar the way to my own destiny.

am  the Bear, on top, and managing a foothold in said place, but struggling none the less. I am a protector of my family and my territory, forever destined to do so.

am the Fox, cunning and sly to achieve what is mine for the taking. I only wish for harmony.

I am the Wolf, taken into a sense of community that entrusts a commitment of not only survival, but one of love and companionship.

I am the Willow, blowing in the glacial winds that give to me a sense of animation; my roots digging deep within the soil to accomplish what so many of us desire.

am  the writer, constantly in a state of desire to express myself, for better or worse. Words are what live inside of me and I must share them, regardless.

But most of all, I am a Man, one who wishes only for love, compassion, and connection… for those around me and for the wilderness that encompasses my landscape. I am full of desire and hope, my shortcomings entangled in self doubt, but knowing that I have passion and offerings that all of us have. I wish for sincerity amongst us all, so that we all may flourish. For what is a Man that does not possess these?

As it has always been and always will be, my mind is in a constant state of desire for wilderness and exploration, both externally and from within. These forays and trips into wild places has always been what has driven me.

Included here are photographs from past adventures, not to behold them for their keepsake, but to remind me, and us all, that the flame still burns and cannot be extinguished. So many ideas, so many thoughts… the Brooks Range, the Alaska Range, the deep interiors of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, the home front of the mighty Chilkat and the ephemeral outer “lost” coast of Alaska’s vast and wild Pacific. I persevere to such notions and they dominate my thoughts and desires…

 

End Of The Haul Road
The end of the Haul Road Alaska 2013
IMG_4122
Dennis Belillo on the North Coulior of North Peak, Yosemite 2012
DSCN0860
Freeride Explorations near Moab 2008
Promised Land '00-7
The Promised Land, Half Dome Yosemite 1998
Ropeless at Wall Strret
Ropeless in Moab 1992
South Seas:P.O. '98 -1
South Seas, El Capitan 1997
Spectreman 11c, Vedawoouo
Vedauwooo Wyoimg 2000
Mt Athabasca '8601
North Face of Mt Athabasca, Alberta 1986
Anissa Chilkat
Anissa Berry Chilkat Canoe trip, Alaska 2017
Native Son '01-1
Iron Hawk with Ralph Ferrara, El Capitan 1999
Angela on the Root Glacier
Angela Carter on the Root Glacier, McCarthy Alaska 2013
Angela Wheelie
Angela Carter Riding Out a Wheelie
Dalton 2013
Dempster Highway Yukon 2013
AOTE @ Keystone-6
Angela going big in Keystone Colorado 2008
Heading Into a Wilderness of Snow Machine Tracks
Anissa Berry in the Nadahini Creek area, British Columbia 2017
Wet Denim '99-3
Wet Denim Daydream with Allan King 1999
Indian Creek '90
Indian Creek Utah 1995
Iron Hawk '99-11
Iron Hawk, El Cap 1999

 

Lyzz@Vedawouoo
Lyzz Byrnes tapin up for another Vedawouoo grind fest, 1999

Lunar Ecstasy

After sending this story to Rock and Ice, the Alpinist, and Climbing Magazine with no interest, I’ve decided to publish it to Just Rolling By for all to read, for better or worse. Enjoy!

 

LUNAR ECSTASY

By Linus Lawrence Platt

 The early nineties was a confusing, but glorious time for me in regard to bouncing from location to location in search of a climbing scene with the most caliber and diversity. Having spent a year and a half in Moab, then heading to Boulder for a 5 month stint there, I was ready once again for a change. I had the wall itch flowing in my veins and I figured a trip to Zion for a spell was in order; at least it wasn’t too far out of the way going to the Valley from Boulder. Driving west, I swing the decrepit van south onto Highway 191 to my old stomping grounds in Moab to hang with my buddy Kyle and learn that an avalanche in the La Sal mountains just outside of town has killed several of my friends. It was a long and grievous week that followed and when I finally did get back on the road,  I felt like I was heading to a gregarious gathering of climbing and new friends that I hadn’t yet met. Zion was calling.

Back in those days one could drive into the Park and scope out climbs and approaches, cook meals in your van, and pull off the occasional incognito bivouac at the Zion Lodge parking lot, which, on that late evening in February 1992, is exactly what I did. Being a newbie to the walls of Zion, I set my eyes on soloing the Touchstone Wall on the Cerberus Gendarme, figuring it to be a good initiation; even though Navaho Sandstone was not unfamiliar to me, jumping in moderately seemed appropriate, especially solo. I fix the first couple of aid pitches and rap for a retreat to town. Later that night, at the Bit and Spur sitting at the bar, I strike up a conversation with local Springdale climber Brad Quinn, who mentions he wouldn’t mind doing the Touchstone with me if I wanted the company. Brad was a sandy haired, good natured fellow who was born and raised in Rockville and Springdale, making him a true local. His list of activity and first ascents in Zion were impressive and being so easy to get along with made me want his company on this climb; I liked him immediately. I say “Sure Thing” and by the next evening, we are happily descending from the Gendarme’s summit. The day had gone without a hitch and Brad and I seemed a good pair. On the descent, while simul-rapping, Brad tells me of an unclimbed route he had been scoping for a couple of years or so…  A thin line to the left of the omnipotent classic, Moonlight Buttress.

In those times, Brad’s house, the “Rock House”, named for it’s construction of stone blocks, proximity to the park entrance and world class bouldering, and the fact that it’s occupants were all climbers, was the de facto hang of the Zion Wall climbing scene; the Camp 4 of Zion, if you will. 1992 was an exciting year to be in Zion; there was an abundance of activity in the park that season and it was the year that I met the likes of Barry Ward, John Middendorf, Alan Humphrey, Jeff Hollenbaugh, Chris Circello, Eric Ramussen, Darren Cope, and many, many others.  An unusually high number of quality, modern classic aid lines were ticked that year. Brad and I spent hours at the Rock House contemplating his new proposed route, but it wasn’t for a couple more days ’till we drove up canyon to have a serious look. After scoping with binoculars and scribbling notes, we are certain it will go; thinking it will most likely be a semi difficult nail-up. Later, Ron “Piton Ron” Olevsky, a fixture of Zion climbing back then, had told us he had “scoped the line” but deemed it “too thin to climb in good conscience”. Thin was what we were looking for and the thought of such a new route stoked us up.

After a couple of days of free climbing, swimming in the river, and Brad showing me his secret bouldering circuit, we began the process of getting together the gear and logistics for the adventure ahead. Two days later, after procuring the necessary hardware and food, we found ourselves fiording the Virgin River and humping our loads to the base of the route. In an attempt to create a line of originality and a sense of it’s own, we opted not to follow the first couple of pitches of Moonlight Buttress, but instead start in a left leaning corner system that branched off Moonlight’s first 60 feet that we hoped would lead to the steep and monolithic features that characterize much of the route. And lead us to those features it did, but 2 or pitches of less than desirable rock had ensued to attain this. Such was the price. The first “real” pitch was one that concerned us slightly, as it appeared from the road to be a featureless wall of scallops and traversing that we certainly took for granted to be a drill fest. Upon casting off on this “Half Moon Traverse”, Brad found the pitch to be a mixture of drilled and natural hooking, some nailing, and the crafty use of Tri-Cams. After cleaning said pitch, I arrived to find Brad standing there, on a tiny ledge, the headwall we had so appreciably desired looming above his shoulders, and a shit-eating grin adorning his mustached face, with the wind blowing his sandy hair above his boater’s cap, signifying we had reached our goal and the route was under way. While perched upon that tiny ledge at our day’s high point, a clear view of the thinnest part of the route above lay clearly visible, even in the waning daylight. The crack in question was not even a seam at the level of this “Farewell Ledge”; in fact it didn’t become a feature capable of accepting even the thinnest of Bird Beaks for at least a couple of body lengths. We drill 3 bolts, rap to the deck, and head to the Rock House for celebration.

We spend the next 24 hours resting and getting some thin nailing gear together, revamping our drill kit, and swedging together rivet hangers and other miscellaneous. The year before, while putting up routes near Moab, Kyle Copeland, who had the year prior, made the first ascent of The Fang in Zion with John Middendorf, taught me a trick for an alternative to bathooking on sandstone. He would drill a 3/8″ hole, about 3/8″ deep, and instead of bat hooking the hole, tapped a Bird Beak into it. it’s removal could be achieved by a simple twist and the Beak would simply pop out. I figured that to reach the portion of the seam that would finally take gear would require a technique such as this, so we adjusted our drill bag accordingly. That evening, hitting the sack early, I dreamt of flawless vertical fractures and of pitons and of great exposure and of seeing the world from high above the earth. I sleep.

After jugging up fixed lines to Farewell Ledge, the sharp end is mine, and I cast off; a series of drilled Beak and hook moves then finally a sequence of Beaks in the fissure, gain reward by means of tied off KB’s, giving way to tied off Arrows. By the time I  sunk in a Baby Angle, I was in looking at a possible 60 footer right onto Brad. Finally getting in some TCU’s provided relief, and at ropes end, I drill another belay. Brad’s next lead was a dream pitch consisting of perfection in the form of  a parallel splitter, mostly blue Alien size. Leapfrogging this outstanding pitch, provided not one of the hardest, but certainly one of the best pitches of the route. Cleaning the pitch found me arriving at the belay with Brad already having set up the porta-ledge and sipping a victory beer. Soon joining in after organizing the rack for the following morning, I too felt the immense sense of gratitude, being on this magnificent first ascent of such a fine line, relaxing on the porta-ledge our first night out, sipping beer, and watching the phosphorescent moon rise above the north face of Angel’s Landing, we felt a place of purpose and dignity in the world. Soon we sleep… That night, very late, I awake and peer into the deep sky of night and the stars and moon come alive within me and I feel as free as any Man on Earth. The canyon’s presence is a deep impression in my soul and being on this climb, this wall, imposes a larger than life sensation that is a parallel to my own life and why I am here.

We are up before the sun and soon I am slithering up a thin KB corner, then gently tip toeing across a sizable Amoeba flake that seems to be entirely detached from the stone. Once past the offending protozoa, I am able to drill a Beak hook past a blank section where the corner changes direction; a dicey free move deposits me onto a small ledge and I am grateful for it. We are moving with intent on this new route: not too fast but not too slow; after Brad fires off another straightforward pitch, a big ledge appears and we are in the mood to relax and enjoy our last night on the route. The porta-ledge is assembled, regardless of the big ledge, and our gear spread out in a luxuriant fashion for reorganizing. Sleep comes earlier than usual and allows us an early start in the morning for what turns out to be the unexpected crux of the route: the final pitch.

After packing the bags and putting away the ledge in anticipation of descending from this Stone, I cast off, up a loose corner, and peer above. A headwall of steep and varnished rock looms wildly above. I consider this for a moment, and decide that it could be a time consuming nail fest and in the interest in getting off this route, opt for an escape to it’s right. On the third ascent of the route, Brad Jarret climbed this headwall and that’s the way it’s been done ever since. Traversing under the headwall, I spy an easy looking flake system that is topped by a small roof. Above, lay a shallow and sinister looking groove that spirals to the summit. I clamber up the hollow sounding flakes, aid climbing on questionable hardware, tossing in the occasional free move to shake it up, and peer beyond the roof. I can see the top, but to get there, I’ll have to pull some tricks out of the bag. Over the roof, a sloping hook and a KB put me into the groove and I can see all of it’s inability to receive gear. After fumbling with Beaks in the back of the groove to no avail, a small Tri-Cam decides to stick long enough for me to fire in a LA at the feature’s end. Soon I am running up 5.6 slabs with abandon and latching arms around the Juniper tree at the top. Brad cleans and I haul the worst haul of my life: the nasty ‘ol pig scraping loudly across loose choss and sandy slabs, all the while knocking debris onto Brad’s vulnerable skull. Soon and without mishap, Brad and I are standing on the summit, grinning wildly and filled with ecstasy that we pulled of a fine climb. A quick scramble down some 3rd class blocks puts us onto the paved tourist trail where friends are waiting to help hump loads to the bottom and ease our pain; we are a grateful pair, Brad and I.

Throughout the climb, I had been shooting pictures and once on the deck, I was anxious to get them developed for a slide show at the Rock House once we were settled and de-rigged. A couple days later, I stroll into the photo joint in Springdale to pick up the shots and look them over quickly on their light table. Anxious, I split for the Rock House where a party ensues. The photos, having never been looked at that night, were set aside and in a drunken haze, I crawl into my van for some much needed slumber. Upon entering the Rock House the following morning, I see Brad pacing nervously. Looking upset, he seems to be searching; the picture are gone he says. Only a couple of loose slides lying on the table remained.  Somehow, over the course of the evening party, the photos of the climb had disappeared. We spent the next few days searching and hoping they would turn up, but alas, they never did. A snapshot of climbing history vanished.

A week following, on the second ascent of Lunar Ecstasy, as we called the route, Jim Funsten, on that last mysterious pitch, couldn’t get the Tri-Cam to stick and wound up drilling a bolt at the crux. Such is the evolution of an aid climb, especially one on sandstone. Later, on the 3rd ascent, Brad Jarrett avoided the funky last pitch altogether and climbed the steep headwall at last, providing not another crux, but another fine pitch to the route. After Lunar X, I stayed in Zion for another 6 or 7 months, ticked off a few more walls, made a little money, and headed to The Valley in the Fall.

 

Tales of Babel

Back in 1990, when I was a new to Moab, I wrote this story about a rock climbing experience that I had in Arches Nat’l Park. Sadly, the names of the people in the story, my friends’ Kyle Copeland, Mark Bebie, and Charlie Fowler, have all passed on.  My friend Sue Kemp helped me edit this many years back, and get it ready for publication in the now defunct magazine “Mountain”.  I decided at a later point, to not submit the story, and it has been shelved ever since. This is it’s first public appearance ever. Sue also gave up the ghost  a few years back.

RIP my friends…

TALES OF BABEL

It is a land free of disease.. It’s taste is of sweetness, not bitter.  It’s ancient varnish gleams like rust, redeeming it’s own relic nature.  Nowhere is there a place like it.  Tower’s and mesa’s touch the heavens’, reaching, searching, wandering..  solidified cathedrals of ancient sands, now standing and waiting to fall, split only by flawless vertical fractures, perfect and parallel, toward the Great Sky.

Sunday morning, a crack of noon start, a religious pilgrimage to the Main Street Broiler in Moab, to fill my lethargic body with life giving caffeine, slaps me into noticing what a fine day it is for desert climbing.

I leave the Broiler, strolling through town enroute to Kyle’s house in hopes of a day of craggin’.  No avail; I approach his doorstep, but suddenly remember all too well he is out of town for a couple of weeks.  But there is a note stuck to the door from yet another friend:

“Splibb, I got to town the other day, but couldn’t find you to do Zenyatta, so I’m on it solo.. Should be off it in a couple days, maybe Sunday afternoon.” – Mark

I guess Mark knew well enough how to get a message to me, but I wish he’d found me in time. In this red desert, the cracks are sometimes surgically perfect, or the quality of the rock often resembling sugar or mud, forming towers that make you wonder why they still stand as you look at them.  The Tower of Babel in Arches Nat’l Parking Lot, is one such tower.  Though not truly a tower at all, really, it sports 6 pitch walls, 1500 feet across, that come to narrow, square cut buttresses at either end.  Although it doesn’t appear to be falling down, when climbing upon it’s super soft Entrada Sandstone, one may envision it melting away with the coming of a heavy rain.  It’s most classic route, Zenyatta Entrada, put up by Charlie Fowler in 1986, is a line of all lines that bisects the fin-like southwest buttress.  It’s name mimicking a longer, once desperate nailup on a bigger stone further west.

“Shit!” it thought, it’s Sunday afternoon already, I’m too late.  “Might at least catch the final act of the show.”  With binoculars and gear, I race to Arches in hopes of catching him before he splits.  As I pull off the road, I see him even before I exit the van; he is plastered to the final A4 pitch like a slow, mutant lizard in the hot desert sun.  I watch through binoculars, gripped for him as he finishes and cleans the pitch.  Once done, I scream to him to meet me at the Rio for suds and celebration.

Later, at the pub, I tell him that I really want to bag Zenyatta, but now, minus a partner, it would have to be given the same treatment he’d given it:  solo.  Mark ponders the last couple of days a bit and remarks, “Zenyatta hasn’t seen many ascents, so it’s not totally beaten out.  It’s still plenty scary, with soft nailing and some super dicey nutting; just funky enough to be exciting!”

Leaving the pub in a rather poisoned stupor, I went home to fall into a deep, hazy sleep, with Zenyatta filling my mind as I hit the pillow.  I awake, not hungover, but psyched for what lay ahead.

Moab is a place where the world can, at times, seem to pass by unnoticed, a continuing saga of the desert and it’s ancient past.  The people that live there are as much a part of the gleaming red rocks and the shrub covered landscape.  They survive the unbearably hot summers and the cold, unemployed winters because they belong there. This is where their souls exist.

A lengthy trip through town to acquire the necessities dulled my senses.  With mark’s gear beta in hand, I set off to collect what I lacked in the iron department, plus stops at Rim Cyclery to pick up a new lead rope, Pemican Bars from the Co-Op, and a brief visit to Matrimony Springs to fill my bottles, put me at the base by noon.

The first three pitches flew by rather quickly and with surprising ease; an intricate mixture of nailing and nutting in a perfect knifeblade sized crack system that shot directly toward they summit, interrupted only by two short traverses that were cruxes.

This route lies “Where a drop of water will fall from the summit”.  Who said that any way?  The top of the third pitch, it’s getting late, so I decide to fix and rap.  I scan the Canyonlands skyline, burning hot and red, a land time and humankind has left alone.  It’s hostile beauty surrounded by three great mountain ranges, The Abajos, The La Sals, and The Henry mountains, as if left there to protect it’s hidden wealth of fortune and splendor.

I drive back to Moab in my archaic van in search of shower, suds, and Mark.  Two out of three were all I found, as Mark has left for Seattle to prepare for an expedition to climb a new route in the Karakoram.  “Lucky bastard”, I think, yet I know of the magnificence that lie right here.

Jumaring up fixed lines in the morning, I’m happy I’ll be on top by dusk, if all goes well; satisfied in knowing that yet another dessert tower is in The Bag.  The next pitch, one of the route’s cruxes, is like an interminable disease.  My mind is fighting me in this stretching traverse of tied off knifeblades and strangely stacked leeper’s.  Sixty feet of horror puts me to a few bad RP placements, and and one crumbling hook, earns me a perfect  #1-1/2 Friend crack, that, were it right off the ground, would be one primo 5.11+ free climb.  Soloing with clove hitches sees me aiding past with ease.  I polish off the last 20 feet and clip the belay.  Relief washes over me.  It’s over, only 3 1/2 hours after starting.

I rap, clean, and jumar, trying to get psyched for the next pitch – an A3 nailing corner capped by a large roof leading to yet another crux traverse.  Sliding up the corner, glibly dabbling in sideways lost arrows, the roof above somehow plants the seed of fear in my soul.  Ten feet below the roof,the only thing I can get in is a shitty #1 RP with it’s wires badly frayed from repeated sloppy removals.  I test it and the wires snap, leaving the “opportunity” for a more creative placement:  a leper hook in the back of blown out pin scar.  A Bird Beak and some other nebulous bullshit finds my aiders clipped to a drilled pin, half sticking out, beneath the five foot roof.  Once out the roof, the only placement in sight is  a perfectly bottomed out, 1″ deep hole.  I fire in a 2″ bong, tie it off, and start bouncing it.  Seeming do-able, I get on it, realizing all too well the rope now lies it’s course over the outside edge of the dihedral.  Sweating bullets and filled with terror, I understood it’s implications; I have no choice.  Reaching eye level with the bong, I am catapult into the atmosphere like a reject astronaut, rocketing straight towards hell and the scorching desert floor.

Enough slack in the system allows me to drop 25 feet before the rope begins to come tight.  As it does, I hear the sound of death, the sound of rope being sawed, the sounds of threads and fibers being ripped apart.  Flying around the back side of the moon and back, I look up to see if I’d been spared or not.  A 6″ section of utterly mangled rope was all that kept me from becoming a part of the talus below.

Adrenaline shoots painfully through my body as I tie the rappel line to every placement in the corner I can find.  Only then do I gingerly begin to jumar the wretched rope and onto the marginal safety beyond the cut.

Once there, a quick examination reveals less than 1/3 of my new ropes core still intact!!  I’d had enough.  At the drilled pin that held my fall, I drill another next to it and decide to rap.  So much for that.

Driving back to Moab, I begin to fully respect the seriousness of the testpieces found elsewhere on the Tower of Babel; the Jim Beyer nightmares put up just a couple of years back, in the late 80’s.

For the next two weeks, I didn’t climb at all.  Only when another friend from Seattle, Lee Cunninham, shows up and talks me into doing Standing Rock in Monument Basin, did my interest spark again.  Driving to Grandview Point, in Canyonlands, my thoughts were excited, but my memory still fresh with Zenyatta.  After downclimbing 1000 feet of 4th class chose, we crossed the White Rim and made a short rappel into Monument Basin.

Standing Rock is one of those towers that seems as though it could topple if the wind blew hard enough: a 400 foot totem of Cutler Sandstone that is, at best, 35 feet thick; a toothpick.

We fix the first pitch and bivy at the base under the spring desert sky.  On the summit by ten o’clock the next morning, we are delighted to find that ours is only the 16th ascent in 20 years.

Filled with an enlightened feeling of beauty and obscurity from climbing in this spiritual place, we hiked backed to the car in 95 degree heat, lusting for the warm beer stashed in the trunk.  We knew why we climbed here and why so many did not.  There is no fooling anybody in Canyonlands, where the climbing and the environment seem more real to me than any other place on earth.

Every time I drive past the Tower of Babel, I see it smiling at me, giving me the finger as I hurry past, yet I know I’ll return to this place time and time again, for when life’s bizarre scenarios seem like a wasted hell, the red rocks whisper to me, telling me that it really doesn’t matter.

The Tower of Babel