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[TR] Wyoming's Wind River Range - The Untold Tale 8/2/2015

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Trip: Wyoming's Wind River Range - The Untold Tale


Date: 8/2/2015


Trip Report:


Many years ago, I was lured into the vertical world by the adventurous spirit of friends, by the unique way of experiencing something entirely private, fun and free. But as the years passed, I developed a strange infatuation with competition, with climbing up the grading system. Climbing became less exploratory, more routine. It became less adventurous, more about short, physical bursts. It became like sex with my wife.


In an effort to rekindle this lost love, I teamed up with my best buddy, Jeff Kirkham, to venture into the prehistoric depths of Wyoming's Wind River Range, with aspirations of climbing a new route on a remote peak.


We trekked through a wild land littered with towering 13,000-foot summits. Great bounding waterfalls plunged between them into deep, aquamarine pools. The sweet sap of twisted pine added a pleasant tang to the crisp mountain air. A rugged, soaring spire stood proudly before us. A swiveling line weaved up through the main part of the south-facing wall, threading between huge pillars of smooth, golden granite embedded with glinting flecks of mica. Undocumented, unclimbed, and with a humbling lesson to teach us.


For 5 pitches, we boogied and waltzed up the face, crimping along rippling slabs and jamming up unbroken chains of cracks, driven by the transcendent hit of first-ascent euphoria. The cracks were mostly mud-filled, but occasionally,we stumbled upon mysterious clean sections, just big enough for cams, as if created just for us by a generous genius of the mountain.




The angle began to ease, the climb was almost over. I slinked up a mottled face, following the only obvious line.

"How about The Golden Virgin?" Jeff hollered from the belay below. A white smear of dusty lichen captured my attention. It sheltered beneath an undercling, almost as if it was a chalk print.


"A name for the route."

I stroked my fingers along the golden granite, carefully caressing and cupping contours. Virgin rock, touched for the first time.

The Golden Virgin. I imagined it printed alongside our names in the next guidebook.

"Dude, that sounds..." I began. But something a few meters above seized my gaze, halted my speech. It twinkled in the sun, it stole my pride with a sparkle, and replaced it with humility. I stepped up and came eye-to-eye with the evidence of an untold tale; a tale which dwarfed mine and Jeff's ascent into insignificance.

"That sounds what?" Jeff asked.

A nut, fairly new but well used, was stuck in a shallow fissure. The only logical way to that precise point was via the route we'd climbed. The white smear, the clean sections for cams, it all made sense. I tugged the nut upwards, then hesitated, caught between greed and honesty.


I could hide the evidence from Jeff. We could claim the first ascent. We could get sponsorship and be famous. I tugged again. It popped out.Why would someone climb this incredible route and not tell the story?

"Man, this is so awesome, just being here. I could totally spend my life doing this, every day." Jeff 's words floated up, unknowingly answering my question.


It was awesome. The clear sky was saturated with sapphire, azure and cobalt hues. An ancient Precambrian thrust fault extended to the south like the bony spines of giant dinosaurs. To the east, miles of Paleozoic spikes were exposed above patches of weathered glaciers in a series of hogbacks and slopes; the chilling aftermath of a Stegosaurus war that was frozen mid-battle, and then transformed into stone. From those towering monoliths, an astute understanding emerged:Whether we were the first, or the thousandth, to climb that particular route, the real achievement is to have shared the journey with a great friend, for having wisely spent this precious thing we call 'time' on something fun and memorable.


Maybe the real first-ascentionists' climbed for the fun of it, for the adventure. Or it could be that they sought a harder challenge than the climb; to keep it secret.


I slotted the nut back in place, giving it a hard tap with my nut tool. Perhaps the most impressive tales are those which remain untold.


Read more stories like this in the free VDiff magazine www.vdiff.co.uk




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