I don’t know if I’ve ever been so cold while climbing…
I’m currently working with James Garrett on the second edition of his Ibex and West Desert guidebook. I had a few questions about Ibex, so James and I headed out there to clear some things up and maybe even do a little climbing. The weather called for rain and temps in the 50s, so it was hit or miss.
I’d been bouldering at Ibex before, but had never done any of the routes. The one time I went bouldering there (in spring 2008, I believe), I couldn’t stop staring up at the cliffs. I mean sure, bouldering is fun, but I’d rather get a bit higher off the ground.
I woke up at 5 and James called me a couple minutes later, and we agreed that he would meet me at the Wal-Mart in Orem at 5:45 and then we’d drive down in his car. The drive took about 3 hours, which was a little more than I remember it taking. Sure enough, the weather was a bit blustery, but still sunny. There was a group of older women there climbing (James knew a couple of them), and we stopped and chatted for a while before checking out the crag. To make a long story short, we pretty much walked the entire Ibex crag from left to right. It took a couple hours, since we stopped to talk about certain routes and walls along the way.
By the time we were done, the clouds had moved in and it had gotten significantly colder. There were even a few scattered raindrops. We stopped by to say hi to the women again and they made us some amazing sandwiches. Thanks, ladies! Then they left and James and I decided to get on a route. The route James wanted to do (I didn’t care what we did; I hadn’t done any climbing there so I was open to anything) was one put up the week before by some visiting Tyrolean climbers. It was called Light and Shadow, checked in at 5.11b R, and was three pitches long (plus two more pitches of an existing route to the top of the formation). The route goes up the beautiful slab to the right of the beautiful crack/corner of Absorption on the Shadow Buttress.
James wanted the first pitch (5.9) and I obliged. It was a long pitch and a bit runout, even with a few small cams supplementing the bolts. I got the second pitch, which started with some sweet moves over a roof (with some serious ledge fall potential if you fall before clipping the second bolt!) to some more runout climbing on easier terrain. The crux third pitch was also runout, but James kept his head together and fired the sucker. The climbing was really cool; beautiful little crimpers on bullet-hard quartzite.
The fourth and fifth pitches were mine and I combined them. The fourth pitch involved some really cool climbing on an arete. I even got to use a toe hook on the arete, which is always fun. The next short pitch goes out over a bulge. It goes free at 5.12, but I French freed it at 5.10/5.11ish. The view from the top of the route was pretty amazing. We could see all of the Ibex dry lake bed below us, and through breaks in the cloud cover we caught glimpses of Notch Peak to the north.
I forgot to mention that the wind started to really kick up for those last few pitches. And by kick up I mean 50 mile an hour winds! It was intense! The plummeting temperature didn’t help, either. We had to make several rappels down the face, which were somewhat unpleasant in such strong winds. I had a lightweight shell jacket and James had a softshell. I was afraid that I was going to get hypothermia or something, I was shaking uncontrollably and my hands were frozen.
Anyway, moral of the story: it was an epic climb. Great rock, sweet climbing (though runout), crappy weather, Two out of three ain’t bad, right? The weather didn’t get any better on the drive home; it was actually raining harder than I’d seen in a long time in Utah. But least we weren’t climbing in it by then…