SCARPA athletes, Andy Raether and Rob Pizem, set out to have some fun in the Narrows in Zion. Andy Raether gives us a humorous account of their week of climbing. Although he claims to he was “scared, scraped and spent” from the trip, he also admits he would do it again.
A few weeks ago I received a call from my good friend, Rob Pizem. He was phoning to see how things were going. We chatted for a while catching up. While talking about the usual B.S, he moved the conversation toward the real reason for getting in touch. Rob needed a partner for Zion. Who better, and more unsuspecting than me? Of course I immediately said yes. Why not? I thought to myself. I am a climber. I climb. I know what I am doing…wrong. Oh well, I needed a break from the monotony of projecting. What better way to break up that routine than getting wet, scared and covered in dirt. Part of our “rack” was a broom.
Apparently my saying yes to Rob’s offer prompted a few puzzled responses from some people. Essentially: “Him?”, “really?”, “that guy?” Knowing Rob, I could be fairly sure that as I said yes, on the other side of the phone was his grinning, mischievous face. Bobbing his head with excitement, Rob knew that we were going to have an adventure.
Specifically Rob had asked me to accompany him to put up routes in the Narrows of Zion. This would require a week of hiking nearly three miles up canyon in a river every day. This was on top of doing new routes. The only other time I have “climbed” in Zion was also with Rob. This was about five or six years ago, when he and Mike Anderson were working the Dunn route on Angels Landing. Mike had gotten sick and Rob needed an auto-belay. Any monkey would do, and that monkey was me. I jumared up about 500 feet and clipped into a belay for about six hours, while Rob proceeded to whip onto Metolius 0’s all day long. So for this upcoming trip what better person to ask than me? I had it all.
The last time that I had visited the Narrows was when I was a child, or more of a child. I met Rob in Hurricane, UT on Monday morning. This was after having worked till 2am both Saturday and Sunday nights. I was bursting with energy. We drove to the park. We got on the bus, and listened to the audio tour of the park. The voice droned on about Mormons this, landslide that, and some euphemism about the natives having to “adjust” to changes. I wasn’t really listening.
Finally, we made it to the narrows hike. We walked the paved trail to where you get into the water. We both put on our thrift store waders which we hoped would keep us perfectly dry. Stepping into the water, our waders both filled with water. Yay! Rob was in a worse state than I was as he seemed to be carrying a pool around in one boot while mine only made me just wet enough to be completely uncomfortable. At least we were warm.
The first day, the hike to our spot took nearly an hour through the river, but as the week progressed we cut that time down a bit. During the entire week neither of us fell in the drink, but there were many close calls.
Once we got to a spot of interest we put down our gear and chose an obvious left-leaning splitter that ended up being a one-and-done affair we called River Radar 5.10-. Great climb – no muss no fuss. It was clean – no dirt, no sand. Nice job, Rob. After that it was my turn. I walked 60 feet up canyon to a line and started up it. I got worked. Near the bottom, I broke a foot hold and what broke my near-fall was the skin on my hand in a hand-jam. After that I mostly aided. About halfway up the route my feeble aid skills pooped out, and I called for the big guns (Rob). I felt better in that after taking over, Rob’s aiding still looked somewhat sketchy, but really it wasn’t. After getting to the top Rob trundled a few blocks, brushed a few holds and fired it off. Route number two, Wet your Pants 5.11. Done.
I thought, two routes in one day this place is cake. Apparently though the last three or four times in the Narrows Rob had gotten skunked. This trip we were able to put up three single pitch routes, and one five pitch route.
Our next project was a line that we eventually dubbed Baby Ruth in the Pool. Charming. Sending this route took three days of work. Rob sent more of the pitches than I did. I picked up the slack by belaying, and eating a lot of sand. I call that joke – “even Steven”. The first pitch of Baby Ruth was the crux, and the one pitch of the week that I got the first ascent of. Lucky for me it was 5.13. My first try I got worked. I did not do much correctly except for the crux, and even then… The rock on the first pitch was not just water worn, but also shiny. Also the gear is thin, and precise. Being an expert in none of those things I was feeling pretty confident. Within my first three tries it still felt quite hard, but at least I knew I could send. Luckily, on my fourth try I made it, barely. Also, just to hit all my weaknesses the last two pieces of gear are sizes #5, #6 Camalot’s. This was the first time that I had even placed either of those two sizes.
The next pitch is an overhanging offwidth chimney. Rob crushed it first try, and I got crushed. The third pitch on the route wins the beauty pageant. It is a big steep varied 5.12 roof that overhangs at least 15-20 feet way up above the river. Again, Rob FA’ed this pitch while I belayed in a pile of sand. At least he sent it the second try. The fourth pitch was a 5.11 roof and the fifth was a 5.10 offwidth chimney. Both of which I found to be heinous. It was awesome.
On our last day in the canyon photographer Andy Burr showed up and took pictures. We joked around and shot some pics and had a great time. Rob and I also put up a 5.9 single pitch where the “rap” anchor was a bush that luckily was very safely anchored to a pile of sand. I actually took a lead fall while shooting Baby Ruth. Aw yeah, soak it in ladies. Next stop: soloing moonlight.
Rarely in a climbing trip have I gotten as scared, scraped or spent. Yet even getting as dirty and as wet as I did, I would do it again and again. Writing this essay several days later I am still worked. However this trip to the Narrows was a fun and fantastic experience with a great friend.