Confession of an Altar Boy
American Bishop Apologizes for Abuse, Pope calls it 'A Crime'.
A bit too late, I think as I read the headlines. Perhaps if I'd
known sooner. The media is aflame with stories of priests abusing
innocent boys. Everyday someone new comes forward with their
account of how a priest molested and scarred them for life. So I
guess it's time for me to come forward and tell my tale.
It was two years ago that the Priest caught my attention. From
the summit of the Rectory he stood there, beckoning to me to climb
inside his robe. Now the name Honeymoon Chimney seems particularly
My partner is Matthias, a 17-year-old German exhange student who
had previously done only a few pitches in the desert. But after
watching him climb in Indian Creek for three days, I have no
worries that he'll do fine on this climb.
After cobbling together route and gear information from many
sources, we're ready. However, a fateful mistake by Eric B. in
Desert Rock III is our doom: we take only one 60m rope.
As I look up the first pitch I think of Brutus's email. He
couldn't remember if he did it left or right side in. Maybe left.
Normally I'd say left too, but there's a bunch of face holds on
the left, so I start right-side-in. Fifteen minutes later I give
up on that, and allow myself to slowly slide back down the OW to
the ledge. Even though I have a thick rugby shirt on, my right
elbow now has a large floor-burn; first blood to the Priest.
We had run into fellow r.c'er Mitch Allen at Indian Creek, and
during the course of the conversations I told him of our plans for
the Priest. "Oh, that's a really good route", he said then paused.
"Actually, it made me puke. But it's a really good route." His
story of projectile vomiting after the offwidth reminded me of the
priest in The Exorcist.
After a rest I start up again, left side in. This goes much
better, except that it's very strenuous. You see, I've got small
feet (9.5) for my size (42" chest). If I had bigger feet, I could
heel-toe in a more vertical position. But as it is, I can only
get my chest in to my left nipple (I have a bruise there) and my
feet have to go deep into the crack to get purchase. Thus, I'm
climbing overhanging offwidth the entire way. It takes me about
an hour and several thousand calories to finish the pitch.
That skinny punk Matt can get totally inside the crack, both
hands and both feet! It takes him maybe 15 minutes to finish
the pitch. I'm bummed.
We're inside the Priest's robe. It's like being inside a narrow
room with a cathedral ceiling and a skylight at the top. Matt
starts chimneying with no pro. He finds a drilled angle, and
a cam placement, but it's still a wild lead to the next ledge.
Under the sky once more, I start up the notorius crux pitch.
Being tall and reasonably limber, I can bridge across the gap and
get my foot on a good hold on the upper tower, with my hands and
other foot on the lower tower. A no-hands move will get me across,
but the wind is blasting through the gap, and for several minutes I
just cower there waiting for a break. After getting across I study
the 11b face sequence above. I think I have it, but I don't, and
take a fall. Damn! Try again... Damn! The third time I find a
key foothold... that works, clip, done.
But I get some revenge on Matt. He's a bit too short to make the
bridge I did, the wind is knocking him around, and did I mention
the exposure there is pretty huge? He grabs the quickdraws and
is soon on the ledge.
Matt grabs the rack and starts up a fingercrack above the belay.
Since it has chalk all over it, and it's supposed to be 5.8, he
doesn't check the guide. After a couple falls we're both amazed.
So I fumble the guide out of my pocket... oh, the crack we want
is around the corner.
Once on the summit, an approaching storm means a hurried entry
in the log, some quick summit photos, and a rap down to the
next ledge with the rope clipped in loops on my harness. Our
60m barely reaches, and as I clip in, I lose one of the ends
and it blows out of sight around the tower. I yell up to Matt
to pull up that side of the rope, but the wind makes it
difficult. He pulls up the end but then tosses it down; gone
again. I manage to convey the idea that he must coil that end
and bring it with him. He does and fianlly we're both on the
ledge ready for the final rap.
Matt is halfway down when he looks up at me, "The rope doesn't
reach!" After appropiate cursing, since the storm is almost
upon us, I tell him to rap into the chimney and anchor to a
chockstone, most of which have slings on them (which makes
sense now!). I follow, but the wind, which is now gale force
between the towers, has blown the ropes into some sort of
constriction, and we can't pull the ropes.
I clip into a knot in the ropes and re-lead the final moves
into the narrow room, then bring Matt up. The wind is blowing
our voices away and rain is going sideways through the gap.
Clipping into the ropes again, I climb back up the chimney
until I can free the ropes and get on rappel. Then I
pendulum back into the room (ever pendulum in a chimney?)
and rap down to Matt.
By the time we set up on a chockstone and rap to our packs
about two hours have passed since we left the ledge. The
storm is gone, but it's still windy and we cheer when the
rope end slaps the ground next to us. Everything seems
fine, but the Priest isn't through abusing me yet.
I'm coiling the rope when WHACK! I'm in the fetal position
when realization comes to me; I've been hit in the head with
a rock. "Are you okay?" "No."
I look at my hand and it's covered in blood. I take my hat
off and see Matt's eyes go wide. Blood is flowing down my
forehead and into my eyes and ears. I tell Matt to get
bandages out of my pack, and we staunch the bleeding. I'm
scared but still thinking, so I get on my radio to call Suz
I'm really worried that I may have a concussion and pass out
or get stupid at an unlucky time (I've told Matt many times
that the approaches here can kill you.). I tell Suz to send
someone up the trail to meet us. Matt takes all the weight
and we start back towards Castleton, while I remind him of
all the symptoms of concussion. If I start acting weird,
sit on me and wait for help.
Luckily I'm not badly hurt, and I walk all the way down.
A mob of people meet us a two thirds of the way up the
Castleton trail and escort us to the cars. The doctor in
Moab is totally upbeat about my condition and puts in 6
staples while telling me what a great conversation piece
the scar will be when I'm old and lose my hair.
All we can figure is that pulling the rope down the chimney
loosened a rock, but it didn't fall right away. The wind
must've finished the job. It's a great route. It almost
killed me, but it's a great route.
Honeymoon Chimney, The Priest, Castle Valley.
BigBros #3 & 4
One set Friends, #1-#3
Set of nuts, 1/2" to 1.5"
Dozen quickdraws, 8 slings