Each subsequent pitch, regardless of the grade, had some element of spice to it.
Whether it be route-finding, perilous choss, or terrifying runouts. The only 5.10 pitch on the route turned out to be one of the most terrifying leads of my life. Every move felt like climbing an overhanging sandcastle with extremely high consequences should you blow it. Legendary climber Arnaud Petit describes the experience nicely “The sandstone is sometimes more sand than stone… You are obliged to learn to use your whole body so as not to break a hold. It’s more than climbing on your feet.” The closer we got to the summit, fatigue set in, and the more automated our actions became. Climb, haul the bag, belay, off belay, swap the rack, repeat. Every so often we would be lured out of our habitual cycle by the call to prayer playing loudly from the mosque in the village far below.
As the evening rolled away, Heather and I found ourselves simul-climbing the final easy pitches to the summit of the formation. We took a moment of reflection from the sandy summit plateau and listened to Salat al-maghrib: the call to prayer just after sunset. Throughout my travels, I’ve spent hundreds of hours sitting in cheap economy seats on aeroplanes and dwelling in the loneliness of being impossibly far from home. I’ve got enough chossy adventure routes in Utah to last me many lifetimes. What’s the point of travelling thousands of miles to seek them elsewhere? Is it the adventure, the culture, and the opportunity to break away from my homogenized life of comfort and amenities? Maybe the reason is bigger than that.