After initially pulling up to a “beeg meat steak” (our lingo for a big mistake) — the most available campsite was an RV park with one small gravel square for us all to sleep on–we found 3 campsites to set up our tarps. Nicholas, our instructor, decided to sleep on a picnic table (a weird but charming personal choice) and another instructor, Sam, slept in the van. Before we slept, and after getting in very late we downed 200 dollars worth of very mediocre pizza in 10 minutes. Douglas would llike us to put down for the record that he really liked the pizza!
We had pizza because we were unable to do our food shopping on that day, due to weather and other delays, so we shopped the next day. It worked out perfectly because it was snowing when we woke up so we couldn’t climb. Poor Chaney crumbled onto the grocery store floor because she had a migraine and Nicholas had to pick her up and roll her out in a shopping cart–Nicholas saved the day! That night we moved to the group campsite which had a pavilion that we all slept under for the rest of the expedition. We tied the tarps around the pavilion to create walls. Chaney recovered and she, Yael, and Hazel spontaneously decided to sleep in the trailer due to the snow. It was not the most comfortable.
The next morning it was still snowing so we drove through Zion National Park. We stopped for a day hike and took a break for a snowball fight that resulted in Ethan bruising Brittany–our instructor– with a juicy snowball (the bruise is still there 10 days later — thanks Ethan!). We also celebrated Courtney’s birthday on this day with a delicious cheesecake!
Our first day of climbing! We hiked an hour to Lime Kiln crag and learned how to belay, tie ourselves into the harness, and the commands we would use for climbing. We went to Lime Kiln, which is a limestone rock, instead of Snow Canyon, which is sandstone, because the rain from the previous days waterlogged the sandstone making it fragile and dangerous to climb when wet. Climbing was rough because it was still very cold, but we all still got in at least one introductory climb.
On Day 5 we went to Kelly’s Rock and learned how to tie essential knots and hitches. We progressed to belaying without backup belayers and took each other’s lives into our hands. We all survived! We also met a cute two-year-old girl named Mallory and the “legend”: Mallory’s dad. We picked up the rain boots that little Mallory left at the climbing crag. Our group has become quite the crew of pranksters over the course of this expedition. A lovely, mystery person put handfuls of rocks in every single pocket of Virginia’s backpack, including the laptop sleeve. After a hysterically passionate mock-trial during our daily evening debrief, in which consistent pranksters Sam, Mir, and Krain were blamed, it was revealed that Irati was the true culprit.
That night the wind was so strong that a cooking table blew over for the first of many times, this time onto the sleeping Hazel and Virginia. They are fine! The next morning we woke up to yet another snow day, and therefore couldn’t climb. We went on a day hike at Snow Canyon State Park. The group was in a weird mood that day-we were disappointed that we didn’t get to climb and the uncertainty of the day got to people.
The energy picked back up the next day as we returned to climbing at the Lime Kiln crag. We learned how to make “EARNEST” anchors to secure the rope to the top of the climb. EARNEST is a mnemonic device that helps you remember how to properly set up a rope. We ran into Mallory again who was giggling on a harness swing that her dad had created for her. We tried to return her boots but realized that we had left them at the campsite.
It was still too wet to climb on sandstone, and we wanted to try a new place, so we decided to go to a secret crag that was not in the guide book. Brad, an HMI employee, sent us the GPS location to a limestone crag in Laverkin, UT, and we piled into the van and hoped for the best. The rock had sharp micro-features that were like holds in a climbing gym and cut our fingers. Zach helped us out by leaving trails of blood along the routes for us to find our way. He is also totally fine now.
On day 9 we finally made our way to Snow Canyon, which was our intended crag for the expedition, to climb sandstone. There were limited features on the rock due to the nature of sandstone, so we learned new techniques like smearing. One climb used the entire 80-meter rope and was the longest climb of the exped. It scared everyone, including Brittany, when she was lead climbing the route but we all had a blast climbing it!
Back at Laverkin the instructors set up lots of hard routes for us. They were challenging and frustrating but made us excited about progressing. We returned to camp to find everything had blown over. We spent a while searching for all our stuff and even found Chaney’s sleeping pad a football field away. Brittany jumped at this opportunity to teach us about storm-proofing yet again.
On the last day we prepared for our next exped: rafting in the Grand Canyon. We went grocery shopping for our food, cleaned up camp, and packed our stuff accordingly. It was an emotional night because it was the last day with our instructor Nicholas. The wind was raging, so we all squeezed into the van and made each other paracord bracelets. We also learned, thanks to an Instagram story Nicholas found, that Mallory’s dad was hanging out with his friend–world-famous climber– Alex Honnold.
A few more highlights include:
Polar bear plunges
Showering in the sinks
A game of Assassin
Drinking peanut sauce
Bagel war between Nicholas and Hazel
Sleeping pad war also Nicholas and Hazel
Fossil rocks and Lava tubes with Sam