We wanted to climb a tower before we left, because, well, it’s the desert.
Indian Creek has amazing cragging, but whenever friends and I go we always make sure to tick off at least one tower. Last November I found myself in a familiar campsite at the foot of the Bridger Jacks, with partners/friends Fritz Carpenter and Aki Joy.
We’d been cragging around The Creek for five days and were itching to get on something longer than 20 meters. Aki had come across a climb called “Vision Quest” on the Bridger Jacks, while thumbing through the guidebook. With a name like that how could we not give it a go?
The way I remember it, it was supposed to go at +5.10/-5.11. The first pitch was the hardest. A thin finger crack blasted up a right facing corner that took you to the belay. Aki cruised it, and Fritz and I managed to get our selves up it. At the top, we were stoked to have the hard part done. It was an old route judging by the single bolt belay (the year before a second bolt was placed in every belay, THANKS). It was old school. Frtiz looked up at P2, a 5.10d offwidth. It was old school. “Should have brought the valley giant” Fritz said.
“I’m going to try to go left side in!” Fritz shouted down to Aki and I, two hours later. “I thought he was going to say he was going to back off,” I said to Aki.
From the time Fritz left the belay, to now, he’d been fighting up the pitch inch by inch. He didn’t have enough big cams to say the least. He bumped a #5 with him for the first 15 feet. Right from then we knew it was going to be a full value pitch. Fortunately for Aki and I, Fritz is hilarious. No matter what the climb he’s always yelling, huffing and puffing. From 5.8-5.11 you’d think it was a fight for his life. This time it felt a bit more like that.
Fritz’s efforts came in bouts. He’d fight for 5 minutes and make a little progress then rest. This lasted until he got himself into the chest-sized crack. Attempting several times to go right side in, he inched down to try left side in. He bumped cams, chicken winged, humped and groveled his way up into a cramped position under a small roof. Close to three hours later after he left our belay he was off belay.
Three hours. I’ll always remember that lead. Three hours is a hell of a long time.
After I followed up, I came across an utterly beat Fritz. Once all three of us were at the belay, Aki started pulling gear from Fritz, who was just sitting in his harness whipping sand from his eyes. Three hours. Not once did Aki or I yell to hurry up (we were in the shade for most of the climb). No. We knew that Fritz was in it. We wanted him to get up it. He had every right to back off. He tried damn hard. But, he didn’t.
The last two pitches proved to be just as exciting. Aki fought through the crux of pitch three with an extremely calm mind. Fritz and I nervously encouraged him not to take a factor two onto the belay. I set off on the final 5.9 PG-13 pitch. After passing the physical crux, a steep fist crack section off the belay, I came to the psychological crux. The icing on the cake of Vison Quest.
I pondered it a bit. Poking around the slabs between the two towers. I poked around a bit more. I built a belay and decided it was beyond my repertoire. Aki took over and stemmed up between the two towers. A few face moves on one tower, then a few moves on the other tower. It was run out, and the excising gear was sandy horizontal placement.
The whole time, Aki hooted and hollered as the sunset. After a bit of the wildest climbing any of us had done we topped out one by one. We marveled at the desert as the sunset.
It really was a Vision Quest. It pushed us all. It was what climbing should be. As I was writing, I texted Fritz “Remember Vision Quest?” His response, “Sooooo good.”
That sums it up. It was so good.
Words and Images by Seth of SethlangBauerPhotography.com