The Line of the Week
When I left off last week I was covered in poison ivy and questioning my moves. I was deep in the Escalante and had some quality time on my hands.
Amongst the maroon colored canyon walls lay all types of insight into the past. Ruins and alcoves housed remnants of ancient cultures. Some of these remnants, like arrow heads lay right out in the open and all that is necessary is to open your eyes. Most of these remnants get passed by almost everyone. While the canyon itself was a source of natural beauty in its purest form, there was something lurking at the canyon’s mouth. The hidden gem that I speak about was a source of trepidation for my good friend BJ. It was something that had plagued him since an earlier visit and attempt. It was “The Turret”.
We made our way to a break in the walls where a large tower stood alone. The desert sun blazed on our faces and the cracks on my dried out feet separated as sand entered and rubbed against my wounds. Blood trickled down into the base of my Chaco sandals. The mileage was starting to take its toll.
“The Turret” rested atop a sandy hill and provided a great source of shade at its base. While gazing at it I had difficulty comprehending that it could be both entered and climbed. We shed our gear, put on long sleeves and searched for the entrance. A few false slots made us question if we had the right tower. After a couple attempts we noticed markings on the wall, possibly left by the first people to have gone inside.
I put my head in first and couldn’t see very far. I turned sideways and slithered in with my face pressed up against the left wall and my ass and back smeared against the right. I used my fingertips to slide my body further into the dark slot as I shimmied in further and further. The entire section was not meant for the obese. You could hardy turn around throughout most of it. A cool breeze moved through the narrow hallway. The light from the entrance gave the slot a copper glow.
After 25 feet or so the hallway hit a T junction where it was possible to adjust your positioning. Then came the fun part. The T junction signified that a second slot crossed the one we were in. The light from the sun came in from a different angle and instead of continuing on straight there was a narrow, exposed climb upward. At first it was puzzling to comprehend how to proceed. I shimmied out to edge and then noticed a small carved out foothold on the wall behind me. I began to chimney upward. With each movement I became more and more exposed to a big fall but at every move there was yet another carved out step or handhold.
The Indians of the past had used this as a lookout tower and carved out these Mochi Steps to aid in their climbing. The only difference was that these steps in particular were full on! The sandstone in this part of Utah is known to be brittle and although it looks perfect it’s sketchy as hell.
I moved onward and upward. Every so often I had to stop and check out the holds. I paused suspended toward the top but finally pulled the exposed, hairball crux. There was another hallway both narrow and cool. The dark rock appeared to be limestone at this point and was a bit sharper to the touch. We angled upward.
When we were about 15 feet from the top things got hairy. A set of old, decomposing Mochi steps moved up the slot vertically. At first it was a chimney but made its way into a haphazard, off-width crack that moved over a section of canyon that was even more exposed. It then moved right over an area that left you about 30 feet off the deck with boulders and rocks in the landing. For us this was the end of the line. Getting up would have been doable but the retreat seemed deadly. Some things are best left to the imagination.
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The Line of the Week is a weekly photo piece by Ryan Salm featuring some of Tahoe’s finest athletes doing whatever we deem rad. We will be using the term “Line” loosely to describe anything resembling chutes, big airs, pointers or any general madness. All images are the property and copyright of Ryan Salm Photography. All images are only to be used in conjunction with the Line of the Week. Any other usage must be cleared in writing by Ryan Salm.