My 25th Birthday: Kingfisher Tower, Ancient Art, and Mountain Biking in Moab, Utah

Celebrating my 25th birthday couldn't have been more epic! Mountain biking, Kingfisher tower, and Ancient Art, all in one short weekend! I owe a big thanks to Darren from the club and Michael for making it all happen. 

Friday- Mountain Biking Bar-M Loop

Michael and I are getting more and more efficient at these long drives to Utah. We left again on Thursday night and arrived at the Fisher Tower Campground Friday morning at 7am. Our original plan was to sleep and go climb Ancient Art that Friday, since it was my birthday. Ancient Art is this epicly cool looking sandstone tower that is right next to Kingfisher, it's been on my list for a while now to do, and I wanted to do it for my birthday. There was, however, a bunch of people who had the same idea though and we didn't feel like waiting in a line all day long. So we changed our plans. Mountain biking Friday and Ancient Art on Sunday.

After a few hours of sleep we drove towards Moab to look for a trail I had researched as a nice "beginner" trail. I'm still recovering from my previous biking injury and am still a bit timid on the bike. The trail was called Bar-M and is an 8.2 mile loop.

  Michael took this opportunity to teach me how to change a tube in my tire. Then we started riding... we actually wasted a lot of time riding around on a trail we didn't know looking for the Bar-M trail. At first I was a bit shaky on the bike, getting off on down hills and walking my bike through them, but eventually I started to get more confident on it.

Then finally after an hour or so, we found the Bar M loop trail. By this time I was feeling really good on the bike and having a lot of fun!

We didn't get to ride much of the Bar-M trail after all because it started getting dark shortly after we found it and then I got a puncture flat, but I'm really glad we went out that Friday and rode around. It got me stoked again on mountain biking :)

After biking we drove through some canyon areas near Moab so Michael could show me some of the trails he had ridden before and we could drink a few beers before dinner.

And to my surprise, Michael pulled out some cupcakes that he managed to smuggle from California without me noticing! They didn't fare well in the traveling process, but they still tasted amazing!

We grabbed some really awesome pizza in Moab and then headed back to the campground. Perfect Birthday.

Saturday- Kingfisher Tower, Northeast Ridge Route

5am wake up, eat, dress, 6am on the trail headed to the King Fisher tower with the Utah Climbing Club. The trail up to the Kingfisher tower is a bit of an uphill workout, but made it there in about 45 minutes or so. Gorgeous view.

The intent of this trip was to get a better idea of big multi pitch aid climbing. Since we didn't have all day and there were about 15 people with us, some awesome club members had some fixed lines set up along the whole route. We were supposed to treat the climb however as if we were leading it with a partner. We had it split into 6 pitches, although it can be done in 5. Each member was to at least treat 3 pitches as if they were leading them, and the other 3 we could either continue to lead or jug (because in real life, the person following would most likely jug the rope of the lead their partner did to save time). This was the first time I've ever jugged anything, and I learned how to set up a cool jugging system:

1.  Pitch 1: I jugged the first pitch (which was a bolt ladder). It looked easy enough, bolts were spread far apart so some members had to get high on their ladders before being able to reach the next bolt. Also, some bolts were missing rivet hangers. We used a small nut from our racks to solve this problem.

Hanging by a nut...

Hanging by a nut...

2.  Pitch 2: Pitch 2 is a 5.7 mud chimney. This is where I began to lead. Chimneys suck if you have a backpack on. The pitch ends on this nice little airy, exposed ledge.

3.  Pitch 3 & 4 (or just Pitch 3 in some topos): I lead this section and I think it was pretty freaky. There were some bolt ladders that were simple but reachy, some "free climbing" that felt sketchy and sometimes I placed cams and aided them instead of freeing them, and then there were some really desperate cam placements into pockets. 

Super Sketchy pocket cam #1 - held strong despite looking upper sketchy

Super Sketchy pocket cam #1 - held strong despite looking upper sketchy

Super sketchy cam placement #2 - Tried many different cam sizes. Many popped out on me when I tested them, this is the only one I could get to stick, but I was happy to get off of it.

Super sketchy cam placement #2 - Tried many different cam sizes. Many popped out on me when I tested them, this is the only one I could get to stick, but I was happy to get off of it.

4. Pitch 5 (or 4): overhanging bolt ladder to a roof portion that is rated 5.7 C1. I climbed a big portion of the bolt ladder, but then jugged past the roof to the big belay section before the last pitch to the summit. Michael did the roof portion however and said it was challenging, but amazing!

5. Pitch 6 (or 5)- An easy set of cracks and chimneys to the summit (5.8)

At the summit, you see a dead crow (which apparently has been there over a year now), and the summit log! It was an epic, epic day!

The top was amazing. I've never done anything like this before in my life, and it was amazing. I'm stoked to do more aid and more towers in general!

Sunday - Ancient Art, Stolen Chimney

After a long day climbing Kingfisher on Saturday, it was hard to motivate ourselves to wake up early enough to go climb ancient art... but eventually we talked ourselves into it, and I'm glad we did. We tried to beat the crowds this time and made it there before anyone else. 


4 pitches to the top, initially I was going to lead the last 2 pitches, but Michael ended up leading all of it... we ran into some issues on our climb.

1. Pitch 1: A scramble to a bolt ladder which you can either aid or free climb at 5.11a. Michael lead the first pitch and when he reached the bolt ladder we had trouble with the rope getting all tangled up on my end. It was a new rope and we had assumed we didn't need to flake it out. I spent about 45 min wasting time untangling the rope before Michael could finish. Right about the time Michael was all anchored in and ready for me to follow, more people showed up behind us... The scramble, although easy, was kinda freaky, and the moves weren't always obvious. Maybe I just am still not used to sandstone, but i thought it was kinda sketchy. The bolt ladder was simple enough.

2. Pitch 2: Feeling the pressure of the line behind us we got started on the second pitch. The pitch went smoothly until the end when we got our rope stuck from a weird cam placement. It was really hard to communicate with Michael because I couldn't hear him at all through all the talking. The group behind me decided they'd lead up to help Michael get his rope unstuck. In hindsight we realized that Michael should have down climbed to his stuck rope, but hey, we are learning and trying to do things safe. Crisis averted and I followed. I wish I could've enjoyed this chimney more but there were several things that made it unpleasant. 1) The rope stuck issue caused a big back up in the line of people behind us and I hated being pressured like that 2) i packed too much in my backpack and found it really annoying in the chimney. 3) I was wearing the stupid go-pro on my head and it kept banging into everything... i won't wear go-pro's in chimneys anymore. 

3. Pitch 3: After letting the group who helped us get our rope unstuck finish the climb, Michael followed up pitch 3 (which can be free climbed or aided). Michael free climbed it and set up anchor. I followed it (mixing free and aid). Short pitch.

4. Pitch 4: The fun began for me, except we were still being pressured by the groups behind us... which wasn't my favorite. Michael lead the summit and I top roped it. I chickened out on the cat walk and sat down and scooted my butt across this, which was really easy. I opted not to mount the diving board, but instead went under it to the left, easy. the next move was tricky to figure out, but easy to execute.. a stem to get around the corner  of the tower. I thought the hardest part of the climb was the big pockets leading to the summit. It was a move I wasn't familiar with, but finally I made it to the anchors and walking to the true summit is actually a lot less sketchy than I imagined. The pitch was a lot of fun :)

I really want to come back and lead this whole climb myself some day. I'd like to do it with no pressure from lines (so maybe going even earlier in the mornings or even at night). None the less, it was awesome, and I'm really glad we got to do it, and I'm glad Michael was there to help make it happen. 

Here's a short video of the Ancient Art climb:

That about sums it up for the best birthday weekend ever. It will be hard to top that next year.