On November 4, 1965, Harvey Carter and I did the first ascent of the Convent, by a route he named the Salvation Chimney.
Nothing equals the ridge that runs from the Convent to Castleton Tower, for great climbs and great looks.
Also, in November of 1965, a few of us decided to visit the new Canyonlands National Park. The group included Richard McCracken, Mary Cary (soon to be Mary McCracken), a Frenchwoman by the name of Maya, a Canadian hitchhiker by the name of Dave and my girlfriend from Aspen, who I cannot recall! We six crammed ourselves and packs into Mary’s Rambler. We arrived at night, and as we entered the park, we passed a dark building with a sign that said: “Please register”. We of course paid no attention to that request, and continued to the end of the road at Grandview Point. It was Richard’s plan to find a way to climb off of Grandview Point and continue down to the Green River. We briefly discussed whether we should leave a note on the car, but decided it wasn’t necessary. We succeeded in doing an unroped climb off the Point, and onto the bench below. The down climb was on the side of the mesa seen in this photo (below)
We then walked to the edge of the overhanging White Rim, and started to walk along it, looking for a place to descend.
We found a spot where a deep crack intersected the cliff face, opening a window out on to the lower and less-than-vertical part of the cliff. An arm of sandstone provided an anchor for the rappel rope. This was the only rappel rope that we had taken along, and was left hanging for our return.
Then, within yards of the Green River, we came to a hard layer that created an overhang in the drainage, with our only rappel rope left hanging behind us.
We returned to the White Rim, and prussiked up our rope. We then walked east around Junction Butte, which stands out from the end of Grandview Point. This brought us to the section of the White Rim trail that is in closer proximity to the Colorado River than to the Green River. We continued a few miles further, to the area of the Monument Basin overlooks, and camped there for the night. The next day we left the White Rim, and climbed to the saddle between Junction Butte and Grandview Point. From there, we could contour back around to the west side of Grandview Point, to the base of our descent route, and climb back up to the car.
We were at the saddle, and heard gunfire. We next saw a caravan of pink jeeps, led by a green Park Service vehicle, heading our way. It was the San Juan County Sheriff’s Posse, immortalized by Edward Abbey. Remember “Bishop Love”? The vehicles climbed a little ways up a very crude jeep track towards us and stopped. Then an official with an electric bullhorn asked us if we were “the party in the Rambler”. Oh boy! We said we were. They asked us to come down. We replied that we intended to continue up. He then said: “Mary, please bring your friends down”. Well, they were forced, finally, to climb up to us, which didn’t please them at all. The Park Service ranger then ordered us to return with them in their convoy. We were first driven back north to their base camp on the White Rim jeep tail. There, they had the coffee pots on the fire and the body bags laid out. Then it was back up the Shafer Trail, and on to the Ranger Station. It was late at night by the time they were through with us. We were told that we might get billed for the “rescue”. Then they returned us to the car. They had broken a window of the car to search for identification. In the car they had found two pairs of womans’ shoes, an axe that Dave the hitchhiker had been carrying, and his “hitchhiking” sign. This led to the theory that a hitchhiker had been picked up by the women, who then dispatched them with the axe. Alternate theories were that: 1. we were suicides, and 2. we were climbers that had fallen to our deaths. They had assumed, of course, that it was physically impossible to down climb off the Point (or looked for our tracks that went from the car straight to the cliff edge). But … we never got billed.
Postscript: A year later, Richard and Mary returned to Canyonlands NP, and again got in trouble – this time for not registering properly. They had mailed the NPS a brief note just before pushing off onto the Green River, at Green River, Utah. Again, the Park Service went to considerable trouble on their behalf, before they walked, all smiles, into the Squaw Flat CG. There, they encountered the same ranger that had dealt with us the year before!
Our group continued to the Escalante area. Our first hike was into Davis Gulch.
On our return, we passed the regular entry/exit route (see above photo) and continued upstream to see what we would find. We found a cul-de-sac at the gulch’s upper end, with the only exit a scary climb up Moqui steps – steps hewn into the rock by paleo-Indians. Myself and girlfriend did the climb by the last light of day, and (as Richard recently reminded me), it scared the hell out of her. She later took revenge by taking Richard (a beginner skier) to the top of Aspen Mountain, having told him that she would provide instruction. Instead, she said: “See yah!”
Next was Coyote Gulch, which we followed to its confluence with the Escalante River. We hiked a few miles down the Escalante River and then returned by the same route.
I re-enrolled at UC-Berkeley in the Spring semester of 1966, which is seen in the following post.