Ranger Kathryn's Arches

September 16, 2012

Atop Owl Rock

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 5:03 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

 

The crack running up the center of Owl Rock is our route to the top.

Perched on a smallish rounded knob one hundred feet above the ground, my hard-won vantage point provided uncommon views of Arches National Park. The camera was down below; I hadn’t trusted myself to get it up the climb intact. I’d etch these sights in my brain instead of on a memory card.

This climb was my first desert tower — a free-standing sandstone spire rated 5.8+, not overly difficult. Craning my neck, I watched Ranger Bobby and Ranger Chris (both excellent climbers) glide up it without much struggle. Each paused at a few sketchy spots, figuring his next move; I knew I was in for an ascent that was at the edge of my ability. But that’s how I like it.

Bobby goes first, placing protective gear which will hold him in case of a fall.

When climbing is done well, it resembles someone dancing up a slab of rock with grace and poise and balance. When *I* was dragging myself up Owl, onlookers saw a desperate individual jamming her hands in any available crack while breathing rapidly and struggling to place a foot where it wouldn’t slip. My sympathetic nervous system (‘fight or flight’) freely dispensed adrenaline, elevating my pulse, dilating my pupils, drying my mouth of all spit.

Seventy feet up, bulbous outcroppings taunted me: “Let’s see you get past.” Gr-r-r-r. I refused to look down, couldn’t see my companions belaying me from above, and when the words “I can’t” formed on my lips, I recalled my dad’s translation of that as “I won’t.” OH YES I WILL JUST YOU WATCH, I said under my breath, and mentally willed myself to inch up the scary bulges one calculated move at a time.

Two-thirds of the way up, on the left edge, I’m rappelling from the summit. It’s really the only way down.

The summit was worth it, a reward that fewer than 0.1% of Arches visitors ever earn. An hour before sunset, surveying the glowing red kingdom, I forgot about the clawing, scraping, grunting pulls and pushes that had unceremoniously gotten me there. In the end, it doesn’t matter; nobody was grading me. My bruises will fade before my memories do. What’s important to me: I SAT ATOP OWL ROCK.

Leave a comment: what hard thing have you done that was so very worth it?

 

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4 Comments »

  1. Congrats. You are impressive. Good job.

    Comment by Pk — September 16, 2012 @ 9:57 pm | Reply

  2. Nice photos. Melvin’s Wheel was a 5.8+ too. How did they compare?

    Comment by midsummerman — September 16, 2012 @ 10:47 pm | Reply

    • Pretty even, but because MW was multi-pitch, I felt more “trapped” up there when I couldn’t figure out a next move. What I learned on Owl is that I need to figure out how to keep my pulse and respirations at a reasonable rate. They were out of control. Suggestions?

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — September 20, 2012 @ 8:10 am | Reply

  3. You came. I watched. You conquered.
    Not only the rock but yourself.
    Well done, daughter.
    Very well done.

    Comment by leroque — September 22, 2012 @ 2:52 pm | Reply


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