Ho. Lee. Moly. What an adventure Saturday was. I mean, I knew it was going to be a good day, but what actually took place was nothing short of a lifelong memory….maybe. I think.
The plan was to drive up to Duluth, MN to go indoor rock climbing at Vertical Endeavors. I’m a member at St. Paul, but I figured I’d spend the day driving and climbing. No big deal. Like I said, March sucks, there wasn’t anything better to do.
Then I thought, “hey, Duluth is a pretty sweet place to camp. Maybe this chick with a tent will want to come with me.” She did. She also knew of some other fun activities in which we could participate. Specifically, a place that we/I could urban climb. So, this is how it was supposed to go down:
Drive to Duluth > Climb at Vertical Endeavors > do some sweet sh*t around Duluth > go hiking and camp Saturday night > get up and hike around a little more on Sunday > drive back to the cities.
For the most part, that is exactly what happened; however, there are quite a few missing details. Let’s take a look, hmmmm?
8:00 am: Wake-up and finish cleaning my apartment so that my landlord can show it to prospective tenents when I move out. I’m also supposed to be packing for the day.
9:00 am: Start making breakfast. (Apt. is cleaned, but I still haven’t packed anything.)
9:30 am: Realize that I’m supposed to be out of the apt. by 10:00am. Wake up the chick with a tent and tell her to get her ass moving. WE GOTTA GO! Frantically package up the half breakfast that was cooked, throw some clothes/gear in my pack, get the eff outta Dodge. Luckily my landlord was late too.
Noon:30 pm Arrive at Vertical Endeavors (after a stop at Gander Mountain and McD’s for some iced coffee). Stand in wonderment at how much taller their walls are than the one’s in St. Paul. Climb until we canst climb no more.
3:00 pm: Drive up to Enger Tower, the highest point in Duluth. It’s under construction so we couldn’t get to the top and take pics. However, this place is also the location she had in mind for urban climbing. We didn’t have a top rope so I decided to just “boulder” my way to the first window opening. (“Bouldering” is climbing without a rope, typically much closer to the ground than sport climbing or big wall climbing.)
The climb was extremely easy. In fact, it would probably be a V0, and only took 3 moves to get there. Not so exciting. Now, the descent is where epic failure occured. You would think, “up is easy, so is down.” Yeah, true story. In fact, that’s exactly what I thought and why I didn’t really try to “plan” a route down. I just went for it.
First move, fine. And then it went downhill quickly.
My weight shifted and caused my left leg to swing across my body, behind my right leg that was planted in the wall. This is not really a big deal. It’s a move used frequently while climbing. However, for whatever reason, I panicked. The first split second when it happened, I was like, “no big deal, I do this on the wall all the time.” The immediate next split second was, “I normally have a rope or crash pads below me on the wall. I DON’T HAVE EITHER OF THOSE RIGHT NOW!!1!1”
I don’t really remember what happened next or what actually caused me to fall. All I know is that I was falling. Towards the ground. Which was more stone and concrete. With ledges sticking out from the base of the wall. Not awesome.
I stuck me left arm out to snag it on the overhang at the bottom of the window ledge. That didn’t do anything to help. It did, however, swing my body so that I could easily see where I was going to land. At least now I could see where my feet were going to land so that I didn’t smash my skull on that ledge.
All in all, I have less skin on my left forearm, a patch mising on my right hand, and got down the wall even faster than it took to get up. The chick wasn’t impressed. Wound dressing occured back at the car.
My name is Dave, and I am well aware that I am a n00b.
5:00 pm: Arrive at Jay Cooke State Park, just 25 min. south of Duluth. Change into our hiking boots, get our packs on, and start walking. Realize that we don’t have a map so we have to turn around to get one at the informations station. Information station doesn’t have one. Walk in a circle around the parking lot to several other locations where the maps could have been and don’t find any. Decide to start walking and that there will probably be maps on the trail at intersections (at least we were right about that).
Stop to take pictures, look at some cool rapids, and more walking. Get most of the way to the backcountry campsite we were heading towards, and then spot a nice, high, DRY, ridge overlooking a fork where two “rivers” met and some rapids. Very beautiful, very relaxing. For now.
Set up camp, make some dehydrated spaghetti, enjoy the night. But not for long.
10:00 pm: The woods errupt with the sound of a large pack of coyotes that couldn’t have been more than 50 yards away. Hearts pump, ideas race, knees shake.
10:01:32.6 pm: A second pack of coyotes from the opposite direction (meaning, we were right between the two) errupt. The first chimes back in. Hearts explode, torso is shaking, trees are being eyed-up in case we need to climb to safety. Plenty of trees. None with branches. All fairly large in diameter, making shimmying up the tree damn near impossible for a small female.
10:04 pm: Back to silence. Ideas of how we are going to defend ourselves, climb trees, throw fires, not die are being discussed. In the end, our camping knives, camp shovel with a wicked spike on one end, and a pretty piss-poor spear are chosen. Trees are idedntified for both people.
11:00 pm: Climb into the tent with previously stated “weapons”.
11:15 – 1:15 pm-am: A few random yelps, one more erruption, and no sleep.
This is a good example of what it sounded like. Now imagine that on both sides of you, about 50 yards away.
1:30 am: Gather previously stated “weapons” along with a mini-air horn and walk our asses back to the car.
At this point, I stopped keeping track of time. It didn’t really matter. We headed to the nearest hotel and grabbed a room. In the morning we had a lovely processed carbohydrate with reconstituted egg breakfast.
It had rain/snowed the night before and was threatening to do so again. We didn’t have much of a choice though. We left all of our gear (sanz “weapons”) and the tent 2 miles in the woods. Luckily it was fairly warm.
We took our time, goofed around, and got everything packed up. More pictures were taken, and we returned to the car safely. Other than being scared sh*tless (which we later found out was completely unfounded), it was a pretty awesome trip and one I will talk about for quite awhile.
Now, here’s more pictures than you can shake a stick at!
Don’t Miss Your Chance
I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.
Then I took control.
You can too, and it starts right here.
Beautiful Dave just beautiful
Thank you very much! But 98% of them were taken by Anh…except the one’s she is in, of course. Haha!
Classic – The descent is always the most likely time for something to go wrong…tired, concentration wanes, etc. I guess this is true, even with a short climb ; ) Given the ledge below you, I guess you can see the value in pushing off of the rock, when falling. I haven’t been climbing in years, but certain rules stick with you.
Love the coyote story. I had a similar camping experience, but it involved skunks, not coyotes.
Skunks?! Pass. I think I’d rather take the coyotes…..now knowing what I do. :-p