In some ways I’d say my odds in Vegas this time around were fairly bad. In others, I’d say they were really quite good.
From the previous facebook and blog posts, some readers might know that this whole life thing has made climbing a lot more interesting, or non-existent in the past few days. My computer hard drive crashed last Thursday in Bishop, so blog posts have been short and rare as posting them from my phone can be maddening. Friday we enjoyed a humbling day on the worlds toughest boulder problems in Bishop. Saturday we rolled south to Las Vegas, with a few photos taken along the way.
We got to Vegas around noon and had a few errands to run. Trader Joes for groceries, The Apple Store for a new hard drive, and a local camera shop for a new Canon s95. Everyone has said I’ll be too many cool places on this trip not to shoot some photos on a better camera, and I finally gave in. In light of the following events, I’m proud to say I’m still happy about the decision despite the financial implications.
I’ve been dying to get on “Dream of Wild Turkeys” since hearing my buddy Pat rave about it- 10 pitches of classic Red Rocks climbing in a remote setting. The campground was full when we pulled in late Saturday afternoon, but we made friends fast with a British guy named Dave who was kind enough to let us share his site. He also had the beta on the route, but decline to offer much beta on the approach. He mentioned that an early start was recommended due to the popularity of the route.
Jordan and I prepared carefully on Saturday night and got out the campground at 5:30am on Sunday morning. We followed the guidebook approach directions carefully and found the dirt road we expected. Approach roads for climbing routes are often difficult and this one was no exception, but the psyche was high and the judgement was low in the early morning hour. We had our doubts but the direction in the guidebook matched what we saw on the road and we continued through increasingly worse terrain. We finally got the car stuck at the bottom of a rough wash a few miles out from the paved road. We turned around but couldn’t make it back out. We unloaded the car and made another go of it- turns out 600lbs of climbing and camping gear affects both acceleration and ground clearance. We got out of the wash, reloaded the car and headed back towards pavement.
Even taking it slow, I managed to hit something, hard. The oil light came on, we took a look under the car and saw the contents of my oil pan making a fast exit. It was 6am. We drove until the engine quit, and coasted just past the crest of a hill above a wash about 400 yards from paved road. Shit. There were two large washes (low spots on the gravel road) between us and about 150 yards of smooth gravel connecting to the highway. We were so close, and yet so far. I called AAA and described the situation, but they were only willing to send someone out if I was willing to say it was within 100 yards of the pavement. We had to get the car to the bottom of the second wash to get help. Otherwise, we were screwed.
The severity of the situation settled in. You can’t run a diesel without oil, you will destroy the engine. I know no one in Vegas to help. Two guys can’t push a car uphill. We had to get to the bottom of the second wash to warrant any chance of getting help from AAA. We unloaded the car again (everything- skis, ropes, clothes, kettlebell, food, books, spare tire– everything), and pushed the car into the second wash. We got about 5 feet up the other side of the wash and I popped the E-brake to hold our progress. We tried pushing, but lost ground quickly. We brainstormed other ideas for getting help, and we realized that no one we would find could help us unless we made it to the bottom of the second wash- just below the smooth gravel road out.
Lacking any better ideas and knowing we had to get the car up the hill and into the next wash, I built a pulley system to try hauling the car uphill. We found a study Joshua tree cactus and tried a 3:1 system using an extra length of my tag/rappel line (many thanks to my parents for the Christmas gift of the 100m spool). I could barely hold the car in place while Jordan popped the E-brake and pushed and steered. We added the slackline webbing to make a 6:1 and started getting the car uphill. We were in business.
We found a second stand of cactus and moved the car further. As we closed in on the crest of the hill, two mountain bikers came down the trail and gave us a push. We rolled it all the way to the second wash. Booyah. I called AAA, the agreed to send a flatbed with a winch. The mountain bikers took off. Jordan and I started ferrying gear to the smooth gravel. Did I mention we packed too much stuff? Ash, the tow truck driver was about as great a guy as you could ask for, and once he found us (took a while), was generous with his time in getting us out. We loaded the gear back into the car for a trip to the campsite. Once on the road, he informed me that his boss was requiring me to pay $250 for the “off-road” portion of the extrication not covered by my AAA. Awesome, but whatever. I knew we were in deep.
Ash agreed to take us out of the way (for free!) and drop us at the campsite with our gear, then take the car to “The Auto Shop”- which he felt was the most honest place in town. At 12:30pm he dropped us at the campsite, we unloaded all the gear off the car, and he took off to leave the car at the garage. My morale bottomed out. We waited. Later that afternoon four married women let us hitch a ride in to get a few pitches of sport climbing with them. Awesome.
7am Monday morning I talked to the garage. Ash had described the problem, they knew what was going on, and could do the work that day. Even over the phone I realized I was dealing with a professional shop, and felt like the car was in good hands. 8am they called me, the damage was significantly more than the $500 I had budgeted for a major car repair on this trip.
9am we hitched back to shoot some running and hiking photos.
1pm the car, and my computer were fixed and we hitched a ride into town. Ray and Denise and your boys are awesome!
2pm we were back in the car and rolling. The Auto Shop even washed the car for me.
The rest of the story, and photos come later- sorry, but internet time is very limited these days. Thanks for following.