Devils Tower Trip Report (#1534)
- Signed By: Mark Jabir
- Date submitted: August 17, 2003
Being someone who has a real fear of ledges, I have always tried to push myself towards my fears so that i would never lose an opportunity to experience something wonderful. I must also enjoy the feeling of being a little scared--I tend to get myself in hairy situations from time-to-time. I got to Devil's Tower early in the day by way of a friend's tales of wonder and mysticism that envelops the land and the Tower. She is an artist and an art teacher, which explains some of her outlook. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I usually agree with her on most things. I saw the Tower from the distance and immediately saw the power and energy from the land. We walked around the Tower, took lots of pictures, camped with a spectacular view the night before and thought that was the whole show. While my buddy was off looking at something and I was getting ready to head to head to the next spot on the trip, I began talking with a ranger who had just returned from a climb. I didn't even realize that people climbed the Tower. He quickly gave me the names and phone numbers of companies that take people up; and before I even knew what I was doing, I was on the phone with Frank Sanders, from Devil's Tower Lodge and he had invited us over for breakfast to discuss the climb. It hadn't really even occured to me what I had done until I was walking towards the car and from the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the Tower. It was too late, the process had started and we were on our way to Frank's place. I went with it.
We drove the five minutes to the lodge and met Frank and his family. I now feel part of Frank's family. He is an incredibly warm, caring and generous person--and so are the people he gathers around him. Lorna thanks for all the wonderful meals. As we ate breakfast, we got all the details out of the way. We set up a playdate that afternoon and Frank walked us through some climbing "stuff". We went to the Tower with John, an incredibly capable guide who let us play a little more up on the actual Tower. It let us know what we were in for the following day.
We stayed with Frank that night and had a view of the tower from our room. The view was amazing and it kept me up all night. The moon sat on Tower with stars so big you wondered how they managed to stay afloat. The beauty kept me awake, but the realization that I would be trying to make my way up the Rock started to terrify me. Remember the fear factor. I probably managed to close my eyes for fifteen minutes before having to get up.
We got up at 3:30am and made our way to the Tower. Frank was up to see us off (if i didn't have to get up, i would have been alseep, but that says something about Frank and the people he shares his life with). He and I had breakfast together and we were on our way. He began the videotape that is made for each climb. He handed it off to us and we were heading to the Tower.
We arrived with headlamps on and made our way to the beginning point of Durrance. John began climbing in darkness and it was just light enough for us to take our headlamps off before beginning the climb. My body felt like it was locking up as I approached my turn on the Tower. I had a hard time getting loose and relaxing. I was holding on too tight and using too much energy because I was so afraid of being on the huge rock. The preparation of Frank and his crew quickly made me realize I was ready to attack the wall. I kept hearing John yell "good feet, find good feet first". After the first pitch I was relieved but I still didn't want to climb anymore. I wanted to go home and have a beer--4:30 am and I don't drink often. By the time we got up to the third pitch, I never wanted to leave the rock. I was comfortable on the pitches, comfortable with the climb and became more focused on solving the problems on the trail and less concerned with my own fears. The climbing became a challenge and an adventure. I realized I was no long afraid. I had the incredible experience of realizing a fear and physically feeling it slip away. It brought an incredible sense of peace and excitement that is difficult to explain. The hard work and how tiring the climb was kept me in the moment and at each pitch I was able to look out at the incredible views. I truly understood what my friend saw in this place and why people worshiped here. It was a magical place and a day that I will never forget. Five hours flew by and before I knew it we were approaching the summit. In all honesty, I didn't want it to end. I enjoyed being on the rock and somehow being a part of the place. Climbing gives you a different relationship with a place and I wasn't ready for it to end.
We spent some time on the summit and repelled down. Although I was no longer afraid of going up, going down brought some new challenges. I started to get really frightened at the idea of walking off the ledge BACKWARDS. Who were the first people to come to this conclusion as a way to get off a 550 ft ledge? After the first pitch I had lost all strength in my arms because I was holding the ropes too tight. Again, after the first pitch, I relaxed and began finding a stride. This too became enjoyable as I picked up some speed and relaxed the rope and my grip on it. I leaned back and even looked around from time to time to fully enjoy the experience.
When we got down I had a sense of accomplishment that stayed with me for weeks. I had just began a four week trip across the states, the Tower added a new twist and adventure to the trip. We began looking for things to climb. I have some great picture of me in places I probably would not have been had I not been up the Tower.
That incredible experience aside, it would not have been possible, or nearly as wonderful, had it not been for Frank and all the great people at the Lodge. We felt welcome and immediately part of the family.
Thank you Frank, Lorna and John. I have thought of you often since leaving. I talked with my friend who first told me about the Tower. She did not know the rock could be climbed and was very freaked when I sent her the postcard and the little stick figure at the top waving. I conviced her and her boyfriend to come with me next year and climb it with me. I think they are in. Frank, get the room ready. We will see you soon..
Much love to you and all of the family.