Devils Tower Trip Report (#21047)
- Signed By: Jon Stone
- Date submitted: September 30, 2007
- Date(s) climbed: 9/14-9/16
- Number of People Encountered:25-50 people
- Recommend to a Friend: Highly
This was my first time climbing ever- anywhere. My family and friends thought I was nuts for trying this so I made sure I researched the safest way to go about this and still achieve my goal. My research led me to Mr. Frank Sanders and his Guide Service/Bed and Breakfast. I found Mr. Sanders to be extremely safety conscience and very reassuring, patient and understanding with me as I tried to learn the basics needed to help me to summit.
As the adventure progressed, I caught myself a couple of times thinking maybe my family and friends were right, I was nuts, but then I went about trying to do the little things Frank suggested and soon I forgot about any misgivings that might have been creeping into my thoughts. We practiced on a few different pitches of a few different routes, all of which gave me different experiences I would need on the trip to the top. These, I think, also gave Frank a opportunity to critique and come to the conclusion of which route would be the best and safest for me to climb. Frank chose the Durrance Route for our final ascent.
It was 94 degrees on the day of September 16th 2007. We waited until 3 in the afternoon to leave the house and attempt to "Tackle the Tower"!!! We arrived at what would be our base and prepared to throw ourselves headlong into the task at hand. At approximately 3:30 we began climbing. I had remembered reading in a book that if you had trouble on the approach pitch, do not continue because you don't have a chance. Well, let me tell you, don't read that stuff before you go because all it does is put doubts in you mind, or at least it did mine. Things that I had no problem with the previous two days, I found perplexing. Thank goodness we made it to the base of the leaning column before I totally convinced myself to turn around. At this point, I figured, now you don't have a choice, gotta go on!! My wife, who is 7 months pregnant and our 4 year old son were watching me from the ground, I could never turn back!! My son needed to see his dad reach the top! So, onward and upward.
The leaning column pitch went alittle better than the approach, so I felt better. Then we got to the Crack of Doom, fun fun fun!! Cussing crack was even more enjoyable!! It seemed the further away from the bottom, the more fun I was having. I think I was finally relaxing abit, go figure! By the time we got to the top of the final pitch, I was about to boil over with excitement about reaching the summit. Frank told me it was his policy as a guide that I had to finish on my own. Yee Haaa!! I scampered up over some boulders and there it was, The Summit!! I had heard about it, seen pictures, read stories about it, but had only dreamed about actually standing on top. I did it. I was there. For someone who does not do this type of thing on a regular occasion, heck-EVER, this was something to behold!! I had arrived just at sunset. The sun was just dropping below the horizon and the crescent moon was in the sky. ABSOLUTLY UNBELIVEABLE!!! If you have never experienced this yourself, pictures do not do it justice, if you have, you know what I mean. I took a few minutes to take in the scope and magnitude of what I had just done, thought of the most important things in my life, my wife and son and soon to be born son, and then just looked at the world around me in a way I never had before.
Frank caught up to me now and we sat down and had a quick bite to eat. I grabbed my cell phone out of the bag and had to call my wife and make sure she made it to the car before it got to dark to see!! It was 7:32 p.m. according to my phone, and light was a fading fast. She had made it, and when she answered the phone, she was so happy that I made it to the top, she was in tears!! My son wanted to talk to me and so he got on the phone and told his dad how neat he thought it was that I made it to the top and that he got to watch the whole thing!! We said our good byes and then I called my parents and the best friend I have, next of course to my wife, and told him where I was. All he could do was ask me, "Isn't it dark where you are?". I told him it was but we got to the top in the light. He thought it would be neat to come down in the dark though.
Frank and I got our stuff ready to come down and made our way to the first rapell station. By this time it was dark and we needed lights to aid our sight, cool!!
Frank was the first to go down, and it was something else to watch as his light slowly dissapeared and I was all alone in the darkness. I next heard Frank yell up to come on down!! So, with great anticipation, I stepped off the rock and slowly began my descent back to the ground. The night really envelops you and makes for a fantastic trip down. On the next length, Frank warned me there were some ledges, so watch where I was going as to not smack my shins. So, thinking about this, when it was my turn, I did just that, kinda!! I had been watching Frank over the last couple of days and noticed that when he rapelled, he would place the rope between his legs and bring it up along side one leg to give even more holding power. I had asked about this prior, and Frank explaned that indeed it did give more slowing, stopping, and holding power. Made it easier!! Works for me! So anyways, that is what I was doing. I brought it up alonside my left thigh, and so of course, I concentrated my line of sight down the left side!! Worked great except I didn't see a ledge until my right foot was on it. No big deal, no pain, no harm!! Then I looked at the ledge and found I had just awaken two pigeons who without dought had been sleeping and wanted to know who was this person and what was he doing in there bedroom!!! You might be thinking, Frank had just preceeded you, they were already awake. Let me tell you, Frank is like a cat, silent, quick and unintruding. They did not even hear him!! Me, I am more like a ox, kinda lumber around, couln't miss me!!
At the next rapell point, we stopped, sat down and turned our lights off. From that vantage point, the moon was blocked by the tower, I could see more stars than I have seen in a very long time. I grew up all over in many different environments, country, city half way in between. This was by far the best display of stars I have seen in a very very long time. The milky way was gorgeous!! After a few ZEN like moments, we continued down reaching the ground after one final long rapell. We got our gear together, and walked out with alittle small talk but mainly enjoying the experience I just had.
We returned back at Franks house to people waiting up to hear stories. These were people who before two days prior, I did not know. But they were there to listen and congratulate. I gave my wife and son hugs and kisses and thanked them for believing in me.
We left for home late the next morning, and was extremely sad to see the Tower fading in the rearview mirror. I again told my wife how much I love her and that we would have to come back!! She thought that would be O.K.
The Tower is a great place to prove to yourself that you can indeed do anything if you try. I was very fortunate to have the support of a loving family and the direction of what I consider to be, the best guide possible and now a friend I have trusted my life with, Mr. Frank Sanders.
If you have ever thought about trying this, but like me, do not know what your doing, call Frank at Devils Tower Lodge or Devils Tower Climbing. He will give you the best experience possible and the safest.
THANK YOU FRANK!!!!