Skinny Jeans and Desert Towers

“Dude, those are skinny jeans,” Jonathan says.

“They’re regular fit,” I insist. “See, look at the label.”

“I don’t care what the label says, they are skinny jeans.”

Jonathan and I are up River Road, near Moab. It’s January. The high pressure, blue bird weather is perfect for climbing, and what’s more is that in January there are hardly any climbers around, save for the locals. It’s reminiscent of the old days.

We say we are old guys, but really, maybe we are just soft. We live in Durango, we don’t like to be cold, and we prefer to climb in warm conditions. Whatever the opposite of an alpinist is, that’s us.

So when we arrive at our objective for the day, Infared (5.11+) on the Big Bend Butte, and find that it’s still in the shade, we wait for the sun. I unpack my Deuter Guide 45+, we tape up our hands, listen to hip-hop, and Jonathan makes fun of my skinny jeans.

“They’re regular fit!”

At this time of year, the desert is serene and the silence it offers is a rare thing. It’s so remote that there are twenty-minute stretches where not a single car is on the road as far as the eye can see. The desert is everything.

bandwhite.riverroadI found out about this climb the old fashioned way: we were huddled around the Big Bend Boulders below (alliteration anyone?) and a Moab local gave it a recommendation, pointing to it and saying I should climb it someday. He spoke of it as being, “one of the best around.”

As the sun cascades its warm rays upon Infared, Jonathan leads the first pitch. Though it is only 5.10, it overhangs and has several roofs that try to spit you out. I second the pitch, and frantically scream, “up rope, up rope!” several times.




The second pitch was squirrely. There were two variations and I took the off-width straight above. Soon the off-width ran out, and so did the protection. I ended up wrapping some webbing around a boulder, and shot left for some face holds, taking us right below a splitter. During the belay, I was able to soak in the view and enjoy a couple bars stashed away in my Deuter Speed lite 10.



Jonathan led the splitter, a wide hands pitch, and at last we were high up on this tower, with one pitch to go. Still basking in the January sun, we knew not to get too comfortable - winter days are short. We had only a couple more hours to get to the top of this thing, and then bee-line it to Milt’s for dinner (if you don’t know what Milt’s is please change that next time you’re in Moab!).

The last pitch overhung, standing directly between the summit and us. Nervous with butterflies, I secured some gear to keep me from falling on my belayer, before I set off in a series of punchy, boulder-problem-like moves. As I reached the end of the pitch, the bullet rock and perfect bolts were gone. I was left with jaggy and sandy rock for my finish. The moment I stood on the summit, Jonathan joined me in a fit of celebratory yelling and whooping.

After such an epic climb, all in the short window of a winter’s day, we were heart broken to find that Milt’s was closed for the off-season. But you know, in hindsight, I wouldn’t want to have been seen at Milt’s wearing skinny jeans anyways.

Author: Luke Mehall, Core Ambassador

Luke Mehall is the publisher of The Climbing Zine, and the author of Climbing Out of Bed. His second book, The Great American Dirtbags, will be published this spring.


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