May, '05



An Indelicate Ascent in Arches

Written by Shameless McSqueezy 



     My name is Shameless McSqueezy and I am, well, shameless. I am shameless because, as we're perched at a belay ledge with our rappel ropes irretrievably stuck back up at the tower's summit, I know that someone will need to do the overhanging jug back to the top and I'm already scheming to avoid it. Shameless, because I know I'm gonna win this game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide who has to jug. And Shameless because I don't care if Brad will suffer on the way up, as long as it ain't me that's suffering…

     Our original goal for the weekend was a re-match with Echo Tower in the Fishers. Brad's and my previous effort in May 2005 ended in a tremendous downpour of rain and, eventually, mud. Unfortunately, this weekend's forecast was terminal—it was supposed to rain hard—so we bagged the re-match and set our sights on the much shorter and, at C1, much easier West Face of the Three Gossips instead. 

     We were off from the Fisher's campground at dawn and, despite my being the world's slowest aid climber, getting to the top wasn't that hard, except for trying to climb the first pitch 5.9+ handcrack in my aid boots.  Brad raced up the remaining two pitches to the top. The summit was nice, but then the “fun” started. 

     Following the directions in the Bjornstad guide, we rapped from the top of the tower (pitch three) all the way back down to the first belay.  Upon arriving at the belay, we could NOT pull the rope. First, we pulled with two hands each, then with both of us heaving ourselves up and then off the belay ledge. Then each of us pulling with an ascender on the rope. Nothing. Not a single inch. Yep, one of us has to jumar back up to the top and free the rope…which brings us back to that game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

     You see, I am familiar with the basic principles of game theory, and Rock, Paper, Scissors is mathematically trivial in that any completely random selection of the three options is just as likely to win as any other. This holds true for situations in which the game is repeated, such as “best two out of three” and the like. As long as it's random, there's no optimal strategy. But here's the crux: no human being is capable of being completely random. We all have our tendencies, and if you can get into the head of your opponent and divine his tendencies, well, you can make sure that it's his ass jugging up the rope and not yours.

     I was, in fact, shamelessly holding an ace. Just a few months prior to our climb, I had read a news story about Rock, Paper, Scissors and its use in a high-stakes business deal. It seems that in early 2005, Sotheby's and Christie's were vying for the right to auction an art collection worth $20 million. The owner of the collection could not decide which auction house to choose and proposed a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Yep, Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide the fate of a collection of Cezannes, Picassos and van Goghs. The winner was Christie's, whose strategy was based upon the advice of an 11-year old daughter of one of their executives: “Everybody knows you always start with scissors. Rock is way too obvious, and scissors beats paper.”

     If it worked for Christie's, it ought to work for me. Armed with my strategy, now it was time to get into Brad's head. “Rock is way too obvious, don't you think, given where we are?” I remarked casually, feinting to the left, “so I'm left with deciding between scissors and paper.” Feinting to right, I said, “I guess I'm gonna have to throw scissors”, knowing that he'd never believe that I would.

     “One, two three…” there go my scissors and Brad throws his—dammit!—rock. Brad crows, “I knew you were screwing with me and were gonna do rock or scissors! That was the best rock, paper, scissors I've ever won…go get our ropes back.”

     After jumaring my way to the second belay stance just below the summit, I worked the knot until it was hanging in space a few feet down from the top. After testing the “pull”, I rapped back down to the first belay. To my surprise, we still couldn't get the damned thing to budge.  We ended up slapping both jugs and aiders on the rope and, with both of us jumping on the aiders simultaneously we got it to move about 6 inches.  More jumping eventually got it to where we could pull normally.  But just when we got the knot at the belay and the end of the rope was about to pull through the rap rings, it got stuck again.  The two of us yarded.  Nothing.  The two of us pulled with jugs.  Nothing.  Two of us with jugs and aiders.  Nothing.   All we could figure is that the whip end had twisted ‘round the rope just below the rings, and nothing we could do from the belay would let it slide.  

     “Okay, Brad, it's your turn to jug up.” (I simply couldn't resist saying this.)

     By now, though, we had enough rope to reach the ground and Brad offered to rap to the ground and work the rope from there. No way. “Thanks, pal, but I just jugged up to the top. This time it's my choice, and I'm the one who's going down first.”

     We ended up tying one end of the rope to the belay, and then I single-rope rapped to the base. Taking the rope, I walked about 100 feet out from the base of the tower, yielding a better angle from which to pull. A 400 foot loop of rope led from the belay down to me, and then back up to the top of the tower.  A single, slight jerk with one hand pulled it loose.

     Brad rappelled, it started to rain, and then we drank some beer, arguing over which of us hated rappelling the most.

     My name is Shameless McSqueezy, and I hate rappelling more than just about anything, even smarty-pants 11-year-old girls. Scissors, my ass.


The Three Gossips and their silhouettes from the parking lot in the morning.


The Tower of Babel in the morning.

Looking up at the Gossips from the approach.

Shameless starting up pitch one.


Working the sandy jams of the first pitch to get us on our way.

Taking a break at an intermediate belay half way up the first pitch.

A vertical panorama of pitch one.

A vertical panorama of pitch two.


You can bet your ass that I'm holding onto a cam in this picture.   :)



Another shot of me proudly freeing this route from the waist down.

Shameless loving life in the chimney near the top of the second pitch.

The summit block of the South Gossip.


A short friction section gains the easy chimney on the final pitch.

Looking up at the chimney from the sandy friction section.


Shameless soaking it in on the summit.

Me and the Organ from the top of the southern most Gossip.

The rappel anchors on the summit.


Shameless jugging back to the top to free our stuck ropes after losing a high stakes game of rock paper scissors.

A victory shot of me relaxing at the belay while my not so shameless partner takes his lumps and jugs the line to get us down.

Approaching terra firma.


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