November, '05


South Six Shooter

With Brad and Ari

Written by  Koren




    We drove by the hoards of climbers at Indian Creek on our way to South Six Shooter. It reminded me how much crack climbing hurts my feet, and I was glad that we were after a little tower somewhere out there in the desert. Key word is "little". Brad has been after some big, exposed giants on his quest for desert towers. More often than not he's equipped with aiders, which sound like a possible torture device to me. Brad says I'm gonna learn how to use them so we can stand on top of these hulking prominatories together. Perhaps he confuses romance with terror. We'll see...  Anyway, he's up to 16 towers now, but S6Shooter was just #2 for me after Ancient Art a few years back when I somehow found the courage to stand tall on its tiny platform summit. These days I tend to be loaded down with work and the extra 10 lbs that I've packed on. My goal for the next year or two has more to do with procreating than vertical gain.  This day, however, reminded me that I still love an adventure (heck, I NEED them), and that indeed I AM a climber.

    The adventure started in the car (which should at least be all-wheel drive, if not a 4wd truck). The dirt road is pretty fun, lots of curves and ups and downs. After awhile, the S6Shooter came into view, standing tall on top of a respectable talus cone. The road took us to a broad wash frequented by a herd of very large desert cattle. We hiked from there up the first layer of the approach onto a pretty mesa-top. We crossed this relatively flat expanse, being careful to avoid stepping on biological soi l crusts...the algae, bacteria, and fungi that hold the desert together. Ari, our wonder-dog, didn't quite understand the importance of these seemingly dull life-forms underfoot, so we put him on leash during this part of the hike. Just so you know, I could go on and on about biological soil crusts thanks to an officemate at grad school. She studied these guys and the functions, or ecosystem services, they performed for the providing nitrogen - an essential nutrient, anchoring sand, and preventing erosion. They look dead, but when you pour a little water on them, they wake up fast and do their thing (like pulling nitrogen from the atmosphere-we can't do that!). They are actually quite pretty if you take the time to give them a drink.

    If you can pull yourself from staring at these fascinating bits of ecology and continue on the hike, you should head left at the base of the talus cone until you see some little cairns pointing you to a trail. The ascent of the talus is like most of these endeavours, steep, loose, and, well, talus-y. The views are terrific, however, so take a few breaks for scenery's sake (ahem...not that I was tired or anything).

    The base of the technical route actually has a nice flat area in front of it, which I appreciate. I at least want to start climbing before I feel like I am going to slip of the mountain (or in this case the tower). It's also nice for Ari, so he can be comfortable and safe from rock fall as he takes his desert snooze. There was a couple ahead on the climb so we waited until they were clear of us vertically before Brad started leading. Now, granted, the first pitch is easy, but I thought that Brad would place some sort of gear. No, not a thing until the anchor. I recommend gear placements even for the confident and cocky, however. It just makes good sense, especially when you are far from medical help. (Brad contends that he actually placed THREE pieces at the top where it got steeper). The second pitch was mellow too, but I remember some kind of gear placed, probably a directional for me. The third and last pitch was steeper and harder. There is one move where you have to mantle onto a narrow shelf. There's not much foot action. It's balancy and I was pretty much kissing the rock trying to keep my weight  (i.e., big ass) in. It's great to stand on once you actually can stand up. The next few moves up to the anchor are steep and require some muscle, but then you're up at the top! It's a nice summit to hang out on (at least on our perfect day with little wind). Two straight-foreward rapels brought us back to the base. We stopped momentarily after rapel #1 for Brad to climb up the other summit (just 'cause).

    Ari was overjoyed as usual when he saw us. (Arf, arf. Where'd you go? What's up there anyway? Did you eat all the snacks?). We had a bite to eat and then carefully hiked down the talus and across the table top, this time by a better route in a very cool rock wash. Luckily, Ari didn't see the sand cows when we approached the last little descent and they were gone by the time we made it to the car. We made it back along the dirt to the main road before it got too dark. Hopefully, we didn't leave many footprints in the fragile soil. But I did take something from the S6Shooter. I took a little confidence with me in my back pocket (which was utterly destroyed the next day on the North Chimney of Castelton Tower, but that's another story that my husband's good enough NOT to tell!).



 Ari and I waking up at the start of the hike.


S6Shooter stands tall.


Nice Views of the Bridger Jack Spires.



Brad leads the way up the talus.



Steep slope; big rocks.

I'm coming!


We made it to the base!



Brad leads the first pitch.



I am starting pitch 1.


Traversing on pitch 2.


Pretty mellow so far.

North 6 Shooter in the distance.


Third pitch.



Above me is the mantle onto the narrow shelf.



The last few steep moves.



Aah, the summit...



What's this? Another summit?



Brad rapels.



Here I go.


Top of 2nd rapel.



The hike down as the sun begins to set.


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