"Not all those who wander are lost"

Christmas Craggin’

The best climber in the world is the one who’s having the most fun.

– Alex Lowe



Break!  At last it’s christmas break and I have time to climb, explore, and CLIMB!  My plans have been changing constantly, but with any luck I’ll do a lot of climbing, some snorkeling, and camping.

Only my second trip to Hatta Crag, but it already seems far more familiar.  We headed down E44 toward Hatta, passing dunes, trucks, and the boarder checkpoint before we turned off and bumped down the desert track.  The three of us (Sam’s parents came to down for christmas and her dad decided to join us to watch and take pictures) piled out of the car and began to make the trek up the steep hill of scree.  We zig-zagged up the hill around boulders.  Eventually I found myself staring a one such boulder ahead of me.  I had been watching my footing too much and had to back track to get around the boulder, but why go around?  I’m here to climb right?  There were several inviting scoops in the rock so I climbed the few feet up.  As I stepped over onto the flat ground at the top I grabbed a bit of the rock to push myself.  I heard a crack and the slight force I put on the rock broke off a plate the size of a pizza.  I wanted to move my leg that was conveniently directly under this falling plate.  Not having time to shift my weight and not wanting the rock to go bouncing down at Sam’s dad I just held on to it.  I managed to hang on enough to keep it from bouncing off my shin (or would it have been through?) or attacking Sam’s dad and tossed it off to the side.  I was quite happy at my lack of injury until I felt sering pain in my finger.  My left middle finger no longer had skin covering most of the end.  The rock had sliced a section of skin the size of a nickel off the pad of my finger, leaving a flap hanging by one side with a deeper cut down the edge.  Great.  If the long tradition of stupid injuries I inflict on myself this is one of the most frustrating.  I injured myself before even getting to the crag on the first day of vacation when I planned to climb as much as I could the whole break.  Along with the fact that this is current and all my other injuries are just distant memories made this the worst injury a terrible tragedy.  Sam ran back to the car for the first aid kit and we bandaged my finger with gauze and tape.  I now had a finger the size and shape of a small egg.  Obviously this would be a great day of climbing.

We made it the rest of the way up and got down to climbing.  Not using a key finger made climbing significantly more difficult.  I didn’t do anything too challenging because my finger would scream in pain when I pulled hard on my sliced finger.  We did some sport and trad, both of which turned out to be interesting.  Using sport gear wasn’t too much more difficult but unclipping on rappel was much more difficult trying not to use my middle finger.  Trad was a different matter, especially when I was trying to use my left hand to place my biggest piece of gear.  My bandaged finger just couldn’t fit on the trigger between the wires and the stem so I had to awkwardly hold it with another finger while my middle pointed straight.

(Me looking for somewhere to place gear on Sheepshagga, there weren’t many places)

I crested the top and looked around.  The mountains all around were being eaten away.  An infestation of little ants driving trucks were taking away the mountains bit by bit.  This disturbing plague on the land has already taken a large section out of one ridge and will most likely consume the entire climbing crag in the next few years.  Probably just to make more cement used to destroy other areas.  It is terribly had the mountains can’t fight back.  They need some rock-Ents or a Lorax because around here nobody speaks for the rocks.

We headed over to a climb that Sam had done before and she got her first lead.  It’s great to see other people getting addicted to0.  She doesn’t know it yet, but I even have trad routes picked out, next time we go she’ll get her first trad lead.  Sam’s dad decided he wanted to head down and take some pictures of camels.  Unfortunately the car keys were nowhere to be found.  We decided they must have been dropped or forgotten when we were bandaging my finger.  There was still lots of daylight left so we headed over to do a “steep photogenic” route as the guide book described it.  It was a decent scramble and search to find the area, but we made it and only lost 1 first aid kit along the way.  The route was easy and perfectly framed the climber against the sky and desert a thousand feet below.  Unfortunately with only two of us we had a hard time getting good pictures while belaying.

Not having had any challenging routes yet I decided I had to do something a bit more difficult.  I picked a neighboring route described as consistently pumpy (builds lactic acid in the arms making it hard to hold anything, usually from overhanging routes).  I went for it.  I managed to do the first half of the route without too much difficulty or finger pain.  The crux was a different story.  I had small hold, nothing to actually grip and lots of demand for holding tight with my left hand.  I yelled in pain, grunted, and worked my way around until I eventually made it to the top.  By the time I got there my finger bandage was soaked with blood.

We headed back down to search for Sam’s key.  As we cut across the hill to our path up we walked across the opening of a nice looking small cave.  It even had paw prints in front of it.  We lowered our voices and continued past being very thankful that there was still daylight and we had not heard it yet this trip.  We found the scene of my slicing without too much trouble.  It turned out to be one of the few places on the hill with an abundance of black rocks (coal) which worked nicely to conceal the black key (one of the flip ones so there wasn’t even any metal showing).  None the less we managed to find it and made it down just before dark.

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