A report that shows the terrible details of our trial of climbing the infamous “Gothic Nightmare”


Caution: Don’t read this if you want to climb it. (Seriously)


Another night found me sleep talking. I woke myself up with just another nightmare. Wide eyed with heavy breathing, I shoved myself back into reality. Everything was okay. But was it? As I got up to drink some water, I couldn’t help but think where my life is heading.


I’m 23, I’m not supposed to have my life figured out. Between the constant comments of many asking about what I’ll do with my life. It’s a constant annoyance of others shoving there opinions of success down my throat. Maybe that’s why I prefer to be by myself most of the time. The constant comments always put me in a negative mood, pushing people away. All the while, I’m living my personal dream. I’m doing what I love. I’m really living my life the way I need to. Seeing and experiencing things 99.99 percent of the world has never seen. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s who I am.

It’s been 10 years since I first developed my passion for the mountains and outdoors. In those ten years, I’ve been in a huge rush to live life. Through experiencing many climbing friends’ deaths, it’s made me be even more of in a rush. Because life is so very short. Anyone one of us could be here today, gone tomorrow. Do what you love, now, not later. Always.

It’s still an annoyance of this feeling of constant fear I get from the things I enjoy climbing. Whether its runout traditional mixed, hanging daggers, or chossy aid epics in the desert, I’m always pursuing to sharpen my head in the times where it matters. My durability in the mountains. It’s all training in the end. I want to be able to handle anything mentally. Choss provides that extreme training for me and gives me the extreme adventure I look for. Anyone can be strong, but it takes a lot more training to sharpen your head. There is still always some questions I continue to ask myself.

Why do I put myself through this? What’s wrong with me?

Nights filled with nightmares, the unknown, and the risk. Multiple days spent feeling like I’m going to die. It’s all mentally taxing. The Fishers have a way of making you really evaluate life more then any other climbing I’ve ever done. And I mean really evaluate your life. Between the constant struggle to breath in the thick muddy air, the constant screaming your head makes from the fear, the fear of flexing placements that might blow and send you for a long fall to break your legs, the close friendships you make, the views you see, the absolutely mind boggling formations, a summit few have ever been a top of, you’re left with an experience very few have ever experienced. Between the start and end of the climb, you find the meaning of your life. But during it you question your sanity. Sometimes you think you’ve gone mad. To get up these towers you have to submit yourself to A LOT of suffering and commit to not giving up no matter how bad it gets. And it can get bad. This place always humble you and always scare you. Most choose to avoid them which is fine. That means no crowds. The truth is, you can’t find that type of experiences anywhere else. It’s rare to find this type of adventure, except for the Navajo Reservation. And I think every human needs to see the views with their own eyes. It provides you with an ultimate high and satisfaction on how GREAT life is. You’ll be on a high on a life and so grateful for everything you have.

The Atlas

The Atlas

It seems the more I climb there, the better my headspace gets for climbing but the more I look down at myself as far as self confidence goes. It’s all pointless in the end. It doesn’t matter. Is it for the out of this world views? Is it to challenge myself? Do I do it to build up my durability? Do I do it to escape society and people? Do I do it to find out who I really am? Or do I just do it to really get my anger out? All the built up anger I have at myself and others. Though I always crack a smile on the outside, in the inside, I’ve always had anger. Instead of taking it out on others, I take it out on climbing.

Maybe it’s a bit of everything. Maybe it’s for the challenge that most don’t have the mental capacity for. How many of those challenges in life can I complete before my short life will be over? It’s a race to live life till the very end. It’s hard to deny, though, that each one of these scare fests don’t change my life in some way. There are too many adventures to remember in the last 5 years. Too many views. I have absolutely no regrets and for that I am happy. It’s who I am.

GOTHIC NIGHTMARE (Something Wicked This Way Comes VI 5.9 A2++) 6th? Ascent of Route 7th? Of the Tower

The Mystery Towers stand very tall in a remote area hidden behind the Fisher Towers. While the Fisher Towers see lots of hiking traffic, the mysteries stand behind, more proud, way muddier, and way crazier. They see virtually no traffic even for hiking. Get some Fisher nailing experience before climbing here. It makes the Fishers look like granite.

Throw back to a few years ago when I first climbed the Titan with Brian Crimm. I was like most, wanting to start aid climbing because it’s useful to know in the mountains. On the summit I found myself instantly obsessed by the experience. I told Brian that we should climb every tower in the Fishers. (6 or so major ones in all) And then I stated that we had to go to the Mysteries after! They include some of the hardest summits to reach in the desert. Brian stated I was crazy. From that day, a dream was set. But I had no idea at the time the trauma one must go through to get to that point. I thought I knew what being scared felt like. I didn’t know a hint. It was a life dream for me to climb every named formation in the Mystery and Fisher Towers.

After climbing the 5 major towers, something 15? or so people have achieved, I found myself buying over 20 peckers and a couple specters. After Derek Wolfe and I invested almost 2,000 dollars together, we headed to the Fishers for our first big nailing route there, the Rasta Wall on River Tower. A Jim Beyer route that receives little attention.

The Hydra from Gothic Nightmare

The Hydra from Gothic Nightmare

After dropping a load of iron at the base the day before, the route looked dicey from a clean aid climber’s perspective. Steep, more muddy then the traveled routes, pecker seams with pendulums, a double roof and a muddy cam crack. I was scared.

I took about 5+ hours to lead the long involved first pitch at A3/4. And Derek took over 3 hours for P3. With multiple small peckers in a row, some straight into the mud. I got rained on by mud that whole time, turning my beer into a slushy. He even whipped onto a pecker right before the anchor. And it held! The last pitch involved the standard Fisher rotten “C2”. Upon getting down, we were both hooked.

Over the months, Derek kept mentioning Gothic Nightmare. We were both psyched on it. A new area I’ve never seen before. Could it really be that much worse then the Fishers? We were shooting for “Something Wicked This Way Comes (VI 5.9 A2+++)” on the Gothic Nightmare. Basically the route to shoot for on it these days. It receives a reputation of a wicked wicked sandbag! Can a route really be A2+ in the Mystery Towers?

The erosion is more out of control in the Mysteries then anywhere else I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s because it has more mud but bolts really do just fall out there, or with slight weight. Don’t go there seeking safety.

Aware of all of this, we dragged David Alexander into the idea. I think we both tried to leave out some stuff about it but I think David knew. It was agreed that Derek and I would take all the nailing pitches, David would take P2, a 150 foot long very very rotten crack rated “A2+” as well. Well how does a clean aid pitch receive an A2+ rating?

Gothic Nightmare as a whole has seen about 6 ascents since 1970? It’s definitely less then 10, these days. It has a reputation. Read John Sherman’s account of Rob Slater and his team tackling the second ascent of the Gothic Nightmare, and you’ll get an account. You get bat hooks, pitons driven tent stake style into mud curtains, bolts that barely hold body weight, tiny peckers forced into tiny seems, and the DOOM mantles.

Derek thankfully hiked in the day before and shuttled a load in. We rounded up the gear, and headed in early the following morning. We kept asking Derek what it looked like.

“Muddy and blank” was his usual reply. Pitch one is 210 feet long so it was agreed I’d lead 100 feet up and the build an anchor, then rappel. Derek would clean the gear and continue on so he’d have enough for the next half of the pitch.

After a really awesome hike in, we rounded the corner in the really hot sun. I looked up and realized just how muddy the Mysteries are. At the roof on P1, a mud hanging dagger was slightly hanging over, something like a hanging dagger of ice you’d climb on, barely hanging over the edge, but worse. I could see no hint of rock the whole way up the pitch except for the first 30 feet.


I racked up quickly and went to the work. The first 30 feet was straight forward “C1” and way more muddy then it looked. Caught in a small muddy squeeze, the muddy dust particles filling the air. I had a coughing fit, it felt like I was suffocating. I rounded the roof into full on mud, excavating every placement. Soon I got to a couple bolts. Each one stuck farther out until the third one was sticking well over halfway out. From there, a blind spectre pounded straight into the mud got me to some thin nailing juju (hint 2 more spectres) and scary peckers got me higher. At one point, I started getting really scared. The pecker I was standing on, well the mud was breaking apart around it. It started to pop out. I watched it as it was slowly oozing out. I was scared. The fall would be quite big to the bolts and would the bolts hold a big fall? Maybe the first one would?

I down aided quickly to the spectre that wasn’t great but it also wasn’t moving out like that pecker. From there I pulled the pecker out easily with my two fingers. After thinner nailing I got to some bolts that lead to the anchor. Top stepping mandatory. I lowered off, covered in mud. My teeth were brown. I felt like a changed man. Only a little over 3 hours on the sharp end. So this is A2+ in the Mysteries huh?

Blind Spectre Placement

Blind Spectre Placement

Derek started up on P1b. A long rivet ladder with a missing section continued on to some “C1+”. Most of the bolts were covered in mud. He had to dig for them. He arrived at the P1 anchor late in the day. It took all day for P1. He came back to the base covered in mud. We both congratulated him on a fine lead. David jugged and cleaned it all up. We drank beer and started the hike down. We were satisfied. One pitch down, we’re off the ground. We got this. We were even having fun at this point.


Back at camp at night, we went straight back to bed. I thought I was practically done. All I had was a fun bolt ladder pitch left up high. David had the next pitch while Derek had P3, which was said to be missing some rivets. I had high hopes! But as ALWAYS, something always goes horribly wrong, sometimes multiple things, and the unexpected pops up. Can you handle that fear and keep going?

Derek on P1b

Derek on P1b

We woke up in the dark. Day #2. Derek states he is really nervous about P3 and is not sure he wants to lead it. David was also quite nervous for P2. I was just glad I might not have to lead that day. Soon we arrived at the base. David jugged up and got his rack ready. I followed and soon he was off leading.

Derek after leading the last of P1

Derek after leading the last of P1

His pitch looked like a good crack the whole way. It starts off with a muddy C1 hand crack. Soon he was out of view. Soon, I am getting rained on by A LOT of mud. It’s like a full on missile crisis at the bottom. You’d surely die if you stood too close to the bottom of the tower. There is never a second without constant mud chunks hitting the ground. David is really quiet. I can sense he is gripped. Hell, I’d be. But I’m not. I’m at the hanging belay drinking my beer. Belaying on this stuff is also mentally taxing. At any moment you’re hoping you’re not going to catch a huge whip from your partner. Like that one time Derek whipped onto me and Brian Crimm at a hanging belay after 25 to 30 feet. He tore his tendon from that fall. And I was absolutely gripped finishing that pitch after seeing that.


Oh God!

Soon, I sense and hear something big falling through the air, backwards, head first, in a cloud of mud. Chunks both big and small falling around David.

He keeps falling, and falling while I keep trying to pull in slack. I sense terror under his breath when he comes to a halt. Shouting and heavily shaking from a deep fear.

David right before his epic fall

David right before his epic fall

“Lower me dude! My heads bleeding!” He quickly states to me.

I try to lower him but it’s really hard. He has some MASSIVE rope drag and he just added a descent core shot to the rope from the fall. Without in instant, the stakes are different. Within an instant, we got more serious problems. Soon he arrives at the belay vividly shaking and then rappels down the rope to the ground. He keeps repeating that the mysteries aren’t for him. Stating how messed up the Mysteries are. That he’s never ever coming back to climb there. He keeps stating he just wants to climb in the Fishers. How much he misses the Fishers. And how much he misses the REZ!

I soon rappel after him, glad David is okay but pissed about the situation. I bring the massive rack to the ground. Upon reaching the ground, I throw everything off of me and go into a massive cursing fit like a baby. Derek mentions us bailing for the first time. I shun the idea. I know if we pulled the rope, I’d come back in a year and have to re lead that pitch. And I don’t want to re lead it. At that point in time we were more worried about David’s safety then the tower. It seems like something terrible happens every time I come here. No tower ever goes smooth the whole way. There is always something shutting you down with a very very big sense of fear. The hardest part is moving past that enormous fear.


We rush out, and get David to the ER in Moab. They put four staples in his head. He keeps repeating to us he has absolutely NO desire to finish the tower.

“Are you sure man???!!??” We keep repeating to him.

But he would support us the next day from the base and take it easy.

His bandage on the way to the ER

His bandage on the way to the ER

Derek and I are terrified from his fall too. His fall keeps replaying in my head and makes me shutter. Derek quickly stated that we can bail and that he isn’t finishing that pitch. I refuse such an idea. We came here, we knew it was going to completely messed up. It’s Gothic Nightmare. It’s going to be a nightmare. We got to complete it. I said screw it, I’d finish it. If I whipped bigger then David and hurt myself too, then I’d leave the rope until I was ready to return.

After the ER, I was filled with a very very DEEP dread for the following day. Flashbacks of David’s fall came to my head. What if I fall but am not as lucky? What if I zipper more of the pitch?

David can hardly recall what happened. But did remember that it was a really REALLY muddy rotten crack. And that we needed way more big cams.

I was terrified. I drank more beer. I started talking about the show Trailer Park Boys with David to ignore fear. But as I laid on the desert floor, looking at the amazing stars, I couldn’t help but think of my fate the next day. I don’t want to be me. Why can’t I just have a nice career in New York City with a wife and multiple kids? How did I ever get into this? I wanted it more than ever before. I can’t fall. I won’t fall. Go to bed. Get some rest.

I woke up the next early morning. I grabbed the rest of the cams, and Derek grabbed his pack. We started the hike in, again. David and another friend Glen, would hike in later to watch us. As I started jugging, I was terrified. Of ALL things, this is the last thing I wanted to do. The absolute last thing. What am I doing here?

The rope that was hanging from some piece 40 feet up on the pitch, and the rope was core shot. I tied into the other rope and jugged the core shot rope, clipping some pieces as I jugged, just in case. Soon I arrived at the accident location. No cams actually held him!

The rope wrapped around a detached hanging pillar mud block of rock on his fall. That’s what held his 30 foot fall! The #4 he would have fell on wasn’t the greatest, nor was the piton below that. I started off leading, very carefully. I cleaned out every placement and took my time. Soon I was above David’s highpoint, scared of taking an even bigger fall. Soon I was near the end of the really really muddy part. The end of that part was the crux.

Pure mud so I kept cleaning the mud out. The more mud I cleaned the more I realized, I was actually cleaning out the placement so much that it wasn’t going to be a placement in a second. I placed a spectre. It sliced right through with body weight. I placed a bong straight into the mud but could take it out with my fingers. I clipped it anyways. I then hammered a 4.5 sized Cam into that “pod” Half of it was sort of cammed, the other half wasn’t. I started to weight it after a slight test. It was making a popping sound and expanding into the mud.

“I’m probably going to fall here, Derek!!!!!” I yelled to Derek out of a lot of fear.

“Watch me!!!!”

I took three steps up. No sneezing allowed. The cam was expanding into the mud more and more. I placed the next piece in a detached hollow flake and soon after a bomber #5. A2+ huh? Still can’t believe that piece held my body weight. Unbelievable!!!!! I think I blacked out at one point. Maybe it wasn’t that bad? Or maybe it was?

After several scary doom free mantels onto slabs of heavy mud, I lowered off and back cleaned more gear. But soon the horror was over. Anchor, finally. Long pitch. CLASSIC!

Derek followed. I could hear him talking to himself about how messed up the pitch was while he cleaned it. Re confirming that I was being scared for a reason. My mood was lifted. A nice sight to see on the tower almost 400 feet up.

I had a nice spot on the ridge. I was still slightly shaken from fear.

“Dude that was messed up!” I stated to Derek.

Derek near the end of P2 where it eases off

Derek near the end of P2 where it eases off

Derek was even more nervous now, for the next pitch. We had been fighting hard for every inch on this tower. Derek sacked up and grabbed the gear and started on the sandbagged “A1” pitch. MUAHAHAHAHAH He got to the second bolt, both of them had bail biners on them. He looked up confused.

No seams for #1 peckers, no bolts, nothing above for what seemed like miles. He stated his concerns. I got upset, again.

“Dude there has to be a way, just keep digging! Find a #1 pecker seam” I stated.

Soon he admitted defeat.

“Fine! I’ll do it!” I screamed in anger and fear. We were turning into a couple fighting right before their divorce.

Derek has a daughter and stated he can’t do that with that behind him. Maybe we should bail?

Well, I have nothing, really. So, screw it, I’ll do it.

Derek checking out P3. Steep!

Derek checking out P3. Steep!

I pulled up the rope to the bolt. I dug and dug. Top stepped several times. No bolts anywhere in sight. No cracks. Not free climbable. The bolts had fallen out or someone had ripped several of them out! I admitted defeat as well. No way. I felt bad at getting angry at Derek. He was right. We discussed our options.

The view from the second bolt with nothing above

The view from the second bolt with nothing above

We left ropes and planned on talking to the FA or second ascent party to get more knowledge about this pitch. It was almost all a bolt ladder on the FA. Not a big deal. Soon we got the advice from Crusher on what he would do and planned to go back with a drill and re bolt it very sparsely. Make it like the FA had it. Would Derek have to re bolt the whole pitch? Had they all fallen out? Mind games continued.

Nightmares followed for 3 weeks.

It was indeed the stuff of nightmares.


Many mornings I’d wake up to a text from Derek stating he had another nightmare. I found myself waking myself up from sleep talking. The dreams seemed so real, so horrifying. The dread always followed me, I couldn’t leave it behind. It followed me like my own shadow.

“Is it really that bad?” Some friends would occasionally ask me while climbing splitter wing gate.

You have absolutely no idea.

I wonder what would have happened if David hadn’t fallen. Would we have handled our fear better? David tried his hardest and the outcome can’t be changed. Him more than anyone wishes he didn’t fall. His fall put in our head that this stuff really is dangerous especially since the bolts are about to fall out, some of them have.

We wanted a third, but found it hard to find anyone even willing to jug the ropes on the tower, let alone lead a pitch. Nor would I want to put someone on this tower for their first time in the Fishers. That would just be a total dick move.

We borrowed a drill and soon I found myself doing the dreaded drive to Onion Creek. The drill wasn’t charged all the way even though I charged it for 15 hours. I told Derek and Derek quickly texted me back clearly heavily stressed.

“I’m about ready to just go up there and get our ropes. I’m NOT going up there without a full battery”

I then got pissed and stated that he better not.

Derek's A1 placement

Derek’s A1 placement

I drove to Dave’s house in Moab he so kindly let us charge it for the next 24 hours, therefore getting a full charge. I drove back to Onion creek to camp. It was raining. I didn’t have a tent. I laid my sleeping back on the ground, put an extra blanket over it and I got drenched in the cold rain all night. Stupid me. Horrible night. Why don’t I carry a tent anymore?

Derek and I hiked in the day before to drop off a load of gear. This approach was turning into something I feared. Every time I hiked it, I was filled with deep dread. We climbed maybe the second ascent of the Marryman, an AWESOME 2 pitch 5.7++ tower. I pulled out the summit anchor quite easily. A kid could have. But luckily we wrapped the summit with chord and got down. A really fantastic tower and type 1 fun! And then we climbed the Hunchback via a new route (Here Today, Gone Tomorrow 5.10++ R A1) which will now go free at 5.11+? Since I cleaned out a handhold out of the mud while hanging. Enjoy the mantle of doom on petrified cobble crumbs, that’s above scary gear.

After simul rapping off the summit (no anchor) we got our harnesses ready for the next day. Gothic Nightmare is just so massive. We were both reminded of the fear. We hardly ate dinner. We had to go to bed.

Another night of sleeping on the ground, found me waking up at 4 A.M. on Halloween day. The sound of coyote howling in the distance, getting closer, kept me on edge all night.

We drove silently on the 4WD road to the start of the approach. Not even speaking to each other. Starting the approach, Derek quickly yelled at me for not hiking fast enough. I was just going my average pace. I was about to reply in anger but quickly caught myself. I knew it would through off his head game even more. I didn’t want to lead that next pitch. I best be quiet.

Gothic Nightmare looked very evil at night. A huge fortress from Mordor in Lord of the Rings where Sauran, the Eye, sits atop of. I started jugging first, hoping the ropes weren’t core shot after three weeks of rubbing over the edge. The bomber Lost Arrow we placed at the start to hold the rope was now super loose and easy to pull out. Erosion at its finest.

Jugging P1

Jugging P1

We spent some time hauling but soon were at the ridge line. Derek arrived.

“I can’t do this man. I got to go down. I’m done with this tower. I don’t have the experience for this.” He quickly barked after jugging P2. He had dislodged a big rock on the jug and a bolt on P1 came out way too easily after some playing around. He was already freaked out. I knew Derek had the experience.

Soon, I believed we were bailing. I stated to him, I was pretty mentally fried, still, from leading those two previous crux pitches. This was Derek’s pitch and I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. I stated that I’d just sucker someone else into it after a month of more nightmares to join me.

I couldn’t bail. I couldn’t pull the ropes.

But soon I tied the figure eight knot and quietly gave it to Derek. Derek was filled with terror. I knew on this stuff, sometimes you just got to tie in and get to the first piece, then the next. It will get overwhelming if you don’t.

“You won’t die dude, I promise,” I stated.

“Just check out the first piece, don’t bail before actually trying it and getting on it. If you’re up there and don’t like it, then fix the rope and rappel. But at least check it out. I know you want this as much as me.” I state encouragement to him.

He screams profanity, fighting his inner demons. Soon he starts tying in.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this! This is completely @$$@.” He states.

To my unbelief he starts leading. At that point in time, I’m really proud of him. To confront that fear and overcome it, few know about that. Few experience that. I know this pitch isn’t some death pitch. It’s all there. But after 3 weeks of dwelling on it….

Soon he gets higher and higher.

Derek at the top of P3

Derek at the top of P3

“Watch me!!!” He states as he is standing on two equalized #2 peckers in by a couple teeth, flexing. A1 huh?

He gets higher and higher. The bolts continue to get worse. At one point, out of view he knocks off a near oven sized boulder in a free climbing section. I dodge it underneath a small overhang. Oh man!!! That was huge!!! I thought he was falling on some bad bolts! In the end, he got to the anchor. I jugged. I was glad he led it.

“Thanks for pushing me to do that.” He stated to me on the rappel to the ground.

That pitch, still, was no joke. He placed 4 bolts in the end, to back up the really bad bolts. We counted 21 or 22 bolts which according to Crusher was around the amount on the FA.

We planned on finishing the climb the next day. I was supposed to finish the final two pitches. Since Derek lead the whole previous day. One more “A1” pitch and then the summit pitch that was supposed to be no gimme. And the bolts were probably even worse than the last ascent in 2009. We knew we had it almost in the bag.

I’m still nervous. We get another early start and soon are jugging quickly to that final pitch to the summit ridge. I start leading, committed to not replace any of the bolts. But the bolts are by far the worst on this pitch more so then anyone of them I’ve seen on the route. Out of over 12 bolts, only one is sticking out a half an inch at the start. All the rest are sticking out 1.5 inches, most are sticking out 2 inches and a couple over 2.5 inches! (out of 3 inches) I end up replacing one that is flexing halfway up, mainly because I had to free climb to it and if it blew, which it could, then I’d break some serious bones. The top two bolts before the anchor, I replaced, were the worst. The top one was only in by a quarter of an inch? Sticking out over 2.5 inches. I had to hang on it, gripped, to place a new bolt. Future parties will thanks me. Still exciting for A1. After some free climbing, I arrived to the summit ridge anchor. Two of the anchor bolt sticking WAY out and one baby angle sticking out.

I added a bolt and fixed the rope.

Wild climbing on P4

Wild climbing on P4

The summit ridge might be the wildest place I’ve ever been. Way crazier than any of the Fisher Tower summit pitches. Soon Derek arrived. I was secretly hoping he would be psyched to lead the last pitch. It looked…..scary….and intimidating.

But soon I grabbed the gear and casted off. A scary sandy 5.7 or something smear around an unprotected block brought me to one cam. After about 15+ more feet, I arrived to the baby angle in mud, Crusher placed in the 90’s and the final quarter inch bolt really sticking out and clearly eroded. I was scared to weight both with my body weight. If these two blew on a fall, it would be disastrous.

Derek at the ridge belay

Derek at the ridge belay

I must have stood on that bolt for hours, it seemed. My legs shaking from fear.

“Dude, I’m really scared, this is really messed up.” I say.

I just want to bail. This is just getting out of hand. But I’m 20 feet below the summit.

Get a grip on yourself! 

I spend a few minutes cleaning the mud off sandy holds. I top step to find better holds. There all slopers. Soon, I commit. It felt as if my life was moving in slow motion for the mantel. Right hand to mud hold, with too much weight on it, it would break, and I would be sent on one horrifying fall. Left hand on a sandy sloper. Heal Hook. GO!

I mantel and soon find a no hands rest.

“That was horrifying!!!!! The ultimate mantle of DOOM!” I yelled to Derek.

I continue up some muddy 5.7 to the belay. I clip in. I start to get a little emotional. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe we did it. I do the 5.4 scramble to the true summit, half the size of a coffee table with 650 ft of air. A summit few have ever touched. A summit I’ve read about for years, where some of my heroes have visited.



I raise my hands in the air while Derek takes pictures. Probably the best summit I’ve ever stood on.

I fix the rope and Derek soon stands on top. What a great day for two friends to dangle their legs off a tower in the middle of no where.

gn21 gn17

After an epic descent filled with almost stuck ropes two times, and reversing the 5.7 summit ridge “walk” we soon arrived on the ground. The ropes pulled and fell to the ground.

We both opened a beer and congratulated each other on maybe the finest desert adventure we had ever been on.

Summit ridge

Summit ridge

The dread had been lifted. As we hiked out with huge packs, we looked back one last time at the Gothic Nightmare in the rays of the sun.

We overcame our fear. Went to hell and back and then were sent back to hell. There is something special about experiencing that.


We sorted gear and at 9 P.M. I chose to leave the desert. I drove as fast as I could back to Denver, never looking back.

Done. Finally.

“Dude, we got to do the Citadel, we got to climb all of them!” I stated to Derek before l left.

But let’s give it some time. We got some mental healing to do.

Shoot, maybe it’s time I get married and have kids. You know, be a responsible citizen.

Or maybe it’s time to break out my ice tools.

Why do I do this? I think I found the answer in the midst of the nightmare.



About Noah McKelvin

Never skip a day of living life
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