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North America, United States, Utah, Aeolian Tower, Howling Winge

Aeolian Tower, Howling Winge. In the Courthouse Pasture area, north of Moab, in 1995, Dave Goldstein and I made a first ascent of the east face, Howling Winge (5.8 A4). It was the most difficult aid route I’ve been on. The route climbs right of an uncompleted line that had lots of bolts leading to an anchor about 150 feet up, with a rotten fixed rope hanging from it. We placed only one lead bolt and two anchor bolts on our line. The first pitch is the crux; it took Dave seven and a half hours to lead 70 feet through iron-hard yet rotten Dewey Bridge sandstone. The third pitch climbs a perfect overhanging knife-blade crack through suspect Entrada. There were five short pitches in all; it took two and a half days, fixing ropes and sleeping on the ground, to climb the route.

The second day was highlighted by Dave “backing up” his rappel with the old, rotten fixed rope. He didn’t notice the knot at the bottom until it was too late and got stuck five feet or so off the ground. He dropped his pack so he could try hand-over-handing, but couldn’t escape the knot. Then he decided to prusik, but realized the gear was in the pack he had just jettisoned. With me waiting up in the gloom 150 feet above screaming at him to hurry the fuck up, he decided the only way to escape was to undo his harness and jump. This worked fine until the leg loops snagged on his ankles. There he was, dangling by his feet from a rope in the dark, with his dog helpfully licking his face. After a couple of mad crunches, he was free.

Dougald MacDonald