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North America, United States, Utah, Uranium Peak, No Country for Bold Men

Uranium Peak, No Country for Bold Men. In late June Greg Child and I drove into Red Canyon in southeast Utah hoping to finish a route we’d abandoned two weeks earlier. The canyon baked in the early summer heat and buzzed with ferocious gnats. The unclimbed northeast face of Uranium Peak dwarfed the cliffs surrounding us. Our line followed a fabulous right-facing corner system right of center on the lower rock bands. Higher, on the wall’s main section, we connected cracks and corners 100m right of the large rockfall scar marking the face’s left side.

We ascended fixed ropes and settled onto the giant terrace halfway up the face, with 40 pounds of water and minimal grub. The number of flesh-eating gnats dwindled, but mid-day ground temperatures were 95–100°, with higher wall temps, and Greg suffered a fever and coughing spasms.

The route required both soft-rock and mountaineering skills. Loose blocks threatened rope and belayer on most pitches, demanding delicate climbing and thoughtful rope work. Sick and laboring under a brutal sun, Greg craftily pieced together the crux aid pitch in an amazing display of grit. I cowered in the meager shade of a reflective tarp, drifting in and out of heat-induced naps and hallucinations. A tricky traverse put us within a pitch and a half of the top, but Greg bonked, effort, heat, and illness taking their toll. We retreated to the bivouac terraces begging for the coolness of night. While ingesting atomic tortillas (torts with tuna fish and Uranium Peak sand), we witnessed a fantastic aerial duel in which two ravens battled two peregrines but lost.

After exchanging winks with a trillion stars, we ascended our ropes again before sunrise. A last tricky pitch put us on the summit. The monoliths of Monument Valley shimmered to the south, while the waters of Lake Powell twinkled to the west.

Heat mirages danced with the horizon as we descended. Slowly, carefully, we glided down our lines, cold beers taunting us from the distant camp, prompting a mental

warning: stay alert and focused. This place is harsh and will punish us if we’re too cocky, if hubris and haste exceed caution. This is No Country for Bold Men (350m, 5.9 A3).

John Catto