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Fear, Failure, and Castleton

July 9, 2010

May 30, 2010. Chris told me a while ago that he wanted to climb Castleton Tower near Moab.  I was unsure at first, but when I heard the route went at 5.9, I thought, “Easy.”  We bought and borrowed gear and drove to Moab late Saturday night.

We slept a few hours, woke up to the beauty of Castle Valley, and ate Cinnamon Toast Crunch with soy milk.  Our planned route was only four pitches, so I packed some water and a granola bar and we took off.

Randi and I on the approach. Photograph by Chris Martin.

The approach took us longer than we expected, but we arrived at the base of the tower excited and ready to climb.  Chris racked the gear and started on his first real trad lead.  He had a great lead, but it took quite a while for all three of us to do the first pitch.

Chris on lead, me on belay. Photograph by Randi Martin.

We swapped gear at the first belay and I started up the second, 5.8, pitch.  I expected this pitch to be pretty easy, and in reality, the climbing was pretty easy, but I was scared.  The crack was off-width and coated in slippery calcite.  I didn’t trust my protection and I didn’t trust myself.  Fear has always been my limiting factor in climbing, and I failed pretty hard on Castleton.  I made it to the top of the second pitch, and when Chris and Randi were up we decided to turn back.  It was getting late and I did not feel confident leading the next pitch.

Me leading the second pitch. Photograph by Randi Martin.

Randi finishing the second pitch, Castle Valley below. Photograph by Jacob Buckner.

Me on the way down. Photograph by Randi Martin.

As we hiked back to the car I felt frustrated, embarrassed, and relieved to be off the wall.  I guess I just have to be realistic about my abilities and limitations as a climber.  I’ll go back and climb Castleton some other day.

Randi and I, disappointed and tired on the way back to the car. Photograph by Chris Martin.

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