Inspired by today’s Daily Prompt: Nature, I reminisce Growing up in Salt Lake City, UT, I was surrounded by so many outdoor natural adventures that as a child, I didn’t even realize were there. My folks are indoor, watch TV, “don’t you dare try that” kind of people. As predictable as the meat and potato dinner we would have almost every other night, except for pork chop night on Thursday.
When I hit my teen years, I began exploring the mountains with my friends Steve and David. There is a canyon not far from our house called Little Cottonwood Canyon; it is known for world-class skiing at Alta and Snowbird ski resorts, but we were drawn to a little place called Gate Buttress which 20-25 years ago when we found it was a secret world to us. We discovered huge boulders to climb on or over, trails leading to caves leading to massive granite cliffs.
We would come both in the summer when the heat was pretty bad in the valley and in the winter when there was six feet of snow on the ground to hamper us, but always we would fund our way up to the cliffs and traverse and hike and play. It was wonderful. What made this place groovy was that this is where I discovered rock climbing. We had always seen odd men and women with dreadlocks and smelling funny hiking past us on the trail with ropes and packs and shoes that looked like ballet slippers but we had no idea.
My friend Steve and I found an old rope once while we were up there, frayed, old and weathered; probably measured twenty-five feet or less. It was used on part of the trail to skirt a cave/crawl and you could hand over hand the rope over a boulder face of fifteen feet. We both decided we wanted to rock climb and with the fervor of youth bought two army web belts, hiking boots and proceeded to cut the nasty rope.
We hiked to the cliffs full of ourselves and proceeded up one of the first cliff faces we found. Steve, always the more gung-ho back then, Snapped the web belt around his waist and tied an overhand square knot around the cheap plastic buckle. I did the same thing. Seriously, this is what the other climbers were doing, right? He began his climb and I felt that something was wrong, that there was something more I should be doing to protect in case he fell. But he didn’t, he climbed as high as the rope let him, and I began. More slowly than Steve, I caught up to him and there we were; both on the cliff face about 30 feet up not knowing anything.
Needless to say, we climbed another twenty feet before we realized something was wrong, we became terrified or the powers that be just put some good sense into us and we realized we were in way over our head. We slowly and meticulously made our way back down the cliff, trembling hands and hearts. When we were gathered back into our senses, we noticed a pack and a book nearby, I looked at the book and it was a climbing book called “Wasatch Climbing North”, I told Steve we needed that book to learn and find other places; he agreed we should buy it, but for once, I was the more aggressive and decided the boys who this belonged to were probably one hundred feet or more up on the cliff, and would never catch us, so yes, I stole the book.
We eventually learned how to safely climb, buying the right gear and learning technique inside and outside. I climbed for ten more years until life settled me into a routine that had no time for nature as much, and it breaks my heart. Currently the Church of Ladder Day Saints owns the mining rights to this buttress and it has not been the same. I don’t know if I will ever get to share this magical place with my kids. I have to lose some weight and oil off some rust before I climb again, but just the majesty of this grove, trials and cliff system amaze me to this day. I found God as a young man in the changing colors of the trees, and friends on the trail. It is a bond surely felt and discovered by those that have known its magical pull.