Last fall, Sam Tickle accepted a challenge: to push himself for 30 days, in 30 sports, in 30 US cities. The challenge is part of a web-series sponsored by EAS Sports Nutrition. Sam is testing the limits of athleticism. Without a rest day, or any way to prepare for the next sport, this is a training regimen that would destroy most people.
Sam stopped by to visit Zion on Day 21 of his Unstoppable Tour, and I took him on a multi-pitch climb on Tooele Tower (aka Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth). Guiding Sam was only a small part of the adventure; there are many additional challenges on a filming shoot, with camera men, sound technician, director, trainer, etc. in tow. The goal of the event was “officially” to test Sam’s mettle in the vertical realm, but the day proved an adventure for the entire crew.
Most of my guiding is with people that do not have a great deal of experience in the outdoors, so getting everyone prepared for the day was not too hard. But anytime I am taking people into the backcountry, I am very aware of the risks we can control vs. those we cannot. After hiking a few miles, the approach to the climb ascends a loose, rocky slope to the base of the tower. This is where things got interesting. We did not encounter any rattle snakes or mountain lions, but carrying a “jib” (an unwieldy 40 pound camera mount) certainly made the climb extra-spicy. Our motley band began up the slope, maneuvering as best we could over giant boulders, loose sand, and rock. Nearing the top, I heard a camera guy yell, “ROCK” and saw a basketball-sized rock tumble past me. The rock smashed into a boulder the size of a microwave, sending it down the scree slope. The sandstone block picked up speed, rolling and bouncing down the hill. A tree about 8 inches in diameter, lying right in the path of the boulder, and snapped like a pencil as the rocks blew through it. The cloud of destruction continued on down the slope, and making the term “unstoppable” much more clear to me.
When the dust cleared, no one was hurt, but we all gained an appreciation for the risk involved in this sort of adventure. We reached the base of the climb, and began getting equipment ready, orienting Sam to climbing fundamentals, and doing our best to work efficiently, knowing getting down before nightfall is going to be a challenge. Sam had next to no experience climbing, and did an incredible job of pushing through some tricky terrain. It is even more impressive when I considered he had already been going full speed for 20 days. When he reached the crux finger crack section of the route, he slowed down, but he didn’t stop. With muffled grunts and curses, he pulled himself through the hardest part of the climb, and we proceeded up the final pitch. Sam is an excellent athlete; he is sincere, and a lot of fun to climb with. We made it to the summit before our turn around time, had a brief photo session, signed the summit register, and began our descent. We reached the ground without incident, packed up, and started back to the vehicles. We knocked a few more rocks loose on the way down, but thankfully everyone made it back safe and sound, just after sunset.
This was my first time guiding with a camera crew, and is an experience I will never forget. Check out the series, and tell me if you think you could handle this sort of abuse. OR you could just make a reservation to come out climbing with me, and find out yourself.