Castleton Tower — North Chimney

Rock climbing is going through some changes these days, with the explosive rise of indoor climbing gyms, joining the Olympics as a competition sport, and the popularity of bouldering. It’s easy to be confused when someone tells you they’re a ‘climber’ — this could entail any number of different activities.

At its most basic, climbing involves using gymnastic ability to reach places generally considered inaccessible by humans. And there is nothing that fits this definition better than a desert tower.

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The Last Good Day

“There’s no way of knowing that your last good day is Your Last Good Day. At the time, it is just another good day.”

— John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

You could feel it coming.

As the Coronavirus crisis was mounting in the US, we were in Southeastern Utah, near Moab, rock climbing the impressive desert towers that dot the area.

My climbing partner was a Swedish woman, Anna, a full-time climber who lived on the road. A “dirtbag”, we say in the climbing community. Without a permanent home, remote desert was about the most socially-distanced she could be.

I had a home; but amidst the mounting anxiety, I’ll admit: I wanted to escape. Lockdowns had not yet begun in the USA. But I read the news everyday. Italy closed. France closed. That omnipresent graph, always growing. It was coming.

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