I love being on the road. What I love most about it is that #vanlife means I am not keeping a schedule; I have the capacity for spontaneity, and it’s this spontaneity that turns serendipitous encounters into open-ended adventures. Case in point: a Facebook message from Paul Gagner on a random Thursday in April, inviting me to come climbing (and by that I really mean hump loads and shoot the breeze) with him and his climbing partner Jeremy in the Mystery Towers the following weekend. Here’s the fun part: I don’t know Paul. Well, I do, I ran into him once while soloing the Flatirons in Boulder, and I’ve seen him pop up on my Facebook timeline a few times since. But I really have no idea who he is other than that he likes to put up ridiculously hard, bold aid lines. So of course when he suggests that I come hang out in the Mystery Towers while he and Jeremy scope a new route, I don’t think twice. The instructions are simple: “Bring beer and a big pack.”
In the days leading up to the outing I read up on the Mystery Towers a bit more. The laconic final paragraph of the area’s Mountain Project description maybe should have warned me: Expect mud or dry mud, advanced and innovative aid, including but not limited to: bat hooks, ring angle claws, beaks and peckers, fishhooks, bugaboos, warthogs, ice axe tosses, dwarf tosses, and general lassoing skills. Enjoy! I chuckle as I read through the beta and think to myself those timeless, famous last words: “How bad can it be…”
A few days later I am sitting on one of Eddie the Van's rails at the Fisher Towers Parking lot, a PBR cracked open, monitoring the approaching cloud of dust that marks Paul’s arrival. The campground is full, the weather forecast looks dismal, Jeremy won’t be showing up for at least another 24 hours, and Paul announces that the objective he wants to go after is a formation called Gothic Nightmare; he thinks that there’s new route potential there. For reference, the Mountain Project description of Gothic Nightmare reads …from the south it looks like a long haired hippie who stuck their finger in a light socket and from the west it looks like a bad, bad tower.