Two Towers, Two Weddings, Two Unforgettable Dirtbag Days
On Thanksgiving day in the fall of 2017, there was a dirtbag wedding on the top of the South Sixshooter in Indian Creek.
12 months later there was another dirtbag wedding in the same valley, just one tower over. Two more people were married on top of the South Sixshooter’s twin sister, the North Sixshooter. These two dirtbag weddings, although roughly 12 months apart, carried the spirit of the dirtbag lifestyle and culture. They were similar in the fact that they joined two wonderful people in love, they were both celebrated in spectacular ways, and have created two dream team partnerships that anyone would be jealous of.
To me, each one is a perfect half of the rock climbing community, the Yin and the Yang. The wildness and celebration, and the hard work and the serenity.
This is the story of two towers, two weddings and two unforgettable dirtbag days.
Dirtbag Wedding Number One – Creeksgiving 2017
My van was filled to the brim with dirtbags. Twelve of them to be exact (And one dog). On this day I was going to be the wedding officiant, and the bus driver it seemed.
We were driving the bumpy, dusty road that leads down Lavender canyon.
Emphasis on bumpy.
Halfway through the drive, someone started signing, ‘Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream!’ To encourage me. It caught on and pretty soon there were twelve people laughing and scream signing at the top of their lungs as I lumbered and coaxed my van to make it through this rocky, pothole-filled path.
We pulled up to the parking lot, soft red sand puffing out behind us as we stopped. Someone slid open the side door, and dirtbags began pouring out.
If you had been standing outside the van looking at the ragtag bunch of climbers spilling out my side door you would have seen the following:
- A man in a gold sequined dress holding a melodica
- The spouses-to-be holding hands and laughing
- Three young men with no shirts on patting each other down trying to find weed and a lighter
- A half-naked girl with sunglasses on and a PBR in each hand
- A French couple wearing electric blue tights
- A couple and their dog laughing and patting down the pooch, giving him some much needed fresh air
Most of us didn’t have formal attire, so we improvised. We threw on whatever was shiny or sparkly or bright, chugged a beer and called it good.
An assortment of climbing shoes, ropes, cams, and harnesses packed into backpacks were lifted out of the van and thrown onto bodies as we began our comical parade to the base of the South Six Shooter.
The chaos was easy and happy. Someone left a can of beer on a cairn with the instructions ‘everyone to take a sip, and the last person pack it out!’ This was repeated several times throughout the mile-long uphill approach.
The climb itself was easy enough for most us to free solo, but with 30+ dirtbags at the base, we decided to get a few ropes up there anyway. It sounds dangerous, but that’s the funny thing about climbers; they can be so comfortable in the face of so much danger.
Comfort is contagious.
Confidence breeds more confidence, and the safety systems we have drilled into our heads hundreds of times over keeps us sure-footed and aware. More experienced climbers know to keep it safer for the less experienced ones, and the less experienced ones look to the others for reassurance and guidance. With all this in mind, someone decided to get naked…which also seemed to be contagious.
As I finished my final mantle onto the large ledge right before the summit block. I was welcomed by a crowd of completely naked, and roaring with laughter, rock climbers.
After a few hours of impressively sober coordination, we had about 11 people on one summit, and a baker’s dozen on the other. The sun was low in the sky, but not yet set, as we began.
Marlene and Schuyler (the bride and groom) stood in front of me holding hands. I waved my arms and yelled over the din of voices for silence.
The words spoken don’t matter, only the three of us could hear them. They wrote the vows themselves.
They invoked alpine starts, luxurious rest days, wild adventures, and high stoke. Marlene and Schuyler promised to stay together through epics, injury and unforeseen bad weather. As the final words were said and they kissed, the crowd sent up a massive roar of joy. One of the wedding attendees popped a bottle of champaign, and another snapped a picture.
As the sun set, we came down from the tower. The excitement in the air was still high, but softer. We had accomplished something different today. It was a party, it was a rock climb, it was a wedding. This was everything you could have asked for in a day out on the rocks.
It was a dirtbag dream.
Dirtbag Wedding Number Two – Run Logan, Run!
The plan was to marry them at sunset.
Kristen and Mike wanted to be married on top of a tower, and since the South Six had been done last year, it was the logical choice to up the ante and ascend the North Six for their nuptials.
This North Six Shooter dirtbag wedding was to be very different, but no less dramatic than the South Six.
The North Six (as it’s often referred to) is an impressive and challenging climb that has everything from finger cracks to off-width to an epic roof crack and ends with a grueling run-out chimney before you can enjoy the comfortable and substantial summit.
In order to climb this, you must be a well rounded and strong rock climber. However, you must also have a solid trustworthy partner who can be relied upon even when they are far out of sight in a challenging part of the climb. This climb reminds you to bring someone along who can encourage and support, but also give you a soft and secure catch if need be.
The day before the dirtbag wedding they climbed together and set up fixed lines at the top for the rest of the wedding guests to ascend. There would be no free soloing at this wedding.
The guests and I did the awkward work of jugging dynamic lines in dead space and made it to the summit. We were greeted by Mike in a blue button-down Hawaiian shirt with a bow tie, and Kristen in a light blue summer dress. Both of them were barefoot and smiling; giddy and nervous at the same time.
On this summit, we had 12 people, but we were waiting in anticipation for the 13th guest.
The day before, Mike had told his very best friend, Logan, that he would be marrying Kristen the following day. Logan instantly packed his bags, threw his stuff into the car and began driving to Utah… from Canada.
I wasn’t there to see it, but I imagine Logan receiving the news on a red rotary dial phone. I can see him slamming it down on the counter top, sprinting down the stairs, jumping into an already running car and speeding away. His friend needed him.
Before I continue on with this story I want you to understand how far this friend was willing to go for this wedding.
For Logan to make it to the top of the North Six Shooter he first had to drive 1,200 miles, which is about 20 hours of driving (if he didn’t stop to pee or eat or sleep). Then he had to make it to Creek Pasture Campground, find Mike and Kristen’s campsite and find the note they had left him with very specific driving instructions. After that, he had to find the correct dirt road out of dozens of dirt roads leading off into Lavender Canyon. Mind you, all of these roads are basically dry stream beds and cattle trails. Once that was complete, he had to do some heinous off-roading through the fine red sand of the Utah desert that is notorious for eating up Jeep tires.
Next, he would have to run close to 2 miles uphill on some of the most treacherous ankle breaking terrain in the creek, make it to the base of the climb, figure out how to ascend a fixed line for the first time and then make it in time to see them married. He had to do all of this before the sunset or he would have to do it in the dark.
Meanwhile, on the North Six, 12 dirtbags ate chocolate covered strawberries and sipped champagne.
Hanging out on top of the North Sixshooter, you have the view of all of Indian Creek and the 211 highway. We danced and laughed and waited in anticipation for Logan’s arrival.
Would he make it? Should we wait? Maybe we should do this and go down…
All of us were thinking the same things as we continued to watch the empty desert highway.
What if he got in an accident? What if he got pulled over for speeding? What if he simply got lost?
“I see him!” Mike shouted, pointing at the road.
12 sets of dirtbag eyes turned to the small dusty road leading to the parking area for the North Six Shooter. A blueish green shape, no bigger than a tic-tac on the horizon, was making its way toward us.
Instantly the air was filled with whoops and shouts of joy and encouragement. “Logan! Logan! Logan!”
We watched as he pulled into the parking lot, a small blue shape tumbled out of the door and started running.
“Run Logan, Run!” We start shouting down to him, not sure if he could hear us. As he got closer we could see him sprinting towards us, up the steep talus cone.
It felt as if we’d entered the final scene of a dramatic sports film.
The hero is in their final push for glory and we, the audience, are watching with hopeful amazement. We are sure he will win, there is no doubt about it, but we still cannot believe our eyes at the scene that is unfolding around us.
Logan makes it to the base of the climb and begins to ascend the fixed rope. We are all waiting at the edge, encouraging him, shouting to him, that he is almost there.
“You’re almost there! You can do it!”
Finally, the mustached face of a tired Canadian wearing a full suit of denim pulls over the edge. The crowd on top of the tower literally goes wild.
Between hugs and tears of joy, we decide to get started. It is getting close to winter in the desert and it’s cold up here!
Mike and Kristen stand before me, someone supports Logan in the crowd. His goal achieved, he seems to be having a difficult time standing.
The look on Mike’s face as he stares at Kristen and reads her his vows makes me tear up. They have written their own vows as well, and deliver them with clarity in the cool desert air. He mentions the first time he saw her, twisted upside-down in some heinous off-width. At that moment he knew he was going to marry her. Kristen speaks earnestly and looks up at Mike as she reads her own handwritten vows. She promises to love him and to care for him, to laugh with him and to always give him a good belay.
The ceremony is short and beautiful. After the magic words are said, they kiss in the final light of the setting sun. The clouds fan out behind them like a halo of grey-yellow light.
Conclusion – Dirtbag Days
These two events encapsulate everything about climbing and the dirtbag experience that is worth preserving. Dirtbags live hedonistic lives, full of semi-reckless, comical, PBR fueled adventures surrounded by friends and loved ones in some of the most beautiful places in the world. They also live lives of challenge and trust, with friends who would drive halfway across the continent at a moments notice to eat homemade deserts on top of a dangerously beautiful summit.
Each day was full to the brim with love, and laughter, and rock climbing. At the core, these are the things that bring rock climbers together.
I have been fortunate enough to share in two peak (no pun intended) dirtbag experiences. Two unions that have celebrated, to me, what it means to be a rock climber and to live and love in this vertical world.
Who else has experienced a dirtbag wedding? Let us know in the comments below, or connect with the #Dirtbagdreams community on Instagram by giving @Outdoorprolink a follow!