Josh Columb

by Dan published February 25, 2014

Josh Columb

Josh Columb – Age 40 – Lives in West St. Paul, MN – Profession Passion – General Contractor – Favorite Climb: Steck-Salathe, Yosemite Valley, CA – Most Recent Epic: “It all started very casually, I was visiting friends in the Salt Lake area and had been climbing one day in each of the major areas. But after 5 straight days of climbing my hands and feet were sore and swollen. I was suffering from semi-permanent dehydration due to massive amounts of caffine consumption, and my inexperience with the desert like heat, and long approaches. I had one last day to spend around town, but unfortunately all my friends had to go back to work, and my other friends were leaving town. While sitting around a camp fire that night, drinking cold press coffee, I thought out loud about how to spend my last day in town. I had bemoaned the poor shape of my hands and feet, as well as my overall weariness from the climbing thus far. But I had one day left and I still wanted to climb. I was looking for a long moderate climb, something “fun”! Travis, my longtime friend, suggested I free solo Mt Olympus. Before I could even ask anything about it, a resounding “yes!” rose from around the camp fire as the other locals present all chimed in and giving me their collective approval. Travis continued- it’s only 5.7-5.8, it’s a huge face, probably 1500 ft of climbing, all overlooking downtown Salt lake, super classic, and he continued, you climb to the top of a peak, Mt Olympus. Everyone free solos it he continued, it easy you’ll fly up it. Just start early and go light, you will be up and down before noon. I had heard of it, or maybe read something, I couldn’t remember, but I was hooked- the words “its classic” ringing in my ear. So the next day I drove down with my friend to drop him off at work and then headed to the start of the climb, that literally starts in the back yard of some McMansion in the suburbs of Salt lake. The beginning was easy hiking that led up a drainage gully, but as it narrowed and steepened and the terrain of the trail became more difficult, the effects of the early morning heat began to take its toll and I quickly drained the last of my one water bottle just as I arrived at the base of the “real” climbing. No problem I thought, this will go fast and I’ll be down before noon. I quickly climbed the first couple hundred feet, and they were right- it was classic. Featured 5.7-5.8 face climbing on a huge face. At around 10 am the sun hit the rock face and I paused to look behind me at the amazing view. I was nearing the top of the face and was encountering small ledges here and there as I climbed. Suddenly, as I pulled onto a ledge a rattle snake who had been enjoying the warm sun quickly coiled and began to rattle. I screamed- instinctively, I jumped over it and started climbing again. My adrenaline surged and without really pausing to think , I quickly started climbing again and pulled onto another ledge 15-20 ft above the last one. Suddenly another rattle snake, startled by my sudden appearance, coiled into a ball and prepared to strike and rattle its tail too. I screamed as I jumped to the left this time, to get on the steep face. I looked up and saw that if i stayed on the face, I would be encountering several more ledges before reaching the top of the climb. I didn’t like that, so I thought, maybe I will traverse to the ridge line and take the ridge line trail to the top. That would be safer I thought. Once I got onto the ridge though I realized that it was not a very well worn trail, it had low lying branches over it in areas and lots of rocky steps and ledges. I was convinced I needed to go up first to the top before descending. That was my original plan. After encountering several more rattle snakes in the next 100 yards, I was abandoning ship and wanted to get down as quickly as possible. By this time the temperature was around 100 degrees and I was sweating profusely, my body was covered in sweat. I commenced with the bushwhacking, half running have shuffling down the side of the mountain in loose gravel and dried leaves. But my easy terrain that I dearly wanted quickly turned into ledges and low lying manzanita bushes. By 2 pm, a full 4 hours after dropping down the other side of the ridge, I finally approached the neighborhood I had parked and left my friend’s car in. I was walking along a chain fence that separated me and the unmanicured wild mountain side, from well watered well manicured private estates that buffered the low side of the mountain. I had no idea where I was and was about to jump over the fence and cut through the yard when a guard dog quickly changed my mind. That’s when I looked down at my self. After sweating and being covered in sweat followed by hours of bushwhacking in dry dusty conditions i was covered in dirt. I had sweat mud around my socks and ankles. My socks had picked up thistles and twigs on the descent and it looked like small bird nest. I staggered like this until finally I saw an opening to the street in front of the house and picked two houses with no fence and sprinted to the front and lightly jogged for another mile to finally find my friend’s car. I drove to the nearest gas station, bought 2 bottles of water and collapsed in the car and drank. So much for a long, moderate, fun climb. I took off my clothes except for my shorts and threw them in the trash and drove back to my friend’s house where I collasped in the bed until later that night.” – Why I Love Climbing: ” Now that I’m 40, married with 3 children, climbing doesn’t get the time and attention in my life that it once did. But my love for the sport hasn’t changed and I try to truly enjoy the time I get to spend out in the mountains, and with the partners I get to spend that time with.”

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