Tristan “hiking” down a particularly steep part of the “trail”
After climbing the final tower, we headed down quickly. The specter of descending, in the dark, loose rubble bordering on a precipice warred with my fear of stumbling and flying over the edge if we went too fast. Jah-Man may be the only rock climb for which the approach and descent trail proved more intimidating than the climb. I wasn’t worried about getting hurt on the route – we had good gear and solid anchors. The trail, where ball-bearing gravel atop a narrow ledge bordering an abyss made a stumble potentially very painful if not fatal, made even Tristan nervous.
Danelle Ballengee’s fall, off another desert trail near here, resulting in a broken pelvis and helicopter evacuation after being out, alone, for 52 hours, reminded me of our remoteness. At least there were two of us in case one got hurt.
Amazingly, we saw no other people during our entire trip in to Jah-Man. We camped beside the wash both nights and saw no other climbers during the entire day we were up on Jah-Man. After hearing of climbers lining up to do this route, that solitude was a welcome surprise, especially since we counted 17 cars at the Castleton Tower parking area when we left. But the trail to Castleton, which I thought was hard before this, proved a breeze in comparison.
We reached the gentler parts of the trail at sunset and started running down the sandy trail toward the wash. I had just enough energy to run the last downhill parts and then hike along the wash in rapidly fading light to reconnoiter with our faithful van.
We’d driven it up the hill, out of the wash, that morning, so that potential flash floods wouldn’t carry it downstream. Since the weather remained dry, we drove back down from the hillside toward the flat ledge beside the wash where we parked overnight.
That night, I admired the stars. We were over 20 miles from Moab and its light pollution. With dry desert air, a moon not yet risen, and no lights anywhere, the stars sparkled across the black night in incomparable clarity. I saw frequent shooting stars, part of the 2008 Orionid meteor showers. Although some astronomers predicted that the moon would obscure the meteors, in Moab’s clear desert air, we saw a fair number or meteors before moonrise.
Our ‘camp’ beside the wash
We slept in our van, so put up no tent.