The La Sal Mountains

I first visited Moab in 1998 for a Contact Improv jam. A friend and I drove the “back road”, Route 128, along the Colorado River late at night listening to Yo-Yo Ma’s Cello Concertos. It was magical, slipping along, side-by-side, with the patient, relentless river and music dancing, dancing, dancing. At the dawn of the cell-phone era, I had earlier talked with my father and told him where I was headed. He said, “Oh yes, Moab is just west of the beautiful La Sal Mountains”. I was dumbstruck. How did he know—and remember—this? He hadn’t, to my knowledge been in that region for decades. But he remembers things like this, more or less permanently as far as I can tell. It is very cool.

I learned later that he had been through Moab twice before then, once in 1950 on his way to Colorado returning from climbing in Mexico including a swim at the Dewey Bridge, and again in 1953 on his way from Colorado to more climbing in Mexico. He told me that on their way south in 1953, Moab was the end of the paved road.

My amazement of my Dad’s memory of the La Sals seems to have had a similar effect on me; I have also remembered them ever since.

In May of 2014, my Dad and I had the opportunity to drive through Moab together and, of course, see the La Sals. They were as beautiful as ever, with luscious, low, west light illuminating their snow fields and the brilliant red stone.

In early July 2014, the Colorado Front Range was scheduled for lots of storms and I took the opportunity to climb Mount Peale, the highest of the La Sals. I didn’t know what to expect, going mostly because I like adventure, mountains, and thought that some family member ought to climb something in the range. Being me, I wanted to climb the tallest, Mount Peale.

I climbed from the south by the “standard route”, up the snow couloir and along the west ridge. An avalanche-tossed salad of trees, the scree, and couloir snow were all deliriously delightful. The whole surface of the mountains is composed of modest-size scree, all the way to the summits, punctuated with only a few small outcrops of solid stone. I guess that this contributes to the achingly gorgeous, bezier shapes of the ridges and scree rivers. I soon found myself tracing future routes along ridges, linking the summits with an elegant track. The La Sals, to me, just beg for days wandering, looking, loving.