Sending the Sail/Half Cocked on Half Mast (Warning: Graphic)


The Sail is an often overlooked formation in the Poudre Canyon behind the uber-classic Upper Echelon Wall. The Sail is home to two classic 5.12’s, Keelhaul .12c and Half Mast .12b, both share the same start. I hadn’t done either and choose Half Mast to work on first.  After one visit top-roping/resurrecting the rig and one lead burn, I knew I could send.  Fortunately, two friends also wanted to get on Half Mast and we planned a return visit for the following morning.

That morning, my friends were running a little late, so I decided to head up with hand snips and a hand saw to do some much-needed trail work on the Upper Echelon trail.  Cody, my golden retriever, and I arrived and I put my headphones on and started trimming the trail on our way up.  The trail to Upper Echelon is steep, narrow, and very loose in several spots, but it is difficult to improve because it is the natural debris fall zone.

I made good progress and was below a switch back about half way up the trail, head down trying to clear the plants from the trail. Suddenly, BOOOOOOM, I was struck in the head, I dropped my hand snips and stumbled backwards. Before I realized what happened, my sunglasses filled with blood pouring out of my head. It took a second or two to regain my wits and when I looked up, I saw Cody twenty feet above me on the trail smiling and I knew that he’d knocked a large rock down.  I took off my tee shirt and wrapped it around my head to stop/slow the bleeding.  This was not my first head injury and I knew I had to wait for the shock to wear off before I could tell how badly I was hurt.  After a few minutes, I continued doing trail work until my friends arrived.

Upon seeing my pool of blood on the trail, my friends yelled  “RD ARE YOU OK?”  When they caught up to me, I told them how Cody had tried to kill me, but that I wanted to climb anyway and see how bad my head hurt.  The warm-up went well, no bleeding or additional pain, so I decided to get on Half Mast.  Corey (a former NCAA Division I gymnast aka cheater) went first and flashed it, then it was my turn.  I knew a spring storm was scheduled to hit that afternoon and I wouldn’t get a chance to try Half Mast again for several days, so I unwrapped my bloody tee-shirt bandage, tied in, and started climbing.

Half Mast starts with fun vertical terrain past 2 bolts. Then you clip the third bolt and make a powerful move right to the overhanging dihedral/arete; one more powerful right hand bump then gun it ten feet to the fourth bolt, clip and continue laybacking the steep dihedral/arete to the final rest before the crux. I floated up to the pre-crux rest, but as I was resting/preparing for the crux, blood started oozing from my head wound.  With blood dripping onto my face and shoulder, I knew I needed to get moving. I fired the crux and made it all the way to the chains!  Upon returning home, we washed off my wound and found 3-inch gash on the top on my head. Turns out I only had a minor concussion.  I’ve got to go back for Keelhaul:)

Brian Dunnohew tying into the sharp end with Chris Hofer on the belay.