Vaughn Hadenfeldt, 55, is the founder and proprietor of Far Out Expeditions, based in Bluff, Utah.His
job involves taking clients to ruins and rock-art sites that he
has already scouted.
couldn't resist exclaiming, "I saw it too!"
That morning, with only daypacks, Vaughn
and I set out, each on our own loop, for what would turn out to be eight-hour excursions among the canyon bends and alcoves, while Greg stayed closer to camp, composing camera portraits of this extremely photogenic stretch of Comb Ridge.
At camp, I swapped discoveries with Vaughn
, who had just arrived, red-faced and tired.On an equally demanding loop downstream to the north, he
too had found marvels of rock art, including one crowded frieze of petroglyphs,perhaps a hundred different figures,25 feet (8 meters) up a vertical cliff where the ground on which the artists once stood had eroded over the ages, stranding the panel in thin air.
Greg fell awkwardly and screamed in pain; Vaughn
and I hurried to his
and I have to hike out to the nearest road, half a day away, flag down a car, and arrange for a helicopter rescue?Could this casual mishap spell failure for our entire expedition? Vaughn
fished out his medical kit and gave Greg 800 milligrams of ibuprofen.
and I would surge ahead, then stop and wait for our gimpy companion.
, for one, had wanted to climb it for at least 20 years.Though its summit, at a mere 5,111 feet (1,558 meters)above sea level, is not even close to the highest point on Comb Ridge, the Mule Ear soars above its neighboring crests and is the most spectacular of all the "teeth" on the 120-mile-long (193-kilometer-long) massif.
Now, with Greg limping behind, we made our way slowly up toward that graceful spire.When we had almost reached its base, Vaughn
, in the lead, rounded a small extrusion in the sandstone and nearly ran smack into a desert bighorn sheep.Only seven or eight yards (six or seven meters) away, the animal,a mature male with a full curl to its horns,jerked his
head up in fright and bounded downhill.We watched as it clattered expertly across the slickrock and, in a matter of seconds, disappeared from view. Vaughn
could not contain his
murmurs of surprise and joy.An erstwhile hunter of deer and elk, he
had stopped going after big game many years ago, but still loved nothing more than watching animals in the wild.
and I headed back to camp, Greg devoted hours to the effort, circling far afield to scramble down to the Chinle itself, then scouting a route up to the secretive buildings.