• TNB: Climbing's Big Mistake
  • TNB: Trad Dads and Dad Bods
  • TNB: Do the Right Thing
  • TNB: Big Wall Soloing Sustenance – Cookies vs. Bugs
  • TNB: When Your Rope Falls Off—and 5 Ways to Prevent the Nightmare
  • TNB: Before I Die - What Would Climbers Think?
  • TNB: Raphael Slawinski - Firsthand Account of Everest Earthquake
  • TNB: Point Break - Sharma, Andrada on the Big Screen
  • TNB: Muscle Shoals - Rock and Soul
  • TNB: Naked Soloist is Saner Than Me
  • TNB: The Hard Climb to Heaven
  • TNB: Summer Camp
  • TNB: Suicide in Our Sights
  • TNB: Ethan Pringle's 10 Tips for Sending Your Project
  • TNB: Hawaii Rocks - Totally Aloha
  • TNB: PointGate - Why Comp Climbing Is Not The Future
  • TNB: My First Epic
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Avoid Braking Bad - The Art of the Soft Catch
  • TNB: #Dawnwall and The Creation of Alex Honnlove
  • TNB: Vision Quest - Benji Fink and Mexico’s Steepest Big Wall
  • TNB: The New Dawn (Wall) of Climbing
  • TNB: The Top 5 Weekend Whippers of 2014 (Plus the Comments)
  • TNB: 10 Tips for Jolene Kay, Professional Climber (and Hot Actress)
  • TNB: The Story Behind the Craziest of Rescues
  • TNB: The Risk of Climbing
  • TNB: How to Get Stronger by Doing Nothing for 5 Minutes a Day
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Improve Your Footwork
  • TNB: In Praise of the Weekend Warrior
  • TNB: Joe Kinder Visits the World's Hardest Cave
  • TNB: Celebrating Insomnia in Chamonix
  • TNB: Run, Rabbit - Hermann Gollner, 71, Cranks Pump-O-Rama (5.13a)
  • TNB: Five Best Photos of 2014
  • TNB: Clip Like A Pro - 5 Tips from Sasha DiGiulian and Sean McColl
  • TNB: Five Things Every Gym Climber Must Know About Climbing Outside
  • TNB: Still Jeff Lowe
  • TNB: Moving Over Stone With Doug Robinson
  • TNB: Wheels Up—The Top 5 Climbing Rigs
  • TNB: Is K2 The New Everest?
  • TNB: Things—Besides Us, That Is—That Fall
  • TNB: When Homemade Gear Works, Sorta
  • TNB: The Outsiders
  • TNB: R.I.P. Homero Gutierrez Villarreal - The Padrino of El Potrero
  • TNB: A Short Talk with Sierra Blair-Coyle
  • TNB: Ian Dory, Ninja, or The Craziest Thing I Ever Seen
  • TNB: The Best Crag Dogs of All Time
  • TNB: 5 Ways to Make People Love Your Routes
  • TNB: Hudon and Jones, and Don't Forget It!
  • TNB: Climbing's Tribal Rites
  • TNB: Sasha DiGiulian and Alex Johnson On How to Be a Modern Pro
  • TNB: Is Dean Potter A Bad Father?
  • TNB: Silly Places We’ve Slept - Tales of Unplanned Bivies
  • TNB: Forgotten Hero - Frank Sacherer 1940-1978
  • TNB: The World-Class Weekend Warrior – Martin Keller Climbs V15
  • TNB: Everest Sherpas No Longer Willing to “Grin and Bear It”
  • TNB: Hardheaded Helmet Lesson Learned
  • TNB: Six Most Awesome Jobs for Climbers
  • TNB: The Coolest Climbing Deal Breaker
  • TNB: Sharma and Glowacz Send World’s Steepest Rock Climb
  • TNB: An Encounter with a Legend - Patrick Edlinger, Plus A Whipper Vid
  • TNB: Six Things Every Climber Should Do Before They Die
  • TNB: Falling from the Top
  • TNB: Weekend Whipper
  • TNB: Band of Crushers
  • TNB: Charlie Porter, We Hardly Knew You
  • TNB: Climbing's Greatest Route Names
  • TNB: Hot Women Die and Have Sex on Everest
  • TNB: The Great Tragedy at Carderock
  • TNB: Thoughts On Death, and Last Words
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Big Story
  • TNB: Next Level? Honnold Pushes the Game on El Sendero Luminoso
  • TNB: Jeff Lowe Invented the Sport
  • TNB: The Most Popular Weekend Whippers of the Year
  • TNB: If Ondra Isn't The Best Climber In The World, Who Is?
  • TNB: Storm Years or Typhoon? The Biggest Issue in Climbing
  • TNB: Jim Bridwell Speaks
  • TNB: Honnold's Biggest Solo
  • TNB: Death on Forbidden Peak - Was the NPS Complicit?
  • TNB: Ice Climbing Goes to Sochi Olympics
  • TNB: When Gear Attacks
  • TNB: 8a.nu: The Best Climber in the World is the One with the Most Points
  • TNB: Shutdown: Illegal Climbers in Yosemite—Ninjas or Criminals?
  • TNB: Who is the Best Climber in the World?
  • TNB: The New Courage in a Rucksack
  • TNB: Unsolved Mystery - The Ten Sleep Shooting
  • TNB: The Pad Problem - Honnold, Kehl on Headpoints and Highballs
  • TNB: Travels with Delaney Miller - National Champ Turns to Rock
  • TNB: Jail Food and Booty
  • TNB: Love on the Road
  • TNB: Is Pakistan Safe for Climbers?
  • TNB: Flash Floods, Climbers and How to Get Out of the Way
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Level
  • TNB: Best in Show - Brand New Gear from the Outdoor Retailer Show
  • TNB: Adam Ondra Ties the Knot
  • TNB: Under Pressure - Trotter and Honnold On How Bets Can Help You Send
  • TNB: The Tragedy of Tito Traversa
  • TNB: DR's Crazy Brain Puzzle. Get It Correct or Else.
  • TNB: What Happened To Climbing Films?
  • TNB: Cry of the Colorado Fussy Snivel
  • TNB: Mystery Solved!
  • TNB: The Mystery of Moses Tower - Help Answer a 25-Year-Old Question
  • TNB: No Such Luck
  • TNB: Erasing Midnight Lightning
  • TNB: Mayhem - Crawling, Balling & Brawling on the Evere$t Soap Opera
  • TNB: Watching the Boston Marathon
  • TNB: Chasing the Devil's Snort
  • TNB: Born-Again Gumby
  • TNB: Super Unknown - Austin Dark Horse Establishes 5.14d in Random Texas Cave
  • TNB: Fearless?
  • TNB: The Big Freaking Deal, Ain't Bouldering
  • TNB: Honnold's Achilles' Heel
  • TNB: He's Either Crazy or a Poet
  • TNB: The Fish Cheat and the Prince of Climbing
  • TNB: A Letter from Santa... I mean Sharma
  • TNB: Traveler's Advisory - El Potrero Chico, Mexico
  • TNB: A Year Ago - Athol
  • TNB: Gun Control
  • TNB: What's the Problem?
  • TNB: Derek Hersey's Magic Carpet
  • TNB: The Apprentices
  • TNB: The Jungle
  • TNB: Klem Loskot is Back Climbing V15 and 5.15
  • TNB: Eliminated
  • TNB: The Hurt Locker
  • TNB: The Perils of Sport Climbing
  • TNB: Baddest Climb of the Year
  • TNB: Crossfit Misfit
  • TNB: Eating People and the Real Seventh Summit
  • TNB: Bring It On, Bitch!
  • TNB: What Would Warren Harding Do?
  • TNB: The Curse Of The Bandit
  • TNB: Reality Pro
  • TNB: Chris Sharma and The Art of Jeep Maintenance
  • TNB: American Dirtbag
  • TNB: How Not To Climb 5.12
  • TNB: Project FAIL
  • TNB: The Backwards Future of Climbing
  • TNB: The Death of Progress
  • TNB: The Da Vinci CO
  • TNB: The Philosopher King
  • TNB: Spam Alert
  • TNB: Bad Genes - The Different Types of Gumbies
  • TNB: Mouth Wide Shut
  • TNB: Outside Reality
  • TNB: The Day I Saved Jésus
  • TNB: My Pad, Your Problem
  • TNB: House Rules
  • TNB: Five Things I Don't Hate About Climbing
  • TNB: Metro-Pointing
  • TNB: Beast in the East
  • TNB: Artificial Intelligence
  • TNB: To Boldly Go Sprad Climbing
  • TNB: Self-Destruction
  • TNB: Soul Sport
  • TNB: Nine Pitches
  • Video Spotlight
    Where The Wild Things Play
    Where The Wild Things Play
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: Chris Sharma's 100-foot Pont d’Arc Deep Water Solo
    Weekend Whipper: Chris Sharma's 100-foot Pont d’Arc Deep Water Solo

    TNB: The Mystery of Moses Tower - Help Answer a 25-Year-Old Question

    By Alison Osius

    Could this be the climber who left his pack on top of Moses tower?An old mystery deepened a few weeks ago when Tim Mutrie, a skier-climber from the Aspen area, posted a photo on Facebook and asked, “What’s the story with this gear?”

    Ten years ago, Tim reported for the Aspen Times, and stumbled upon a dusty old backpack filled with gear in a back closet of the office building.

    “Being allergic to dust, I never fully inventoried its contents,” he wrote recently. “I never forgot about it, either.”

    When Tim heard this spring that the old Aspen Times building was about to be demolished, he trekked over, retrieved the old backpack, and appointed himself volunteer curator.

    The gear photo he posted online showed a battered purple Karrimor, a set of aiders, various small and huge hexes, some big chocks, a few brass RP nuts, and some mondo Tricams. Also a prusik sling, knife and chalk bag, some old water bottles and a camera. Some gloves, tape, a first-aid kit. A yellow tin of Carmex. And a Snickers-bar wrapper.

    The mystery climbers on what appears to be <em>Pale Fire</em> (5.12).Tim noted in his post that the Aspen Times building had also housed, in the past, Climbing magazine, peopled by Michael Kennedy, Bil Dunaway, Fritz Stammberger (a climber-ski mountaineer who long ago disappeared in the Himalaya in his own mystery) and various others. The pack might have, Mutrie suggested, local historic significance.

    Meanwhile he showed the photo to Neal Beidleman, a local climber-runner, and told him some of the carabiners were marked with the initials “J.M.”

    At first Neal thought the pack might belong to a local named John Matson, but one email dispelled that notion.

    Online readers responded to Tim’s FB post, inspiring him to more detail: “[One item] looks to me like an early cam—it's spring action, but single/one-direction action only. Appears to me to be manufactured. Chalk bag is Climb High brand (Burlington, VT) and the knife is a Schrade brand ‘Uncle Henry’ model—very sharp.”

    Meanwhile, Neal contacted Mike Benge, my spouse, who didn’t recall anything about the pack, but mentioned it to me. We had both long ago worked for Climbingin the warren-like maze of offices in the Aspen Times.

    On Moses, we four reached the summit platform, with its gigantic desert views, and on which sat a lone pack. I found the sight rather creepy, and looked around nervously for a body.I stared at him. “Mike, we found that pack. On top of Moses!”

    His eyes widened as realization dawned. “Ohhhhh yeah.”

    In November of 1988, I had recently moved to Colorado and he and I, with our friends Michael Dorsey and Keith Gotschall, climbed the 600-foot tower Moses in the Utah Canyonlands, via the classic Ed Webster route Primrose Dihedrals. This was a dream for me, having first heard of Moses as an 18-year-old freshman just learning to toprope the local slabs near Middlebury College in far Vermont, when Dave Gustafson, a mighty junior, climbed the route over spring break. Having spent my vacations at home in mid-Atlantic Maryland, I could hardly imagine seeing a desert tower, let alone having the experience to climb it.

    On Moses, we four reached the summit platform, with its gigantic desert views. Atop Moses sat a lone pack. I found the sight rather creepy, and looked around nervously for a body.

    I also couldn’t understand how anyone could just leave a full pack behind, though after awhile began to think that maybe he or she arrived tired, took in the view, and just spaced it (especially if enjoying a smoke).

    Since much of the gear was wide, I guessed that the pack might have been left after an ascent of the five-pitch Dunn Route (5.11a), established in 1973 by Jimmie Dunn et al on the north face. That route has some wide sections.

    Mike and I brought the pack home, and ran classified ads in Climbing  for months looking for the owner. Time passed and every now and then I wondered about that pack, and once I even asked where it was, but mostly we forgot all about it.


    * * *

    Another photo developed from the mystery pack.Mike went onto Tim’s FB page: “Mystery solved! Alison and I found that pack on top of Moses circa 1988. We placed ads in Climbing and no one ever claimed it. Crazy.”

    Another local, Eric Lovely, corrected him: “So the mystery is only half solved?”

    Meanwhile, Tim consulted his “photo forensics team” (an old friend and Aspen Times photographer ) for help in developing the film, and widened the search for the pack owner, formerly thought to be local.

    Wondering about a J.M. who might have climbed Moses in 1988, Tim and Neal came up with the name John Middendorf, a good suggestion. Tim had earlier considered Jake MacNelly, a young Aspen Times employee who died in an area climbing accident in 1996, but now knew we had found it before then. All I could think of was J.M. Barrie, the tortured soul who wrote Peter Pan, so that was no help.

    Just this week I received these photos from Tim, who noted, “I figured we'd be lucky to get anything intelligible at all, so I was cracking up to see that we got a face (Magnum PI's brother was a climber, apparently!), and a shot of the route they presumably climbed that day.”

    The 600-foot Moses tower. Photo: Darin Berdinka.The developer had inserted a stock note stating that the images were "off color because the film used was old or affected by heat or humidity, or left in the camera too long after exposure."

    But there was a face, a discernible face. Of Magnum PI’s brother, or somebody that someone out there among you knows. Who is he?

    The route in these photos matches up with shots of Pale Fire, a four-pitch 5.12 by Chip Chace and Charlie Fowler on the northwest face in 1981. It looks as if three people climbed it together that day. One of them might be very psyched to get his pack back after all this time.

    My only suggestion is that Tim be allowed to keep the Schrade pocketknife. He likes it.

    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article: