Thursday, December 8, 2016

Indian Creek

Belly Full of Bad Berries 5.13-, Indian Creek, Utah. Photo: Garrett Bradley Photography.
Like turning up to Ceuse or Yosemite for the first time I was blown away by the vastness and quality of the climbing in Indian Creek. Truly a world-class climbing destination that I am sure can be appreciated by all types of climbers.  I can’t believe I have climbed for so long and had never visited.  I wanted to throw down all the classic routes I had heard of over the past decade or so but I soon had the realization that there was too much climbing and I wouldn’t even scratch the surface in a single season.

Cat Burgler 5.12 Photo: Richard Heinz
Robbie had introduced me to some German fiends of his in Yosemite, Richard and Anne, who I managed to join for my introduction to Indian Creek. More of their European friends joined and soon we had a crew and a large supply of cams. Rather than projecting we hit up a different crag everyday. We indulged in some of the most fun 5.11s and 5.12s I have been on. The singe pitch, non-committing, easy to protect style of climbing felt more like sport than trad. For the first time in a long time I was climbing without a goal other than to have fun hanging out climbing. It was refreshing.
Slice and Dice 5.12 Photo: Anne Leidenfrost
King Cat 5.11+ Photo: Anne Leidenfrost
Zebras and Moonbeams 5.13- Photo: Kelsey Brasseur.

After a while Richard, Anne and I decided to go climb a tower. They had heard of a classic 5.11 route called Fine Jade on a feature called The Rectory, which was a fin of rock sticking up on top of a ridge near the town of Moab. Next to it the famous Castleton Tower stands. We made a day of it and climbed Fine Jade and then the North Face of Castleton.  The downside to climbing these easy ultra-classics is the masses. People were everywhere and even a drone was buzzing around next to us. It kind of ruined the experience a little but we still had a great day.
The Rectory. Fine Jade climbs the lit up front face.
Photo: Anne Leidenfrost
Looking down Fine Jade towards Castleton Tower.
Panorama from the top of Castleton Tower with the Rectory shown in the left foreground. Photo: Richard Heinz.
Getting cosy working my way up chimneys on the North Face route up Castleton Tower. Photo: Richard Heinz.
Another week went by sampling the high quality routes in Indian Creek and Richard and I decided to go for a long road trip to Zion National Park. The reason for this was what is one of the most hyped up multi-pitches in the world, Moonlight Buttress. The pictures looked incredible and the description of a perfect crack running for multiple pitches up an exposed headwall had made this a climb I had always wanted to do.  Unfortunately I may have built my expectations up a bit too much. After climbing in Yosemite it didn’t feel that big or exposed. The rock was softer than Indian Creek and I felt lower in quality. The crux of the route wasn’t the climbing but more so placing the gear in the uneven podded out crack while getting pumped. So many aid parties have been up the route that the rock has worn into those pods. Because of this the climbing has got easier but the gear placements harder. There was actually chalk ticks with letters next to them marking out somebodies gear placements. The route has been worn out of classic status. I feel like I turned up 10 years too late for this climb. The upper splitter crack pitches were fun and not so hard redeeming the day a little. It was a fun expedition with Richard although I had a feeling I should have just stayed experiencing the endless quality cracks of The Creek.
Following the 'Rocker Blocker' pitch. After three so so pitches this one was great. Photo: Richard Heinz.
Richard following a 5.12- splitter high up on the buttress.
Great views. Photo: Richard Heinz.
Instead of racing back to The Creek we decided on a day sport climbing in Kolob Canyon on the northeastern side of Zion.  The crag contains only a few bolted sport routes all of which were amazing. The routes consist of steep huecos filled with jugs that overhang reasonably steeply for 40 meters. Also you are in a gorge with an amazing atmosphere.  There is only a day worth of climbing there but it is an awesome day.
Richard lost in the massive lines of huecos in Kolob Canyon.
On return to Indian Creek I felt like it was time to get stuck in and challenge myself. I had done two 5.13- routes, Death of a Cowboy and Zebras and Moonbeams, both second go but knew I was capable of much harder. I had top roped Optimator clean, another 5.13-, as well as had a one fall lead attempt but never bothered to go back and finish it off. I wanted more of a project. Learning to Fly 5.13 had classic written all over it and I had heard about it for years since Didier Berthod had done the first ascent. I was taken by the powerful nature of the overhanging finger crack with exceptionally poor feet. It took me four visits, which was more than I thought it would take.
In the crux of the punchy Learning to Fly 5.13. Mike Dobie on belay. Photo: Ana Pautler.
I couldn't believe this corner near Learning to Fly hadn't been climbed. I belayed Brandon while he aided it and placed an anchor. We had a play on top rope and think it may be in the 5.13 range.
Rest days in Indian Creek involved driving an hour to Moab to resupply and use the internet. There are also an amazing amount of other outdoor activities in the area. I was lucky enough to be there when a high lining and base jumping festival was taking place at an area called 'The Fruit Bowl'. This area is a chasm wide enough to set up some large slack lines over as well as deep enough to base jump into. There is a large net slung out over the middle called 'The Space Net' which people base jump off. I met up with a friend, Ray Marceau, who is an epic high liner and ventured out onto the net. No base jumping for me but it was cool to get out there and feel the exposure. 
The Space Net. Photo: Garrett Bradley Photography. 
Making my way out while Ray takes a photo. Photo: Garrett Bradley Photography.
Hanging around. Photo: Garrett Bradley Photography.
My five month trip was winding up and my body was feeling fatigued. I wasn’t content with only having done a few 5.13 range routes but my knuckles were sore from Learning to Fly and I was running out of time. A break from using my fingers was in order so I decided to play on a famous 5.13- offwidth route called Belly Full of Bad Berries. I never planned to get on it as off widths are rarely fun but after the first shot I was hooked. It was so different and weird I just had to do it. My final few days were spent inverted feet first up the physical line. I wouldn’t call it enjoyable but it has a strange attraction.
Bury your feet high, stack your hands and wrestle to the top. Photo: Garrett Bradley Photography.

Some holds appear towards the end but getting to the anchor is still nails. Photo: Garrett Bradley Photography.
A quick drive back to Squamish to drop off the van, a day snow boarding in Whistler, a visit to Kailas in Guangzhou, and a flight back home to Perth in Western Australia. I’m now keen to focus on work although I will stay fit so I can get back to try and finish off the Cobra Crack next northern summer.
A great day snow boarding in Whistler with Rick, Euginie, Hilary, Ian and Josh.

1 comment:

Squeak said...

Nice one crusher it's a shame about Moonlight Buttress. Ive seen a few people climb it (some solo) it looks great.