Archive for the ‘Utah’ Category

Indian Creek Climbing Road Trip March, April 2013

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
Indian Creek, Utah

Indian Creek, Utah

I couldn’t believe it, I was going back to Indian Creek. After my first trip there in 2010, I had said I wanted to go back right away. It took me three years, but it was happening!

The first step is to fly to Sacramento, California. Not exactly the direct route, but it’s my ticket to crashing an already planned road trip to Indian Creek that my friends Terri and Leo had planned. Initially there had been talk of 4 climbers going out on a road trip, with a possible group up point in Las Vegas. It was to be a mini Tweetup of sorts since all of the folks involved are on Twitter and had attended a Jtree Tweetup before. But plans changed and I caught a cheap flight to Sacramento, where Terri and Leo live, to drive with them to Indian Creek.

Tuesday, March 26

Get picked up at 4:30am. At the airport I luck out and get an earlier flight than scheduled. I arrive in Sacramento without incident and Terri picks me up and sets me loose on downtown Sacramento. I  explore and take photos of the Capitol building. Terri gets off work and we go to Trader Joe’s for food. I meet Terri’s family at her house that evening. Terri and I pack her brand new Subaru Outback with gear. We are able to go sans Thule.

Wednesday, March 27

We leave Terri’s and pick up Leo at 6:30am. The start of 16 hours of driving commences. Terri has the wheel. I get a tour of ski areas (with snow on them) I also see Donner Pass and we go through Reno. We stop to get gas and eat at a small sub sandwich place. My turn at the wheel. We drive into Utah and through Salt Lake City. Unfortunately we realize that we didn’t factor in the time change when we thought about where to stop for dinner. We hit rush hour traffic. Eventually we stop for gas and on a whim try out a run down looking “drive in” right next to the gas station called Little Acorn Drive In. They have sandwiches made with home made bread which taste surprisingly good. Leo takes the wheel. Thinking ahead to arriving at a darkened Indian Creek camping area, I sit shotgun since I’m the only one in the group who has been there before.

Moab looks bigger than last time I was there, also things look open even though it’s late. After avoiding animals on the road, we arrive at Creek Pasture campground. The moon is bright enough that we can see pretty well. We spot Luke’s blue truck but continue on, hoping to get a campsite. Even though Luke sent me an earlier text message mentioning bathrooms I am still surprised to see that there are vault toilets in the campground and that every campsite seems to be differentiated with picnic tables and fire pits. This is very different than three years ago. This is a good surprise. Eventually we circle back to Luke’s group. “Go talk to him,” Terri urges. I get out of the car, Luke preemptively calls out through his truck’s window, he’s awake and guessed it was us who passed earlier. He tells us to just park with the other cars in the “space” and set up tents “back there”. We do this. It’s around 11pm.

Thursday, March 28

View from Bunny Slope

View from Bunny Slope

In the morning I realize that our campsite is right next to the one I was at three years ago. Aside from the picnic table and fire pit, it looks pretty much the same. I also realize that Luke is with a big group of people who mainly seem to be associated with UC Berkeley. They have been camping for awhile. One of the group, a gal named Alix, asks if I know Lea from LA. “Yes I do”, I say, “in fact the last time I was in Indian Creek I was climbing and camping with her”.

“She’s coming here tomorrow!” Alix says. Small world.

Leo, Terri and I had a climb picked out for our first day, a 5.9+ called “Bunny Slope” on Critic’s Wall. Everyone else parts for their own objectives. Terri, Leo and I drive out to Critic’s Wall, stopping to leave a note for Hayley at the bulletin board near the vault toilet (which used to be the only vault toilet I had seen in the area when I was first in Indian Creek). Soon Terri’s brand new car is on it’s first off road drive. We pass some folks camping near the dirt road and then get to the parking spot. One car is there but its owner soon returns with a dog and takes off. We have the wall to ourselves. “Bunny Slope” features sustained 5.9+ climbing for 130 feet. It takes two 70 m ropes to top rope it safely, though Leo was able to be lowered after his lead to a ledge which he then downclimbed. Belaying from that ledge wasn’t a good idea though, so that’s why we had to use two ropes. We drive out to Donnelly Canyon and head up towards “Chocolate Corner”.

Me pink pointing Chocolate Corner

Me pink pointing Chocolate Corner

Leo leads this and then I decide to pink point it. It’s funny because I top roped this route during my first trip to Indian Creek in 2010 but I don’t remember any of the moves so my past experience doesn’t help. It feels really good to lead it though. I later find out that though the book calls this a 5.9, Mountain Project gives it a 5.9+ (sadly many times when I look up something I’ve led on that website, it seems folks have downgraded it). Leo puts up “Elephant Man”, 5.10, 80 feet, which turns out to be a fun, slightly meandering crack with “weird hands”. I’m not kidding, the book even calls it “weird hands”.

Recognizing that we need ice for the cooler, our trio votes to go into Moab to get ice and eat dinner. We end up at Pasta Joe’s and are able to text another Twitter friend, Haley, with whom we are expecting to join up on the weekend. The food is good and the vibe is good. I reflect that so far this Indian Creek trip – with bathrooms, paved parking lots and pizza – feels extravagantly decadent compared to my first trip. We dodge animals on the drive back to camp and get in around 11pm (again).

Friday, March 29

In the morning I get to catch up with Lea, who is going to meet up with Russ, one of the other people I climbed with last time I was in Indian Creek. It’s fun and a little bit surreal to be back. I am bashfully proud to tell Lea I pink pointed “Chocolate Corner” since my first trip to the Creek my crack technique was not at its best. Lea is going to wait for Russ to show up so the trio of Terri, Leo and I take off again. Our objective this time is to get to “Super Crack”, the most famous climb in Indian Creek, and one I didn’t get to climb the last time I was here. Unfortunately Luke also tells me that it will be a grunt fest for me (my hands are too small for it). Our trio heads up Super Crack Buttress and first goes to “Incredible Hand Crack”. It’s taller than I remember. It’s possible it is also a tiny bit wider. I have fun but am happy not to have led it. On to “Super Crack”. I see why this is so popular a route. The first part is a little odd but for me is not too bad. What’s bad is the crack after it. It is sustained and, for me, wide. I use mostly a cupped right hand and a gaston with my left. It is very very tiring. I get to a spot right below the small roof, clip into Leo’s blue cam and rest. I don’t have to do this since I’m on top rope but it gives me a sense of accomplishment to do so. If I had been pink pointing it I would have at least made it this far. I continue on after the break, I get one fist jam in but the rest is all grunt. I tell myself it’s good practice since this is the size of crack most of my partners will like, plus it is a very attractive and classic line.

After “Super Crack”  we move to “Twin Cracks”, a 5.9 which is a lot more fun. “No Name Crack” at 5.10 is next, also fun though it also has wide parts. I’m feeling a little tired from “Super Crack” though. At night, Haley, her friend Matt, and his dog Gauge join our group. Since this is the first night our trio is in camp before everyone has gone to sleep, it’s a particularly social campfire that night.

Saturday, March 30

Me on sighting Hands Solo. Photo by Terrell Barry.

Me on sighting Hands Solo. Photo by Terrell Barry.

Seeking shade and to get away from crowds our expanded group heads to Selfish Wall. Haley had done a climb here called Hands Solo and shared a photo which captured both Terri’s and my imagination. The approach hike lead us straight to the climb. After eyeing it, I asked if I could try an onsight. I racked up with 4 yellow BDs and 3 red BD’s (technically 2 red BD’s and one equivalent Chouinard). Though the route is relatively short, my arms feel very tired towards the top, I’m not recovered yet from Friday! I get right up near the anchors (which are to the left of the crack). I pull a yellow BD from my gear loop and call down to Matt, “I know I don’t really need this here, and I’ll remove it when I get lowered but I’m tired so I’m putting it here, anyway!”  I place that sucker, clip in and then move a foot up farther to set up the anchor. True to my word I remove the last piece as I’m being lowered (better for rope drag). I  get to the bottom and Terri gives me a high five for my first Indian Creek onsight. I’m tired but feel good. My jams all the way up had felt good too.

I belay Terri and then get on my next climb which is “The Duo” 5.11- this is fun! When I get down I have to spend time in the shade. I get an allergy attack and start sneezing and my eyes get crazy watery. This normally doesn’t happen to me, I usually just get a runny nose. It gets bad enough I have to wait to do my next climb. When it passes I get on “A Breakfast Social” 5.10. This is another fun climb. Lastly, we find a climb with shade near by. In fact there is a breeze around the corner and Leo jokingly says it has air conditioning. This is great as today feels like the hottest day since we’ve arrived (which is to say it’s still pretty nice, but the direct sun is a little draining). Leo leads up “Solo East” a tall 5.11. I watch as others get on it and with some trepidation, get on it with the goal of  cleaning the anchors. The start is slightly wide, and getting over a hump proves to be more difficult than I expect because the crack widens there. Eventually though the crack is small enough that I do some ring locks. I almost make it all the way up but have to hang. When I get to the top I am happy though, I sometimes call myself “The Cleaner” I think it gives me extra incentive to “have to” clean all the gear. Sometimes I even clean “stuck” gear that others have left behind.

We get back to camp early enough to cook dinner and have social time. Our group is thinking about doing South Six Shooter and ask me about it since I’m the only one who has done it before. I think it’d be fun to do. However I then realize that 1. Haley and Matt need to be back in camp by 4pm, and 2. We would be two parties and one of the parties would have to be a party of three. That would mean the endeavor would take longer than when K and I did it in 2010. Leo and Terri bring up doing an Alpine start but I’m a bit worried about finding the four wheel drive route to the base in the dark. I remember it was not the easiest to find in the daylight and plus there were some parts where our car was right next to a deep crevice in the rock. I resolve to ask Lea what she thinks about this. When she arrives she says, “That’s an all day thing!” I agree.  Terri opens a bottle of wine seeing as how the alpine start is probably not going to happen. Then, while we’re still enjoying the campfire, a sudden gust blows up, knocking things off the tables. A rain squall happens immediately afterwards. We all notice the darkened sky and recall that there’s a chance of rain tomorrow. The tower plan is postponed and we all scramble to get inside our tents. It was still a fun night at least.

Sunday, March 31

Sunday morning no one in our group gets up early. There isn’t a cloud in the sky now. After some discusison our group heads for Way Rambo wall. Leo has three climbs in mind. We get to the parking area and see cars at the base. We get out and as we start up on the steepest part of the approach we find ourselves in a race of sorts with another group. Leo realizes he has forgotten something back at the car. After one wrong turn the group gets in front of us. In the end we get to the cliff base and find that a fairly large group (made bigger by the folks who passed us on the way up) is on all three of the routes we were thinking of doing, there is a little bit of confusion on how many are left to do each one. Eventually a route frees itself and Leo leads up “Rochambeau” 5.9 it is an interesting crack climb with many small overhanging parts to it. I get on it and find that though it is not an easy climb, the overhanging parts at least have rests before them.

Leo leading Fuzz. A 115 feet tall route.

Leo leading Fuzz. A 115 feet tall route.

The last climb of the trip for me is a cleaning mission on “Fuzz” a 5.10 route of 115 feet. I’ve watched a few climbers at the bottom of it, which is a wide flare and it doesn’t look easy. And then it gets steep and overhanging! As I step up for my turn I face straight into the crack and find that I have wedged my shoulders in and am staying in by flexing my back/shoulder muscles. Leo says I need to face to the right. I somehow squirm around and find a high handhold which allows me to unweight and get me feet over. Once out of that awkward start I find the small crack up the ramp to be easier than I thought. I do it quickly because I know a rest is coming up and then things will get much harder. I get to the rest and shake it out a bit. I take a deep breath and launch up the vertical part. The crack is wider now. I resort to a few layback moves. I am tired. I get to another rest. I take another deep breath and look up at the overhanging part I have coming up, and at how the crack arches off to my right. There’s nothing left for it but to go for it. I start up, I use my cupping / gaston moves again. My left wrist is hurting a little bit, my breathing is very loud. I aim to get to Leo’s next piece. I get to it and have to hang. This is one tall climb! I shake out my arms, take more breaths then continue. The crack juts off to the right and I do a bit of hanging on my jams, with my feet on the wall. Finally I get to the anchors. I clip in and smile. I am tired but happy.

Some of our group starts hiking back to the car before I am down since we are trying to get back to the camp by 4 so Haley and Matt can catch their ride and Terri, Leo and I can pack up and head out to Arches National Park. By the time I get to the car, Leo has started it up. I stick out my thumb for a ride.

Back at camp we grab a few pics and say our goodbyes. Leo, Terri and I take off for Arches National Park. We race the sun. We get inside the park and start up into the interior but the sun is fading fast. We get out at the first big arch we see and I race out with camera and tripod. I get one photo of the arch before darkness sets in. In the opposite direction of the arch though are some rain clouds in the distance… and lightning. What follows then is a quick explanation of how to shoot lightning and excited jumping up and down as we see each strike. After I miss some nice ones, both Leo and Terri insist that I not show them the previews but “just keep shooting!” A really nice forked lightning burst happens and I jump up and down like a little kid. I think we are all a little punch drunk.

We get back in the car and start on our way out of the park. Terri has generously said that she’d spring for a motel room for the night so we don’t have to find a campground in the dark. First though, we stop at a picnic area to make and eat turkey sandwiches for dinner. It is pretty dark. I see a flash of light on a tree nearby and point it out. This spooks Terri. We start talking about how no one knows we’re out here. “I told Lisa we were camping in Basin,” Leo says. Terri starts packing up the cooler. I start laughing. “No one is going to kill us!” And yet, I consider that it does seem like a horror movie, complete with a lightning back drop. Leo and Terri have packed up so fast that I still have my half eaten sandwich in my hand when I jump into the car.

It’s late when we pull up to the motel Terri found using Yelp. It seems nice and I note that they have a free continental breakfast in the morning that starts at 6am. I get the first turn for the shower. It feels great! Action Wipes have been awesome for the trip so far but it’s really nice to have a hot shower.

Monday, April 1

Highway 50. The Loneliest Road in America

Highway 50. The Loneliest Road in America

We get up and happily find that the continental breakfast includes waffles. We sketch out the driving plan for the day. Our objective is to get to Basin National Park – a park I had never even heard of before this trip. We will then take a scenic way back to Sacramento. We set off. We have a bit of trouble with navigation but are soon driving through terrain that is surprisingly mountainous. We see a good bit of snow on mountain peaks and sometimes right by the sides of the road. It’s very pretty country. We get to Basin National Park’s visitor center and get out only to find that it is closed. We can see snow covered mountains close by. We pick up a park brochure and Leo and I are interested to find out that the park includes caves, a lake and generally mountainous features. We had both expected a desert environment. Terri had known about the caves and had been looking forward to seeing more of the park and getting her National Park passport stamped. There is another visitor center but it is only accessible through a farther entrance. We decide to move on. The drive back to California takes us through Utah and Nevada. We travel on Highway 50 which is labeled “The Loneliest Road in America” it certainly has very little traffic and the towns we pass through seem to be have a lot of run down homes. Mostly we see great open land and various mountain passes and summits. Terri keeps thinking the next range we see is the Sierra Nevada but after a few false alarms we realize we are just in an area with a lot of mountain ranges. We stop at a fast food place in a small town when we got too hungry. It’s the biggest town we’ve seen in a long time. As we get closer to Reno we start seeing more Casinos and other signs of bigger Nevada cities.

We make it to Sacramento in time to drop off Leo and then have dinner with Terri’s family.

Tuesday, April 2

Terri gives me a ride to her work and lets me use her personal laptop. In the afternoon it’s time to go to the airport again (I can’t believe how quick it is to get to the Sacramento airport from downtown – in contrast to getting to LAX from downtown LA). I fly home and meet my friend in the long term parking garage. We drive home taking the Pacific Coast Highway part of the way. It’s beautiful but my body still feels like it should be in the desert.


According to Luke our trio arrived in Indian Creek right after some very cold weather. After we left the weather turned rainy and cold again. I think we had the perfect weather window there even though we did get a bit hot over the weekend when climbing in direct sun. I had a great time and I even enjoyed the road trip part of the trip, though it’s too bad we didn’t get to spend a little more time in the National Parks. On a photography front I feel like I produced some nice work but I still wanted to do more. One thing missing was star trail shots, we had a bright moon for the first few nights and then overcast conditions (and the sudden squall). I guess I’ll just have to come back some other time…

Slideshow of a selection of my photos below. Click on any photo to view it in a larger size (highly recommended). Link to the full set of photos featured in the slideshow. You can also see a larger set of photos here.

Outdoor Retail Summer Show 2011 – OR Show Highlights

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
OR Summer Show welcome banner

OR Summer Show welcome banner

In August I got to attend the Outdoor Retail show for the first time. The show is a convention for the Outdoor industry to show off their newest and/or up and coming products, it occurred from August 4-7 this year and attendance was approximately 25,000 retailers, exhibitors and media. The OR Show also happens to be a fun time for the industry to get together in Salt Lake City, Utah.

I left my schedule pretty much wide open for the show but I was also checking out the first ever Outdoor Photography Expo, put on by the same people and held in a hotel walking distance from the OR Show. Additionally, K and I were staying with friends of ours who we hadn’t seen in person in years so we wanted to spend time with them as well.

Rather than give you a blow by blow of the experience (which I can sum up by saying I had a blast at both shows, at the parties and with my friends) I thought I’d list some of the highlights and companies and products I checked out.

Outdoor Demo Day – Jordanelle Reservoir

The highlight of this day activity wise was trying stand up paddle board for the first time. While some may groan about SUP seemingly taking over the human powered water sports world, I have to say that after trying it, I can definitely see why. I found it challenging (though that could be a factor of the windy conditions I went out in) but also satisfying and pleasant. It reminded me of ocean kayaking but involved my whole body and demanded a lot of more from my sense of balance. Thanks to _ for providing SUP boards and instructors!

Going around the tents. I stopped by:

Chaco: they showed off some funky toe enclosing colorful shoes which were for water sports.

GoPro: they showed off a 3D camera set up (you enclose two GoPros into it and use software to process).
GoPro 3D Hero Video System You can read a bit about my experience with their product here (basically it works but not for very long, however it’s a natural alternative to deet).

Brooks-Range Mountaineering Orienteering Race: They provided a navigation class which I enjoyed, and they let us keep the map tool afterwards. It was supposed to be a race, but it was more for learning than for competition.

SweatyBands: Non slip headbands, they gave away product and I snagged an extra to giveaway to you guys! (watch for the upcoming give away post).

I also spent some time looking for my sunglasses which had slipped off of my head… luckily after some time I found them.

Convention Days

Tweetup – I had a great time meeting up with fellow Twitter folks even though I had forgotten my id and had to go back for it.

Honey Stinger – Loved their mint chocolate flavor

Klymit – I’ve heard about their Inertia X sleeping pads before but they’ve expanded their offerings and this was my first time seeing them in person. I have a review coming up on one of them. First impression made on the OR Show floor: they are thicker than I thought and comfortable. I’m amazed how small and light they pack up, even with the pump included.

Climbing Specific

Black Diamond's magnetic locking carabiner

Black Diamond's magnetic locking carabiner

Black Diamond – Sat down and talked to the magnetic carabiner engineer. This little guy comes out in Spring. My initial concerns about the magnet affecting a compass and grit sticking to the carabiner were put some what to rest. The magnet is only strong enough to affect a compass if it is right next to it. And should any grit stick to the magnet it is more easily cleaned than a normal locking carabiner (they buried the carabiners in dirt to test).

The action on the carabiner is pretty darn smooth I must admit. It is easy to open and close and the weight (another initial concern of mine) is not noticeably different than a normal locker. I am not sure if I’ll really like them in real usage, but I am more favorably inclined towards them than before, particularly since they do indeed seem less likely to get “sticky” from dirt like some of present older locking carabiners that I own.

Kong – Their alternative to the BigBro was demoed to me. It’s called the Gipsy and it looked pretty slick and can be

Kong crack gear

Kong crack gear

deployed one handed (so they said, I had a bit of trouble with it, though of course I didn’t have any practice time with it). I still found it quite intriguing though.

Five Ten Coyote Canvas shoe

Five Ten Coyote Canvas shoe

FiveTen – The new shoe coming in Spring of 2012 is a canvas version of the Coyote shoe. It’s washable. Maybe they read my stinky climbing shoes post? 😉 Other differences from the regular Coyote show is a lower ankle and slight padding.

Treadwall – This is just what it sounds like, a climbing wall that rotates. I climbed it a bit while at the Sierra Nevada party it was fun even though the motor wasn’t running so it just was being pulled down by my weight.

Me "leading" on a Treadwall

Me "leading" on a Treadwall


80’s Dance Party by Teva – Just plain fun. Though a bit crowded.

Tweetup at the Red Door – Great to meet Twitter folks from #climb and from the outdoor industry. Unfortunately I had arrived late and many folks had already left.

Google+ Photographer Meetup – Had dinner with a few “strangers”. I’m finding Google+ pretty darn fun and already connected with some photographers in time to arrange this meetup.

Free Concert at Snowbird – This was not part of the ORShow or Outdoor Photography Expo but I went with my Utah friends. Quite cool to have a free outdoor concert in a pretty venue!

Outdoor Photography Expo – This deserves a separate post but I’ll at least mention it here… highlights were meeting Jimmy Chin, seeing some vendor stuff in person (for example the Spider holster system) and getting general inspiration. K won a free seat to the two day video workshop and learned a lot.

Saw Lynn Hill and Chris Sharma close enough to say “Hi” if I had known what to say (and I hadn’t been rushing around).

Photos and More

Be sure to check out my photos which tell more of the OR Show tale. There were a lot of vendors I didn’t mention in this quick write up but that you will see get a post of their own once my reviews are done on products I got from my Utah trip. Next time I go I’ll try and blog each day of the show so I can keep on top of it all!

Full set of photos from my OR Show trip (check out the high heeled bike commuter shoes!).

Desert Climbing Road Trip – Part 2 – Indian Creek

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Moab, Utah – Day 5 of our Desert Climbing Road Trip

We had been given a detailed Google Map showing a scenic route from Zion to Indian Creek but decided to take the more direct route of using the 70 most of the way to Moab. It turns out this way was more scenic than we had thought it would be. K and I stopped at a rest stop for lunch and also stopped at two view points, one of which had a pretty but very gusty view.

We made it into Moab sooner than expected even with these stops. “It sure has been built up,” K said as we walked around, he’d been to Moab a long time ago. I imagine it really did look “built up” now. We saw guide and rental shops galore plus coffee houses, cute restaurants, and many shops with that ubiquitous “kokopelli” character.

We were scouting town for a restaurant or bar that might show the Laker game as K is a big Lakers fan and it was his birthday. A climbing shop, Pagan Mountaineering, was near one of the places we scouted out and of course we went inside. I started trying on harnesses (yes, I’m still on my quest to replace my harness) and I ended up having a nice chat with a female climber named Bevin. She warned us Indian Creek might be hot and I learned that Monticello’s weather forcast was NOT indicative of Indian Creek’s. I had been checking Monticello’s weather during our trip because on maps it looked closer to Indian Creek than Moab did. It was closer as the crow flies but the catch was that Monticello was at a higher elevation. Oh well, so much for highs in the 70s. Bevin also told us that Monticello’s businesses all closed on Sundays since it was a Mormon town. Good to know in case we wanted to do a resupply run on a Sunday. And on the topic of supplies, Bevin mentioned that stores sold beer with only 3.2 % alcohol by volume, you need to buy it from a Utah State Liquor store (at room temperature) if you wanted the “real thing”. Fortunately we had brought beer from California.

By the time I was trying on my third harness, Cliff and Vina had caught up to us. We ended up renting motel rooms (hint: shop around for hotel/motel rates, the first place we went to quoted an outrageous price). Being able to shower was nice, prior to this I had been relying on Action Wipes which work great, but since the next leg of our trip was going to be the most “primitive camping” it was nice to start it off with clean hair as well. After showers we  had an organic pizza/basketball/gear sorting party, with a brownie & semi-melted icecream desert for the birthday boy.

The next morning we got ready for Indian Creek at the motel by eating a hearty free continental breakfast (and we grabbed a few extra apples for the road) and filling up water containers and putting ice in our cooler.

Day 6 – Indian Creek, Utah

It didn’t take long to drive from Moab to Indian Creek even with a very brief stop at Newspaper Rock. With our first sight of the cliffs we got excited at the crack climbing possibilities. And, unlike Zion, we didn’t have to wonder if it would be possible to rap down from any of these fantastic looking lines, there were probably anchors on all of them.

As pre-planned, our group checked a message board which told us where my friend David and his gang were climbing that day. Supercrack Buttress it was. We parked and got our gear out. We had finally arrived!

The approach up to Supercrack Buttress was pretty easy, a very nicely made trail led right up to the base of the cliffs where we had no problem spotting David and his friends. The weather was sunny but occasional gusts of wind would chill you a tiny bit and make you hold on to your hat. They already had a rope up on Twin Cracks, a 5.9, which turned out to be my first Indian Creek climb. As someone said later, “climbs here are like, boom, 5.10 right from the start” (substitute whatever grade the climb is). Climbs were also quite tall! I went up Twin Cracks and knew that: 1. we had come to the right place, and 2. climbing at Indian Creek was going to be like a shot of… well, crack, for my crack climbing skills. Twin Cracks was one of the shorter climbs at 60′. It was a good intro to the place and though I did not do it in the best style, I thought I might be able to lead it next time. The rock was different though, of course it was softer than Joshua Tree’s quartzite monzonite, but it was still tough enough to rub at your skin. Zion’s rock had been quite dirty, with loose grains, Indian Creek wasn’t as dirty but there were occasional places that reminded you were on sandstone. I had mistakenly brought up my “bad tape gloves”. By the end of that first day I had regretted it and had a large “strawberry” below my right wrist that needed cleaning and covering later. The highlight climb of that first day for me was The Incredible Handcrack, 5.10, 100′ with a small overhang/roof section. I watched Lea, a friend of David’s I had just met, lead it and watched as she got to the roof part. She’s about my height so it was a treat to see her do it,

On the overhang

On the overhang

knowing I had a chance at pulling the same moves. I did the climb on top rope but had to hang at the overhanging part as I couldn’t get my hand above the directional cam placed there – and yet I didn’t want to take it out too soon of course. At the top I thought that I was done for the day. But with a little rest I continued of course!

One of the ropes was on a 5.10 climb called Gorilla which shared anchors with a 5.12- or 5.11 route named Pringles. I started up the 5.12 but switched to Gorilla and then back again and ended up using both at the anchors. It was fun just to even get on the 5.12, I’d never tried a 5.12 crack before. It was mainly liebacking for me and I’m sure my smaller hands and fingers were an advantage on it. I moved over to Gorilla when I got tired though, did some of a strange width section on Gorilla then moved back to Pringles. At the top the two cracks converged and I stemmed using both. Russ, another of David’s friends who lives in the area, did the 5.12 route with style, not using the other crack even near the anchor section. You can see him in the video footage I took.

Me liebacking some of the 5.12

Me liebacking some of the 5.12

We didn’t do the famous Supercrack climb, as some folks were on it. On a side note, we were a party of 9, and even on Memorial Day weekend at the most popular wall in IC we only saw two other parties while we were there so our group was “the crowd”.

Sunset was awesome. One of the reasons I had wanted to go to Indian Creek was because of the scenery and wildness. The other major reason was of course the climbing. The sunsets were well worth it.

Day 7

The following morning we all went to Second Meat Wall. This wall required a bit of dirt road driving to get to the parking area and it had a longer hiking approach. A few climbs had partial shade and this is why this wall had been chosen. The weather definitely seemed hotter than the other day. The highlight climb on this wall for me was Tofu Crack, 5.10, 110 feet. I got to its base at the end of the day and heard some grunting going on. It was tall and had some variation in crack sizes as well as in the steepness of the climb. I got on it and proceeded to have a blast. The climb started as a strange crack in a face then continued into one that was part of a dihedral. I used a variety of techniques to climb it and managed to do it without resting on the rope at all and with only a few brief rests while on the rock. I used fist jams, cupping jams, liebacking, and maybe even a ring lock or two. It was ridiculously fun and tiring.

On the photography front, I had hoped at some point to go up a rope and shoot from above. Carlos, another one of David’s friends who I had by coincidence met before in Joshua Tree, was also a photographer and did indeed hang for awhile on a rope, unfortunately I think it was long enough that he got a little too much sun exposure. I never did get up a rope but took my shots on the ground, which was a pity, but I did get some very nice vantage points. Additionally another climber in our group named Tim was kind enough to lead a climb situated with a nice background so I could shoot him from higher ground. As far as landscape shots go, I think I got a few good ones, but you can be the judge of that.

View from Second Meat Wall

View from Second Meat Wall

Day 8

The group had talked about doing one of the desert towers in the area, South Six Shooter. David’s group had been there a day earlier than us and were looking for a “rest day”. Vina and Cliff unfortunately were going to start the drive home to California as they wanted to break it up into two travel days. K and I were game to do the tower though. We ended up dividing into two parties of three.

No one in our groups had done the tower before, there was some information on it in our guidebooks: three pitches, one bolt for a 5.8 run out section, anchors on top. We did know that the approach was potentially the hardest part of the climb though. David parked his 2WD CRV not that far from the entrance gate (there are a lot of unlocked gates in this area due to cattle). K parked in the same area and the three of us took off after the other party which had already gone ahead. We knew it’d be a minimum of a two hour approach, but a lot of it would be following a dirt road to the base of the tower. We hiked along spotting flowers along the way and also following the footsteps of the first party. After awhile though we realized we were getting closer to North Six Shooter than to South. We headed back to where we figured we had gone wrong back at a fork in the road. Right about when we got to the fork we saw some cars approaching. In fact it turned out to be four cars, one of which was some kind of special off road six wheeled car. David had said we’d watch them and if they turned towards South Six Shooter then we’d just go cragging for the day. They did turn towards South Six Shooter. We confirmed it anyway with the driver of the first car.

That settled it, it was hot, we had a long way to hike and when we got there we’d be behind two parties minimum. It was off to Donelly Canyon for the three of us. All the hiking had taken a toll, we had a mellow climbing day after that. However K lead two climbs there, including Binou’s Crack. We also saw Russ out there with two clients (he’s a guide). After that we headed out to a little store near Canyonlands National Park for ice cream and ice and David grabbed a shower as well.

Back at camp we learned that the other party had also seen the car caravan and in fact gotten a ride with them after they too had taken the wrong turn while hiking (recall that we were following their tracks). However after getting to the base of the tower mesa, the car folks had headed straight for the tower, leaving them behind… with some cookies. Not a bad trade. After the climb they even got a ride back to camp which they were all really grateful for as they said the hike in would’ve been much longer since the road meandered. One of them estimated it would’ve taken them 3 hours to hike back.

Day 9  –  South Six Shooter, Canyonlands National Conservation Area

Keeping in mind our friends’ words about the hike to South Six Shooter. K and I had decided we’d like to have a second go at it but this time try to drive our way to the base. K has a Suzuki SX4 with 4WD. We got mixed assessments on whether or not it would make the drive but we were going to try it.

Getting closer to South Six Shooter Tower

Getting closer to South Six Shooter Tower

And off we went. We ended up going the wrong way at one point and I had to get out of the car a few times so the car could travel lighter (it has ok clearance but not up to normal sized SUVs) but we made it. In fact, K exclaimed more than once how much he loved his car and I gotta admit I was really happy we didn’t have to hike in, because it really was still much further than where we had stopped the other day. We both loved that we were able to get just as far as those other guys we had seen in their bigger vehicles.

Now it was time for the approach. Once parked near the tower we could see that just getting up to the mesa was going to be interesting. Fortunately it was as the book said and there was a “faint trail”. It led up a slope then to scrambling and finally to a bit of a chimney, fourth/nearly fifth class section at the steepest part. Once on the mesa we then saw how broad it was. We still had a way to go before the first pitch of the climb.

We followed cairns through the mesa and through scrambling sections. We paused at the base trying to cool down and hydrate up in a small bit of shade. We spotted the petroglyph mentioned on the book as near the first pitch of the climb. It looked untouched by time to my eye.

The first pitch was a chimney pitch which Carlos had described as easy. This had factored into my decision to bring my SLR camera, something I normally don’t do for multipitch climbs that require chimney climbing. When we got on the pitch, I’d say I’d have to agree with Carlos. Easy chimney, and only one spot where my small pack gave me any hint of trouble. Pitch 2 included some walking and then a few moves of crack climbing. The last pitch was where the money was and included a mantel move before K clipped the only bolt then some face sort of climbing to the top.

A lizard greeted us at the top. It even ran under K’s leg for some shade. We could see North Six Shooter in the distance and a great view of Indian Creek / Canyonlands all around.

On top of South Six Shooter

On top of South Six Shooter

Getting down we took a different route and then walked a bit on the wide mesa before finding the way down that (which looked steeper going down than coming up). By the time we got to the car we were really glad that we had air conditioning. I had to get out of the car a few times again, but it was all part of the fun.

Day 10

K and I left earlier than the others because we had decided to go back a different route, one which would take us to Monticello and then on to Arizona and Monument Valley. Monticello was quaint, a guy asked K where he was headed at the gas station after we had heard him chatting with a neighbor. The drive home was very scenic as well, though, thinking about the long drive back home, we skipped a few scenic loops and didn’t stop too much.

Wrap Up

I learned a lot on this trip. As it turned out we ended up getting to do a bit of sport, crack and tower climbing (heck even a tiny bit of aid climbing if you count that little bit in Zion). I learned a little more about camping while on a road trip and going “primitive camping”. I also learned about what gear I liked and used and what I didn’t. I’ll be writing more about my Mountain Hardwear top, Clif Bar, Crunch bars, Action Wipes and TC Pros in future posts.

I’d definitely like to go back to Indian Creek. I’d also like to visit Zion again and Bryce and Arches National Parks for the first time if possible. One traveling couple we met in Zion had been to Arches, Bryce, and Zion and told us that Bryce was the prettiest hands down. I’d like to do another desert tower as well, maybe Castleton.

However; we heard from Russ that it got quite hot there after we left so till next season my dear sandstone climbs, till next season!

My Indian Creek video:

My Desert Tower video:

If you missed Part 1 of my trip report you can find it here: Desert Climbing Road Trip – Part 1.

Desert Climbing Road Trip – Part 1 – Red Rocks and Zion

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Busy Black Corridor“It’s snowing,” a woman to my right called out. I smiled, thinking, “Aha! There’s another climber who showers folks with a light dusting of chalk!”

Then I saw the white flakes floating from the sky. They melted a moment later on my face and hands. What!?! We were in the Nevada desert, I was about 50 feet above the ground on an unknown (to me) sport climb in Black Corridor, attempting an on sight lead of a climb of which I didn’t know the name nor rating. I thought I was heading for the last bolt before the anchor, but I couldn’t be sure as the corridor was so narrow I couldn’t get a straight look at the anchors but had just judged from the height of the climbs around it.

More moisture fell on me. Well, if it wasn’t snow, it was certainly a light sprinkle. I looked again at the small overhang ahead of me and what I thought must be a good hold… but I wasn’t sure. For all I knew this could be the part of the climb that made it 5.TooHard. I decided to back off and asked to get lowered. The white flakes disappeared immediately and even the sprinkles stopped. It was a crowded climbing spot, climbers up and down the corridor, it seemed only the ones on the higher end had seen the brief moment of snow though.

K finished my lead and then I went up on top rope. Coming to the same point as before I found I could have done a temporary move to clip that last bolt and then moved on off to the right to get what was indeed a decent hold before getting to the anchors. Oh well, redpoint next time.

The trip had been surprising so far. For one, our original, though truthfully vague plan had been to make it to St. George, Utah camp and climb. Saturday morning had different plans though and our group of four ended up leaving quite a bit later than planned. That night we made it into Vegas and out to the Red Rocks campground, luckily Cliff and Vina had arrived before us since we had taken a long lunch stop, and had gotten a campsite.

We hiked around a bit from Turn off 1 to basically Turn off 2 to get to Black Corridor, we climbed a bit before the rain started, then pulled on rain gear and retreated to a little cave, everyone else vacated, the rain stopped in just a few minutes but we knew climbing was over for the day since sandstone is pretty delicate. We hiked and scouted a bit then went for dinner.

Sunday we went back out to Black Corridor and focused on the side that hadn’t gotten as wet from the sprinkles the day before. We met a climbing family from Germany who had a toddler with them. We climbed some fun overhanging routes then hit the road.

Zion National Park

“Do you see anchors up there?”

I didn’t know what to expect of Zion National Park. I had a vague idea that there’d be pretty rock formations with rock that wasn’t great for climbing. Zion turned out to be a nice surprise. First off, there was a heck of a lot more greenery than I had expected. Secondly Zion was like a sandstone Yosemite with tall cliffs and dramatic formations which did indeed have climbing opportunities. We spent our time there getting a nice tent campsite by a creek, with no shade but away from most everyone else (yet still conveniently close to a running water bathroom). We spent the most time driving and hiking around with our necks craned for anchors and potential climbs. It really seemed like a playground! It was fairly hot though, so part of our searching was for climbs in the shade. We did a scenic hike to a lookout point where we could see many of the big formations in the park. While we did get beta on a multi-pitch climb where we met a trio of climbers, our climbing highlight was a cliff where we found two crack climbs, one with an aid start where we got to practice using etriers.

Hiking to the lookout point. Photo by Vina Lustado.

Hiking to the lookout point. Photo by Vina Lustado.

Zion Highlights

  • Beautiful scenery. More greenery than I had expected (we also caught many plants in bloom).
    Fun hikes / reconn trips
  • Nice tent campsite away from others (yet near a running water bathroom)
  • Nice shuttle system (I think Yosemite should do this, they’ve been talking about it for years).
  • Nice dinner at a lodge there that served us even though we came in right at 9pm (dark caught up to us unexpectedly as we were on a reconnaissance shuttle trip/hike to the Narrows).
  • Getting the beta on a multipitch climb from some folks who turned out to be guides.
  • Randomly heading towards something that looked like a great crack climb with shade then finding a fixed line and anchors on it.
  • Aid climbing up to the crack climb. Fun!

    Vina on the aid part of the unknown climb

    Vina on the aid part of the unknown climb

  • Beautiful moonrises.

It seems there was also a lot we missed out on at Zion, for one the off trail part of the Narrows was closed due to high water, also we didn’t do any of the longer hikes, and we also really wanted to get on a few lines we scouted out. But… all things in their time right? Road tripping means you gotta move on some time.

Here’s a video mainly of still photography shots covering the trip from CA to Zion National Park: