This is my Indian Creek trip report from my personal blog (so you get to read my “real” voice!). It was super fun to climb in the Creek again, including on three lines I did during Chicks Rock! but was SO MUCH BETTER AT this time around, which goes to show how much you get out of a Chicks clinic! I am super psyched to go back to the Creek again this spring with Chicks Rock! Will I see you there?
Since I still haven’t fully written my trip report for the Bugaboos, I decided to work on one from Indian Creek because that only makes sense, right?
I was super psyched to take a trip to the Creek this Fall, since climbing there this Spring made me fall in love with rock climbing.
Wait, that’s a bit too bold of a statement.
It actually made me *want* to go rock climbing more than I previously did, which was not very much (for a variety of reasons, but the primary two being: there is nowhere to rock climb within 4 hours of where I live (so the motivation has to be high), and I kinda suck at rock climbing which makes it not as fun).
BUT. I learned at Chicks Rock! in Indian Creek this April that I suck a lot less at crack climbing than I do at face climbing. Hooray! So that is why I started to want to rock climb more, and agreed to take rock climbing vacations twice this year! (Generally, I only vacation to ice climb, so it was a big deal for the boy to get me out on two rock climbing trips with him.)
Alas, I digress. So, for those of you with little patience let me put it out there that the Creek in early October is AMAZING. It was not too crowded with pretty warm days (we were chasing the shade for sure) and perfectly cool nights that had you snuggling into that sleeping bag. The landscape was also surprisingly green, much more so than this spring when the washes were full of water, which was very surprising to me!
Our goal was to climb for two days, take a day off to “rest” and then climb for three more days and we hired Danika Gilbert to guide us. I have climbed with Danika many times on ice – she took me on my first multi-pitch climbs in fact, and has really been an inspiration for me to go out and gain the skills I need to be independent enough to climb backcountry ice.
Lucky for us Danika has also been climbing in Indian Creek for more than 20 years. The funny part is she *just* bought a guide book for this trip. She generally operates on the ‘let’s drive over to this wall and walk around and see what looks fun’ methodology, which I think is totally awesome to be at that skill level and ability!
We were looking to crag most days so that we could get direct instruction and advice from Danika on the ground. While multi-pitching is suuuuuuuper fun (especially on a desert tower), it isn’t the best way to get BETTER at crack climbing, which is what we were hoping to do on this trip. It was especially important for the boy who had never climbed in the Creek before or had any real formal instruction on crack climbing technique.
We flew into Grand Junction and rented a car there then picked up some supplies and headed to Moab for a few more things before heading into the Creek and the Bridger Jack’s Campground. We turned in at Beef Basin and the road was totally sketch (for me, anyways) with our little car. I would say the road to the campground is definitely best suited to a vehicle with high clearance! Danika later told us that it was in much worse condition than it had been earlier in the spring, but it was a really, really lovely place to camp at. The sites were large and not very close to the neighbors. I had been expecting a total s*it show like I have experienced while camping on other climbing trips, so I was pleasantly surprised with the accommodations, even if it came down to pooping in a bag.
So, about that. As many of you may (or may not know) you can’t really bury poop in the desert very well. Not like you can in the forests of North Carolina, for example. Within Indian Creek (which is on BLM land) there are just a handful of pit toilets, but they may be several miles away from your campsite (and down a heinous road best suited for 4WD vehicles, for example). It is actually really nice because most of the camping in the Creek is primitive and free! In order to manage human waste the Friends of Indian Creek provide Restop bags (aka “wag bags”) at several dispensers (suggested donation is $2/bag). Here is a video made by Friends of Indian Creek about the importance of using these!
Needless to say, we donated quite a bit of $$ for these precious bags. Which, of course, I thought was totally fun, especially because when we would go by a pit toilet it was like heaven to actually sit down behind closed doors and all. It’s all about perspective, people, now let’s go climbing!
Day 1: Danika was driving in to meet us at our campsite, having spent an extra day at home because she had been kicked by a horse the day before (!) and had some major swelling in her shin/calf and hand. Not an awesome thing to happen before going crack climbing! But, Danika is a super trooper and we headed up to Donnelly Canyon for the boy to get his first taste of Indian Creek crack. We started out on Chocolate Corner, which was a pretty nice hand size for me, but felt like thin hands for the boy. I’m glad we went here day 1 because thin hands on day 1 would potentially turn into uber-thin hands or even fingers once the Creek swelling sets in. We taped up with a different method than I’ve used in the past, which resulted in the tape bunching up and instant gobies on my first climb. SWEET. These little b*tches would subsequently open up and bleed under my tape gloves for the next four days of climbing.
Anyways, Chocolate Corner was a super fun climb, and we each ran two laps on it. My second was heads & tails different than my first. For some reason I was feeling really anxious at the start of the day – maybe it was too much coffee? By the time I settled down I was able to really get into a good groove though. After Chocolate Corner we opted to do Elephant Man, after a nice couple from the Yosemite Valley area came over and climbed it. We again did two laps on this route – there were a lot more face features for feet, so we didn’t smash them up too bad. Binou’s Crack was also on the docket for the day, but we decided that four laps on the day was enough – we didn’t want to go buck wild and kill ourselves on day 1 so we headed back to camp.
Day 2: After studying the guide book, talking about what crack sizes we would like to work on, and considering it was a Saturday, we decided to go to the Way Rambo wall, which I was pretty excited about because that is the site of where I did my very first three Indian Creek climbs this past April with Chicks Climbing. I thought it would be fun to try to get on a few of them again to see how much I had improved – and boy have I ever!
We started out on Rochambeau, which was my first climb at Chicks this Spring, but this time I climbed it cleanly. I was so psyched (and under pressure) because this was the “perfect” hand size for the boy so he was going to have an easier time all day. I can’t even imagine what a difference my climbs must have looked from April to October since I’m sure this past Spring I hung on the rope a gazillion times while figuring out how to jam.
We then decided to put up Fuzz, which is a LONG (115 foot) rope-stretcher of a climb that gets increasingly steep – but with (my) perfect hands towards the top. At Chicks I had flailed and failed on Fuzz, but this go around and despite some intense feelings of FREAK OUT with the boulder-y start, I didn’t fall until I was a lot higher, and now that I am more comfortable with jamming, it wasn’t long before I was at the chains. I was so psyched after cruising the upper part (which I hadn’t even made it to this past Spring) to find some perfect sizes that I could really make work!
Our third climb was again a climb I had done at Chicks called Blue Sun. I had actually wanted to do this climb first on the day since I knew that by the end of the day sore hands and feet tend to get the better of me. Again, this was a climb I had not made it to the top of during Chicks, but I sure did this go around! I fell a few times towards the top mainly because I am a sissy and my feet were HURTING. It is a great size for super secure feet, but the twisting and torquing on feet that aren’t used to it can get pretty painful fast. That night I actually saw that I had really bruised the tops of my feet pretty solidly! Ah, the joys of crack climbing – the most physical kind there is (for me, at least!).
Day 3: We scheduled Sunday to be a rest day, and drove up to Arches National Park to do some hiking. We knew we were taking a risk heading into prime tourist territory, but figured it would be worth it to see some of those amazingly sculpted pieces of rock. And it was, sort of. I mean we often don’t go to places that are super touristy, and every time we do I remember why. People are dumb. And annoying.
The road that goes through Arches NP is not very long – maybe 22 miles or so? (I just threw away all the literature literally last night! (doh!!)). There are a gazillion turn offs for scenic vantage points & small little highly groomed trails. We were most interested in making the hike out to Delicate Arch, even though we had been told that Hell’s Kitchen would be better for “us” (i.e. less people). But, we felt that if this arch is important enough to be on the Utah license plate, we should probably go see it.
The trail to Delicate Arch is pretty easy and well traveled. It is also marked by a gazillion cairns in case you are worried about getting lost. Once we got to the arch it was full on supidity with people lolling around under the arch forever to get their photos taken, or eat lunch, or to basically ensure no-one else could take a picture of the arch without their dumb ass in it. This one dude with a mullet parked himself underneath it to drink some water and then make ridiculous gang sign poses for his equally idiotic hiking buddy to take photos of. I’m sure now that they are on Facebook somewhere that guy is totally getting all the ladieeeeeessss, thanks to those sexed up pics, oh yeah!
When I saw the arch had been vacated for a while so everyone waiting for a picture of just the arch (without all the white trash America – I mean, there were literally ASS CRACKS hanging out in that arch!!!) I ran down for the boy to get a quick photo of me underneath it so my mom could get a sense of the scale. We ate some lunch snacks here and then quickly bailed to go to Hell’s Kitchen.
We stopped by some other arch that had a short hike into a slot canyon before getting to the full-on insanity that is the parking lot at Hell’s Kitchen. At this point we are not psyched on the gaggles of people but bust a move and make it a little ways past Landscape Arch before calling it a day and heading back to Moab for a shower (which felt AMAZING) and dinner at the Moab Brewery.
At the brewery we had an EPIC Chicks Sighting as I saw Cheryl & Kate walking into the restaurant at the same time as us. Literally two minutes previously I had opened up FB on my iPhone and seen a photo Kate had posted of the two of them in Moab and I said to the boy “huh, how random, I have friends in Moab right now.” So it was even more random to see them! I screamed Cheryl’s name from across the parking lot which totally alarmed her, and then ran up to give Kate a hug telling her “I’m Maija!” like ‘duh, aren’t you excited to see me?!?!’ It was great since we have heard so much about each other, but never *really* formally met (and Kate is like 1000x more awesome than I even imagined!). So, the boy and I were lucky enough to eat dinner with these two gals, who I will be climbing with in Bozeman in just a few weeks! And later again in Canada next March (so.freaking.psyched.for.that.trip to the GHOST!!!).
On our way out I got some dairy-free gelato, which was amazing. But, I was so focused on getting a dairy-free treat (since dairy can make my guts feel yuck) that I ordered it in a waffle cone, chock full of gluten, which I didn’t think of until the whole thing was down the gullet. When I mentioned it to the boy he said “yeah, I was surprised you ordered the cone.” Sometimes I need help, people, serious help! I felt like total dog poo the next morning too thanks to that gluten, when we headed up to the Battle of the Bulge.
Day 4: So until the last climb of the day I was all, “damn, did we LOSE the Battle of the Bulge?” because it seriously was feeling like I did until about 5:30 p.m. (FYI: The Allied Forces did WIN the Battle of the Bulge.) This day of climbing was going to be all about yucky sizes for me, including off-widths. Yeah! Not so much. The boy loves that ish and I am not as much of a fan. We started out on The Warm-Up which was a fine enough climb, but had a few FAT hands (i.e. cupped hands for me). At the base there was a flake we could practice our chimney climbing technique, so we did that and continued working the pitch hoping one of the other climbs we had been planning to do would open up. They didn’t because there was some kind of a splitter camp going on which involved major climb hoggage (more on that later).
We ended up going to Elbow Vices which was a climb that had everything from hands to fingers AND a squeeze chimney. While Danika and the boy climbed the route with their left side facing out, I was completely unable to move in the squeeze chimney in that direction. So, I turned around and faced out right and then grunted, wiggled, swore and wedged my way up the chimney. It felt like HOURS of work. After the chimney the rest of the climb was actually pretty fun. But it was hot and I was grumpy when we were done. By this point we were fully entrenched with this splitter camp who promised we could totally “use our ropes!” for a few other climbs in the same corner. Lucky for the boy he got to climb Pigs in Space which looked like a super fun climb with MY perfect hands. But, these a-holes in the splitter camps didn’t really mean for us to use the ropes, they actually thought we should belay for them. At one point all 3 of us were belaying. WTF was happening? I was so mad. I just wanted to get out of there and go climb something as it was already getting late in the day. The boy belayed this older lady (who had seemingly learned nothing in the camp about how to climb cracks) for what had to have been at least an hour trying to climb Pigs in Space. I kept waiting for her to tell him to lower her as she fell dozens (literally!) of times out of the crack. But kudos for her to making it to the chains!
Finally we pulled our rope and bailed and left that train wreck behind. Speaking of trains, we went to climb Railroad Tracks which was WAY harder than it looked. The start looked nasty for sure, but past a small roof there were twin cracks, which tend to usually be very awesome! They were not. The start was as heinous as it looked with tight fingers and no ‘real’ feet; I had to try it about three times before getting off the ground, and then move past the thin fingers to thin hands. The twin cracks were actually awkwardly spaced and the sizes flared dramatically. I made it to the chains and then lowered two more times to work on different approaches to the parallel cracks. Laybacking the majority of the upper section actually worked the best.
Finally, we put up a line on Unnamed in the corner just near Railroad Tracks where I finally had a good, fun climb. It is always super fun to climb a line cleanly in the Creek, and that I did on Unnamed. Actually, come to think of it the majority of routes I climb cleanly in the Creek are all “Unnamed.” Random. Or, it could be just because there are like 100 of them. So I didn’t lose entirely at the Battle of the Bulge. Had I not been an idiot and eaten gluten the night before maybe I would have cruised the squeeze chimney. Hahaha. So not likely, but I can just tell myself that.
Day 5: This was the day of classics for the boy. He gets really psyched on climbing lines that have some historic significance, whereas I could care less. I just want to climb routes that are fun, I have no interest or investment in climbing lines that are “classic” for reasons X, Y or Z. So, Supercrack Buttress it was!
We actually were the first party to make it to Supercrack that day, which was amazing. Supercrack (aka Super Crack of the Desert, Luxury Liner) was the first crack put up in Indian Creek. It has a most ridiculous bouldery start that I fell on at the top at least three times before figuring it out, and finally I got to the splitter. Make no mistake, this is a pure splitter crack that just goes straight up. Until the small lip/roof it was a reasonable hand size for me, but past that point until the chains it was DEEP. I was reaching in to my elbows to get a cupped hand jam. I was in so deep that it was more secure to shuffle my hands than pull them out to move, which meant each meter of movement took more and more skin off my forearms. I was very aware of this happening but what could I do? I wasn’t going to bail on Supercrack! When I came down the two guys waiting, Nick & Psyched Will, were like “oh yeah, you should’ve totally worn a long-sleeved shirt.” Really helpful stuff there.
We then went over to the Incredible Hand Crack and got behind a party of two guys. The leader had just climbed it in about two minutes and his partner, who has not done very much crack climbing, was anxious about us having to wait on him to climb. I assured him it was no problem, my forearms were (literally) oozing and I could use a rest since the boy was having elbow pain I was on extra belay duty for him. Plus, I like watching other people climb hard stuff. So Ronnie (the guy who was wearing ouchie-tight sport shoes on a hand crack) really struggled to get past the roof and despite the (perfect) beta his partner Jack had, he just was too frustrated to continue working on it. I felt bad since I think it was partly due to the increasing number of folks waiting to get on the line, but that’s just a part of climbing. Sometimes you have to wait for these classic lines and so if you are climbing you need to just do your thing and not worry about anyone else. But, it was his choice.
When it was our turn I used Jack’s beta and it was awesome. It was such a fun size. The roof was definitely awkward, but I made it past that faster than I thought I would. After the crux it is truly just an AMAZING hand crack with the added bonus of having feet features on the wall, a rarity in the Creek and oh, my toes couldn’t have been happier!
We then went a few climbs to the left to 3 AM Crack. It again had some pretty big hands at the top – so big I couldn’t even get a fist! But it was pretty fun to compare my lap to the boy’s because where he had trouble with the crack I cruised, and vice versa. Funny since his hands don’t really seem that much bigger than mine, but the certainly are when it comes to jamming! We were pretty worked by this point and opted to work on a new technique for cleaning anchors that doesn’t require me to untie from the rope (holy hell, I’m so glad I learned this!) and practiced placing gear before heading back to camp.
Day 6: This was to be our desert tower day. Danika thought Sunflower Tower on the Bridger Jacks would be a good option for us, but the idea of climbing a hard multi-pitch route on Day 6 was not sounding like fun. So, I proposed a trip to the South Six Shooter, which both Danika & the boy were also keen on. It is a much “easier” route although it involves a lot more walking. I wanted us to end the trip on a good note, not a frustrating one!
Danika’s truck was able to drive super far into the approach, literally saving us hours of walking up the dusty creek bed. We then hiked up the plateau, and then the cone to the three pitch climb, which we took a funky variation on the second pitch, having to completely step over the void to a separate pillar (which really didn’t have any hands or feet). I convinced my shoes to get extra sticky for the move, and they wisely complied. The top out on the climb involves a full-on pull-up after having done a belly mantle, so it isn’t necessarily the most graceful. But, it is fun to be on top of a desert tower.
We were glad to have done the South Six Shooter and end the trip on such a high note. I know the boy is anxious to get back to the Creek in the spring. I really love that the people in the Creek aren’t all douchey like they seem to be at so many other climbing areas. Everyone we hung out with during the trip was super cool and just out to have a good time (except for this one girl who was the epitome of MISERABLE! It was too funny. She just hid behind her sun glasses and hat cried and complained about how she wanted to go back to the front range and go sport climbing on credit card crimpers. Apparently she isn’t used to hang dogging and was getting spanked trying to follow the lines her boyfriend was putting up. It was maybe even funnier that he was pretty much ignoring her, and wouldn’t lower her until she really through a fit and then promised he’d get her tacos if she would stay longer. I am pretty sure they left.). But everyone else was again, super nice and helpful. They loan and retrieve gear for other people and share lines (for the most part).
There is no doubt that it is physically tough to climb in the Creek! I am taking a “recovery” week from rowing to all my flared up old injuries calm the F down. I’m really hoping that by next week I am back to my old self, because I have some training to do! Ice season is just a few weeks away!!! Oh and my Level 1 CrossFit cert is this weekend. Lots going on!!!