Mar 30, 2011

The Creek

Trying to describe Indian Creek, the beauty of the lines, the simplicity of life, the sand between your toes, the endless perfect jams, is like try to describe being in love . . . you can't. Roughly a week ago I returned from an amazing trip to Indian Creek with stoke beyond anything I've experienced before. The incredible group of friends made for a great environment to push yourself, with plenty of firepower cheering you on! I am truly over winter and ready to feel rock under my hands and feet.

I spent most of my time trying to get off the 5.10 hand cracks and on the 5.11 wide hands or tight hands/ring locks. My goal was successful with only one notable send nearly 2 years in the making. The first time I flipped through the pages of and Indian Creek guide, I was struck the by a full page photo introducing the Meat Walls section of the book. The photo is taken from above focused on the terrified face of a man. This man is precariously balanced, standing on what appears to be an edge only an inch wide. He appears to be literally hugging a either side of a very blunt arete, with the apex of the arete splitting his body in half. His right hand is clearly side pulling on a crack the viewer assumes he just climbed. However, his left hand is outstretched to maximum length, reaching for an adjacent crack. The kicker is, he appears to be feet from this crack. The photograph captures both this ridiculous crack switch move and the terrified yet determined face of the climber. I saw this photography and instantly knew I wanted to someday climb this route. Nearly a year later, I finally popped my Indian Creek cherry with a Thanksgiving trip. During this time, I quickly realized any hopes of climbing this route were out of the question. I simply wasn't good enough. However, I did take a top rope lap on an incredible and wild route called Dead Crow on the Cat Wall. This amazing 155 foot enduo fest had it all from a funky stem box problem to start you out, to a a roof pull on tight hands, to sustained hands, to run out sandy face climbing, to the piece de resistance . . . a left arching, nearly horizontal wide hand and fist crack. My return to the Creek for this trip brought me back to the Cat Wall and face to face with Dead Crow. I looked at the line, felt the horrible feeling of fear well up in my stomach, and went home for the night. We returned to the Cat Wall the following day so I could face my fears. The route went amazing until I tried to clip the anchors and fell. Returning to the ground another climbing party was beginning to gather on the routes adjacent to Dead Crow. This group was obviously not your ordinary group of Colorado home boys. These were certified desert rats. For any non-climbers reading this a desert rat is someone vagabond who lives somewhere in the desert southwest of the United States and traded society for climbing the desert. These people also typically talk in terms of how the routes "speak" to them, the universe is either balanced or unbalanced, and the living right now not in the past or in the future. Anyway, being in such close proximity to this group a conversation was inevitably started. The man I was conversing with wore no shirt, pants riddled with holes, and no shoes. He asked if I had lead Dead Crow and how the route was. I described my ascent and the heartbreaking fall at the top. What came next out his mouth I never expected. He told me if I liked Dead Crow than I had to climb Sinestra. (Sinestra being the infamous route featured in the photograph which introduced the Meat Walls section of the Indian Creek guide.) My desire to climb Sinestra entered my mind every time I spoke or thought about the creek. During the weeks leading up to this trip, this was an occurrence multiple times per day. Thus, in this single moment in which a strange man suggested I climb a route I felt somehow like the cards were stacked and my destiny already set. 6 days later on the last day of the trip I stood below Sinestra, gear hanging from my harness and the lead line tied to me. I set off the ground, trying to put the terrified face of the man in photo introducing the Meat Walls out of my head. I climbed 50 or 70 feet of challenging offwidth / wide hands until the crack stopped. To my left a small inch wide ledge ran half the distance to another crack around the nose of a blunt arete. There I was, the man in photo, as I began to gingerly reach for the next crack. I tried several times with no luck to reach the crack, until I finally committed to a slow leaning fall directed at the next crack. Before I knew it the move was over and another 110 feet of crack lay above me. With renewed confidence I charged the remainder of the route with a few major difficulties toward the top. I'll save these for as a surprise to anyone who might try Sinestra in the future.

Long story short, I couldn't have asked or imaged a more wonderful trip. Marge had her first Indian Creek experienced and walked away loving it. We've both promised each other a several month stint there before our lives get too serious. Just one more reason I'm the luckiest man in the world! All of my closest climbing friends and partners were there, the weather was perfect, and the break from life was much needed.

I had planned on concluding this post with a short discussion of my upcoming trip to Alaska. Originally, this would've been a research focused trip. However, I've recently found out that due to a lack in funding it appears I won't be headed north. I feel this might be the perfect opportunity to continue the climbing stoke and head somewhere which could truly push my climbing to the next level. The birth place of climbing in America . . . Yosemite  

Mar 4, 2011

Indian Creek

For the last 7 weeks, every Friday, I've been making a mental check of the date. Counting down the Fridays until I was in the Creek. Finally the last check has come, and in one week desert bliss will be upon me! This will be me second trip to the area, and I'm excited to push my skills even that much further on the splitter desert sandstone. Myself, Marge, Loren, Bridget, Eric, Susan, Brad, Jo, Scott, Tate, Pat, & Wilson will have 9 days to see who can destroy their hands the most. My primary goal on this trip is enjoy life to its fullest and the company of such an amazing crew. They are some of my best friends, and the desert setting is truly unique and captivating. Second however, I'd like to figure out 5.11. On both the big end and small end of the grade. As wonderful as it is to walk up the multitude of 5.10 hands splitters (don't worry, I'll climb my fair share) I'm very intrigued by more challenging sizes and jam configurations. Indian Creek is the only climbing area can truly shut you down on a grade. We're not talking about your normal sandbag or perhaps a sustained route. We're talking shut down to the point where after hand for several minutes and you finally discover how to move several inches . . . your so excited that you are utterly compelled to continue climbing. This was the experience which typified my last visit to the sandstone mesas. I have, for some severely deranged reason, decided the big end of the grade might be an easier goal to obtain. Thus I have borrowed and bought more #4 camalots than most people would like see on in hopes of having a respectable go at Big Guy & Big Baby. Time to nut up or shut up. Here are a few photos from my first trip to The Creek last November.

The incredible Coyne Crack

Todd cruising Anasazi 5.11

Ronan Guy at the base of Super Crack of the Desert. Strangely enough his expression is very similar to mine.


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I love to climb, everything.