Jamming in Paradise, a week in Indian Creek

27 03 2009


Lizzy on our 13 hour driving day to Utah

Last year we went to Indian Creek with a plan and a Tick list.  We had looked online and at the 1st edition of the Bloom guide and came up with 27 classics  at 11 different crags.  These climbs were our main objective and we were not “interested” in doing much else.  We  managed to get on more than half of these selected classics and at least 13 were either sent on lead or top rope by one of us.  This was an interesting approach but added unneeded pressure and while limiting our exploration to the creek. In 2009 Lizzy and I decided to eschew the ticklist and try to climb as many routes as possible at crags we had never been to hopefully finding some of IC’s hidden gems.

Enjoying the Utah scenery and the 75 MPH speed limits!

This year we also decided to come two weeks earlier which meant colder weather, forcing us to to chase the sun. The weather was not a big concern since the previous March we had to leave the Cat wall since it was too hot.  The drive to Moab took about 12 hours from  San Diego with plenty of gas stops and the mandatory visit to The Orange Peel in Saint George for bubble tea. We rolled through the creek just after dark and headed for the Creek Pasture campground at the far end of the 211 past the Super Bowl (which is often quite dusty). We saw only one other group and happily snagged a “site” with a picnic table. Having a normal table was a big improvement from the  make shift  knee height table we used in 2008. Being able to cook standing up and keep the stoves and food out of the sand is a really nice creature comfort.


Getting ready to lead the first route of our 2009 IC trip!

Our first day we wanted to keep things easy so we headed to the Original Meet wall for a hearty helping of 5.10. By starting on easy climbs we could get some fitness and have both Lizzy and I lead the routes. I started on Ladies First, seen above, did Wee Doggie which was super fun and then hit Tofu before lunch. These three routes were all 5.10- but definitely varied in difficulty. I had an eye opening moment on Tofu, which was described as off-fingers, when I was run out above my tipped out .75 wondering if it would be safer to keep going at least another 8 feet to where the crack thinned down or if i should jump… I kept it together and laybacked to safety and learned that I should be more careful with my gear selection. At times the guidebook suggests and incomplete rack and it can be safer to bring a few extra cams.


A potential Indian Creek FA

The climbing was pretty spread out at the Original Meat wall but the one advantage is the potential for First Ascents! On our way to the far right side of the cliff to do Wee Doggie I stumbled across the gem pictured above. The line is obvious but very thin and I am sure that it should be at least 5.12. There was no chalk, no anchor and the first foot hold was a piece of loose rock that could easily be removed.  If I had my drill and some bolts I would have aided it and sunk in an anchor that day. For better or worse I am going to have to wait until at least Thanksgiving before going back and trying it. I don’t know why it hasn’t been climbed other than that it may be a bit slabby for some people’s preference. As well it is thin but with all the pods in the middle it seems doable.


A very excited Luke at the thought of doing the First Ascent!

After climbing a fun unnamed corner that,  unknown to us at the time,  was on our 2008 ticklist we made the long walk to the Sacred Cow wall. From the book it seemed that it would not be to far but it took us at least 15 to 25 mins to reach Fatted Calf. This climb was supposed to be the Scarface of the Sacred Cow wall and since I enjoy thin hands I wanted to gave it a burn. It was my hardest climb of the day at 11- and I struggled at the start but managed to hang on as the crack widened to #2 camalots. Unlike Scarface the crack thinned back down to #1’s at the top and made me fight for my onsight. There was small horizontal at the anchor that allowed me to tap some of my unused crimping strength to clip the anchor. A gem of a climb for sure and my first 5.11 onsight of the trip!!

indiancreek-march09070Hanging out in the sun at the Origonal Meat Wall !

We spent the morning of day two at the Optimator. We warmed up on Lady Pillar which was fun and simple and then did a tricky unnamed twin crack before I went on to lead Hayduke Lives. Hayduke was very fun and involved a karate kick move to get established in a wide hands crack. I channeled Didier a la  From Switzerland with Love made the move and onsighted the route.  Lizzy was up next and got very close to an onsight of Soul Fire falling just short of the anchors. I managed to pull of a flash but was pretty pumped by the end. This route was hands to tight hands with a bit of stemming in the middle. It was pretty splitter and Lizzy and I both placed seven!! red camalots.

indiancreek-march09074Lizzy before her attempt at Soul Fire 11-.

In the afternoon we stopped by Donnelly canyon to do the classic Generic Crack. True to it’s popular nature there were people on the route and funny to see other parties after our quiet morning. We did Binou’s Crack to wait for the other party to finish and then I onsighted the classy 120′ hand crack.  It was super fun and amazingly consistent in size with some tricky sections through some larger pods. After Lizzy top roped Generic I gave it another burn to use up all my energy before our rest day.


Looking across at the Cat and Reservoir walls from the Optimator

Monday night would be our first night in the luxurious yurt and the timing was perfect. A storm rolled thorough Utah  and deposited 8 inches of snow outside our door step and 4 inches in Indian Creek. Tuesday was our rest day so the timing of the snow was not too bad.  After a long night of feeding the wood stove to stay warm it was nice to sleep in before going to Moab.


Luke tends the stove to stay warm in the snow storm!


Luke gets ready to drive to Moab.

After shoveling a bit of snow we got the rav out on the un-tracked road and started our snowy drive to Moab. I had heard good things about mountain biking in Moab so I was excited to take a rest day and rent some bikes. Lizzy and I had a bunch of fun riding around despite pretty chilly weather and were happy to let our skin recover from all the jamming.

indiancreek-march09099Getting ready to make some fresh tracks with the Rav

Our second night in the yurt was not as windy and it was super easy to cook and clean with a large propane stove and a water jug fed sink. Best of all the huge bed allowed us to fully recover from our long days of climbing.  I surely slept well and enjoyed having a bit of comfort.  The Yurt has a solar panel allowing us to turn on lights at night and there is a detached bathroom.


Lizzy looks happy to be staying in a bed at the Yurt.

Our first day back after resting we went to the Cat Wall. We had previously visited the far right side of the wall but hadn’t gotten past Johnny Cat. This time we approached via the left trail and worked our way right. We had a chilly morning but things warmed up fast when the sun hit the wall. After a ok unnamed 5.10 warmup I hopped on Deseret Moon. I wasn’t ready for the 11+ start and skirted around the crux on sketchy loose blocks. It took me a bunch of time to figure out the best way to go up and I had Lizzy pass me a 3.5 camalot to protect the wide moves on this alternate start. I was trying not to place gear to avoid rope drag and spent way too much time getting freaked out.


8 inches of fluffy snow outside the yurt.

The upper part of Deseret Moon was amazing and one of the more memorable climbs of the trip. It started off with off fingers to thin hand lay backing with some tricky foot work on a twin crack to the right. The difficulty eased once I could get thin hand jams and the crack widened to #2’s forever.  Confident with my hand crack skills from doing Generic Crack I ran it out savoring the wavy wall and the perfect size. I managed the onsight but will need to go back for a proper send via the direct start. The Cat wall is home to so many hard climbs and Lizzy was psyched to try the thin Puma. It was rated 11+ in our book but the 12- plaque gave Lizzy a few butterflies. She had a great lead falling a few times at the crux before making it to the top. I was even more impressed by her performance when I struggled with the start that was off-fingers for ME. I hung twice at the crux and then finished the climb.   We moved on to Kool Cat which and struggled since I was trying to jam the off fingers crack straight in. Lizzy showed me the beta when she one falled the crack on top rope, easily laybacking between the good stances.  I know that next trip should yield a redpoint for both of us.

indiancreek-march09144Lizzy on the crux direct start of Deseret Moon

On Thursday we were expecting rain and decided at the last minute to go to the creek instead of climbing in Moab.  This worked out amazingly well and we had our best day yet at Pistol Whipped.  I got a bit confused with the directions and the first few routes we did were chilly in the morning shade. Lizzy and both lead Short and Stupid 5.8+ and then I did Skid Marks 5.10 which she followed. I decided to get my layback on and climbed Revenge of the Rock Gods 5.10+ which was super fun and forced me to place gear while laybacking. It looked like the storm was coming so I made Lizzy wait to each lunch while I tried Spaghetti Western. I had read on Mountain Project that this was an amazing steep hand crack and I was hoping for an onsight. Luckily it was a bit thinner than Think Pink and I made good progress through the initial steep bulge, smartly placing gear at my waist instead above my head. The top was still tricky and I wished I had a bit more gear as I slowly funked my way to the top. The weather cleared up and after lunch Lizzy onsighted Coyne Crack simulator 11- and I barely eked out a flash.  Next I did Wounded Knee 10+ which was fun but I would suggest having a #4 or 4.5 to protect the cruxy offwidth move. There was still plenty of daylight so we did a bit walking around and stumbled on the climb in the photo below.

indiancreek-march09164Lizzy below Rump Roast II 5.11 after her onsight!

Lizzy got super excited by the description of thin hand and (5) 1.5 which are tight thin hands for Lizzy. She pre-visualized the sections and thought the climb would be doable. It looked hard to me and was excited to have Lizzy ropegun the pitch. The start was a bit harder than it looked but in no time she was at a good rest below the final crack. She slotted some gear, worked through the jams and clipped the anchors!!! Rump Roast II was her first 5.11 onsight of the trip and one of her hardest sends to date. I top roped the climb, happy not to be worrying about placing gear in the .75 sized camalot crack and then cooled down with one more hand crack.


The yurt was complete with a stove, sink and couch!

Thursday night was our last night in the yurt and the next morning we packed up camp and headed into Moab for our final rest day.  After all our shopping and some fun bouldering at Big Bend we headed back to the creek to grab a campsite for our final nights. The creek pasture was a bit more crowded but we still managed to find a site with a shaky table and passed out after our long day. Saturday was initially going to be Lizzy’s Birthday Challenge but we decided to keep things mellow and take the chance to work on Swedin-Ringle. We knew Battle of the Bulge would be crowded so we got up early and started on the far left side of the wall. This was a bit of a mistake as we froze on our warm up, Pigs in Space 10+, since it was in the shade.  A plus was that we were able to rap down and set up a top rope on Cold Corner 5.11+.   This climb, which started directly to the right of pigs in space, had two bolts protecting some tricky laybacking to some hard moves in to a flare. I was able to flash it on TR and would like to come back and lead it. The moves after the 2nd bolt were quite desperate and my cold fingers didn’t make things easier.

indiancreek-march09139Looking out from the Cat Wall.

We both rested and warmed up in the sun on a large rock before getting on Crack Attack 11-. Our timing was perfect since I was just ready to climb as anther party came over to try the route. A year before we had tried to climb Crack Attack and it had been occupied. While the business was the pumpy thin hands crack at the end I struggled the most on the the start since the gear was less than ideal ( I was missing a #4.5 and a second #3 camalot). We moved back to the main part of the crag and were instantly HOT.  Everything around the corner to the left of Disco Machine Gun was super cold but around the Big Baby and Our Piece of the Real estate we had T-Shirt weather.

I was resting up and getting psyched for my main goal of the day, an onsight of Ruins crack. This changing corners finger crack looked super fun and had been too intimidating for me to lead the year before. The start was hard and after a nice rest the business began with some more laybacking until the crack thinned down to green aliens and then pinched out. After making the “crux” switch the the right crack and moving up a bit higher  I was greeted with a nice rest and could see the crack widen to hands.  After my brief recovery I cruised the sandy tight hand crack to the top and happily clipped the chains!

indian-creek-march-08-430The gorgeous Swedin-Ringle 5.12- (photo from 2008)

Lizzy’s main goal was to give Swedin-Ringle a good redpoint burn. She had gotten close falling 8 feet from the anchors on two different attempts the previous trip and had saved up enough skin for one effort this year. We figure out gear beta and Lizzy set off easily climbing the start and getting in to the meat of the crack. She got higher and higher and I could tell she was closing in on her bad size. After the last .75, a purple .5 Camalot when in and I knew Lizzy must be struggling.  .5’s meant fingerstacks for Lizzy’s small fingers and she had another couple feet before the crack thinned down.   Another few moves and she was off.  Another effort from her high point allowed her to slide her cam higher and get in a grey alien. Still a few feet shy of the anchors she was beat and  after a few tries lowered off, cleaning one of her cams.  I wanted to take the easy way out and got ready to lead the route with all of Lizzy’s gear preplaced. I adjusted a few cams and really struggled at the top. As I worked my fingers into the thin locks next to the chains my left foot was shaking in the thin crack. I reached blindly and grabbed a quickdraw from my harness and clipped it to the chains. But when I looked it was a cam, not a draw that was hanging from the anchors. I was being punished for my poor style I thought as I switched my jams and tried to shake out. I grabbed again and this time got a draw and got it onto the chains, instantly having to switch to a lower lock to shake out yet again. I worked my fingers back into the high left jam and grabbed the rope and brought it to the quickdraw just barely getting it into the gate before being overwhelmed by pump. I slumped on the rope happy for the send yet frustrated by the desperate finale.

With this final climb Lizzy and I were both tired and ready to go home. We still had plenty of sun but thought it would be better to get back to California. We packed up the tent and bee lined for Saint George.  After a nice night in a motel we saw the VRG up close and then made it back San Diego ready to give our skin some rest. This year we took it easy and didn’t put ourselves under as much pressure yet overall we both climbed more routes and onsighted at or near our limits. We are already thinking of going back and hope to make time in November to return with friends and do Turkey Day at the creek.

I will be writing another gear beta post on the creek as well as some information about what to do on rest days. This year I had a bunch of fun being in Moab on our rest days and I want to share that great experience.  I am sure that Lizzy will also have some thoughts about the climbing as well as some more thoughts about trying hard routes.






3 responses

30 03 2009
choss master

awesome trip, looks like a blast!

31 03 2009
Sarah Payne

Wow! What a great trip! Nice work on the Rump Roast Lizzy! The yurt looks like a super way to travel! Best Spring Break trip I’ve heard of so far….sad my spring break days are behind me…but my super long between grad school and post doc break should be coming up in a year and I plan on doing lots of fun stuff then!

4 04 2009

I should note that the reason I look silly pointing at Rump Roast II is that my other shoulder was really sore, so I could only point with that arm. But I sent!!! WOO!!!

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