Smith Rock Send List!

30 06 2009

So, before going to Smith Rock, I posted a ticklist of the routes I wanted to do. I ended up doing a lot of them, plus plenty not on the list. So here’s everything I lead, in order of increasing grade (R=redpoint, O=onsight, F=flash; sport routes in italics, trad routes in bold):

Hop on Pop, 5.8 (R) – always a classic

5 Gallon Buckets, 5.8 (R) – another classic

Light on the Path, 5.9 (R) – ditto. watch out for the bird crap, though, in one of the upper huecos (gross!)

9 Gallon Buckets, 5.9 (O) – only 5.9 to the first anchor

Helium Woman, 5.9 (F) – this route is more fun than the Watts guidebook gives it credit for

Moonshine Dihedral, 5.9 (R) – although I’d already onsighted this one many years ago

Captain Xenolith, 5.10a (F) – not quite as fun as its neighbor, Helium Woman

Cosmic, 5.10a (F) – the easiest knob route at Mesa Verde, not quite as fun as the harder classics

Cruel Sister, 5.10a (O) – gosh, this got pretty wide for my little hands at the top, bring a #4 camalot (or two!)

Chicken McNuggets, 5.10b (R) – the start is deceptively tricky

Wedding Day, 5.10b (O) – this route is not very fun

Screaming Yellow Zonkers, 5.10b (F) – a classic! love the knobs!

Badfinger, 5.10b (R) – fun!

Rim Job, 5.10b (O) – this one is very cool, despite looking intimidating-ly thin

Wildfire, 5.10b (O) – super cruiser above the initial tight corner

Cornercopia, 5.10b (R) – the last 4 are all on the Wildfire Wall – what a mecca for 5.10 and 5.11 trad climbs!

Barbecue the Pope, 5.10b (R) – maybe not the best route to climb in the sun (oops)

On the Road, 5.11a (R) – this route is incredible! don’t miss it! maybe my pick for the best 5.11 at Smith…

A Woman in the Meadow, 5.11a (F) – pumpy!

Pure Palm, 5.11a (R) – by far the hardest 11a I did this trip…

Vomit Launch, 5.11b (R) – this may be the best (sport) 5.11 at Smith

Moondance, 5.11b/c (R) – this was good training for Pure Palm…

Sunshine Dihedral, 5.11d (O) – my crowning achievement ūüôā

Still many projects to get back on, but consider this a list of recommended routes at Smith (except maybe for Wedding Day, which wasn’t that awesome). Hang tight for some blogs from Luke (right now I have the advantage since I’m DONE WITH SCHOOL WOOO).


Shivering, Sweating, and Sending in Smith Rock

30 06 2009

It happened. We graduated and packed up the Rav to head down to Smith Rock out near Terrebonne, Oregon. I hadn’t been in almost 5 years (since the summer after my junior year in high school) and was stoked to go back and lead some of the routes that fired my initial love of rock climbing. We were there for 12 days and 11 nights, my longest climbing trip in quite a while.

Day 1

Maddy and I packed up the car in the morning and headed down to Oregon. With some stops for food and gas, we made it down to Smith Rock in about 7 hours. We pulled up to the campground, set up our tents, and headed down the trail to get a couple of routes in and start getting our Smith Rock faces on. We headed to the 5 Gallon Buckets area, but there were people (not surprisingly) on all the easier routes, so we continued up to the Peanut to start out our trip on Hop on Pop (5.8). We both lead the route, and I didn’t freak out too much about the knobs seeming to flex when I pulled on them. Then we headed back and both sent the 5.9 to the right of 5 Gallon Buckets before heading back to the campground for the day. Nothing too challenging, but it was good to get on the rock after a long drive.

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Checking out the guidebook cause WE’RE AT SMITH ROCK!!!

Day 2

When it wasn’t windy, it was pretty hot in the sun, so we decided to start out in the shade by heading over to the Mesa Verde Wall. We’d never been there before and knew there were a good number of classic knob routes. We warmed up on Cosmic (5.10a) – an onsight for Maddy and a flash for me. We wanted to get on the ultra classics Screaming Yellow Zonkers (5.10b) and Moons of Pluto (5.10d), but another party had just started Screaming Yellow Zonkers and we were not sure our rope was long enough for Moons of Pluto. Instead, we decided to go for Bad Moon Rising (5.11a). It was my turn to go first, so I got on the sharp end and went for the onsight. I made it past the tricky moves on crappy rock down low, the stellar 5.10 knob climbing in the middle of the pitch, and up to the last bolt, below the roof. I jumped right into the roof moves, since there wasn’t a good rest and I was already feeling pumped. I managed to get one of the knobs over the lip, popped my right foot out onto a knob, then struggled to get up onto the upper slab. There was another, better knob, but I couldn’t reach it. So I fell. It was a long, but safe fall and after resting and de-pumping for a second I easily pulled the roof by using some better footwork to gain the second, much juggy-er knob to pull over the roof. Instead of trying to redpoint the route, I had Maddy clean it after following on TR so we could try the other classics at the crag. We both sent Screaming Yellow Zonkers first try, but then the sun came before we could get on Moons of Pluto.

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Smith is so pretty.

We headed back to the front side to play on the 5 Gallon Buckets and Overboard walls a bit more. But they weren’t in the shade yet, so we stopped at the Dihedrals and climbed Wedding Day (5.10b) – an onsight for me and redpoint for Maddy. Then we headed over to tick 5 Gallon Buckets (5.8), both redpointing it. We were both interested in Magic Light (5.11a) and Overboard (5.11a/b), so we decided to try one of them (Magic Light) as the last route of the day. I got about 2 bolts up before I got awful hand cramps in both hands (simultaneously) and dropped my chalk ball on the ground. I decided it was Maddy’s turn to lead. She headed up and couldn’t figure out how to move left onto Magic Light, so continued straight up on Overboard instead. She took a couple falls at the crux, but finally figured it out (which was good, because I was pretty much out of commission for the day) and made it to the anchors. She cleaned the route and we headed back to the campground, deciding we definitely needed to bring more water the next day.

Day 3

This was our first gorge day. I remembered loving the basalt columns of the Gorge on my first trips to Smith and was excited to go back and lead many of the routes I had tried on toprope. We spent the whole day on the West Columns because it was somewhat cloudy and breezy all day, making the temps good even in the sun and rather chilly when we were in the shade. Maddy isn’t super into the trad leading thing, so I lead everything and she followed and cleaned. We warmed up on Badfinger (5.10b, redpoint), then climbed Rim Job (5.10b, onsight), Wildfire (5.10b, onsight), and Cruel Sister (5.10a, onsight), with many rests in between since I hadn’t slept well the night before. To finish up the day, we both toproped Crack-a-no-go (5.11b), which I wanted to eventually try on lead, but after toproping since the tricky gear placement is supposed to be the crux. I flashed it on toprope and started working out the gear beta. But we were pretty tired, so we hiked out, made dinner, and went to bed early, only to be woken up at 3am by some people noisily setting up their tents.

Day 4

We were glad this was a rest day – not only were we tired, but the campground was absolutely swamped with weekend people – mostly not climbers (or people paying to be guided for the day) who thought it was ok to leave their stoves, coolers, etc. set up at one (or two!) of the ~10 picnic tables for the whole day. Apparently the concept of shared space was not apparent to many of these people. We had a lazy morning, then headed to Bend to get some Chai before going to Portland to pick up Luke. We got some yummy baked goods from Great Harvest Bakery and shared a slice of pizza from the Bite of Bend food fair. We drove to Portland via Salem (since I’d never been that way and we had some time to kill), then after some furious phone calls by Maddy, found the only retailer in the greater Portland area with Miuras in Luke’s size, since he’d called to tell us he forgot to pack climbing shoes. Shoes in hand, we picked up Luke from the airport and headed back to Terrebonne. We had a very delicious dinner at the Terrebonne Depot, a relatively new restaurant near the train tracks on Smith Rock Way. The fish tacos were AMAZING.

Back at the campground, we met up with Kevin and Jon of Climbfind and chatted for a bit, making plans to meet up at Cocaine Gully the next day, before heading to the tent for the night.

Day 5

Luke and I scrambled up “the nostril” into Cocaine Gully, while Maddy headed over towards the Dihedrals to meet with some friends from the Vertical World team who’d moved to Bend. Our plan was to warm up on Chicken McNuggets (5.10b), which, like many classic 5.10s in Smith Rock, I’d done before on toprope. The beginning part was trickier than I remembered and my nerves contributed to my taking an accidental warm-up fall on the first bolt. Then, with the falling jitters mostly subdued, I proceeded to send the route. The huge nubbins on that last wall are wild! Luke lead the route also, before moving up-gully to Powder Up the Nose (5.10d). Luke lead the precarious tiny-nubbin-pulling and we decided that I would just toprope this one, which I did, since the crux pulls were an uncomfortable distance above the last bolt for the second route of the day. Then Luke went up to remember the moves and put the draws on Freebase (5.12a), which he’d tried on a previous trip to Smith. We were also joined by Kevin and Jon, who hopefully enjoyed TRing the routes we’d done and borrowing my rope to lead Chicken McNuggets. It was my turn next, so I got on Vomit Launch (5.11b), which I’d been told was really awesome. I decided not to go for the onsight, because I expected I would get super pumped trying to figure out the sequences. I took a couple of rests on my way up, but didn’t find any genuinely hard moves (just some delicate footwork-y ones, including a lockoff that allowed me to static the move to the big jug that is apparently a deadpoint for most). Then Luke sent Freebase! His first 5.12 of the trip!

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The Climbfind guys on Chicken McNuggets (5.10b)

While Luke onsighted Bloodshot (5.11c), I went to get Maddy, who I thought would enjoy Vomit Launch. She did very well, taking only two falls. This encouraged me, so I went for the send. I focused on moving efficiently so I could minimize the pump and in no time I was on the final crack jugs and clipping the anchors. That route is way fun and I would definitely recommend it for someone just breaking into the grade since there weren’t really any “hard” moves.

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Maddy attempting Vomit Launch (5.11b)

We finished the day with 9 Gallon Buckets (5.9) and then Luke lead Overboard (5.11a/b) so Maddy could work the crux on toprope. I abstained. I was beginning to realize I really wasn’t a fan of the ridiculously greasy and polished routes in the Morning Glory area – I like my footholds to be sticky! We finished the day with breakfast burritos for dinner and a bit of slacklining and hanging out with Kevin and Jon before they headed down to California.

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Lizzy sends Vomit Launch (5.11b)

Day 6

The morning arrived without a definite plan. We slept in a bit (Luke was so excited the first day that he was pretty tired, which is unusual ūüėÄ ) and headed to the Dihedrals. Everything was in the sun already, but we found some routes to warm up on¬† – Helium Woman (5.9) and Captain Xenolith (5.10a), which Luke onsighted and the rest of us flashed. When we finished, everything was still in the sun (we were still getting used to the whole sun/shade issue at this point, as our first several days had actually been fairly cool). Luke and Maddy worked on Latin Lover (5.12a) and Take a Powder (5.12a/b), which were in the shade (amazingly). Latin Lover worked well for Maddy’s small fingers, but not so well for Luke’s man fingers and Take a Powder had a very hard crux section (which I did not do, because I was reserving my energy for 5.11 projects, since I’m learning I don’t have as much energy to expend as Luke).

It was hot in the sun at Helium Woman and Captain Xenolith.

Finally, Moondance (5.11c) got in the shade, so I nervously roped up for an onsight attempt. I fell once in the runout section below the rest jug, having gotten myself too far to the right on bad holds. After resting, I sent the remainder of the route to the anchors. Maddy then flashed the route (her first lead of the grade), which kind of made me feel lame. But I made up for it by sending the route next try. Maddy and I were both tired, but Luke still had a little leftover energy, so we stopped by the 5 Gallon Buckets area for him to do a few jughaul cooldowns.

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Lizzy on the crimpy slab on the first half of Moondance (5.11c)

Day 7

We decided to take this as a half rest day, with a full rest day a couple days later. We thought that two full rest days might limit our climbing time too much, while only one rest day would just not suffice. We had a relaxing morning, then took a trip to the grocery store, followed by some reading time and a leisurely lunch at the campground. We headed down into the Gorge around 3pm, when we knew the West Columns would be in the shade. Since Pure Palm (5.11a) was one of the goals for the day, we warmed up on Cornercopia (5.10b). I lead it first (a redpoint, since I’d TRed it before), then Luke and Maddy followed it to warm up their stemming muscles.

Lizzy warming up on Cornercopia (5.10b).

Luke went first at Pure Palm, but couldn’t figure out and commit to a sequence at the first crux, which comes when your feet are at the 3rd bolt. I tried next, but fell while trying to make the move, so it was Maddy’s turn. She used some ridiculous beta involving taking both her feet off at the same time and doing a hand-foot match. She unfortunately fell near the upper crux or it would have been a very impressive flash. I decided to try the ridiculous beta on TR so I would be more comfortable on lead, climbing up to the rest ledge, then lowering to rest for my next go. In the mean time, Luke sent the route, but highstepping his right foot (whereas Maddy used the left). I ended up doing the same thing on my lead go, making it safely to the rest ledge and facing the unfamiliar territory to the anchors. The last couple moves were extremely thrutchy, since I couldn’t seem to get back in the stem, but I somehow managed to send and clip the anchors.

Lizzy palming and stemming up the beginning section of Pure Palm (5.11a)

Luke wanted to try Last Chance (5.10c), so he located it and onsighted it. Maddy followed it, since I wanted to save it for another day in the Gorge when there was time to lead it. Instead, I used the waning light to get on On the Road (5.11a), which I’d TRed a long time ago. I psyched myself up for the crux bit from the ground, but once I got up there the “crux” didn’t even seem hard. I reminded myself to stay focused and not mess up the send after floating up the “crux”. The hardest part was probably the section of off-fingers (purple camalots) before the crack went to thin hands and then hands. Even though the guidebook said to bring a “big hands piece” for the top, I only placed one yellow camalot and could easily have managed without it. This was an awesome send for me because it felt fairly easy in comparison with my struggle a the top of Pure Palm.

If there had been more light, I would have kept going, but it was getting dark, so Luke cleaned the route and we hiked out of the Gorge for a late dinner.

Day 8

Although our half rest day was awesome, it was not very restful and everyone was feeling a bit tired the next morning. After a somewhat slow start, we decided to start the day at the Northern Point and take it from there. Although Northern Point features many short, easy topropes, more recently there have been some pretty cool sport climbs added, too.

We arrived at the cliff only to find that we hadn’t slept in quite enough and the easiest route, a 5.10c/d, was still in the sun. So we decided to “warm up” on one of the 4 star 5.11s the cliff offered, because it was actually in the shade. Luke onsighted A Woman in the Meadow (5.11a) and Maddy flashed up to the awkward and powerful undercling crux. She took a fall that tweaked her ankle, so it was my turn. I flashed it, but got super pumped in the process. Then we moved on to Limbo (5.11a), which Luke also onsighted. I was still feeling pumped, so I just toproped this one and Maddy lead it with a fall or two. We also did Jungle Fever (5.11b), as well as a 5.12a (only Luke did this one, but he sent on his 2nd try), a 5.10d which may have been a bit harder due to a missing hold, and a 5.11c. I was having a crappy day, so I didn’t do all of them, but Luke and Maddy climbed well and we ended up having a full day of climbing at Northern Point.

I love this picture of Luke ūüôā

Day 9

This, finally, was to be our full rest day, although it was not devoted entirely to resting. Luke had wanted to try to do the highline out to the mouth cave on the Monkey, so we got up fairly early and hiked up Misery Ridge (it was quite hot). Then Luke and Maddy rapped down and climbed the Pioneer Route (5.7 A0) to the mouth cave. I helped them set up a tyrolean off the Monkey, then Luke went back across with his webbing to set up the slackline. It took us a while to set it up, but we were able to get it pretty tight and Luke and Maddy spent some time trying to get established on the slackline (I’m not very good at slacklining to start with and I knew the exposure wouldn’t help…). In the end, nobody really got far off the ledge, but setting it up was good practice and Luke realized that he needs to slackline more often to mentally prepare himself better for highlining.

Luke considers the exposure of the Monkey highline

It was after 1pm and we had dinner plans in Bend, so we hiked the hot trails back to the campground, piled in the car, and headed to a deliciously greasy Taco Time lunch (normally my stomach can’t handle fast food, but I’ve had Taco Time since I was little and it is my one guilty pleasure whenever I come back to Washington). We returned to the campground to shower and reorganize the car, then headed to Bend, where we picked up some more yummy baked goods and sourdough bread and killed some time at the local REI before heading to the home of Maddy’s friends for dinner and socializing.

Maddy on the tyrolean out of the mouth cave

We got back to camp a little late and went to bed right away in preparation for an early morning.

Day 10

We headed down to the Christian Brothers and hopped on Barbeque the Pope (5.10b) as a warm-up, even though it was already in the sun. I went first, barbequing my toes, and Luke and Maddy both lead it also. Then Luke racked up to redpoint Wartley’s Revenge (5.11b), a steep juggy crack line that he’d tried before. He sent, with plenty of worrying about gear in the questionable rock, and Maddy and I followed (I, at least, was into energy-conservation mode again in preparation for an attempt on my top goal, an onsight of Sunshine Dihedral (5.11d) later in the day).

Lizzy’s toes getting cooked in the heat on Barbeque the Pope (5.10b)

Maddy lead up Latin Lover (5.12a) with a couple falls, but afterwards everyone else’s project was still in the sun (as usual). Luke walked over to Aggro Gully and found that it was not only breezy, but also shady over there, so we headed there to climb and wait out more shade at the Dihedrals. Luke sent Toxic (5.11b) on his second try and Maddy wasn’t able to figure out the dyno, so she cheated a bit to the right and eventually got to the anchors. After letting Maddy and I take naps, Luke got on Up for Grabs (5.11d), which he lead with a couple of hangs.

Luke makes the clip on Toxic (5.11b)

It was getting a little cooler, so we figured we could head back to the Dihedrals. I re-warmed up on Moonshine Dihedral, which I’d onsighted 5 years ago, finding it a bit slipperier than I’d remembered, but good practice for placing lots of nuts. I traversed over to the first anchor on Heinous Cling (5.12a) and set up a toprope for Luke and Maddy to play on while I rested for Sunshine Dihedral.

Maddy eyes the faraway jug on Toxic (5.11b)

It didn’t take them long to toprope Heinous, so it was my turn again pretty soon. Full of nerves and doubts, I racked up – a double set of itty-bitty nuts (RPs and some other little nuts called “Stones” that Luke got me and I love), the smaller half of our normal set of nuts, purple C3, green C3, 2 blue Aliens, a blue Mastercam, 3 green Aliens, 2 yellow Aliens, and 2 grey Aliens. I was deeply intimidated by the route, since the crack looked thin and tricky to protect, but I kept repeating encouragment to myself – I’d done routes almost this hard (three 5.11c sport climbs, plus my 5.11 onsight in Indian Creek), plus I had already done some difficult stemming on Moondance and Pure Palm and Sunshine Dihedral is actually a lot less steep than Moonshine Dihedral. As I struggled to place my first piece, a #5 RP, I worried that I was not qualified for the route. But I continued pushing down my doubts and was making more progress. Before I knew it, the first bolt (there are 2 bolts and a fixed pin on the route) was in sight. The moves getting to the bolt were some of the trickiest on the route, but I had it clipped and moved on above, into the section I’d thought was the crux. The stemming and jamming were tricky, but never impossible. There were some strenuous moves below the pin, but before I knew it, I’d clipped that, too! Only a couple more moves and there was a big jug (not really that helpful since my legs, not my forearms, were pumped). Then I clipped the 2nd bolt and did a couple more strenuous moves to pass the little roof at the bolt. Above the roof, I could see the anchors and the climbing started to get slabbier. I tried not to think about the anchor yet and only focus on the moves in front of me. I placed a couple more pieces and then I was clipping the anchor before I knew it! I had onsighted Sunshine Dihedral, my hardest lead ever. I was so thrilled and had a rush of adrenaline and excited energy that lasted a good half an hour! (Then I started to feel tired and my legs realized that they were actually pumped from stemming continuously for 30m!)

Lizzy getting into the groove on Sunshine Dihedral (5.11d)

The gear had been tricky and not the most bomber (I placed some #2 and #3 RPs and Stones that made me nervous), but it was all there. I cleaned the route on my way down and Luke toproped it, struggling a little more since his larger fingers couldn’t fit in all the pods. As I was putting the gear back on the rack, some older dudes walked by and asked what route we were doing. Upon learning the grade and fact that I had just onsighted it, they were very impressed (yes, sometimes its nice for the chick to impress the dudes!).

We celebrated by heading to Redmond for pizza. I was thrilled and felt satisfied with my climbing trip, even if I didn’t climb anything else.

Day 11

This was Luke’s day for the Monkey, so we got up reasonably early, hiked over Asterisk Pass, and headed to the West Face of the Monkey. Luke wanted to try Astro Monkey (5.11d), which started with the crux 5.11d pebble-pinching and slab-climbing pitch, followed by some easier pitches, a 5.11a pitch, and finishing by climbing Monkey Space (5.11b) up to and out of the West Cave.

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It was pretty hot on Bohn Street…

The initial pitch turned out to be pretty hard and it didn’t seem like many people climbed the route at all. Luke ended up rapping off and we decided to just climb the West Face Variation at ~5.8 to Bohn Street, then do Monkey Space to the summit. With some simul-climbing, we made Bohn Street in one pitch from the ground, then Luke lead the first, wild, traversing pitch of Monkey Space (5.11a). Maddy and I both had some scary following to do, but we all made it safely to the West Cave.

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Luke leads off into space on the first pitch of Monkey Space (5.11a)

The last pitch pulls onto the roof of the cave and up out on steep jugs. Maddy and I struggled following it due to our shortness and our difficulty removing gear, compounded by the fact that we aren’t used to climbing hard multipitches with 3 people and the rope management proved tricky. After rapping on the Monkey, we hiked back to the campground (it was already ~5pm) and got some ice cream from the climbing store, which was nice after the hot hike. We made dinner and went to bed early again, hoping to get some early climbing in the next day before taking Luke to the airport and heading back to my parents’ house.

Day 12

Maddy makes the clip on Latin Lover (5.12a)

This last morning was the time for everyone to get some last sends in, but I was still feeling fulfilled and not particularly motivated after having sent Sunshine Dihedral, so I was happy to mostly just belay Luke and Maddy. We got up early and headed to the 5 Gallon Buckets wall, where Luke “completed the wall” by sending every route (that he hadn’t already done this trip) except Zebra Seam and one of the extensions. Maddy warmed up by following a couple routes. She had wanted to get back on Overboard, but some locals were hogging the Overboard wall, so we decided to head straight over to Latin Lover. Maddy racked up her draws and set off to put the draws on the route. However, she kept not falling and made it up onto the arete, clipping the anchors and sending her first 5.12a (I think her hardest previous route was Moondance (on this trip) at a soft 5.11c). She was pretty stoked and gained the same fulfilled feeling I’d gotten from Sunshine Dihedral.

Luke wanted to squeeze one or two more routes in, so we headed back to Morning Glory, where Lion’s Chair (5.11a R) was still in the shade. Luke decided to go to the first anchor (5.10c) and then decide if he wanted to continue up the full pitch. The climbing turned out to be weird and awkward, so he decided to call it a day at the first anchor. Maddy followed, rapped, and we were hiking back up to the campground to pack up the tents and the car.

We made good time to Portland and had an hour before we needed to drop Luke off, so we stopped by the Portland Patagonia store (I LOVE visiting Patagonia stores, even though it pains me that I can never afford to buy anything…). Then it was time to say goodbye to Luke (I won’t get to see him for almost 3 weeks!) and drive north back to Poulsbo.

Overall, I think it was a fantastic trip. Maddy and I both sent a lot of routes at the harder end of our difficulty range and though Luke didn’t end up doing as many 5.12s as he’d hoped, I think he learned a lot about mental space. If you’re interested in any of these routes and want more beta (I’ve tried to keep this post pretty beta light or it would be EVEN longer), comment and we’ll be happy to fill you in.

A Zion Photo Show from Memorial Day Weekend

23 06 2009

Going to Zion and trying to do Moonlight Buttress was one of my big goals for 2009. Two previous attempts had not even left San Diego and I was happy to finally be on the road to Zion for Memorial day. Despite a Thursday night arrival in Zion we were unable to get a campsite and stayed the night in a hotel in the near by Springdale. We stayed at the Terrace Brook Lodge which should be avoided. Our bathroom was low quality, the walls were so thin we could hear our neighbor snoring and the price was quite high. However we needed a place to stay after arriving after midnight.

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A wet but happy Luke and Lizzy on the hike up the West Rim Trail to Angel’s Landing.

The next morning we got up at 7:30 and were able to snag a site in the south campground. The sites are all quite close to each other but we at least had a place to stay the next four nights. We repacked our bags and made our way to the shuttle with topo in hand. I had been to Zion 12 years prior but had no memory of the area. I asked the bus driver, who was very nice, to drop us off  at Moonlight Buttress if possible.

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Just about to start up Walters Wiggles on the way to Angel’s Landing.

Unknown to us the trail to cross the river is a mere 400 yards past the typical shuttle stop at Big Bend. Since the park was not too busy on Friday morning we got door to door service and were on our way to Sheer Lunacy. It was quite lucky that we got dropped off at the perfect place since we saved time not having to figure out where the trail started. After a bit of exploring we changed into sandals and waded across the COLD Virgin River. We each used a trekking pole and the clear water made it’s way up barely past my knees.

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The chain has easily worn grooves in the soft sandstone.

Lizzy and I were quite nervous to be doing such a challenging route as our intro to Zion climbing. I had faith in our ability and since Sheer Lunacy is often climbed as moderate clean aid route, I knew we could get to the top one way our another. Our confidence had been further shaken on the bus ride up when we heard there was a 50% chance of thunderstorms for the day. Used to the California bubble, Lizzy and I had not taken the time to check the forecast. We felt the occasional rain drop as we crossed the stream but I was optimist and happy that it was not too hot out.

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Luke enjoying a cool weather hike.

The plan was for Lizzy to lead the first four pitches and then I would lead five of the six remaining pitches for a total of ten. Pitches One, Four, Seven and Eight were less than 5.10 with Pitches Two and Three checking in at 5.10c, Pitches Six and Ten at 5.11a. The two hard pitches Five and Nine at 12b and 12c respectively could be the show stoppers but still seemed within reach. I knew that I would be still be fairly fresh for  the first crux pitch and decided to put all my energy into an onsight attempt at that pitch.

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Lizzy makes use of the chain as she nears the “scariest” part of the trail. There is a 800 foot drop on one side and a 1200 foot drop on the other.

A nervous Lizzy racked up and cruised the first pitch a slabby and sandy 5.8 corner which traversed to jugs and finished nice hand crack. Lizzy brought me up using the bolted belay on the far left size of the large ledge and then got back on the sharp end for the tricky 2nd pitch.  After traversing way right across the ledge Lizzy worked her way up to a tricky finger crack. After a bit of gear fiddling Lizzy made her way through the dicy crux protected by an iffy cam.  Soon after I lost view of Lizzy as she moved around the corner and up a discontinuous crack. A few minutes later Lizzy came back into view after taking a sizable fall. I barely felt a tug since the rope had gotten stuck in the roof below the finger crack.

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Looking down at the big bend around the Organ Pipes

A bit of encouragement and emotion later Lizzy sorted out her rope drag by slinging a few more pieces and finished the lead to the next ledge. At this point you have to split left from Moonlight Buttress and go up a chimney/corner to go towards Lunar X and Sheer Lunacy. I encouraged Lizzy to keep leading as planned despite falling and she made it half way up the next pitch before it really started raining. Rather than finish the pitch Lizzy lowered off and I took the sharp end. I was able to climb to her high point and then take out the gear while down climbing. It was still warm and wasn’t raining too hard but the soft sandstone becomes much more friable when wet so we had to bail.

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Luke smiles in the face of fear ūüėČ on the 3 foot wide trail.

Once back on the ground we took the shuttle back to camp and relaxed in the tent while the rain came and went. I was anxious to accomplish something that day so we hiked up Angle’s Landing and stashed a pack, an extra set of approach shoes for Lizzy and a half liter of water. I guess the cold cloudy weather made us think that .5 liters of water would be helpful. As we later found out it would have been much nicer to have at least two  liters. This is a newbie mistake that we can easily learn from.

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At the end of Angel’s Landing with the Great White Throne in the background.

During the night it rained a bit more and we decided it would be best to take a day trip to the nearby Bryce Canyon. It was less than 2 hours away as we drove through the rain and it was cool to go back, I had also visited Bryce 12 years prior, and see the wild HooDoos. I had though that the spires were all sandstone and was surprised to learn that they were limestone. I did not believe it until i was able to get up close and touch the rock.

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From atop Angel’s Landing. Moonlight buttress can be seen just left of Lizzy’s shoulder.

We made it back to Zion and tired ourselves out with a more hiking visiting the Hanging Gardens. While Lizzy took a nap I explored a few of the road side boulders and ran into a guy I think who’s name was Agnasio from Vegas. We devised a cool low traverse on one boulder that I was able to send before moving on and finding a harder steeper line further up a wash. After thrashing for a while I thought it would be best to save my energy and skin for the next day of climbing.

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The streaked wall is just left of center and is home to Rodeo Queen.

Saturday night was rain free so we decided to go for it again and try to climb Sheer Lunacy. Initially the plan was to bring 3+ liters total. A mini .5 L nalgene for the leader and almost 3 liters in a camelbak minus what we drank on the approach. The first day it was ~65 and cloudy and it seemed like we had too much water. On Sunday, the day of our climb, it was ~75 and sunny but we decided to ditch the mini nalgene and some of the water in the camelbak. To make matters worse the camelbak got a very small hole and was leaking when it was not held up right.I found this out at the 1st belay but was anxious to get going and did not want to spend an hour or more to go back to camp and replace the bladder.

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A wet Luke and Lizzy at Bryce Canyon.

Lizzy did the first pitch easily and this time we moved the belay to the far right side so I could help keep the rope out of the crack. Despite the new belay stance and a good effort by Lizzy to sling her gear I still had to actively move and flick the rope around to keep it out of the crack. With the confidence of the previous attempt Lizzy was able to send the pitch and our day was going well. Lizzy started up the next pitch and quickly regained her highpoint below the crux. Using some tricky beta Lizzy was able to stem and chimney through the first crux to gain the midway ledge.  Unfortunately after a few more moves the holds thinned out and Lizzy took a few falls before figuring out that she had to chimney left side in.

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Lizzy checks out the forest of Hoodoo’s

We opted to haul the pack at this point so I could follow more quickly but the bag got a bit stuck at the top. As well my shoes, which were immediately inside the bag without any padding, wore a couple of holes in our haul pack. This is something that had happened when Lizzy and I hauled her pack on Epinephrine and I should have known better. The next pitch was a long horizontal traverse that we accidentally split into two pitches due to some confusion. The 2nd part of this pitch ended at a single bolt under a roof that made up the start of the 5th pitch.

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It was much colder in Bryce than Zion and it makes sense due to the high altitude.

I took over leading and got psyched up for the first crux pitch. I hesitated a bunch trying to work my way up the first roof which shot 45 degrees to the left with a thin finger crack underneath.  I committed to the lay back and climbed above the lip and into the corner above. I could now see the rest of the pitch and line was beautiful as the corner got steeper as in went higher. I paced my self and placed as many nuts as possible in addition to a good helping of small cams. The climbing was a combination of thin laybacking and crimping with the occasional stem rest.

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A pretty natural arch that looked to be ready to fall over at any moment.

The crack pinched down I slotted a few cams and gunned it for the next pod barely making it to the hand jam where I would spend the next many minutes. After stemming and shaking out I climbed up and placed a purple tcu and purple C3 before what seemed to be the crux. At the hand jam I was able to find a fairly good stem rest and the pitch was now going in to the shade.  My fingers slid into the small sandstone pods and I put forth 100% effort reaching between locks and crimps in the thin crack.  All of a sudden the crack opened up and I knew I had to place another piece, a yellow mastercam. The wall had started getting steeper and I barely got the cam clipped before I had to keep moving. A small ledge was in my sight and again I pushed hard, climbing instinctively eventually grabbing the lip of the ledge and manteling up for some much need rest.

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As we walked down on the Queen’s Garden Trail the storm cleared up and the sun came out.

I let out a yell of joy since I had barely made it and almost felt like puking. The anchor was no where in sight and my rack was getting depleted as I slowly worked my way through the remaining 15 meters to the top careful not to blow it. As I neared the end I recognized the crack from a photo that had prompted this ascent.  As I clipped into the drilled angles I was filled with excitement, one crux pitch down! Lizzy followed skillfully and only had to hang on the rope twice to remove a tight cam and a stuck cam.

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Down inside the Hoodoo Forest.

Pitch six was my favorite of the entire route and it climbed amazingly well. A discontinuous crack connected various face features and required good sequencing and balance. In addition to the fun climbing the gear showed up just where it was needed with many small nuts, cam pods and an amazing purple C3 slot. This onsight was so fun and brought us to the Shroud of Elvis.  Aside from the awkward first two moves I really enjoyed pulling on the huge jugs. Before traversing left around another corner to the belay I hauled the bag off a fixed pin, using our 5mm tag line and a DMM revolver, to make it easier for Lizzy.  Once I made it to the belay I was concerned with the rope drag around the corner and made a mini anchor right near the fixed pin so I could offer Lizzy a better belay.  This may have wasted some time but it made belaying much easier and we were getting tired and were not in a rush.

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The limestone formed into many different crazy shapes.

We definitely didn’t have enough water and Lizzy was experiencing cramps and feeling dehydrated. I was in the zone and decided to keep leading and linked the next two pitches as described in the topo to bring us to Torquerville Tower. This long pitch was forgettable and the rock quality was not the best. It was fairly easy and I was happy to have our #4 camalot for the off-width after the “hidden” crack.

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This sign shares our experience of Utah wildlife.

I had been feeling tired but upon seeing the final crux pitch I started getting fired up. A short nap was in order to give me as much strength as possible and I would need it. The exposure as you step across from the lower belay is instantaneous and the moves are quite hard. I got a blue master cam in the first pod and was able to reach up to the next crack but my feet were useless and I didn’t commit and took on my gear. After playing around for a bit I realized this crux was not to be done today and I aided through the next moves to gain a larger crack. A mix of face climbing moves protected by gear lead to a bolt and a horizontal traverse left. I rested on the bolt and after placing a green alien traversed left back to the main corner. (Next time I would skip the green alien placement to make it easier for the follower) Two small nuts got me back on my feet and a few hard crimping moves later I clipped a bolt and hung again.  A few more cams another hard crimping section and a bit of bird crap got me to a final awkward move that allowed passage to the “anchor”.

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A typical drilled angle anchor on Sheer Lunacy.

Most of the anchors looked like the photo above but on this ledge there was a single drilled angle. I didn’t have enough gear to keep going so I placed what I had left and brought Lizzy up. It was a good decision to belay here since the next moves were quite difficult and it took a bit of up and down climbing and screaming before I got established in the Indian Creek esque “sharper” crack. A bunch of fun jamming lead to a drilled angle (DA) anchor that was on my topo. I skipped this since I wanted to go all the way to the top. I passed one more double DA anchor and got into an overhanging flared chimney with a splitter finger crack on one side. The crack was thin and I was throwing my feet into the chimney to make progress. After getting in a cam I almost pumped out trying to figure out where to put my feet. The right wall of the chimney had come to and edge and I had to layback up the crack using this feature.

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Looking across at Desert Shield. The climb ascends the buttress in the middle of the photo just right of the shadow.

I reached another DA and was happy not to have fallen on the strenuous crack. The rock quality was really starting to deteriorate and the white sand that I was climbing seemed to rub off with minimal effort. Using marginal gear I face climbed on large slopers barely keeping the pump at bay as I manteled up towards the tree that guarded the anchors. The cracks were too flaring for gear but I though the tree would catch me as I committed to the final moves to the anchor. I made it and was surprised to see an eight foot long chain sitting on the ledge. The tree was quite rotten and someone had left this chain behind to prevent the tree from being pulled off the wall. The chain would have likely provided a nice piece of mind for the final moves so I let it down over the edge.

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The hanging gardens seen from the East Rim Trail.

Lizzy followed and we flopped onto the summit tired and dehydrated after the long day of hard climbing. We were both anxious to get our stashed water since I had finished off our camelbak before climbing the last pitch. We laughed at the mere .5 liters we had but knew the hike was all down hill to the shuttle.  The decent, which we had done a previous day for Angel’s Landing, was not too bad and we made it half way down before it got too dark. We continued headlamp free until I rolled my left ankle on a hidden rock. After switching to our E-Lite and BD Ion we made it back to the shuttle stop and by then my ankle seemed fine.

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Looking down into Echo Canyon on the East Rim Trail.

I had been dreaming about cold Gatorade for a while now and after re hydrating we headed into Springdale for dinner a bit after 10 pm. We were happy to find that Amigos, a local Mexican restaurant, was open until 2am and Lizzy got her salt fix with tortilla chips. One super burrito later we made it back to camp and passed out after one of our hardest climbing days ever.

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Lizzy takes a break on our last day of hiking.

The next morning after sleeping in I was interested in trying out the first few pitches of Moonlight Buttress to be better acquainted for a future attempt. I also thought it could be fun to hike up the Narrows to see a slot canyon. We decided to rest first and decide later and hiked up the east rim trail towards Echo Canyon, seen above. It was a pretty hike and the slot canyon was cool even though the trail went beside it instead of through it. After burgers at the Zion Lodge for lunch we decided to wade up the Narrows. After going back to camp and changing into quick dry clothing we went up to the end of the shuttle loop and started up the river walk.

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A very spiny caterpillar on the Riverside Walk.

The best thing to do is to hike the Narrows from top to bottom, taking one or two days to cover the 16 miles IN the virgin river. We had neither the time nor the permit and decided to go up as far as we could before turning around. Hopefully we could see some cool canyons and enjoy our last day in Zion.

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What a crazy little bug! (Lizzy was not a fan)

Zion is quite green and full of creatures both large and small. I was excited by this caterpillar and we also had seen deer and wild turkeys on previous days.  We knew how cold the Virgin River since we had crossed it before so we brought long sleeve shirts to try to stay warm. This helped for a while since you legs would go a bit numb in the water but we were not exactly comfortable.

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Lizzy wading up river on our attempt to walk up the Narrows.

We saw some people canyoneering (rapping down a waterfall) and some other hikers wearing dry suits. A dry suit seems like a good way to stay warm since the constant exposure to 55 degree water really drains your heat. I am usually warm all the time and despite eating ClifShots and some other food I got quite cold which usually means Lizzy is way way cold.

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Getting colder as we made our way up the Virgin River

The canyon never got really small though we did have to go through water above our waist at one point. We easily could have gone in deeper water but we were luckily shown the best way by some hikers ahead of us. After too much cold we turned around and made really fast time back, clearly motivated by warm dry clothes and a hot dinner at camp.

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Lizzy is not so excited to be hiking in the frigid water.

Our trip was definitely a success and showed me how possible it is to free the Zion big walls. I would like to go back to redpoint the 2nd crux pitch on Sheer Lunacy in addition to trying other routes such as SpaceShot and Moonlight Buttress. It would be been worth the effort to haul more water to help Lizzy and I avoid cramps and make the experience more enjoyable. I was able to climb beyond my previous limits and was happy to climb 9 out of the 10 of the pitches without falling. Hopefully this will be a good first step towards bigger and harder climbs in Yosemite.



Traveling and Trying Hard when the School Year Ends

19 06 2009

It takes a lot to be successful and in the past many months, as well as the last 4 years, Lizzy has been working hard at Caltech on her Bachelors degree in Geology. She graduated one week ago and is currently celebrating in Smith Rock! It was a bit cloudy for graduation and it even rained a little bit, way out of character for SoCal. Lizzy and I had fun showing her parents around Pasadena between various graduation activities.

Caltech Graduation - June 09 - 014The CalTech Class of 2009

Caltech Graduation - June 09 - 016Lizzy with friends Deepak on the left and Gabe on the right.

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Lizzy lost in a Sea of graduates.

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Lizzy did it!!

Caltech Graduation - June 09 - 104Lizzy with her Hawaiian lei.

After bringing Lizzy and her parents to the Airport on Saturday I snuck away to Idyllwild to get in a bit of climbing.  Saturday night was a bit surreal as much of Idywilld seemed to be stuck in the clouds. Konstantin drove up from San Diego and we camped at San Jacinto State Park which is quite pricey but convenient to the climbing.


The idea for the day was to do Vahalla as a warmup for the Edge. The Edge is supposed to be super scary and if I could style Vahalla it would most likely not be a problem. Way back in 2005 Hartley and I had tried to climb Vahalla hot off reading stories of the Stone Masters byJohn Long. Hartley brilliantly lead the first pitch which I some how followed and I’m sure both of us fell at least a few times. The 2nd pitch contains the business and neither of us could commit to the insecure smears on lead while above the bolt. We bailed and went to work on Insomnia another climb that was well above our head at the time.


Now in 2009 I was confident, perhaps too much so, that I could climb Vahalla and so I started up the first pitch. The granite is wild with knobs and scoops and I slowly nervously made my way up to the 1st bolt (there are only 3 for the pitch). ¬†Following Konstantin’s advice I got up a little higher with some tricky stemming and clipped the 2nd bolt and prepared for the crux. I must have spent at least 10 minutes trying to find a way around the next few moves but nothing worked. After too much consideration I transitioned my weight to my right foot while deadpointing for the next crimp.


The crux was not quite over and I magically held on to nothing as I slowly worked right evidently doing a good job of keeping my weight on my feet. At one point I thought for sure I would fall but I tried hard, as hard as I possibly could, and made the final bump right to a better crimp end eventually the jug. I was relieved as I manteled the next ledge and clipped the final bolt. After a bit of shaking out and advice from Konstantin that I was through the crux and should avoid falling, I made the final few traversing moves and manteled again to log ledge.


My confidence was a bit shaken but I still had a lot of climbing to go. After following the pitch I lowered Konstantin to an old bolt and tied him off to the anchor as a backup. At the lower position there would be more ¬†rope out and it would follow a straighter line reducing rope drag. I made the traverse right to the bolt and stared at the crux. This time I would not have beta and would hopefully be able to figure out the moves. Shakily I moved up on the poor holds before getting stuck not knowing where to go. Using both hands in opposition just to stay on, I couldn’t make progress. I tried to shift my weight around but lost my balance and fell. I was barely above the bolt and Konstantin gave me a nice catch which helped put my fear of falling at rest.


I lowered back to the hands free stance below the bolt for my next attempt. It seemed silly and unnecessary to un-clip from the bolt and traverse to and from the belay. Konstantin gave me some beta about going right to a rectangular hold and then up. I saw the hold he spoke of and figured out a better sequence. As I went back up the smears some how felt more secure and I got established with my left on a slopey hold and my right on the poor rectangle. I kept my weight in and reached up left for another sloping crimp.  It was crazy that these holds were keeping me on the wall as I reached up and grabbed an incut divot for my right hand, bringing my feet above the bolt.  I thought I had made it and shook out on the good crimp. Not wanting to blow it and take a big fall I felt around and eventually manteled up with my foot on the good hold. Two moves later I was at the bolt and was ready to enjoy the rest of the 5.10 climbing to the anchors far above. I wandered through the golden granite with a big grin on my face amazed that a climb could make its way up this blank undulating face.


I didn’t quite sling everything properly and reached the anchors with a bit of rope drag. ¬†For the final pitch I went up and left missing a bolt which I had to down climb and clip after I had given up hope and tied off a big knob. After the Sundance anchors I kept climbing into the SunDike variation which I felt was quite insecure and difficult especially for “5.10a”. I think my mental ability was sapped and I was ready to be done. ¬†We rapped off and I was happy both for sending Vahalla and for taking real fall which is hard for me to do. It seemed that I was not yet ready for The Edge so we made our way to Disco Jesus so Konstantin could have some fun on the sharp end.


All of the above¬†photos are of ¬†Konstantin leading the 2nd pitch of Disco Jesus. The 2nd pitch features insecure dime edging followed by a crazy smearing sequence on underclings finished off with a hand foot match mantel to a jug rail that leads to the anchors.¬†Photos ¬†thanks to Darshan who’s name I recognized from and happened to be climbing in the area.

After finishing the three pitch Disco Jesus we ate lunch and I got back on the sharp end for Miscalculation. Konstatin had tried it previously but bailed at the first crux.  As usual I took my time sewing up the crack and slowly making progress with thin locks and insecure laybacking. I got through the first crux and prepared for most difficult part protected by two #5 stoppers before getting in a small finger sized cam. The locks were thin and I suppose that it may have been easier to lay back than to jam it straight in. At the top I remebered to stem and after a bit more climbing I made it to the anchors for the onsigh of the  full value 90 foot pitch.  I had placed all of my small nuts and cams and was left with way too many big pieces on my harness.. Oops!

Even though it was only only 3pm we had climbed 7 hard pitches and were ready to relax. Back at the car we ate a second lunch with a bit of wine from the night before. I was hoping to see a few friends at Tahquitz and while we didn’t see who we expected we ran in to Leah who needed a ride home. ¬†It was a great weekend and really good for me to work on my slab climbing weakness.

This week has been quite busy as Lizzy made her way from Seattle to Smith Rock and I finished up as much work as possible. Tomorrow I will fly up to Portland to relax and enjoy many of the classic routes at smith.

Hope everyone has a great weekend,


Indian Creek 101 – Cragging and Gear Beta

16 06 2009

Lizzy and I are from SoCal and by no means Indian Creek locals. However a love for crack climbing has brought us to the creek for a wonderful week of climbing each of the last two years. Over these 15 days spent at the creek we have gained a bit of information that could be helpful to first timers. This is by no means a complete resource but a similar to CragReviews and TripBeta seen on other blogs. If anyone has other useful information please post up a comment. I will be doing a follow up post on good rest days around Moab, UT sometime in the next few weeks (though it took me almost 3 months to finish this post…).


Sorting cams before going to IC.


To say that climbing at Indian Creek is gear intensive really misses the point.  The lengthy pitches, eighty to over one hundred and seventy feet, in addition to the the splitter nature of the cracks, require an immense number of cams. We have a pretty large rack by most standards, with at least five or six cams in each size, but we still need to borrow more. So before heading to IC, find as many friends as you can and plead with them to borrow all their cams. Most cracks are dead vertical and do not wander negating the need for quickdraws or slings. Also, the parallel nature of the cracks almost completely eliminates the use of nuts. There are exceptions to both of these rules and beyond hints from the guidebook you will often be able to tell from the ground if you need nuts or slings.  At a minimum you will always want at least 2 quickdraws or a sling since most of the climbs have a bolted anchor.

In 2008 our rack consisted of ¬†four or five of each cam between Lizzy and I and we ended up borrowing around ten more of each size from friends. It was nice to have fifteen of each size but it was really overkill and heavy to boot. There are definitely climbs at Indian Creek that require ten or more cams of single size , such as¬†Bunny Slope, Steve Carruther’s Memorial, and Christmas Tree but for the most most cracks have some variety so you only need six to eight cams of each size. For example, on the classic Supercrack you would bring a few small cams for the start and then around three #2’s, six #3’s and one or two cams in the #3.5 or #4 camalot range. According to the Bloom guide: (1)1.5 (1)2.0 (1)2.5 ¬†(2)3.0 (5)3.5

Once you work out having a bin full of cams you need to figure out how the different brands overlap. In a place like Indian Creek, where you have every size of crack, it can be beneficial to own different brands. Sadly our cam of choice, the camalot, does not quite fill all the sizes and in certain cracks the lobes become too tight or tipped out.  We do not have this issue in the smaller sizes since we own many different brands of cams.  The Bloom guidebook attempts to list approximate crack size in inches that directly correlates to the size of Wild Country Friends.  Ill try to do my best to portray our experience with the cams we have used at Indian Creek.

Cam Sizes

Size,   Size according to Bloom/Size in Inches,    Cams listed smallest to largest per that size

Sub Tips 0.10 000 C3, Ballnuts
Tips 0.20 00 C3, Black Alien, 00 Grey TCU, Ballnuts
Tips/Thin Fingers 0.30 0 C3. Blue Alien, 0 Purple Tcu, .2 MicroCamalot
Tight Fingers 0.50 Blue Tcu/Master cam,  Green Alien,  .3 MicroCamalot
Fingers 0.75 Yellow Alien, 2 Yellow Tcu/Mastercam, 2 C3, Grey Alien
Off-Fingers 1.00 Grey Alien, 3 Orange Tcu/Mastercam, .5 Purple Camalot, Red Alien
Stacks/ Thin Hands 1.50 4 Red Master Cam, .75 Green Camalot, 5 Black Master/Power Cam
Thin hands/ Tight hands 2.00 5 Black Master/Power Cam, 1 Red Camalot
Hands 2.50 2 Yellow Camalot, 3 Purple Friend
Wide Hands 3.00 3 Purple Friend, 8 Purple Power Cam, 3 Blue Camalot
Fists 3.50 3 Blue camalot. 3.5 (old) Grey Camalot
Fists/ Off Fists 4.00 3.5 (old) Grey Camalot, 4 Grey Camalot
Offwidth > 4.5 4 (old) Purple Camalot, 5 Purple camalot on up.

So in the chart above I listed few cams in multiple sections which is because of the lack of sub increments in the Bloom guide in the upper sizes. ¬†A 2.5″ crack will fit a #2 camalot perfectly but as that crack approaches 3″ there is a size where it is useful to have a #3 Friend or an 8 Purple Power Cam before you can get in a bomber #3 Camalot. This size is usually labeled 3.0 in the book but sometimes a #3 camalot will fit in a “3.0” crack. The same is true of the Black Master/Power cam which nicely fits in between a¬†.75 camalot and 1.0 camalot. We usually use #1 Camalots when we see 2.0 in the book despite the fact that #1 camalots are closer to 2.25. So if you see a large number of cams in 2.5 and 3.0 or 1.5 and 2.0 it can be good to have one of the previously mentioned in between pieces.


Gotta have the crash pad for days in Big Bend.


So there is a lot of ranting about taping your hands when crack climbing. While some attribute tape to aid, others won’t climb without it. In many ways crack climbing can be painful as you torque your hand to fit in a crack since there is no hold to grasp and pull down on. Attempting to fill this void and get your digits to stick can be assisted by tape since it lessens the pain and in some cases makes it easier. Tape can easily change the size of your hands or fingers to allow them to better fit a specific size crack. As well taping helps reduce the amount of wear on your skin and often allows you to twist harder. ¬†The skin on the backs of your hands is important since practically every move of every climb of every day is a jam. ¬†Some may find exceptions with the occasional lay back or face hold but the reason people come to¬†Indian Creek¬†from around the world is the jamming.

For thin hand cracks I usually avoid tape since I need to sink as much of my hand in the crack as possible. However having a few layers of tape or a tape glove can make a hand crack much nicer. The same is true for fist and off-width climbing where tape is essential to the survival of your skin. Tape does allow a climber to be sloppy with their jams and can take away ones feel of the rock. I will tape my index finger and middle finger when doing finger stacks and ring locks to preserve my skin but I tend to climb finger cracks tape free.

At Indian Creek it seems best to start off with too much tape to save your skin while you hone your technique. As one gets more acquainted with each crack size you can decide if taping necessary.


Lizzy tapes up before the off-fingers Puma.


The most important part of your shoes is that they allow your toes to lay flat. Tight, knuckle curling shoes with thin fabric should be left at home. Since you will repeatedly be jamming your feet you want your toes to be in a flat position allowing the shoe to get as far in the crack as possible. If you have stronger feet ¬†and are climbing a smaller crack, I would suggest the Mocasyms. ¬†I wear these shoes when climbing anything thin hands or smaller. I prefer a stiffer shoe such as the Sportiva Barracuda for larger cracks. I haven’t gotten Lizzy hooked on the Mocasysms yet so she generally wears her Miura¬†for everything small and Barracudas for hand cracks [yeah, and that’s because Miuras are still the most awesome all-around climbing shoe ever made. period. oh, and also, I only wear La Sportiva. ~Lizzy].


My moc’s with a bit of Stealth Paint.

One of my experiments for this year was a helping of Stealth pain on my shoes. I was interesting in this product after seeing it on Ethan’s blog. Lizzy picked me up a package at the Five-Ten outlet in Redlands, CA and the night before we left I tried my best to coat my shoes. The kit includes a metal container of ground up bits of Stealth Rubber, a tube of Barge cement and some plastic applicators. I was hoping for a tube of pre-mixed stealth goo but to no avail. I mixed 2 spoonful of glue and 1 spoons of rubber in a disposable bowl. This instantly made a mess and the glue and bits of rubber were hard to mix into a spreadable substance. I mixed in more glue and tried to apply the rubber to my shoes. This did not work and the rubber moved around and did not stick. I applied a base layer of barge cement to the mocs to make sure the surface was nice and sticky and tried again. This worked much better and i was able to get a thick layer of rubber on my shoes. I still had extra rubber (from the 1st spoonful) which I applied to a second pair of mocs without the base layer of barge cement.

The fairly thick rubber on the first pair stayed on through the week of climbing at indian creek. Small holes did rip  as seen above but for the most part I was successful. However the second pair, with out the extra glue, quickly lost the rubber that I had applied. When I try this process again I plan on adding glue to the shoe and then sprinkling the stealth rubber dust directly on the shoe instead of mixing in a bowl. I think this will let me apply a finer layer and it should spread more easily.

Overall I have a got mixed impressions from the application process however once the Stealth Paint was on my shoes I was quite happy. Check out these reviews for proper application techniques.


Find the Lizard!?! There are at least 10 in this photo.


Both of our visits have been in March and we have experienced a range of weather from snow to shirtless climbing. Around Moab the sun is bright and the wind can be quite chilling. It is fairly easy to chase either sun or shade since there are so many different crags at Indian Creek. If there is snow on the ground don’t expect the climbing to be pleasant in the shade. We found this out while trying to warm up on the far left side of battle of the bulge. We were wearing all our layers and were cold in the wind and shade while others were climbing shirtless around just around the corner.

Some crags, such as the Cat Wall have south-facing areas that trap the heat and can feel like an oven. It is best to figure out what time of year you are going before putting together a tick list. It seems that it can get hot as soon as April as you can see in a TR from when some of our friends went in 2008. While the fall and early spring seem like the best temps, many climbers chase the shade all the way through May and into the start of June.

Since all of the rock at IC is sandstone climbing must be avoided at all costs post rain. The rock wears easily due to it’s soft nature and water speeds up this process ten fold. The day it snowed we took a chance to explore some of the mountain bike trails around Moab. This was a fun alternative that was a good adventure despite a chilly breeze.


MOOOO! ¬†Cows are one of the major inhabitants of the creek ūüėÄ


The main non-climbing use of the Indian Creek area is as a cow pasture. Negotiations with the local ranchers are done though the Friends of Indian Creek and the Access Fund. Since many of the crags are accessed through the ranch land make sure to do your part and close all cattle gates. It is important to keep good relations and pay attention to closures both due to the ranchers and bird nesting in the area.


Why does the deer cross the road?¬†It was the chicken’s day off!

So far we have seen deer on every part of the the 211 from the exit off the 191 all the way past Newspaper rock to the bathroom at Beef Basin Road. Do be careful driving since the deer are often out in herds and are not afraid to cross the road right in front of your vehicle. ¬†Perhaps this is a Utah thing, since we saw herds of deer every day when we drove from Orangeville to the various areas of Joe’s Valley. We think that maybe they need to replace the “Frequent Deer Crossings” signs with something a bit more applicable like “Frequent Deer Herds”.

Food, Water, and Waste

There is no running water or gas stations within 30+ miles of Indian Creek. The closest small town,  Monticello is about 15 miles south of the 211 Р191 intersection or about 30 miles away from the Beef Basin parking lot. Moab is a bit farther away at 40 miles north of the 211 Р191 junction and 55 miles from Beef Basin. Moab has numerous gas stations, a large grocery store, City Market, and many gear shops such as Pagan Mountaineering and GearHeads.

The desert around Moab and Indian Creek is fragile and proper waste disposal is necessary. It is not ok to just dig a hole where ever one chooses. I use paper grocery bags that are cut to about 4 inches tall which allows them to fold closed easily. After doing one’s business simply add some kitty litter deodorizer and put in a ziplock bag. This is a cheap way to make a WAG bag which is used in the video below. ¬†Taking a little bit of extra time to dispose of waste properly helps keep Indian Creek beautiful for years to come!

Have a safe trip!


Lizzy’s Smith Rock Ticklist

10 06 2009

I am SO excited about my ticklist that I thought I’d share it with you all. I haven’t been to Smith in an incredibly long time (5 or 6 years, I think) and last time I was there, I wasn’t doing much leading yet, so I have a lot of things to get back on. Hopefully this will be a good warm-up week for my Squamish rampage. I mean, I am hoping to start climbing 5.12s (somewhere other than Indian Creek) at some point, but I think it will be good by doing this 5.10/5.11 sending spree. If 5.12s happen, I’ll be psyched. If they don’t, I’ll still be psyched. ūüėĬ† So, without further ado, here’s the list:

Wooden Ships/The Gullies

Blue Light Special 5.11a bolts

Toxic 5.11b bolts

Chicken McNuggets 5.10b bolts

Vomit Launch 5.11b bolts

Morning Glory Area

Overboard 5.11a/b or 5.11c bolts

Magic Light (the 5.11a part) bolts

Gumby 5.10b bolts

The Dihedrals

Karot Tots 5.11b gear

Sunshine Dihedral 5.11d gear (this is the main event!)

Moondance 5.11b bolts

Christian Brothers

Wartley’s Revenge 5.11b gear

Barbecue the Pope 5.10b bolts

Mesa Verde Wall

Screaming Yellow Zonkers 5.10b bolts

Moons of Pluto 5.10d bolts

Bad Moon Rising 5.11a bolts

Monkey Face

Monkey Space 5.11b bolts

Lower Gorge – West Side

Wildfire 5.10b gear

Badfinger 5.10b gear

Gruff 5.10a gear

On the Road 5.11a gear

Pure Palm 5.11a bolts

Cornercopia 5.10b gear

Last Chance 5.10c gear

Blood Clot 5.10b gear

Crack-a-no-go 5.11b gear

Cruel Sister 5.10a gear

Lower Gorge – East Side

Master Loony 5.11a gear

6 Things I Learned in Zion

8 06 2009

Zion - May 09 - 044

A cloudy day in Zion.

(1) Places that are not Southern California have this weird thing called “Weather”.

Although here in SoCal we can just check to make sure it’s not going to be too hot where we’re going, other more exotic locales, like Zion, have actual weather that can prevent climbing. Like thunderstorms. Our first day in Zion was cloudy, with off-and-on rain and a bit of thunder and lightning. We decided to bail from 2.5 pitches up because it’s generally a Bad Idea to climb sandstone when it’s wet. Then we spent our 2nd day on a day trip to Bryce National Park waiting for the rock to dry out. When we actually got to climb on the 3rd today (Sunday) it was pretty hot and sunny with a perfect blue sky. This weather thing is pretty crazy.

Zion - May 09 - 022

Making grumpy faces because it’s raining…

(2) Falling happens, and it’s not actually the end of the world.

The first 4 pitches of the route were mine to lead: 5.8, 5.10c, 5.10c, and 5.6. I had a lot of pre-climb jitters on Friday morning. I hadn’t been doing a ton of leading, especially multi-pitch trad leading, and I have a huge problem with getting incredibly intimidated about climbing somewhere new, especially a big deal place like Zion. But I lead the first pitch just fine and was moving on to my onsight attempt for first 5.10 pitch. Theoretically, 5.10 should be within my onsight limit. After a bit of struggling, I made it past a pumpy, weird roof section that I thought was probably the crux and got into the pod-y crack above. I got a bit nervous and clipped my cams direct instead of adding quickdraws. I tried to layback myself up to ledge above, but realized that I’d need to stem out with one of my feet to make the next move. I reached way out with my toe and then I was in the air. I think my foot slipped. My last piece (a green C3) had been below my feet and I ended up falling about 2o feet.

After we worked out some of my gear issues (I needed to put QD’s on some gear to eliminate some awful rope drag I created by falling), I shook and trembled my way past my highpoint and eventually flopped onto the ledge with the next anchor.

Zion - May 09 - 242

Taking a break one of the belays.

(3) I need to work on not freaking out.

I should have been psyched to have made it through the part I fell on the first time, but I was mostly just mentally drained from falling. Usually I know that I’m going to fall (this was a bit of a surprise). Usually I don’t fall quite that far (it was pretty far). I did recover (after a while) to start leading the next pitch, but then it started raining (that whole “weather” thing), so we ended up bailing and hiking the Angel’s Landing trail to stash a backpack with some water on top for our next attempt.

Zion - May 09 - 213

Following the 6th pitch, a 5.11a. Very cool.

(4) C3s are much better than I originally gave them credit for. The more I use Master Cams, the more they annoy the crap out of me. But Aliens are still by far the best small cams.

The cam I fell 20ft onto was a green C3. It was an ok placement – the two inner lobes were perfect, but the outer one was not ideal (it was a slightly flaring crack). But it held like a dream, to my surprise… We also were impressed with the placements of the green and purple C3s at various places along the route. They fit quite well in places where Aliens don’t work.

However, when we actually sent the route, I had to take twice on the 5.12b pitch, which I think I could have followed clean, were it not for the 2 Master Cams I had to take out. Let’s take a second to consider the Master Cam. While for other cams – Aliens, C4s, TCUs – you can just pull all the way on the trigger to retract the cam lobes and wiggle the cam out, Master Cams often demand quite a bit of finesse to remove. If you pull all the way on the trigger of a Master Cam, the little extra bumps on the outside edges of the cam lobes will wedge themselves in the crack. To actually take it out, you have to pull all the way and then ease back a little on the trigger. This is not always easy to do. We have blue, yellow, red, and black Master Cams and they are BY FAR the most getting-stuck cams on our rack. We do not plan to get any more of these.

But Aliens still rock the socks off any other small cams we’ve used. They fit almost anywhere, walk less than TCUs or C3s, and are easy to remove, unlike Master Cams. I know Aliens are difficult to find, but Master Cams are just not a valid substitute for the real thing.

(5) When you stash water at the top of a route, bring AT LEAST twice as much as you think you’ll want. Plus bring extra water on the climb, too. It sucks to be trying to do hard climbing on only a few sips of water per pitch.

Not sure this one requires much description. It was much warmer on the day we actually did the route than on the day we bailed, so our downsized amount of water and our half Nalgene (why? why not full? hindsight 20/20, right?) was not really adequate. I definitely had some issues with my hands and forearms cramping, but we survived to the top of the route (topping out around sunset) and hiked down the nice Angel’s Landing trail to the bus stop. Dinner was a burrito and some chips and salsa at the Mexican place in town.

Zion - May 09 - 243

This is what Luke looks like when he’s tired and dehydrated. How many pitches are left??

(6) I need to be better at not getting tired.

I don’t know whether its my nutrition or my fitness (or both), but I just don’t have as much energy as Luke. I guess I should do more general endurance training – long runs, long gym sessions, anything involving doing stuff for a long time. Hopefully that helps.

Well, that’s about it for this post. We’ll be doing a more conventional trip report of our Zion weekend soon. Plus, keep an eye out for us in Smith Rock the last week of June and Squamish the first week of July.