A Week of Splitters in Indian Creek

8 12 2009

There are many things that are awesome about Stanford. One of these many awesome-tastic features is the fact that we get an entire week off for Thanksgiving. At Caltech, we only got Thursday and Friday off, and most professors considered it a normal week of school when scheduling work for the week. We decided to take advantage of this awesome opportunity to head to Indian Creek for a week of excellent desert splitters.

Day -1 (Friday): Travel Day

Sarah Kate and I set off from Palo Alto around 2pm. After getting stuck in some traffic and losing over 2 hours because of a little snow over Donner Pass, we made it to Winnemucca, NV at around 11pm and passed out in a Motel 6. Meanwhile, Luke, Konstantin, and Lindsey had left San Diego around 6pm and were driving through the night so they could get some climbing in on Saturday.

Day 0 (Saturday): Travel Day / Cat Wall

Sarah Kate and I rolled out of bed at 5:45am and were on I-80 heading east by 5:55am. It was good that the speed limit was 75mph, because we had a lot of distance to cover to make it to the Creek by dinner time.

Meanwhile, the San Diego crew was just rolling in to Moab when we were leaving Winnemucca. Even if Sarah Kate and I had driven through the night, we would not have been in Moab yet. We were glad we stopped to sleep. Luke, Konstantin, and Lindsey drove out to the Creek, set up camp, and headed to the Cat Wall to get some pitches in. Luke sent Johnny Cat (5.11+), one of his former projects, as a warm-up. They also got on Mad Dog (5.11+) and Pitbull Terror (5.11). Luke took a (rare) lead fall on gear when a foothold broke unexpectedly on Pitbull Terror.

Luke flashes Mad Dog (5.11+). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

After a rushed water fill-up/gas fill-up/grocery trip in town, Sarah Kate and I managed to make it out to the Creek Pasture by about 7pm to find a crackling fire and three hungry climbers. We had excellent beer sausages for dinner. Sarah Kate and I were again happy that we had stopped to sleep on our drive out based on how tired the crazy drive-through-the-night folks were already.

Luke about to whip on Pitbull Terror (5.11). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Day 1 (Sunday): Optimator / Battle of the Bulge

From our previous trips to the Creek, Luke and I have learned that it’s good to start slow. Manage skin, get used to climbing splitters, get comfortable with your cam sizes. We had decided that Optimator was a good place to go for Sarah Kate’s and my first day. There was one sweet route there for Sarah Kate and Lindsey to try to onsight and me to get some revenge on – Soulfire (5.11-). I’d pumped out just before the anchor before…

Lizzy watches Luke on Long Island Iced Tea (5.10+). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

We got on Lady Pillar (5.10-) and Long Island Iced Tea (5.10+) for warm-ups. Sarah Kate, Luke, and I headed over to Soulfire, while Konstantin racked up for Annunaki (5.12-). Sarah Kate onsighted Soulfire, a great start for her Indian Creek trip! Then I got my revenge redpoint, feeling relaxed and unpumped the whole time, which really helped my confidence for the trip. Lindsey also onsighted the route (she hadn’t watched either of us climb it).

Lizzy sends Soulfire (5.11-). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Meanwhile, Konstantin took some falls on Annunaki, but made it to the anchor. After watching me on Soulfire, Luke headed back over for a flash attempt, which was successful, for Luke’s hardest Indian Creek flash!

Lindsey onsights Soulfire (5.11-). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke and I walked over to the base of Optimator (5.13-) and found two dudes toproping it, which was pretty awesome. Optimator is definitely a route I’d like to get on eventually, although I know I’m nowhere near ready for it yet (long very tight hands and stacks). It was cool to watch someone on it, though.

Luke sends Annunaki (5.12-). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

After sending Soulfire, I was pretty much out of motivation for routes at Optimator and Luke and Sarah Kate agreed to go with me to Battle of the Bulge so I could get on Swedin-Ringle (5.12-), which, as you may remember, was one of my projects on both of our previous Indian Creek trips. It was a very low stress situation, since I still had plenty of days to send, so even though I fell, I felt much stronger and actually climbed through all the moves to the anchor (rather than cam-jugging the last couple feet, which I had done before). Then it was Luke’s turn to redpoint (he had lead it on my gear before), so he racked up and sent! He was happy to go second so that the quickdraws would already be hanging from the anchors. 🙂

Day 2 (Monday): Battle of the Bulge

After our warm-up day(s), it was time to go to Battle of the Bulge to get on some projects. We headed over to The Warmup (5.9 sandbag) to warm up. Luke, Sarah Kate, and Lindsey all sent Our Piece of the Real Estate (5.11-), but I needed to conserve energy. I racked up with the small cams and headed over to Digital Readout (5.12) with Luke. I had been on this route once before, on our first trip to the Creek, and had struggled a lot. I surprised myself and made it to about 3 feet below the anchor, where the footholds disappeared. I tried to figure out a sequence, but my feet slipped and I was off. After a short rest and the discovery of a very small face foothold, I got back on and easily reached the anchor. I was frustrated and exhausted when I got back to the ground, but in retrospect, it was pretty awesome to be so close to sending a 5.12 on only my 2nd try… I tend to be kind of hard on myself.

Luke closing in on the anchors of Digital Readout (5.12). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke got on the route next and fell a lot, struggling with the thin jams and tricky feet. Later, he got on for a 2nd time and nearly sent, getting just a little below where I had fallen on my attempt (so frustrating). We were both pretty tired by then. It took me probably 3+ hours to feel recovered enough to climb again…

Meanwhile, Lindsey tried The Jane Fonda Total Body Workout (5.11-, probably sandbag), managing to work out the chimney with some takes and figuring out the gear and size beta for the long upper crack. Konstantin took a TR lap on Big Baby (5.11), which Sarah Kate’s friend Dave had put up. Luke and I took a break to watch Andre and Leah working on Ruby’s Cafe (5.13-).

After I’d finally recovered from Digital Readout, I wasn’t very psyched on getting back on it, so I decided to try to onsight Quarter of a Man (5.11++). I knew it was a long, sustained route (35m+), so I hadn’t tried it on previous trips because I’d known I didn’t have the endurance. But, I was feeling strong this time, so I went for it. The crack was smaller than I’d expected – mostly sustained black Metolius cams (all the red Camalots were very tight) and there were not many rests. I focused on moving forward and not wasting energy. I had expected the top section, where the crack zigzags steeply, to be the crux, but luckily it was not – there were stem stances and layback jugs, which were great after the long sustained corner. In no time I was clipping the anchor – tying with Sunshine Dihedral (5.11d) for my hardest onsight!

Lizzy on the final section of Quarter of a Man (5.11++).

I gave Luke the beta and he set off on his flash go. The crack had felt tight for me, so it must have felt even smaller for him. He tried pretty hard, but fell just before the rest pod. A little rest and he sent to the top – it’ll go next time! Then Sarah Kate got on the route. I’d rounded up a total of 5 black Metolius cams from our gear and our friends’ gear so she’d have better pro for the route. Even though she didn’t quite have the endurance to send the route, she stuck with it, climbed every move, and even took a big whipper on a green Camalot near the end – a very proud effort.

Sarah Kate on Quarter of a Man (5.11++).

The sun had gone down while Sarah Kate was on the route, so it was time to head back to camp for dinner and campfire sitting.

Day 3 (Tuesday): Scarface

Scarface (5.11-), Wavy Gravy (5.10-), and Mantel Illness (5.11) were on various people’s to-do lists, so we headed to Scarface. Lindsey and I warmed up on Unknown 5.9 to the left of Wavy Gravy, while Luke, Konstantin, and Sarah Kate got on Wavy Gravy. Lindsey also sent Wavy Gravy after warming up. I was feeling pretty tired and not psyched about leading it (or TRing it, because I like leading anything that’s not a warm-up at the Creek – it’s good for me mentally), so I abstained. Andre, Leah, and Luke all sent Mantle Illness and Sarah Kate, Lindsey, and Konstantin headed over to get in line for Scarface.

Luke sends Wavy Gravy (5.10-).

Meanwhile, I had scoped out a thin crack corner called Way of the Gun (5.12) and wanted to go for it. I made it through the initial corner (easier than I’d thought) and the roof, but took when I realized I didn’t have the right rack for the corner after the roof. I got more cams from the ground support crew, which was good because, although it was short, the upper corner was definitely the crux, with some very sport-y climbing (i.e. not straight-up jamming). Leah and Luke both toproped the route, having more success on the upper section (they are much stronger crimpers than me) than I did.

Lindsey on Scarface (5.11-). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke had belayed Andre on Twitch! (5.11), which he and Leah also TRed. We all headed over to Scarface to check on the other group’s progress. Sarah Kate had sent first try, Lindsey was in the process of sending after many falls at the beginning, and Konstantin sent soon after. Success! While Scarface was being sent, Luke onsighted the Sicilian (5.11), a short, fierce off-fingers crack.

At this point, everyone was starting to feel ready for a rest day, so we called it a day and headed back to camp.

Day 4 (Wednesday): Rest Day

It had been 3 days on for Sarah Kate and I and 4 days on for the San Diego crew, so it was time for a break. Luke got up early to go put an anchor on an unclimbed crack we had spotted on our last trip and the rest of us rolled out of our tents a little later and directly into Lindsey’s car. We had delicious breakfast at the Diner in Moab, then amazing showers at the Texaco, then some chai, internet, and sandwiches at the Love Muffin.

The Love Muffin closed early (2pm – winter hours) and Sarah Kate and I still had more work to do (this whole 1st year grad student thing…) so we headed to the Moab Library. In case you haven’t been there, the Moab Library is awesome. It is an excellent place to do work (if the Love Muffin is closed).

After a quick grocery store run, we headed to the Moab Brewery for some dinner and beers, then back to the Creek Pasture to sit around the fire a bit. It was an excellent rest day.

Day 5 (Thanksgiving): Battle of the Bulge

The post-rest day plan was to return to Battle of the Bulge to get back on some projects with renewed energy and the built-up endurance of the first couple days of climbing. We warmed up on Railroad Tracks (5.10-) and Unnamed 5.10-, then went straight to projecting. I checked out Christmas Tree (5.12+) and was totally inspired, but not totally confident I had the guns for the steep upper layback corner (the first half looked not so bad). So I decided to devote my energy for the day to some more attainable goals.

Lizzy chalks from a fingerstack on Swedin-Ringle (5.12-).

Konstantin wanted to try Swedin-Ringle, but let me go first so he could check out my beta. First, Luke onsighted Three Strikes You’re Out (5.11) with my camera on his harness so he could take photos. Thanks Luke! I felt really smooth and relaxed, solid even on the stacks, but my foot slipped unexpectedly when I was adjusting a cam out of a foot pod. I got right back on and easily sent to the anchor. I was frustrated, but also felt like the route was very attainable on the next try. Konstantin got on the route and essentially learned to stack as he went. He was obviously trying pretty hard and took some sweet falls that involved me (the belayer) flying into the air.

Konstantin trying hard on Swedin-Ringle (5.12-).

When Konstantin lowered off, I got right back on the route and, with only a little bit of struggling at the grey alien section (my worst crack size), sent the route – my first 5.12! It felt great to send, on only my 8th time on the route (all attempts on lead, which I am very proud of) and for most of the route to feel so smooth and relaxed. I’d even say I might use it as an intermediate warm-up for other 5.12s in the area in the future (yes, it is that fun).

Meanwhile, Lindsey had gone over to get back on her project, The Jane Fonda Total Body Workout . Although she made progress and climbed higher than her first attempt, exhaustion and pump took over and she had to take. I’m sure it was a valiant effort, because she was exhausted for the rest of the day. Afterwards, Sarah Kate (who had belayed) came back over to the Swedin-Ringle area and flashed Three Strikes You’re Out, her first solid 5.11 at the Creek.

Sarah Kate flashes Three Strikes You’re Out (5.11).

Luke and I then headed over to Digital Readout so he could have another redpoint go. He felt much more solid than on his previous tries and clipped the chains, for his first solid Indian Creek 5.12.

I had thought about getting on Digital Readout, but remembered how draining it had been on my other try. I really wanted to get back on Coyne Crack (5.11+), so I decided to try that first and leave Digital Readout for a later time (or day… or trip). Luke headed over to Supercrack Buttress with us ladies and we congregated below the base of Coyne Crack. Although it had been a busy day at the Battle of the Bulge/Donnelly/Supercrack area, I don’t think Coyne Crack had seen an ascent all day. That was about to change 🙂

I was FULL of psyche, so I convinced everyone else to let me go first (I guess they like to have my beta…). The initial crack felt WAY easier than when I had gotten on it on our first trip. I was able to get very thin hand jams from the very beginning (probably because I was much stronger on this trip) and quickly made it to the money section (which is most of the route) of red Camalots forever. IT WAS SO GOOD. I was a little sad when it ended. Sarah Kate flashed for her hardest trad lead ever! Yay! Luke also flashed, with a bit more struggling than the rest of us due to his larger hand size. Lindsey also got on, but ended up taking a couple times, being still tired from doing Jane Fonda in the morning.

Sarah Kate flashes Coyne Crack (5.11+).

It had been a great day of climbing and I would’ve kept going, but it was starting to get dark and we had Thanksgiving dinner to make. Together with food from Bob and Heather, we had a fantastic Thanksgiving meal, complete with mashed potatoes (real), stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and chicken cooked in the fire. Somehow everything was ready at the same time, but I guess that’s just the magic of Thanksgiving.

Day 6 (Friday): Cat Wall

We headed back to the Cat Wall. Luke and Konstantin wanted to try King Cat (5.11+) and Sarah Kate and I had been told that we should try Mad Dog (5.11+). After warming up on Unnamed 5.10 and Cat Man Do (5.10), we headed over towards Johnny Cat to get on the projects of the day.

Konstantin on King Cat (5.11+).

Luke and Konstantin both made valiant efforts on King Cat, but had trouble figuring out the beta for pulling the roof. I tried to onsight Mad Dog, but got pumped for essentially the first time all trip (while climbing, at least) and fell. After resting and unpumping, I sent the rest of the route cleanly, but my psyche and energy were pretty much gone for the day. Sarah Kate and Lindsey both got on the route afterwards and struggled with the tight green camalots, but eventually made it to the top also. A project for all of us for another trip to the Creek.

Lizzy on her onsight attempt on Mad Dog (5.11+).

Luke tried to onsight Cat Burglar (5.12) and fell just short of the anchor, but sent on his 2nd try for another Indian Creek 5.12! Luke ended the day with an onsight of Bachelor Party (5.11+).

I discovered a potential pre-Christmas Tree project in this vicinity, too: Cathedral of the Mad Feline (5.12+), a steep Lisa Gnade tips corner. It was gorgeous and would definitely be good training for the steep section on Christmas Tree.

Day 7 (Saturday): Way Rambo / Travel Day

Everyone was starting to feel pretty tired and we’d heard forecasts for rain and other bad weather coming in on Saturday afternoon, so we decided to pack up camp in the morning, go climbing, then start driving home whenever we got tired or it started raining. Bob wanted to go to Way Rambo to work on Slice and Dice (5.12), so we decided to go there, too. Luke and Konstantin were psyched on Way Rambo (5.12-) and I was considering trying to onsight Layaway Plan (5.11+).

Luke getting sucked into Way Nutter (5.9 OW).

We got on Blue Sun (5.10-) as a warm-up, while Luke and Sarah Kate also did Way Nutter (5.9 OW). Lindsey had brought a fleece Mickey Mouse Christmas themed onesy, so she wanted to do some climbing in it before we left. So she lead Blue Sun in the onesy, which was pretty awesome to watch.

Lindsey climbs Blue Sun (5.10-) in the onesy.

After warming up and checking out Layaway Plan, I decided to go for it even though I was deeply intimidated by the roof. Everything went pretty well until just before the roof, when my foot slipped off a sandy foothold – no onsight. Even though the pressure was off, I was still worried about pulling the lip of the roof, the crux. I placed my gear, transitioned into the undercling and, with much effort, pulled around the roof. The rope drag was awful on the last couple feet, but luckily there were good stances. An awesome route! Luke followed to clean my gear.

Lizzy underclings out the roof on Layaway Plan (5.11+).

Konstantin got on Way Rambo, but took several falls at the beginning of the stacks section, and lowered down off two cams so Luke could have a try. Despite feeling tired (on his 7th day of climbing at the Creek), Luke sent first try!

Luke sends Way Rambo (5.12-).

Meanwhile, Sarah Kate and Lindsey had both taken TR laps on Slice and Dice and we watched a dude flash it with beautiful style – very inspiring. Everyone was pretty tired by this point, so we decided to call it a day (it was already 4pm anyways) and load into the cars to head home.

Luke, Sarah Kate, and I drove into Moab to enjoy some dinner at Zax before driving north to Salt Lake City and finding a motel for the night, happy to have cut several hours off our driving time for Sunday.

Day 8 (Sunday): Travel Day

We had a pretty uneventful travel day driving from SLC to Palo Alto. There was barely any traffic, which was awesome (especially compared to the post-Thanksgiving Vegas-LA traffic). We took a little break in Reno to check out the Patagonia Outlet, which was pretty cool even though the prices weren’t quite low enough for me and most styles I actually liked weren’t in my size. Luke got lucky with a couple shirts and pairs of pants, though.


This was by far the best trip Luke and I have had at the Creek. We came into the trip feeling strong, started slow, conserved skin, and tried really hard (at least I was super comfortable pushing and falling from above gear by the end of the trip, I don’t know about Luke, but he did take a couple falls, too). It was awesome to finally have some success (and some near success). Sending Coyne Crack and Swedin-Ringle and onsighting Quarter of a Man were really big accomplishments for me and I’m super happy. Coming so close to onsighting two other 5.11+ routes (1 fall each on Mad Dog and Layaway Plan) isn’t so bad, either. Too bad it’s not Squamish season, because I’d love to take my strength and confidence onto some of my projects there.

For more photos, check out our Picasa Indian Creek gallery.


Memorial Day Update

27 05 2009

Life has been going full steam ahead as Lizzy approaches graduation and the summer climbing season kicks into effect.

We spent last weekend clipping bolts at altitude outside of Las Vegas at Mount Charleston and celebrating our anniversary by going to see Phantom of the Opera.

After a successful beta request for free climbing  Sheer Lunacy we went to  Zion for Memorial day weekend.

Despite a day of rain we managed an ascent after taking a day trip to Bryce Canyon to let the rock dry.

It may be next week before we get our photos on line so in the mean time check out these killer shots of the route.

Hopefully we will have the contest results posted by the end of the week.



Recovering from Indian Creek

16 03 2009

Lizzy an I are back in SoCal after a wonderful week in the Utah Desert. We really had a fun time at Indian Creek and hanging out in Moab.  I’ll get into more details nd write a proper Trip Report once we get some photos downloaded later this week.

We got back yesterday after an uneventful drive from St. George, where we had stayed the night after driving 6 hours from Moab. Sunday morning we hiked up to the Mentor cave at  VRG to scope out the climbing for a future trip.  It wasn’t too cold to climb in the shade but it was a bit windy and a poofy might be advisable for belaying.  The limestone looked super featured and the climbing seemed STEEP! I would be psyched to do some bolt clipping in the future.

We should have a bunch of posts up later this month as we recover and get back in the writing mode. I will be finishing up a TR of my brief Red Rocks trip and  Lizzy has gotten a chance to play with many of her climbing toys and should be posting some of the gear reviews she mentioned before.

In online news Lizzy and I can now be found on Twitter.  I am still a bit overwhelmed/confused by the whole group messaging status reporting bit. However I think it is a quite effective networking tool and am impressed by how many people are online and the overall friendly nature of Twitter. Lizzy has hit the ground running and is updating like crazy 😀

To give my fingers a bit more time to recover I will be running a trail race this weekend. I opted for a shorter race, 15k versus my last one of 25k, so that I can work on my speed. It’s local to San Diego which should be fun so I may be running with some of my co-workers. Hopefully I can run part of the course later this week for training.

It is nice to return to the same climbing bubble despite checking out from reality for a week.  Sharma is in good shape and on the verge of sending another 5.15 and Kevin Jorgeson has done another highball FA. I look forward to reading various trip reports and updates as I catch up on the 400+ blog posts that I missed while we were away.



PS It’s Lizzy’s Birthday Today! WAHOOOO!

Getting Ready for Indian Creek!

4 03 2009

Luke and I are still a little shell-shocked that it’s March already. This is historically my busiest, most ridiculous month. This month, I’m turning 21, hosting the Banff Film Festival on the Caltech campus, going on a trip to Hawaii on the Geology department’s bill, heading to visit Stanford, and going to Indian Creek. Also I have to write a final paper for my Gothic Fiction class and get down to business on my research so I have enough stuff to write about in my thesis.

That said, I think it’s understandable that our Indian Creek trip has totally snuck up on us. It used to be months away and now we’re leaving on Saturday morning with much less build-up and pre-trip preparation than last year (although I don’t think I’m really actually in any worse shape than I was last year). Now that we’ve got one Indian Creek trip under our belt, we’re adjusting our strategy a little.

For example, I had the silly useless running boards taken off my RAV4 so save a little weight and a little ground clearance. Also, we’re going to do shorter driving shifts on the 11 hour journey so that we won’t get as tired. We’re going to stay in a yurt for a couple of nights and not camp at the Super (Dust) Bowl campground. We’re going to try out the bouldering and mountain biking on our two (not one, which is insufficient for skin recovery) rest days. And we’re going to do this trip with a cragging approach rather than a projecting approach so we can climb more routes and be less stressed out about sending all the classics. Oh, we’re also not going to drive back through Arizona via I-40 because damn, was it windy.

Also, we’re still planning on attempting my 21-routes-in-a-day birthday challenge on March 14th, although we are still without any volunteers to come cheer or set up topropes on that day.

Yay splitters!

Indian Creeeeeeeek!

2 04 2008

Indian Creek! What is IC? It is hard, sunny, sandy pure crack climbing. You won’t find jugs, crimps or normal hand holds at the Creek. Never ending splitters of all sizes guaranteed to have at least one stretch of your worst size. There are off-with pods, threatening fist cracks and my personal nemesis the ever dreaded finger stacks. We had a small crew of three for this trip with quite the assortment of body types and hand sizes. From Lizzy’s tiny fingers to Lucasz’s immense height. I sat in the middle with average proportions but evidently smaller that normal hands for a guy. This was funny though because even my pinky has a bigger diameter than Lizzy’s biggest finger, excluding her thumb. Here hands were so small that she would often have to jam up to her elbows on my “hand” cracks.
Lucasz was the only person that we could recruit to come and visit IC. To many a crack climbing Mecca just has too much crack climbing. The climbing was a new style to all of us and we had a big learning curve with the smooth and parallel cracks. The climbs were relentless between 80 and 160 feet in length and usually dead vertical. Our first day held one of my most memorable climbs. Big Guy, one of the easier offwidths at the Creek was to be my training for future punishment in the big sizes. I had my full assortment of large cams that I had been collecting for such a challenge. The climbing was super strenuous once I got out of the fist jams. I was able to get really good hand stacks but without having a knee in it was impossible to make progress. After 50 feet of struggling I gave in and hung on the rope the effort instantly overwhelmed me and I hung there for 20 minutes fighting the urge to hurl. About 5 feet of struggling later I was able to get my knee in but got it promptly got it stuck and had to hang on a cam and wiggle it out. After putting my left knee in the crack I was able to work through the hand stacks into the hand fist stacks and eventually got to the anchor. What an experience I had no idea how much effort offwidths take!
Indian creek offers all sizes of cracks from super thin tips jamming to the gaping offwidths. A person’s hand size can greatly affect the difficulty of a climb. Lizzy would climb most of the small cracks, I would get the hand cracks and Lucasz tackled many large hand climbs. Above Lizzy warms up for her attempt of Digital Readout. This super thin climb, featured below, ranks in at around 12b making it the hardest thing Lizzy has ever lead!! She cruised the initial thin fingers section before getting super pumped and losing a ton of skin on the off fingers middle. It’s funny to say that the middle is off fingers for her since it is yellow alien/TCU with a few bigger pods in the grey alien range which were perfect finger locks for me. The start, that Lizzy cruised, started at blue alien, and widened to green alien at the first roof. This was my crux and I was lunging between pinky locks to get off the ground. It was quite intense until I could get the first foot hold and finally get my fingers into the crack at the roof. I need to go back and try and lead it and I know Lizzy would love to redpoint it with a bit more skin.After watching Paralleljams for Return 2 Sender and cruising around MP.com we made a tick list and tried to do a bunch of the classics. On my birthday, the 23rd, I got on Think Pink. It was an easy corner up to a steep hand crack. Or at least I thought it was a hand crack from the video I had seen of Jim Donini climbing it. He climbed it easily and made it look super fun and secure. Well he sure sand bagged me as I got up to the steep section to find that my #2 camalots were quite tipped out and I would be placing tight #3’s. This made it too small for fist jams so I had a long battle with lots of grunting while learning how to do steep cupped hands. I managed to send first go and it was super nice when the top section narrowed back down to #2’s. I was really pumped and it was another big fight!
Lucasz flew up the climb on TR and came back later in the trip and lead it first try! Damn those big hands!!

We took a half rest day to get food and water in Moab and then headed out to Way Rambo. Below Lizzy is starting up Slice and Dice. This climb is super hard for us big handed folks who have to finger stack in the sharp crack. She cruised up the initial moves but a blood blister under a toe prevented any more thin foot jams so she had to back off. I am sure that next time Lizzy will fly up this.

At the Cat Wall I ended up donating a bunch of skin and blood to Johnny Cat. This beautiful off fingers (.5 camalot) has feet for three quarters of the route and has a nice rest in the middle. I learned how to do ring locks and got within 10 feet of the anchors on my onsight. This last section has five or six hard moves on bad off finger locks with only the crack for feet. You are unable to place gear but luckily get a good foot for clipping the chains. After a few efforts I was able to get through the last feet to the chains. After a rest I gave it another lead go but was stopped short at the top again. While I was not nearly as pumped as my onsight go I was unable to get my locks to stick. I later realized my hands were out of sequence which due to the slight offset of the crack made left jams very difficult.After the Cat Wall got too hot we went to the Reservoir wall where I lead the new wider Slot Machine and Pente. Slot Machine was quite an endurance test at 160 feet and it was super tiring. Lizzy made it through the first half of Pente before running out of gear and having me finish the lead. It was fun but not quite as classic as I expected. I thought the Incredible Hand crack, which we had lead the day prior was much more fun.
After taking a much needed rest day we headed to Broken Tooth. There were a ton of cars in the parking lot but they were all at the Fin which is quite close. We had a great day and shared the main three splitters with a two guys from Colorado, Hayden and Johan. First I lead Rock Lobster which was super cruiser until the last 20 feet where it turned from thin hands into the dreaded finger stacks. Unable to trust my feet I took on the gear before finally trusting the gear and punching it to the anchors. While Lizzy and Lucasz top roped Rock Lobster Hayden gave me a ride on their TR of Polygrip.Polygrip, seen in the photo above is a 3 part climb with a no hands rest after the first part. I was able to do it first try on TR and it was super fun. A section of offset poddy thin hands leads to the rest followed by an excellent perfect fingers corner. There is a bad rest before the crux off fingers roof. Once over the roof you luckily get a nice rest pod and then with a few more moves an almost no hands rest before the final spring to the anchors. I tried to lead this climb later in the day but ran out gas before the roof. The roof proved much more difficult to do on lead. Lucasz lead an unnamed long hand crack to the left of the main wall. It was pretty weird and had an exciting layback finish. We finished the day by Top roping the Inflictor. No one was able to climb it clean due to a tricky crux and a pumpy finish that was off fingers for Lizzy. On our last day we went to two different crags to tick our last few climbs we wanted to do. Above I am onsighting Scarface which was super fun. A few hard moves off the ground led to thin hands which became perfect hands where I am in the picture.
Lizzy red pointed Scarface, above, and then we moved to Battle of the Bulge Buttress so she could try Swedin-Ringle again. She did well on her onsight go making it 15 feet below the anchors. On our last day she did a bit better besting her high point by one more cam! I was able to TR the route clean first try and then did it again mock lead style placing gear. I think next time I will try to lead it! Swedin-Ringle is in both of the photos below. We also did a bunch of other climbs besides the ones featured in the pictures. Highlights were Disco Machine Gun, Supercrack, and Way Rambo. Everyone learned a ton and we want to go back for sure. I struggled a bunch with my lead head. I was really pushing my physical limit trad climbing 5.11 and 11+ and was scared to try anything 5.12 trad. After doing a bunch of 5.12 cracks clean on TR I knew that I had the power and the skill and that if I could increase my endurance to place the gear I should try to lead 5.12 next time we go to the creek!

For more pictures go to Picasa online.



ABS Nationals and Red Rocks!

14 02 2008

ABS nationals is this weekend and we are flying out to boulder to compete and to help judge the Youth event. Lizzy’s sister is competing and so is Dan Beall, one of my friends from San Diego. We will also be seeing the ClimbingNarc and his team out from Wisconsin. Lizzy and I will be competing at the late Friday session at CATS for the citizen’s comp. It looks to be a small comp but it should be fun regardless and Lizzy is excited since Bobbi Bensman is going to be in our session.

Saturday we will be up early to help out with the Youth qualifiers which will be a new experience. It is just the experience I want since I would like to learn how to run comps and what makes good comps. Saturday night will be Open finals where we will see a crazy showdown of the top men and women from the US! There is extra pressure this year due to the upcoming Bouldeing World Cup in Vail, CO. It is pretty crazy that both Chris Sharma and Lisa Rands are coming back to compete. It will be great to see how the new generation does against these two super stars.

Sunday we will be judging Youth finals and then heading back to San Diego that night. Lizzy will be sticking around since she has the day off even though I have to work. After only two and half days of working we will be off on another trip to Red Rocks. Rebecca, one of my friends from college, will be flying out for an exciting four day multi-pitch extravaganza.

I did a bit of prep for this trip by going to Red Rocks last weekend. Lizzy was playing Frisbee in Vegas so one of her friends, Sean, and I took to the rocks with a vengeance. The gorgeous weather at Red Rocks allowed us to climb all day Friday and Saturday. Friday was moderate climbing with nothing over 5.9+ so we were able to do~ 1800 feet of climbing. We simuled Johnny Vegas to get to the upper tier of solar slab. From here we started with Sundog which was a fun 5 pitches with a funky 5.9+ bolted bulging groove. After rapping the route and resting our feet we decided to try to keep to our goals and climb Sunflower. This climb was a good bit harder and had a great finger crack and a run out crux friction pitch. After many repels, the last 4 in the dark, we got safely back to the ground.

The next day, with sore feet, we decided on the long hike to the Eagle wall. We set our eyes on Eagle’s Dance and were prepared for a bit harder climbing. Taking a more direct approach allowed us to cut 45 mins of the previous time I went to the Eagle wall. With perfect weather it was amazing that we had the wall practically to our selves the whole day. Our only visitor was a Peregrine Falcon that would occasionally dive past us. The climbing on this route was very sustained with only two of the nine pitches below 5.10. With a bunch of linking we were able to cut the route down to five pitches of mainly bolted climbing. The crux came after a short bolt ladder in the form of difficult stemming. The first section, supposedly only 10b was quite tricky and it took me a good while to believe that I should start climbing and leave the belay. After getting to good jams in the crack there was a rest on a slab and another crux section. This part was even more fierce and had amazing palming and laybacking in a slabby groove. I got buzzed by the falcon while I was placing gear and nearly popped off.

This was the last pitch and a relief for Sean who had been suffering from 20+ pitches of climbing in fairly new shoes. You could see the grimaces of pain each time he moved up on this footwork intensive route. We decided to take Sunday off to enjoy the sun and watch our girlfriends play ultimate. It was a great trip and I am really excited to go back!

A few weeks ago I got a tip from SpliterChoss about a 2 for 1 special and picked up a few guidebooks for paces I want to visit. In addition to the good price and they also had a drawing from those that bought books for a new rope. Magically I won!!! So I will be getting a new Sterling rope in addition too two cool guidebooks. I had been looking at Sterling ropes recently and was interested in seeing how they climb.

This has been a great month of climbing and it seems to only be getting better as we approach March and our week long Indian Creek Trip!!


– Luke

Queen Creek Canyon

23 01 2008

For the long MLK weekend we ventured east for warm temps and to visit a new climbing area. Rebecca, one of my friend’s from Bucknell, was visiting Phoenix for work and a climbing trip was born. We picked her up from the airport on Friday night after driving over from San Diego. Highway 8 is pretty desolate and we ran out of gas since the only service station in 80 miles was closed. We almost made it to the next one but ran out of gas just 10 miles short.
A night in Phoneix meant an hour drive in the morning to the crag. When we arrived at the parking lot at 10am it was bitterly cold and windy. The crag could be seen, 200 feet above the road, on the side of the canyon. The cliffs were all south facing and were baking in the sun which was quite a bit warmer than the shady parking lot. We had chosen Queen Creek for this exact reason and it worked out perfectly.
A quick hike up the trail and some 3rd class yielded access to the climbing. We were the fourth group at the crag and that number quickly grew throughout the day. The weather was perfect and you could easily wear T-shirts when you were climbing.
The rock was a type of tuff that is formed out of solidified ash. The climbing was mainly vertical with lots of small pockets and crimps. There was not a lot of chalk on the routes which made finding the next hold a constant challenge.

Kyle, Rebecca, Lizzy and I had a ton of fun on the routes before lunch and had a few routes mostly to ourselves. We went around the corner to some longer routes and found quite the crowd of people. We ate lunch and waited for climbs to become free. Kyle, my climbing partner from SD, did a short climb and established a self belay on a pedestal so that he could take pictures of the nearby routes. The climb in the picture above was the coolest we did all trip. At 11b it had thin technical climbing up a seam to a good rest followed by a bit of easy climbing which led to the technical crux. A zig-zag traverse and then a bit of thin pocket pulling brought one to the anchors. The group climbing this route before us was a talented group of women accompanied by John Sherman. I had no idea that he sport climbed but he floated up this route. He also taught me that Guiness only has 10 calories per ounce, amazing right? Lizzy, enjoying the slabby small hold climbing this route offered, flashed the route which was her second of the grade. Kyle, in the photo above, and I also flashed the route with each of the three of us using different beta for both cruxes. Our second day we went to investigate the Looner crags in the Mine area. The climbs were on worse rock and were sparsely bolted. If you weren’t near a crux there was no bolt. The climbing was still fun even though it was not as cool as the previous day.
In preparation for her upcoming visit to Red Rocks, Rebecca lead a bunch of routes this trip. It was great to see her really push her limits on lead. She was climbing really strong and excelled on the sharp end.
While Queen Creek is not a destination climbing area it was fun to be able to climb in such great weather in the winter time. Perhaps if we are visit phoenix again in the winter we will drop by.