Inspired Stone

Indian Creek
November 5, 2011, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Climbing | Tags: , ,

Two days after the first snow here in Boulder, I escaped to the Utah desert for an amazing weekend of climbing in Indian Creek. Indian Creek, which is about 50 miles south of Moab, is a crack-climbers dream come true. Miles of canyon and mesa, whose sandstone walls are splintered with vertical cracks of every size.

(The three walls, from left to right, are Beef Wall, The Fin and Cat Wall)

Most climbing guidebooks include photos with lines overlayed to illustrate the location and path of climbing routes. For the Indian Creek guidebook author, the task is easy. Here is my rendition of route overlays for Indian Creek,

The quality of the lines made it difficult to decide where to climb during our short stay. Everything look equally amazing. Most of the guidebook read like this:

4. Unnamed 5.10 splitter hands to fists.
5. Unnamed 5.10 splitter hands
6. Unnamed 5.11 splitter fingers
7. Unnamed 5.10 slitterer hands
8. etc.

I exaggerate slightly, but I’ve never seen or climbed such amazing cracks. For example, my first route of the weekend was called “Incredible Hand Crack”. It was. Most of the routes at Indian Creek have bolted rappel anchors at 100-150 feet, minimizing the adventure component, but elevating the fun factor. Beyond the anchors and interspersed between the established routes there appeared to be equally slitter cracks, so we did two other routes not in the book and found the rock a bit sandier in its unclimbed state. Not surprising given that it’s sandstone.

Beyond just the climbing, the setting of southeastern Utah is beautiful, with its red, orange and white sandstone walls and cottonwood creeks. I’m looking forward to many more trips to the canyon-lands.


Local Adventure
July 23, 2011, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Climbing, Mountain | Tags: , ,

One of the best parts about living in Boulder is the proximity to the outdoors. Going climbing doesn’t involve 4 hours of round-trip driving, it’s a mere bike ride away. The same goes for a hike up a moderate peak. Before moving to Boulder, I was becoming uncomfortable with the amount of driving required for a trip to the mountains. Part of my discomfort came from the fact that as a person in love with the wilds, I’m part of a community that agonizes over damaging shrubs at the base of a cliff or dropping a wrapper on the trail, and yet there is no mention of the gallons of gas burnt on the way to the trailhead. The other reason for my unease was the realization that some climbing trips were in fact driving trips with a little climbing thrown in.

So, I began thinking about ways to shift the balance away from the car. The eastside tour was an experiment with that idea, combining a bike tour with hiking and climbing along the way, but in reality turned out to be mostly a biking and driving trip with a tiny amount of climbing and hiking:

Here in Boulder, it’s much more practical to leave the car at home. So here is a graphical summary of three local adventures without the assistance of a car. The size of the colored bars represent my subjective measure of the weight of each component, whether bike, bus, walk or climb. And not only is a car not required but they can all be completed in the morning before work! Ah, Boulder…

Smith Rock: Tuff Climbing
May 19, 2010, 4:49 am
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Just when you thought I was obsessed with the mountains and climbing of the Sierra Nevada, I venture to two neighboring states and prove that I’m really obsessed with mountains and climbing in general. At the end of March I sampled the long sandstone free-climbing of Red Rocks, near Las Vegas. Last weekend I went north to finally experience the amazing volcanic tuff climbing of Smith Rock.

One motivation for the trip was to visit my friend Eric, who moved to Seattle last year. Smith Rock is roughly equidistant between Seattle and Davis, so we settled on a Thursday thru Sunday in May and met up in Oregon. I’ve known about Smith Rock for almost as long as I have been climbing. It was the birthplace of American sport climbing in the 1980’s and for a time, was home to America’s most difficult route: To Bolt or Not to Be, 5.14. But I don’t get that excited about sport climbing. So I never thought much about visiting. Yet I do like visiting new areas, climbing new rock, and of course it would be great to see Eric, so I was on the road Thursday at 5 PM, along with another friend Drew.

Smith Rock impressed me for a lot of reasons. The sport climbing is justifiably famous, but about half of the climbs we did were high quality crack climbs, such as Karate Crack, shown above, as well as Wartley’s Revenge and Zebra-Zion. But not only is the climbing great, the area is scenic and the camping perfect. Some serious resources and thinking went into the development of the camping situation. The bivy site is within walking distance of all the climbs, so once you park there is not need to drive again until you leave. The parking and picnic table area are kept separate from the big, undeveloped sleeping area, so you don’t have to deal with a pack of drunk people 20 feet from your tent when you are trying to get an early start the next day. The central bathroom even has a designated dish washing area, and even free dish soap! It was a fantastic trip-good climbing, good company and good living.

December 14, 2009, 4:26 am
Filed under: Climbing, Photo | Tags: , ,

California is blessed with a variety and quality of rock climbing unknown in most other states. Although Davis lacks anything climbable except artificial walls, excellent climbing lies one hour up highway 50 above the tiny town of Kyburz. Jutting out of a ridge north of the American River is a fine grained granite crag known as Sugarloaf. I don’t know if this is an official geographic name, but it is very possible that it’s a name invented by climbers. Climbers are creative namers. A look at modern climbing guidebooks might convince some that climbers are perverted and on drugs, but usually a climb’s name is decided on only because it sounds interesting. Sugarloaf is home to the climbs Scheister, Blue Velvet, Fat Merchant’s Crack, and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Some names even indicate something about the climb. The photo below is of one of my favorite routes at Sugarloaf-its name is The Fracture.

Here is a climber nearing the top of Scheister:

And the same climber about halfway up an excellent route named Hyperspace:

On my last visit to Sugarloaf one week ago, I was finally able to climb a route named Bolee Gold, which I had been yearning to do for some time. And it was just in time, by 4 PM the snow was flying. That is when I stopped, looked around and really enjoyed the austere beauty of the place. The surrounding area has still not fully recovered from a wildfire many years ago, so the gray walls and gray trees blended with the blowing snow into an amazing scene.

Cragging Above Woodfords
November 17, 2009, 4:00 am
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Sunday, Charlie joined me for a day to check out the climbing in Woodfords canyon. The town of Woodfords lies on highway 88, near Lake Tahoe, as it descends east into Nevada. I had driven through Woodfords dozens of times in the last few years, coming and going from the eastern sierra. Each time, I would dangerously peer up at the surrounding cliffs while keeping an eye on the road wondering if there was any climbing up there. Well of course there was. The real questions were, is the climbing any good and has anyone climbed up there before. Since moving to Davis, I learned that the answer was affirmative to both. First, a Davis student, formerly a resident of South Lake Tahoe, claimed there was a bounty of excellent crack climbs throughout the canyon, a fraction of which had been climbed. Then, information about the area began to appear online. A rudimentary guidebook, circa 90’s, circulated online in pdf form. Everything was telling me, I should climb there. So Sunday, I finally made it happen. The weather was perfect, the climbs superb, now all I think about is when I can go back.

Star Walls
August 30, 2009, 11:54 pm
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One of the things I like most about climbing is the exploration.  There is always a route I haven’t done or an area I haven’t seen.  The dirty and crinkled pages of maps and guidebooks are evidence of my dreaming.  To placate this urge, Nicole joined me for some climbing and scouting in a non-remote area near Donner Summit.  We climbed a few routes on North Star Wall, the neglected neighbor of South Star Wall.  Only ten minutes from the car and yet the lichen had avoided the cleaning power of climbing shoes and the base vegetation was still robust.  On the way out, I found some beautiful (and obviously popular) boulders overlooking Donner Lake.  Ah, another place to think about and plan to visit in the future.