Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Week in the Creek

Evening light on the Disappointment Cliffs
With only a week to burn, Kristin and I recently made a dash for southeast Utah and the splitter cracks of Indian Creek.  Our most recent and only prior trip was in the fall of 2010, and we had been dreaming and scheming of our return even since.  Having sworn off of recreational air travel for the year, 2013 was the perfect time to make it happen.  The opportunity to plug into an incredible landscape is one of the great attractions of climbing, and Indian Creek did not disappoint.

But before we could take in that desert landscape, we had to negotiate the punishing drive from Portland.  We left early on a Friday afternoon and made it to Salt Lake City by 2 am, where we crashed in a Priceline special out by the airport.  We hoped to get in a few pitches on Saturday afternoon, but we slept in after a brutal drive the night before.  We finally got rolling and eventually pulled into the Bridger Jacks campground at about 4 pm on Saturday.

We scoped a sweet campsite, parked the car, pulled out the gear and immediately set off up the hill towards the towers to climb Easter Island.  And then started what came to be know for the week as the "Winter Sh*t Show."

The mad dash to the Creek following a full week of work took a toll on our bodies and our minds, and it would take a couple of days to shake off the cobwebs.  We managed to tag the summit of Easter Island, but not without some major bumbling.  A cam walked way back into a crack at the start of the second pitch (we abandoned it), and I yarded on everything I could through the cruxy and sandy face climbing to the summit.  But despite all the shenanigans, I was extremely happy to be in the desert, alone with Kristin, on a tower of sandstone. 

Kristin rappelling off of Easter Island

The Bridger Jacks cast their shadow over Indian Creek
We rapped off and retreated back to camp, feeling a bit spanked and needing some beer and a good night sleep.

On Sunday, we drove down Beef Basin Road towards the Pistol Whipped Wall and arrived to find about 15 cars in the parking lot.  Party time at the Creek.  I "warmed up" on a .75 finger crack and got spanked, forgetting how to either ring lock or lay back.  The trend continued for the next few pitches until I finally found a nicely sized - and short - hand crack that I could actually climb.  I rock!

That evening, we unpacked our stuff and suddenly realized I had left our guidebook up at the wall.  The Winter Sh*t Show continues!  We jumped back in the car, coaxed the Subaru over the rough road out of the Bridger Jacks and eventually found ourselves making the approach back to the Pistol Whipped Wall as the sun was setting.  On the way back up the trail, we got buzzed by an octocopter, ran into Pamela Pack, and eventually found our guidebook.

After two days of struggles, we slowly started to ease into a groove, both with the climbing and the peaceful day-to-day rhythm of the Creek.  From an incredible camp site, we watched the sun rise and fall, witnessed a full moon rise opposite a stunning sunset, and we even managed to squeeze in a few pitches of rock climbing.  The Winter Sh*t Show slowly started to fade into the background - but we could always feel its presence just around the corner.

Our campsite in the Bridger Jacks

A sunset over North Six Shooter
The highlight was definitely the moonrise/sunset combo.

A full moon rising over the Reservoir Wall
I was preoccupied shooting the rise of the full moon, only to eventually turn my head to witness an incredible sunset at the opposite end of the sky.  I almost missed it.

Sunset over the Shooters
Towards the end of the week, we set our sights on the Scarface Wall, because ever since our first trip in 2010 I had been thinking about the onsite of Scarface itself.  We arrived early on what we thought might be a hot day, and as we approached the base I saw the route and decided to jump on it first thing.

As I racked up, I looked at the little roof and then the .75 ring locks into changing corners and thought that looked pretty hard for .11-.  I got bouted after 10 feet and called for tension, frustrated that I sucked.  I plugged in some more gear and suffered through until I finally got to the hand crack and then clipped the chains without using any of the #2 cams I had on my harness.  Something didn't feel right.

After getting lowered off, I was determined to figure this thing out and took two more laps on a TR.  On the last lap, I sussed out the ring locks and managed to get it clean.  When I lowered off, I untied and then finally stopped to take in my surroundings and explore a bit.  As I turned the corner and looked down the wall, there was Scarface.  Yes, I had been cruxing on the Sicilian, a stout 5.11 off fingers bastard of a pitch.  The Winter Sh*t Show continues!

I had a few good chuckles and Kristin got in a few light hearted jabs at my dumbassedness before I finally tied in for real at the base of Scarface.  The first 10-15 feet were tricky, but they were way easier than the Sicilian.  I pushed through one little crux and then stood up and plugged a #1 cam into the tight hand crack.  One or two more moves, and I found a locker hand jam.  And then, my visions of perfect hand jams during an onsite send materialized, and I milked that beautiful crack all the way the chains.  Sweet!

Kristin after we had actually found Scarface
Despite occasionally climbing like crap and making some stupid mistakes, Kristin and I had an absolutely sublime and peaceful trip to the Creek.  We managed to send a few really good routes, and most of all we fell more in love with this incredible place.  We can't wait to go back - and maybe next time we'll leave behind the Winter Sh*t Show in Portland.  Enjoy the rest of the pics!

Cactus Flowers


Horses on the loose!

Kristin on the approach to Second Meat Wall

Kristin rappelling off of Second Meat Wall

Second Meat
Happy times on our last day at the Creek


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