May 062013

Over the last five years Lizzy and I have gone on a number of very productive trips to Indian Creek. There are still new cliffs that we have yet to visit, but we have picked off most of the low-hanging fruit.  With this analogy I mean that we have gone around and done the fun sizes and the easier sizes and are now starting to graduate to the less secure and harder climbs. This makes things more interesting when choosing where to go on any given day.

At Indian Creek you run into a whole lot of different types of routes, but the dichotomy for me splits the routes into difficulty based on endurance/pump versus a hard-to-jam size.  On this trip I spent a good amount of time working on finger stacking, a weakness of mine. I get perfect finger stacks in a .75 camalot crack, with difficulty increasing as the crack shrinks to .5 camalots. The other thing that I learned on this trip was that I have no clue how to use my feet when the crack is smaller that a .75 (green) camalot.

I was lucky enough to get spend two weeks out in Indian Creek so far this year. The first week was with the UC Berkeley crew of Jonathan, Casey, Jessica, Alix, and Ben. The latter four drove out separately and I picked Jonathan up in Vegas before driving through the night to “the creek”. Perhaps it was Love Muffin breakfast burritos or the psyche to be back at the creek, but we started the trip with a bang.

The first three days (Saturday, Sunday, Monday) held the coldest temps of the trip. It was a big change, on the second half of the trip, when we had to seek shade in the 70+ degree weather. It was great time to be in the desert since there was another crew from Planet Granite along with a smattering of friends from San Diego and else were. Eileen, Terri, and Leo showed up mid week to fill up our “party site”. We had many late nights at the camp fire telling stories and remarking that the climbing community was so small. It seemed that I knew half of the other people in Creek Pasture during that first week.

Casey at the crux of King Cat. Photo by Jessica Wan

Casey at the crux of King Cat. Photo by Jessica Wan

We started at the cold Pistol Whipped, where I was happy to send Sig Sauer on my birthday.  Day One was a learning day as people got used to the sandy rock and tried hard in the cold weather. My hands were numb often and we decided on the warmer Cat Wall for Day Two. Weather improved and it was pleasant when the arctic winds were not blowing. Highlights included Johnny Cat, King Cat and Bad Cat.

Trying hard at the crux of Bad Cat. Photo by Jessica Wan

Trying hard at the crux of Bad Cat. Photo by Jessica Wan

After the Cat Wall I was totally wrecked and decided on an “active” rest day. Scarface was the group choice and I was happy chill out somewhere I’d been many times before. I didn’t lead much, but did redpoint Big Guy, which had nearly induced vomiting on my first attempt five years prior. My favorite route of the day was Desert Vuarnet which Casey onsighted. I think it is an overlooked route and I was psyched to do it on TR.

Big Guy, Photo by Jessica Wan

Big Guy, Photo by Jessica Wan

Before the much needed rest day I was determined to do a first ascent.  Jonathan and I loaded bags with heavy hardware and trudged up the long approach to Sacred Cow. The route I had seen two years before was still sans anchor and I set about climbing it, ground up. Sandstone face climbing makes for a dicey experience, but I was able to get a few bolts in and finally make it up to laser cut splitter. I put in the anchor, fixed a rope and we made our way to Moab.

In some ways it was a release to finally bolt the line that had been calling to me for the last few years. The upper crack, as I suspected was of 5 star quality and quite difficult. The opening face climbing was very doable and much more technical than I expected. I would come back to it later but for now the focus was on our upcoming day at Optimator.

At Indian Creek size matters, and we learned that Jonathan was quite good at the .5 -> .75 Camalot size. I’m a fan of yellow alien/.4 camalot cracks and was really excited for Jonathan to play rope gun and lead Optimator, 5.13-. He made a valiant attempt, with numerous falls on the sustained .75 camalot crack. Placing gear added significant difficulty since stances were few and far between. In one of my better performances, I gave everything I had on top rope,  and flashed Optimator for my first of the grade.

Casey cruxing on Double Bock

Casey cruxing on Double Bock at the Optimator Wall

The hot weather had really taken it out of me, but we decided to go to Battle of the Bulge the following day. I correctly remembered that it had morning shade, but had forgotten how fast the sun comes around the corner. This was our first day seeing a bunch of other parties, but we still managed to get on all of our goal routes. For me the day was all about Ruby’s Cafe. I wasn’t sure that I had the guns to send, but I wanted to give it another effort. I played the game of telling everyone it was my project, so that I had an extra bit of encouragement to try it. I was pretty nervous and was unsure if I would even get as high as my previous attempt.

Jonathan enjoys the Big Baby.

Jonathan enjoys the Big Baby at Battle of the Bulge Buttress.

By the time I was warmed up the sun was already on the Ruby’s Cafe, but now I was brimming with psyche and set off, sprinting up the crack. I took an overabundant supply of yellow aliens making sure I wouldn’t run out like last time. The changing corners went by quickly, as I climbed confidently above my gear and soon enough made it to the midway rest.

I executed the shuffle across the first roof, pasting my feet high and managed to snag the jug, flag through, and slam in the kneebar.  Looking up I could see the anchor above the final roof. Two more pieces went in as my calf grew more and more pumped. It was go time and Casey and Ben provided much needed encouragement. I passed the roof and got into the green aliens. I stalled, thinking about placing a piece, but knew I had to keep climbing. A few more moves and somehow I was clipping the anchor. I had climbed Ruby’s Cafe!

In some ways, my trip ended when I sent Ruby’s Cafe. I’m not sure it is the hardest route I’ve climbed, and it certainly didn’t take very many tries, but it was oh so significant. In the way that I finally climbed Equinox, so many years ago, I had succeeded in reaching a lofty goal that I was not even sure was achievable. Landmark climbs, like Ruby’s Cafe, are few and far between but count in ways that are hard to describe.

Sacred Cow Wall Project.

Sacred Cow Wall Project.

At this point in the trip I was ready for another rest day so when the crew went to Reservoir Wall, I slept in. I hiked out alone to Sacred Cow at noon and put in some burns on my new project. It was nails hard and I could barely even do the moves.  After about five or six attempts on the mini-traxion I managed a one hang, shocked that I didn’t fall off my nemesis size. I added another bolt, pulled the rope, and red tagged the route, for my return with Lizzy.

The final day, before the Planet Granite and Berkley groups had to leave, I was still completely exhausted. I had climbed each of the past seven days, but was curious to join Eliot and Doug out at The Wall. They had been projecting Learning To Fly and I was curious to try one of the hardest finger cracks at the creek. I climbed with Brian, a friend of Alix and we had a blast doing new to us routes at The Wall. I tried Learning to Fly briefly, but my body was in no condition for the brutal one arm lock offs required for the route. The climb was almost all yellow alien/.4 camalots but the crack was overhung and had zero feet in the crux section.

Rainy Arizona

Rainy Arizona

On the last day of March I took a much needed rest day and drove to Vegas to meet up with Steve for the next leg of my trip. I’ve already detailed my trip to Red Rocks and will soon have a trip report about climbing Shune’s Buttress and Monkeyfinger in Zion. After a fun run on my last day in Zion, I headed back to Vegas to pick Lizzy up from the airport. The weather had been quite stormy and I hit a pretty wild rain storm driving through the VRG.  In no time Lizzy had arrived and we were en route to Utah. With midnight quickly approaching and snow in the forecast, we decided to spend the night in Zion where Steve still had a campsite.

The final five days at Indian Creek seemed to go by quickly with a mix of bad weather and tired muscles. At this point I had recovered physical energy from two consecutive rest days, but my lead head was shot. I put in five lead burns on Surf and Turf, my new route at Sacred Cow, but couldn’t commit to the insecure moves. It is problematic for me to climb high above my gear with no concept of when I’ll be able to place again.

New Route in the making!

New Route in the making!

Lizzy and I checked out a few new crags with trips to the Fin and the Cliffs of Insanity. I also went back to Scarface to redpoint Desert Vuarnet, which is WAY harder on lead. We had much less of an agenda than my first week and got to spend more time relaxing.

The final day Lizzy and I worked on the stellar Broken Brain. This climb is mostly hands until a very tricky finale. The headwall, shown below, goes from #2 camalots to .75’s and is quite offset. This means a good left hand at the end but a horrible right finger stack. I fell twice from the very top, just before the thank god hand jam at the lip. Like in most years it was nearly impossible to give a solid effort since my body was so run-down and my mind unwilling to keep trying hard. I am quick to forget how much psyche maters and that time needs to be put into mental recovery as well as physical.

Lizzy on the steep headwall of Broken Brain.

Lizzy on the steep headwall of Broken Brain.

I really enjoyed my time at the creek, but as always tried to do too much in a short amount of time. More FULL rest days, and perhaps a few mellow days of easier fun routes would be the better way to spend the trip. I was very cool to spend more time trying my nemesis size (Surf and Turf). The best part was getting to spend time with all of the different people. Too many names to list, but I really had a blast!

I’ve added route lists to many Indian Creek posts since grading is so subjective. A snapshot of the routes from this trip. Funny that this time I felt Johnny Cat was harder than King Cat, the opposite of the last time I tried them.

Routes from the trip in order of my perceived difficulty (regardless of grade):

  • Learning to Fly – 5.13 Hangs
  • Optimator – 5.13- TR Flash
  • Surf and Turf – 5.12+  Hangs
  • Ruby’s Cafe – 5.13- Redpoint
  • Bad Cat – 5.12 Hangs
  • Broken Brain – 5.12  1 Hang
  • Nukanator – 5.12- Hangs
  • Baroque –  5.12 Onsight
  • Desert Varnet – 5.12-  Redpoint
  • Double Bock – 5.12 Flash W/ Preplaced Gear
  • Sig Sauer – 5.12-  Flash
  • Heat Searcher – 5.11+ Onsight
  • Johnny Cat – 5.11+ TR Send
  • King Cat – 5.11+ TR Send
  • Goodby Cruel World – 5.12- Onsight
  • Rump Roast II – 5.11 – Redpoint
  • Pigs on a Wing – 5.11 TR Flash
  • Double Trouble – 5.11 – Onsight
  • Big Guy – 5.11- Redpoint
  • Karin’s Corner 5.11- Flash W/ Preplaced Gear
  • The Feltcher 5.11- Onsight
  • Brown on Butter 5.11- Redpoint
  • Sorrow 5.11- Onsight

  5 Responses to “Two Weeks at Indian Creek”

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  1. that picture of casey on king cat is fantastic. looks like it captures the difficulty of that crux perfectly.

  2. Wow, kick ass you two! It sounds like one of those trips that you’ll remember for a long, long time. Maybe haunted maybe happy, but definitely remembered. 🙂

  3. Hey good job on Ruby’s Cafe and the Optimator. Very impressive!
    And nice write-up + photos!

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