Desert Thanksgiving – 11/21-11/29

After 8 months of squeezing adventures into long weekends, I decided to use the week of Thanksgiving to finally take a week off work. I headed down the first weekend for a couple of days of biking with friends. My only other desert biking experience was a heinous day riding Mag 7 last spring where Taryn and I severely underestimated both the heat and the length of the ride. We brought about 1.5 liters of water each and found ourselves on Gold Bar Rim in near 100 degree heat with no water. Not a great introduction to desert riding. Luckily this weekend proved far more enjoyable. We rode Captain Ahab to kick things off and boy is that a fun trail! Amazing views and just enough less technical than Gold Bar or Portal to actually make it enjoyable. We rode some of the Bar M trails in the evening to wrap up the day. The next day we ventured back onto the Mag 7 trails, but, rather than suffering through Gold Bar and Portal, turned around after the first four trails; a much easier and relaxing day.

No photos from biking because my pedaling legs are weak and I don’t trust myself not to OTB and crush my camera. But that evening we were treated to a wonderful golden sunset of which a few photos can be found below. Camping in the BLM land off Mineral Basin Road is always such a liberating experience. Few people, big vistas, and wonderfully spotty service. I did a half day of climbing at Wallstreet the next day (what a fun little wall!) and then headed back to Salt Lake City for a couple days of relaxing and reorganizing.

Taryn and I headed down to Indian Creek Wednesday evening and were pleasantly surprised to easily find a campground in Superbowl. I must be losing my dirtbag instincts as I get old and soft, but the table, fire-pit, and ability to help support the Indian Creek infrastructure all seemed worth the $15 dollars a night so we grabbed a spot and settled in for four days of great climbing.

The days were cool (and the nights frigid), so chasing the sun was the name of the game. We climbed at Cat Wall and were shocked to have the wall to ourselves for the first few hours. Highlight climbs included:
* 9 Lives
* Puma
* Cat Nap (burly! not a great warmup as the guidebook suggests)

We met up with Cam and his roomates that evening and shivered around the campfire for a bit before heading to bed early. My inner dirtbag looked on with horror as I cozy’d up in the back of my van under multiple layers of down blankets.

The next day Cam suggested we check out Sparks Wall and I’m so glad we did! This semi-obscure wall is proof there is quality climbing around every corner at Indian Creek. As much as I enjoy perfect jam after perfect jam, I’ve found my interests drifting away from the perfect parallel splitters and towards more varied climbing. Sparks Wall delivered an amazing variety of climbs. Some highlights:
* Divide and Conquer
* Slings and Arrows
* The Hawk
* Sparks of the Tempest

Impressed by Sparks Wall, we chose to go to the neighboring Critics Choice wall the third day. This wall again delivered the goods, although the goods certainly felt a little stiffer than the last few days. I warmed up (and hung) on the varied BBC from Cleveland and then hopped on the amazing Critic’s Choice. Finger cracks are still a relatively new style for me and it showed. I hung and fell all over the bottom half, trying to trust insecure finger locks. Projecting crack climbs is a unique experience because insecure moves don’t necessarily become more secure in the same way face moves do. I found myself repeatedly spit off, barely pumped, with the rope pasted against the crack, as if by magnetism, to the very spot I wanted to stand. Despite the frustrating moves, it was super satisfying to improve at finger cracks and the splitter handcrack finish is all time! Definitely one to come back for!

With a little remaining energy, Taryn and I headed to the right of the crag to check out Tom’s Thumb and Acronymph. Taryn redeemed my earlier flailings by walking right up Tom’s Thumb, her first 5.11 trad send ever! With out relative rates of improvement, she’ll be putting up the 5.12s for me next season. We wrapped up the day on Acronymph as the sun was setting along Beef Basin. The Creek is truly a magical spot.

Taryn and I woke up sore and tired after our try-hard day the day before so we decide to make the final day a half day. We headed to Donelly Canyon to get on Sleeve of Wizard, one of the rare Creek offwidths that doesn’t require 30 pounds of large cams and bigbros. My elbows and knees took a good beating on the 100 feet of squeeze chimney, but I was psyched to dispatch my first Creek offwidth with only minimal fear and suffering. Taryn gracefully slithered up the chimney, a future wide-crack rope gun in the making (fingers crossed).

Finished with our daily dose of blue collar groveling, we headed across the canyon to Supercrack Buttress to hop on its namesake, Supercrack. Despite my earlier dismissal of splitter cracks, this thing really is shockingly splitter, and it was an absolute joy to wrap up the trip with 80+ feet of perfectly parallel #3 hand crack.

Indian Creek always seems to deliver magical days, and it was an absolute joy getting to spend four days unwinding, disconnecting, and slowing down in the desert. The gobies have already started the heal and I am ready to be back, surrounded by sand, frost, and endless endless sandstone cracks.






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