After a month of alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies I was ready for some sun, warm rock climbing and some short approaches. Fortunately I had arranged a month of rock climbing with Heather Florence. We were both really psyched to try out some american crack climbing. After meeting up in Las Vegas, we headed to Americas premier crack climbing destination, Indian Creek. Indian creek is a collection of cliffs in the desert, in the state of Utah. Smooth and completely blank sandstone walls 100m high, interrupted only by splitter parallel cracks. The scenery was surprisingly beautiful, I was expecting a really barren desert with a few spread out crags. In fact it has huge cliff bands, that run for miles all the way up the valley, which look spectacular in the blood red sunsets. Learning to climb sandstone cracks felt like learning to climb again. I remember the first time I got taken rock climbing, I couldn't understand how to hold onto the rock, or what to do with my feet. I had a very similar experience, the first time I tried a crack smaller than hand size. Hand sized cracks are fairly straight forward, but anything smaller requires some technique, in particular good crack climbing footwork. I found this part hard. Very hard. But by the end of the month, we were beginning to get into the swing of it, and managing some harder routes.
Waking up to blue skies, running, crack climbing, laughing a lot, eating dinner and drinking a beer in the sunset. Was how we spent most days, for the whole of October. It did make me question why I like climbing cold mountains! But now back in Scotland, and after few days out running in the hills, I'm feeling really psyched for some mixed climbing.
On the mega classic Scarface 5.11-
Heather enjoying herself after a successful Trash on a wide crack.
This is Cave Route, you climb the corner crack on the left. The cave is formed behind a big fallen pillar. It feels pretty exciting climbing up into the dark, with no idea when you will reach the chains.
Creek Pastures campground
A standard sunset in the creek. Brigerjacks ridge on the left with south and north six shooters center photo.
Here is some beta if you want to go. You should go, the place is stunning, the weather is amazing and the climbing is world class.
When to go:
October to December have the most settled weather, without being too hot or too cold.
How to get there:
Flying to Las Vegas is a good option from the UK as flights can be very cheap. Denver and Salt Lake City are closer airports but more expensive. Having a car is essential for climbing at the creek. Drive 7 hours west from Vegas to Moab another hour from there to campgrounds.
Where to stay:
There are designated campgrounds, which are basic but free. We found Creek Pastures to be the best, it had lots of toilets and gets good morning and evening sun.
Guidebooks and topos
Indian Creek: A Climbing Guide by David Bloom is the one to get, you can buy different versions depending if you have BD Camalots or WC Friends. For topo’s and online information download the Mountain Project app, it has lots of routes and lots of beta.
Lots of tape Lots of cams Comfortable shoes MORE CAMS
Grades: The grades mean nothing here. Unless you have an average male hand. If you have small hands I wouldn’t recommend warming up on the 5.10 with lots of #2 and#3 Camlots, look for the 5.11- with lots of #1 instead.
How to improve: To learn how to crack climb the sizes you find hard, become a top rope hero. Ignore all you British ground up ethics. It is much more efficient to learn all the baffling techniques on a top rope. The americans will look at you funny if you turn down a top rope. They have special top rope words that you should learn if you want to fit in.
Tron-sight = The top rope on-sight Trash = The top rope flash Treadpoint = The top rope redpoint
Wifi: The library on centeral
Best showers: At the swimming pool $4 a shower
Gearshops: Gearheads or Pagan mountaineering Gearheads is next to the supermarket and laudry store.
Water: You need to take all your own water to the creek there is a free filtered water tap in Gearheads. You can get water at canyon lands visitor center further north on the road after the climbing area. It's inside a national park and you need to have a park pass but if you go after 5pm then you can go in for free.
Supermarket: City Market