The full story is below the photos if you like a written narrative. I like to write about these trips so I can look back in the fullness of time and more clearly remember all the great adventures.
On Sunday October 24th I left for Moab. It’s all hazy now, but I think I slept in one of those truck stops that aren’t quite of the Love’s category. But they can still be good, simple gravel lots with big trucks idling all around in back of a remote gas station somewhere south of Yakima. Those guys are professional drivers and parking near them usually feels safe…as opposed to sleeping on wide spots near freeway exits. It seems like it would be pretty random to have a weirdo encounter. I mean, sure, the odds are there, but low.
The next day a huge ‘atmospheric river’ hit the freeway north of Salt Lake City. I got caught up in it while looking for a crash spot in the evening. I try not to drive at night…especially in heavy rain but all the exits said ‘no service’. It was some of the worst, scariest driving I’ve ever done. Nowhere to stop but too tired to drive. At one point I was following a semi truck and another semi passed on the left. The two of them were throwing up huge sheets of water as we all flew down the freeway at 60. I was totally blinded, might as well have not had wipers. As the big truck passed I couldn’t see any signs of the road…just rain smeared red lights. I swerved to the middle of the red glows…hoping that was the road, and that no crazy person was tail ending the trucks.
They passed, I slowed to 40 and took the next exit. Luck was with me and there was a wide turn around on a side road where I could park and sleep. It poured all night. The next day I managed to drive to Moab, camping in free BLM pland a few miles north of town.
Grand County, UT
Chad caught up to me at 10 that night, and we met Cole the next day. I’ve known Cole a couple years after hooking up at Squamish and Vegas. We stocked up on food and drove down to Indian Creek. We did a few routes that evening and lucked out with a good camp spot about halfway to Beef Basin.
We rolled in to Donnelly at 10AM. As we were packing up I noticed a solo girl sitting on her tailgate. I knew that look, having been solo many, many times back when the kids were little. Sue would babysit while I walked around with a rack and a rope hoping for a party of three that needed a 4th.
I walked near her car as I headed up to the crag.
“Morning! How’s your day going?”
“Not bad, how about you?”
“Oh, we’re headed up to get humbled.”
“Yeah, I heard you guys talking about doing some moderates. Uh, you wouldn’t happen to mind if I tagged along would you? I don’t have a partner, but I do have a rack and a rope…”
“Uhh sure, we’d be happy to have you join us.” Sam turned out to a great climber…better than me actually, especially on the smaller hand sizes. She ended up rescuing me on Generic Crack when I ran out of juice halfway up. She is the second partner I’ve met this season while climbing with parties of 3. I also met Dave in July while climbing with Fletch and Kena. Come to think of it, I met Chad while climbing in a party of 3. You can never have too many partners!
We ended up camping and climbing together for a few days. Sam is good people and blessed with small hands. I envy people with hands that size. They have access to small cracks, whereas people with big hands don’t. We did see an old guy my age down there who had huge mitts like mine. He was climbing red #1 cracks no problem…so I guess there’s hope.
Chad, Cole, Sam and I climbed at Donnelly for a couple days, doing Binou’s, Generic, Chocolate Corner, Cave Route and a couple others.
I was able to haul my big camera since we had a strong team to help carry the Creek rack. My buddy Fletch back in T-town had recently upgraded to new ultralight cams. He was kind enough to loan me a bunch of his older cams. With everyone’s rack pooled, we had 12 each of yellows and blues, 7 reds, 5 greens, four big #4’s, two 5’s and a #9 valley giant.
When we walked into the Cave Route tunnel there was a party going on with a loud boom box. It was a bunch of 20 somethings rocking out, climbing and smoking wacky tabacky. Fortunately their iPhone playlist was surprisingly good music and we hung around until they cleared out. Sam loaded up with a bunch of reds and led the 10D, followed by Chad, who flashed it effortlessly. Watching Chad was frustrating because his hands are not much smaller than mine. He can climb blue cracks and red cracks…the man is a crack wizard.
I had zero chance of leading it so took the top rope for the punishment factor. As expected, I couldn’t get either hands or feet in the crack. I’m simply too big. It’s perfect reds…about and inch and an eighth. (1.125″). I could get a painful ring lock and a foot smear but that was it. With Chad hauling and me grunting up a storm I made it to the anchor. The secret to climbing reds continues to elude me.
We went to Power wall on the third day. We did Batteries not Included and the Unnamed 9+, plus one other mellow 9 off to the right. Fletch and I had spotted the 9+ in the spring, so it was super fun to get on it and find that it’s totally climbable.
Full Disclosure: I didn’t get many climbs clean this trip. After 4 trips I’ve realized that hang dogging routes at Indian Creek is just how you get up stuff. Unless you are a local…or a wizard like Chad…taking rests on long splitters is sort of normal down there.
After Cole and Sam left, Chad and I took a rest day. I painted while he drove to town for provisions. I explored a long dirt road out towards Bridger Jacks. The sun angle cooperated for a few hours and I did a fun Monotone oil painting using mainly Iron Oxide brown.
I also got stung by something bad. It was inside my shirt and bit me twice while I was driving. I never saw it but some locals told me it might have been a scorpion. I swelled up huge and started to worry that I might need an Epipen. Fortunately my inReach allowed me to text my daughter. She consulted her nursing book, and or the internet and told me what to watch out for. I was an hour from a hospital…and it never did more than swell up and blister….but it was ugly for about a week. It’s a month later now and I still have a pea sized lump at the site of the bite.
The day after the bite I tried to lead Chocolate Corner. I’d got it clean in the spring…but hung all over it this time. It was like someone had stolen my brain. I couldn’t find the smears on the right. I don’t know if it was bad shoes or the infection from the scorpion bite.
At the anchors I was wheezing like an old horse, trying to get a full breath of air. The cowboy on the route to my right looked over at me:
“Dude, nice work on that!”
“I didn’t get it clean, not a real proud send.”
“Oh, man, don’t worry about it. Anyone who can walk up to a route at the creek, especially 67 years old, and get up it…you did great man!”
That was nice to hear. Climbers at the creek are kind. The place can be humbling. Chad and I had some great evenings around the propane campfire. He used to be a professional drummer and gave me some tips on how to improve the guitar part on Blackbird. He picked up the guitar a couple years ago and has quite a gift for complex picking patterns.
I was shocked to lead IHC clean this time. I sailed up to the crux with no problem…placed a yellow and a blue in the overhang, then down climbed about 10 feet to a no hands rest. At no time did I weight the rope…so I’m calling it clean.
Once I committed to the roof moves it was surprisingly solid. There is practically a shelf in the overhanging crack for your feet as you commit. I was glad I’d taped, hands fit perfectly. There is about a body length of overhanging jamming before the crack tapers a bit. I found a perfect wrist lock bone jam there. Plenty good for a rest and to walk up a yellow. A few more moves led to a nice foot stem rest on the left. After that it backs down to vertical 5.7 hand jamming…cakewalk!
Chad led Supercrack later that day at Twilight. I chose not to follow it as I’d led it in the Spring with Cole and found it to be an endurofest. Fun at first…but it’s just so long you run out of juice halfway up. Or maybe that’s just me being so darn old and weak.
The next day Chad flashed the 5.11b Scarface.
I led “Where’s Carruthers” next door, finding it fun but harder than 5 years ago when Daphne and I were here.
We took another rest day after that…sleeping in and driving up to Moab. The next day we climbed at Wall Street right in town. Chad led Bad Moki Roof:
I was nervous following it but the undercling was very positive and helped by a decent foot rail. I think I’ll try leading it next visit. We found some slab climbing a few blocks to the left and did a few routes but the Friday crowds were showing up so we bailed.
I drove to Vegas and picked up Sue. It was so nice to see my little lady standing at Arrivals after two weeks apart. We camped at Lovell which is 40 minutes out of Vegas but very quiet on BLM land. The next day Sue and I climbed everything on Panti Wall. I love those closely bolted face climbs. There are at least 5 routes 5.8 and under. Super fun sport climbing. Sadly though, her thumb was not liking it so we bailed South West toward Joshua Tree where there is more leaning over friction.
On the way across we stopped at an old historic inn on Route 66: Roy’s Motel and Cafe. It’s not open anymore…but it’s weirdly preserved as a sort of museum. We bought a couple coffees from the cafe guy. We’d slept in BLM land just to the North, so it was cool to be back in civilization if only for a short while on the long drive down empty desert roads.
We drove up to Josh at 10 in the morning and did the walk around the campground. We couldn’t believe our luck when we stumbled upon an empty site just uphill from Bearded Cabbage. It was a Monday morning but still, that is real beginners luck to get a Hidden Valley campsite first try.
We hiked over to Penny Lane at Echo in the morning. It has close bolts to start but then becomes a bit run out for that last two bolts to the anchor. It’s standard fare at Josh to have run outs on friction…but that’s not to say I was used to it. Next we did the 8 in Echo Cove before deciding it was time for a shower.
We parked the truck on a dirt road up past Barker Dam. There wasn’t much traffic so we just showered under the solar tube at the back of the truck…one keeping watch while the other showered. Over the next couple of days Sue and I cruised up some of the standards: Toe Jam, Double Cross, Sexy Grandma, etc. It was fun and relaxing climbing, and super fun hanging out with Sue, my oldest climbing partner dating back to 1977. She’s still got the moves.
By Thursday I was looking at 18 days of climbing and decided I’d had enough. Plus the weekenders were crowding into Josh and it just wasn’t as fun as it should have been. I probly needed a rest day…but Sue had commitments at home so it made sense to start the long drive home a little early.
I like climbing in November. I think it might have some advantages over December…mainly being more moderate temps and less crowded.