Ever heard of Indian Creek? The place where the locals say you cannot find more rock anywhere else on the planet?
It’s worth going to just for the privilege of seeing the fabulous rock art there. Some of these carvings/paintings are said to be over 7,000 years old! Now that’s awe-inspiring isn’t it?
Indian Creek is one of the most famous crack climbing areas in the world and climbers from all over the world make sure it is on their list of places to climb at some stage in their life. There are miles and miles of buttresses to choose from with a fabulously wide variety of 100 ft + cracks some no more than a fingernail wide to others as wide as your body – this place definitely needs to be on your agenda! It’s as extreme as they come.
You can find it just one hour southwest of Moab in Utah, or a couple of hours’ drive from Fort Collins. Once you’ve passed Newspaper Rock you’re pretty well there.
Indian Creek is made up of Wingate sandstone and lies just outside of Canyonlands National Park. It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management who would appreciate it if all visitors could remember that the landscape is environmentally sensitive and to remember that it has already been abused enough by the increase of visitors on top of long term cattle ranching. Although the BLM is talking about tightening up regulations for visiting this area, the majority of the climbing walls are likely to remain open. The following photograph, taken by Stacy Bender, was taken from the base of North Sixshooter Tower and looks back into Indian Creek. It couldn’t give you a better idea of the extraodinary and fragile beauty of this region.
The guide book recommends that “For climbing around Moab, get all your friends, get all your old friends, and get all your friend’s friends.” This is not idle advice… you need to take as many camming devices as you can find. So, go cragging with a group or steal all your friends’ gear!
The most popular areas are the Battle of the Bulge Buttress and Supercrack which both offer a wide variety of 5.10 climbs and upwards. Very few 5.9’s and even less 5.8’s… and nothing under that. One of the most perfect cracks in the world is on Supercrack – #2 Camelot and it’s called ‘Incredible Hand Crack’ 5.10.c. As you can imagine, these routes are very popular over any weekend.
Also try “Coyne Crack” (5.12a), “Fingers in a Lightsocket” (5.11+) and the wide, somewhat ugly, but exciting “Gorilla” (5.10).
And there are hundreds of others to choose from…
The following photograph, also taken by Stacy Bender, should be called ‘Spot the Climber’. He is there if you look hard, but it gives you a very good indication of the massiveness of these walls and cracks.
This is Meat Hooks – a 160ft 5.10+ crack
Then, slightly more out of the way, there’s the Cat Wall, which has nearly 50 routes with names such as “Desert Moon” (5.11), “Johnny Cat” (5.11+), “King Cat” (5.11+), “Cat Burglar” (5.12) and “Abbienormal” (5.13); Pistol Whipped wall, home to “Have a Heart Donna” and “Spaghetti Western,” both 5.11+’s; and the Reservoir Wall, which stays shaded for a good part of the day and is home to fantastic “Excuse Station” (5.11) and the equally marvelous “Marvelous!” (5.12). Just be aware that not all of this wall is open to climbers–if you can see the small lake that is next to the road, you are on private property.
Here’s a snippet of what climbing these desert cracks can be like, with thanks to clarkgrubb.
Then you could tackle Jolly Rancher (5.10) on Pistol Whipped, Lightning Bolt Cracks (5.11) on North Sixshooter Peaks, Scarface (5.11)… Scarface, Slice and Dice (5.12) on Way Rambo to name just a few. How’s about Jane Fonda’s Total Body Workout on The Battle of the Bulge?- a mere 5.11b. Or Blue Ribbon as shown here by patrickkingsbury.
But it’s not all about cracks. Indian Creek also has towers. There’s Bridger Jack Spires:
and North Sixshooter Tower and South Sixshooter Peak. The road to Bridger Jacks is more like a washboard than a road, so watch out if your car is low slung. Good climbs there include Sacred Space, a steep two pitch 5.11 that ascends the King of Pain formation; and Learning to Crawl, a 5.11 that is uncharacteristic for the area because it has a lot of face climbing.
South Six Shooter Tower has the easiest climb in the whole of Indian Creek – 5.6… however, this is deceptive. Let me warn you about the rock there. It is incredibly abrasive and plays havoc with your rope. Take care to check it carefully after your climb. Some also say that to them it seemed more difficult than a 5.6 – more like a 5.9… it’s worth being aware of these things if you are thinking of using the climb as a nice little warm-up.
You could be kept busy for days and still have to come back to do some more. It’s the sort of place you will never tire of – especially if you’re a serious crack climber.
But remember, as with all other places that we talk about, please… leave nothing behind but your footprints… Thank you.