Circling the Southwest

Home Sweet Home

After a month long stretch in Texas a few big things happened. One: I got to spend much needed time with my family. It was really healing to be able to be in the loving presence of my family during such a difficult time for all of us. Two: Devyn and I purchased a new truck. It is a big red ’05 Toyota Tacoma. We named her Annie. Three: I sold the Little Passat, the car that has taken me on too many adventures and down far too many dirt roads. The Little Passat covered terrain that I’m pretty positive no other sedan has ever seen. Little Passat, I will miss you, you were a beast. Four: we found happiness in the climbing gym while we were unable to climb outside. Thank you Summit Grapevine for offering us some relief while being at least 3 hours away from any climbing outside.

Moab, Utah

Its no secret that Utah has some of the most incredible climbing in the country. The landscape has a lot to offer from huge sandstone desert towers, to deep slot canyons, to massive snow-capped mountains. When it comes to climbing, Moab, Utah is an endless playground. Just as I felt looking into the vast endlessness of granite mountains in the Eastern Sierras, I got the same feeling from Moab’s sandstone formations that go on….and on….forever. You could spend a lifetime here and never climb them all. We started planing another trip back to Moab the moment we set eyes on it.

Devyn and I had never climbed sandstone cracks before. We both dreamed of spending time in Indian Creek, a stunning canyon area brimming with perfect splitter cracks. Neither of us knew exactly what to expect as we drove south out of Moab into Indian Creek late one afternoon, but what we found was very different than we imagined. Indian Creek was gigantic! The classics that we had seen so many pictures of (Supercrack, Incredible Hand Crack, etc) were just a tiny portion of this enormous climbing paradise.

We gave ourselves a few days to learn the ropes of crack climbing. We learned to tape it up, sew it up, and suck it up….in case you didn’t know, there’s no graceful way to learn to climb a crack. We also found we needed to add a few cams to the collection, thanks Pagan Mountaineering! We bought a new C4 #2 and a couple #3s, because who knew the old #3s aren’t the same size as the new ones? Devyn found out the hard way…mid route. So with our new cams, we set off to perfect the art of climbing cracks. We did some really phenomenal routes and one amazing tower, South Six Shooter. We were having a grand ole’ time until I, unfortunately, (and clumsily) sprained my ankle while hiking down from Scareface Wall in the dark. It put a bit of a dent in our trip but well…shit happens.

I took a few days off to try to heal so that we could accomplish what we were really looking forward to, DESERT TOWERS. I spent that time wondering if my ankle was ever going to deflate and Devyn spent that time bouldering and reading Edward Abby. We spent Halloween or as Devyn called it, “Red Neck Holiday”, driving through Canyonlands and putting Annie to the test on some real desert terrain. We at some point, in the middle of nowhere, came across 4 people dressed in costumes. They offered us margaritas. We called them margarita fairies.

My ankle wasn’t healing as quickly as I had hoped but we were running out of time. We only had a few days left in the desert and we had at least two towers to conquer. We packed up camp and headed out of Indian Creek and into Eastern Moab. We camped the first night in an impressive slot canyon. The rain was pouring as we headed further into the canyon and despite the brilliant array of oranges, reds, browns, and greens it created, we wondered when it was going to stop. After a sleepless night of watching the rain fall and slowly begin to flood the creek, we decided it would be best to head out the next morning. We searched all day to finally find an ideal campsite. It was nestled under the La Sal mountains next to a fresh running stream. It was perfect. The next day we taped up the ankle and headed up to Ancient Art, one of the most classic and photographed towers in the desert. The climb was chossy, with loose sandstone and mud, but the top-out was unforgettable. After reaching the top of the 3rd pitch, you walk across an exposed sidewalk to a diving board that juts out into open air. With a single thought out move, you belly flop your body onto the board and mantle your way onto of the chunk of rock. From there, you make insecure moves on a blob of hard mud and do one last difficult move with a high foot to reach the ledge. From the ledge, you do an unprotected mount onto the top of the spire. It is seriously EPIC! Thank you Devyn for bringing the aider so that I could make it up… No injury is going to stop this girl!

We saved the best tower for last. Castleton Tower, a massive piece of calcite covered sandstone that stands alone above the horizon, can be seen from almost anywhere in the area. The climbing was more demanding than anything we had ever done and we understood the full meaning of “challenging offwidth”. The oldshool 5.9 rating was just as we imagined….sandbagged to hell. It took a lot of blood, sweat, and for me… a few tears, but it was worth it to stand on top of the most prominent feature in the valley. I get excited just writing about it….

We left Moab, Utah feeling accomplished but also with plans to go back, for every fall season, forever. The desert is layered with magical charm that draws you back for more. The sunsets are remarkable, the sunrises just as overwhelming, and the landscapes so destitute, yet so affluent with abundant beauty. We will see you next season Utah.

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