I went back to Indian Creek this past May after a year and a half of first going. I think I climbed three routes total, completely flailing on at least one of them. This was also climbing on top rope. My dirtbag buddy, Neil was there to put up the routes and I was there to just enjoy the ride. I believe my first time there was spent solely at the Supercrack Buttress, which houses a famous climb called “Supercrack” (such a surprise, I know), which is a route that goes up a crack in the sandstone. This crack is no ordinary crack. It’s a sustained 2 to 2.5 inch wide crack that continues on for 80 feet. That is was we a call a “splitter,” my non-climbing friends. It’s a classic in the creek, and my first time there and could not complete it.
I also went to Indian Creek (hereby known as “the creek”) all my myself with the hope/assumption that I would find somebody with whom to climb. My first afternoon, I ran into a kind group that let me try Incredible Hand Crack. I flailed again. This is a climb that is rated 5.10. That is well within my climbing ability. The reality of climbing at the creek, though, is that it is unlike any other kind of climbing. Getting your body up cracks means sticking your hands/feet/knees/knuckles/face/anything you can into the crack and making sure the friction holds you up. Additionally, climbing sandstone cracks means that your friction had better be spot on, or you are slipping out of that crack soon.
The next day I was fortunate enough to find a crew of people that ended up being my companions for the next three days. I was able to really practice my climbing with them because there were a few really strong climbers putting up ropes for other people to climb on. By the end of the day I had completed five climbs and was absolutely whipped. Crack climbing is its own beast, and the only way to get better at it is to practice it. There are no other moves like Indian Creek moves, however, so even though I pride myself on enjoying crack climbing, I mean of the granite variety, which is significantly stickier than sandstone.
Day two with the rad crew from Oregon saw me climbing on South Six Shooter Tower, which is well known in the creek. Its one of the two main feature you can see as you drive the highway towards Canyonlands National Park and it is super cool. It’s a harrowing drive followed by a hot approach followed by stupidly spicey climbing, but it is pretty cool to be on top of a tower of rocks in the desert.
Our last day together, we went to Meat Wall, where I finally discovered the secret to crack climbing. Justin had climbed a 5.11. I had been struggling on 5.10 the whole time, so I assumed that a 5.11 would be even harder for me. Turns out that, when it comes to crack climbing, one person’s 5.11 can be another’s 5.10. It just depends on the size of your hands. My hands fit perfectly into a 5.11 crack (aka #1’s in trad speak). On the 5.10’s prior, I was working so hard just to keep my hand in the crack. But with 5.11’s, I slipped my hand in there and BAM it held the friction NO PROB. It was bomber all the way…until I got tired out again because it’s pretty full-on to climb cracks when you are still learning.
Conclusion: climbing crack is hard. Maybe if I ever get to practice it for more than eight days over the course of two years I’ll get better at it. In the meantime, I’m just psyched to be out in such a mind-blowingly amazing place, with people who are kind.