When it rains in Moab, no one climbs for a full day or more. But, unlike snow days in elementary school, there is no principal calling the shots. This is a grassroots decision; a way to show respect to the rock.
Climbing in the rain would go against widely-accepted etiquette. Wet sandstone is fragile, and climbing on it would risk breaking off pieces and permanently changing routes. So when it rains, the entire climbing community finds something else to do, often waiting multiple days until the rock is dry. Like many things in the climbing world, this lesson is handed down from experienced climbers to new enthusiasts. There isn't an all-powerful governing body, just a powerful culture that continues to proliferate.
Our week-long trip to Moab was bookended by storms, marring many of our plans. This was a lesson in both patience and respect for the natural world. Still, we managed to make the best of it, exploring muddy roads, venturing farther south to Indian Creek, and frequently allowing ourselves to sleep in. The original plan was lose, anyway. A few weeks earlier I had sent a few texts and received an equal number of excited "yes" responses. Within a hours Jessy, Sterling, Travis and I agreed to meet at a BLM campground outside Moab, in late October.
We made the pilgrimage from different corners of the country. Travis drove from Austin, Texas, carrying a cooler full of Topo Chicos. Sterling and Jessy commuted from Los Angeles, with a fridge full of taco fixings. I wandered south from Wyoming, eager for my second climbing trip to the desert corner of Utah. Our forces combined, we had ample ropes, climbing gear and route beta to keep us busy for a month. Which is to say, a week-long vacation with friends never seems like enough.
Here, Andy Cochrane shares dispatches from the bed of his pickup, with only a couple bars of service, reflecting on a climbing trip a day after its conclusion.
After sneaking in a single-pitch tower the first morning, the rains began, and we put our 4×4 trucks to the test. After a quick coffee stop in Moab we drove dirt roads west of Moab for most the afternoon, only once needing to get the tow strap out – thanks to Travis, I wasn't stuck in that mud puddle overnight.
After a day of waiting, most of the steep vertical sections of Wall Street were completely dry, and we resumed climbing. This area, over a mile long and easily accessible from town, is great for nearly everyone. Climbs range from beginner slab to stout, crimpy routes that very few in the world are able to send. And, notably, many of the belays can be done from a tailgate.
The climbing in this small area feels endless and could keep you entertained for weeks on end. The variety is also notable too, with both sport and trad climbing, great cracks, fun slab, and lots of technical face climbing. After two full days on Wall Street and more rain on the forecast, we opted to move again, this time driving two hours south to Indian Creek. To stay frugal, we camped in our vehicles every night, cooking communal meals and weather permitting, enjoy a campfire.
In the creek, we took a route up South Six Shooter, a tower that's easy to spot from a long ways off. The access road was a bit more challenging than usual, but with patience and a short tow we were able to make it. The climb itself was fun, relatively easy – and surprisingly empty. We topped out just before sunset, enjoying views of the entire valley at last light.
Indian Creek is famous for its world-class crack climbing, and we took full advantage the next day, enjoying routes at one of the more popular crags. The route pictured here, Cave Route, is exactly as weird and fun as it looks – and hidden in a small rock cave with just enough room for a small group. Sterling, who has spent extensive time climbing in the area, and played tour guide during our time here.
The grand finale was spent back near Moab, on a route called Pocket Rocket. Unique for its holed texture, the climb is fun and creative – and great for photos, too. We took turns scrambling up it, amazing at the variety of route variations. While waiting his turn, Travis took a moment to get in a short yoga session, too.
Soon after we finished the route, the rains returned to Moab, and we opted to leave a half day early, paying our respects to the weather gods. Moab is a special place, and I hope everyone gets to spend at least a week scrambling the rock walls that surround the small town.
All photos by Andy Cochrane.
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