Chasing the sun and warm desert rock
As the Pacific high pressure system shifts south toward the equator for the winter, fall marks the almost certain onset of grey and wet weather in the PNW. With this climbers find themselves twiddling their thumbs — eventually heading south in search of dry rock and sunny days. Story by MM guide Jake Skeen
There are many popular fall climbing destinations across the west with different styles for everyone. Whether you’re in search of splitter cracks, big walls, or crimps and bolts you can’t go wrong between Smith Rock, Trout Creek, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Red Rock Canyon, Moab/Indian Creek, and Zion. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mountain Madness guests in the Moab desert the past couple falls — here’s what it’s all about.
Short approaches, car camping, and light backpacks are welcomed after a long season of alpine slogging in the Cascades. Climbing in the Utah desert is characterized by cold starry nights, warm sunny days, and beautiful red sandstone rock. The two biggest draws from a climber’s standpoint are the stand-alone towers that paint the skyline and the long, continuous cracks that split the faces of sandstone walls.
After a week of climbing long routes in Zion, I met Jamie and Brendan for some Indian Creek crack climbing. The theme of last year’s trip with them was summiting towers around Moab including Castleton, Ancient Art, and Lighthouse. One of our goals this trip was to focus on jamming technique in Indian Creek. Jamie and Brendan quickly realized stuffing their fingers, hands and feet into cracks was the only way up the rock due to the lack of real “holds”. Learning by necessity is a good way to do it! We also took a quick lap up South Six Shooter tower to round out our time in The Creek. “Rest day” activities around Moab included mountain bike rides, rope swings, and milkshake consumption.
I met up with Aga after Jamie and Brendan left and we began our weekend of climbing with single pitch cragging on Potash road. This area is perched above the Colorado river with hundreds of routes that involve essentially no approach — great for maximizing time on rock! After dialing in our slab climbing technique we drove northwest of town and climbed a 1000’ slab route. Good footwork, balance and friction were the keys to success.
I would encourage all Mountain Madness guests who are interested in rock climbing to join us for fall desert adventures in the future. There is suitable climbing for everyone, and the lifestyle and scenery can’t be beat! See you on the snow this winter.