Reflections From a Rainy Fall

With a busted finger and bruised ribs from my excursion to the Alps in August, I haven’t been doing much climbing. In fact, my post-summer training has been a whole lot of my favorite supplements, like almond croissants and hazelnut lattes. While I recover and do my physical therapy, I can’t help but reflect on some of the awesome adventures I had this summer leading up to the Piz Badile. 

When the late spring snow finally let up, I made my way to the Utah desert for 2 days in the crack climbing mecca of Indian Creek. I met up with my friend Jay Smith, an Indian Creek Pioneer who has put up over 100 first ascents around the planet, and his wife Kitty Calhoun, a famous alpinist who was the first woman to climb Makulu, the 5th-highest peak in the world.

We kicked off our visit at the Supercrack Buttress, a massive cliff jutting out over the desert floor. After a warmup route, we quickly jumped onto several classic climbs, including the “Incredible Hand Crack,” an aptly named hand-sized crack with an overhanging fin of red rock guarding access to the anchors. After a handful of tough pitches, we were beat and thirsty, so we retired back to camp to refuel for day 2. 

Supercrack Buttress

We started day 2 early by making the short, crumbly approach to the Scarface Wall. As I ran my hand along the face, I could feel the crack systems, cleanly splitting the sandstone faces and soaring up to the sky. 

 

Feeling the rock face.

We were here to climb one of the most famous and aesthetic routes in the Creek: Scarface. This striking crack arches up the face, following a sharp edge and offering everything from rattly finger holds to full hand-jamming. As I climbed higher, I could feel the exposure beneath my feet and the silent, stark vastness of the desert all around.

Scarface

After Scarface, we walked a ways down the wall and I put up my first lead of the trip on a ledgy lieback crack called “Spam.” Leading a climb in this storied area was a fantastic way to wrap up the experience. Thanks to Jay and Kitty for a memorable desert adventure.

After our No Barriers Summit in Lake Tahoe, my friend Rob Raker and I decided to stick around and climb some of the classics in nearby Lover’s Leap, a mini-Yosemite featuring  prominent granite walls. Rob said the faces appeared featureless and steep from afar, but when I actually felt the granite, I discovered beautiful crack systems connected by sharp, extruding dikes. This type of rock was so unusual and provided great blind-guy climbing as we scaled the walls via timeless routes like the exposed “Corrugation Corner.” 

Lover's Leap

Corrugation Corner

The rain chased us out of Tahoe and into Sugarloaf, a high-elevation climbing area characterized by finger-like towers of rock jutting out of the scrub forests. After a wet and rainy day there, we escaped even further south to Granite Basin, located in the Eastern Sierra. Adding to the adventure, we battled hurricane-force winds on the wall, scraping our way to the top. Good job to Rob for leading the face, despite those fierce gusts trying to lift us up and launch us into Nevada.

Rob and I hanging out

As I sit here nursing my finger, I realize how numerous my blessings are. Here’s to those adventures, full of beauty, challenge and friendship, that fill us with gratitude. Blessings to all!

Photo Credits: Connor Koch