From November 6 to 12?Jenny Abegg and Forest Woodward shared work with the #alpinistcommunityproject. Abegg cut her teeth on granite splitters in the Pacific Northwest, and made her first trip to Indian Creek in the spring of 2012. She writes about her deep love for the area in the essay “Cliffs of Anxiety,” which you can find in the Climbing Life section of Alpinist 56, available now from our online store and on newsstands. Woodward, her partner-in-crime and man behind the lens for each photo in this series, has an penchant for both climbing and photographing the elegant sandstone splitters, and relishes the chance to do both at once.
Editor’s Note: The future of Indian Creek and much of the surrounding land is currently in debate. There is a Public Lands Initiative bill that prioritizes resource extraction and development while including some conservation elements and designating some scattered wilderness areas, and a National Monument proposal written by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition that protects the area for conservation. Most recently, the Inter-Tribal Coalition came out in support of climbing on the land, should the National Monument come to fruition. People who wish to help preserve this special area can learn more or join the Access Fund’s cause by visiting accessfund.org. “The Access Fund organized local climbers and Inter-Tribal Coalition representatives to discuss land management options and ways for the two groups to collaborate,” said Access Fund Policy Director Erik Murdock. “We worked very hard to make this happen and are pleased (to say the least) that the Inter-Tribal Coalition recognized our commitment to work with the Tribes and celebrate common goals and values. The letter from the Tribes is the product of over a year of work to foster relationships and develop trust. This is a watershed moment for climbers and Tribes, and signifies the beginning of a new era of partnerships that will affect more climbing regions than Bears Ears.” @accessfund
Mike jumps out of his 1992 Subaru Loyale to open the cattle gate marking the entrance to the dirt road; we slip in and let the minivan full of friends behind us latch it closed. Our ragtag caravan rallies toward Broken Tooth Wall, a cloud of dust marking our bumpy path. The guidebook lies open on the dash, red dirt bookmarking our objectives for the day, and later, our stories shared around the evening campfire. [Photo] Forest Woodward
Indian Creek is known for its splitters, but that doesn’t mean that every climb is the same. Face holds, pods, varying crack sizes, roofs, and other features make the climbing constantly challenging and thought provoking. Here I test all those skills on Broken Tooth (5.12). [Photo] Forest Woodward
Talus fields rise to sheer walls of Wingate, the most consolidated layer in Utah’s sandstone family and climbers’ main focus in Indian Creek. Vertical cracks with parallel edges rise from talus to sky, giving climbers a thin and defined passage. Straying from the cracks is usually impossible, with sheer, featureless sandstone walls on either side; ascending demands a climber’s entire toolbox of crack climbing skills. Here, Andy Anderson jams his way up Pop Quiz (5.11-) at the Scarface Wall, November 2015. [Photo] Forest Woodward
I struggled up Polygrip (5.11+), straining hard on finger locks and frantically charging from one cam placement to the next, the pump clock ticking and no good rests in sight. After falling at the roof, I hung from the rope, heart pounding and mind spinning. Once on the ground, I watched Yosemite crusher and Indian Creek regular Miranda Oakley float up the same crack, her breath slow and her movement effortless and calm, a perfect dance of human and rock spinning before us. Breathe, move calmly, and with confidence: yet another lesson this sandy stone has to teach. [Photo] Forest Woodward
Campfire chatter usually turns to conversation about where to climb the following day, which turns to debate on the weather and sun vs. shade. On this day, we opted for sun, but the day turned hot and was getting hotter. Luckily, we were able to retreat to the shady cavern of the Cave Route (5.11-), where Blake Herrington found cool temps and cooler climbing on the thin-hands splitter. [Photo] Forest Woodward
With his camera on his back, Forest led up Wavy Gravy (5.10) to get this shot of me on Mantel Illness (5.11). I knew he’d capture a stunning image, but I didn’t know that the sun would be so perfectly poised to capture my shadow climbing as well. In a response to this photo and thoughts on life at the time, I wrote this short poem:
“Let your shadow dance and play and run wild and free, abandoning old and tattered notions and motions in exchange for infinity
reflections on perceptions, self-deceptions, and shadow puppets from 100 feet off the deck.”
[Photo] Forest Woodward
Gobies on our hands and red dirt in our hair, we load into the car and head off into the fading desert glow, reluctantly bidding farewell to Indian Creek for another season. Though the cracks are slowly widening, the crowds quickly growing, and land management issues in flux, the core of Indian Creek will remain–sunset’s magic light, the chatter of friends around a campfire, vast vistas and the try-hard of sandstone splitters rubbed red on our clothing and wide across our faces. This land is magic. [Photo] Forest Woodward
Every week the #alpinistcommunityproject features photos and stories from people in our community. Follow along on Facebook and Instagram as we continue to explore our varied climbing culture through photos and words.