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Moab Highballs Yield Potter’s Hardest Roof Crack

Dean Potter on the first ascent of Zen Garden, a 40-foot roof crack, in the Moab, Utah, area in February 2008. Zack Smith found the area two years ago and established Shao Lin Finger Jab (V8) to the right of Zen Garden. [Photo] Jim Hurst

In February 2008, Dean Potter and Zack Smith established two 40-foot-long boulder problems around Moab, Utah. On the 7th, Potter climbed Zen Garden, a sandstone roof crack that he called “the hardest roof crack I’ve climbed.” The splitter endurance crack ranges from hand to tips in size, and Potter said in addition to jams he used buckets and pockets, sometimes dangling on two fingers and campusing through finger locks, to get to the highball mantle finish. “It’s a scary topout,” Potter said. “It’s 20 feet high, and it’s right above a tree that would probably catch you right in the ribs if you fell.”

Potter does not grade his climbs. “I’m six-foot-six so things are different for me,” he said. “I don’t rate climbs because I trap and limit myself if I rate them.” Potter added that he put in “maximum effort” and that Zen Garden was “a huge step up from Crack House,” an 85-foot roof crack he put up ten years ago in Moab that usually is given 5.13a.

Later in February Smith made the first ascent of Shao Lin Finger Jab (V8), a face problem right of Zen Garden. Smith said it climbs a similar feature but monkeys through “big reaches to positive pockets.” Like Zen Garden, the top out is about 20 feet off the deck and above a tree. “It’s high and scary,” Smith confirmed.

Smith said he found the area two years ago and started cleaning off the holds, but after starting to work on some possible routes he deemed it too immense and did not return until recently. “It has huge potential,” Smith said. “I told Dean about it because I knew he’d be psyched about the crack and because I knew he had a lot of crash pads.” Smith and Potter said the area is special because the cave is surrounded by trees and a pond, and when it rains a waterfall cascades off the top of the cave lip. “It’s a very aesthetic and inspiring place,” Potter said.

Sources: Dean Potter, Zack Smith