His or Hers? A Battle of the Climbing Photographers

Niko and I are constantly engaged in war – an ongoing battle between our climbing photographs. If I take a particularly impressive shot, he’ll quickly snag the camera and one-up me with an even better composition. When he finds the perfect lighting, I’m quick to steal the Nikon to shoot some photos of my own. Our little feud has become the best tool to pushing us to get the best climbing photos we can – but we can never decide who took to the better shot, so we’re asking you to help us decide.

Check out these two climbing photos, and choose your favorite (*click the photos for the full-sized view). Leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post letting us know which one you prefer. We’ll reveal who shot which photo once the votes are tallied and a winner is chosen!

These two photos were both taken at Indian Creek in Utah. We spent three weeks living in the desert, and snapped some of our best climbing photos of all time while we were out climbing sandstone cracks in the sunshine. There were dozens of photos that blew us away, including a few I shot of the fellas climbing Scarface while a thunderstorm rolled in – but these two are our favorites:

1. Jeremy Rush with a desperate face-press on Incredible Hand Crack (5.10c).

Jeremy Rush using everything he has on Incredible Hand Crack (5.10c) at Indian Creek in Utah.

2. Bryan Cox illuminated on Anunnaki (5.12).

Bryan Cox crushing Anunnaki (5.12) at Indian Creek in Utah.

There can only be one winner, and the choice is up to you. We’re pretty competitive with this idea, so we reckon it’ll become a series of photo contests – and the loser has to buy the winner a sweet treat of their choice. Glory and the promise of a free snack, it’s on!

Why we never make it to the crag before noon at Indian Creek

I wake up in the morning with sticky skin. Last night’s thunderstorm, and accompanying flash flood, did little to tame the desert temperatures – it’s way too warm to be sleeping in my thick bathrobe. I hear the rustlings of camp outside the van, so we get up and start a batch of coffee in the french press.

While Lauren sets to work cooking a batch of apple cinnamon pancakes on her one-burner stove, I perch myself on the picnic table beside her bench and admire the morning. The North Six-Shooter beams upward behind our campsite, the sun is already baking my skin, and all manner of birds are calling out from the thick brush surrounding us.

The Six Shooter as seen from our camp at Indian Creek.

Mornings here are highlighted by the habitual migration to the outhouse. One by one, we make the short trek up the dirt road to the most magnificent pit toilet I have ever sat on. There’s nothing fancy about this facility, with a small chain hooked across two planks of wood as the only indicator of current occupation and the lack of any roof – which is possibly the best part. Here you are, in the middle of Utah’s finest desert landscape, taking a dump while the breeze brushes past and the open ceiling offers an unobstructed view of the big blue sky.

My view from the outhouse at the Superbowl Camping area in Indian Creek.Today, the heavens are hued like a bluejay. In the corner of my outhouse view space, small spindles of clouds float by like wayward tufts of spun sugar. I’ll say it; these are the best poops I’ve ever had.

The path back to camp is a short jaunt lined with potholes filled with red clay water from the storms and more chirping birds in the bushes. My distractions nearly cause me to get hit by a stray frisbee, but the boys get it stuck up a tree instead. We should be packing up to hit the crag before the sun begins to beat down with merciless heat, but we prefer to take our time.

Niko and Christian continue their frisbee tossing, aiming to hit an axe sticking out of a stump – but miss every time. Lauren tidies the picnic table from her breakfast mess, while Jeremy settles by the fire ring while strumming our ukulele. This morning has inspired me to write, so I take a seat near Jeremy on a crash pad caked with red dirt. Bouldering gear becomes furniture here in Indian Creek.

After a few more morning musings, we connect with our Australian friends from a few campsites down – the only other occupants of the Super Bowl camping area – and finally succumb to the call of our tape gloves.

A rumbling upstream: Flash flood sweeps past my Indian Creek campsite

By the time we left the Super Crack parking lot, it had already begun to pour. This unusual desert rain had plagued us for two days now, and we rushed back to the campsite to make sure the van would still be able to trudge through the thick mud. We stayed huddled in the van with Jeremy for a bit before the storm eased up, then set about the usual evening musings in preparation for dinner and a fire. Seeing the desert landscape in a storm is a special treat at Indian Creek.

Earlier that day, Niko and I spent a few hours rummaging around a small creek running behind our campsite. It was charming, a six-foot wide stream no more than knee-deep, and often just barely skimming over rock beds. I’ve always been attracted to rivers and creeks, so I made plans to return and trek as far up the waterside as I could.

A result of the flash flood in Indian Creek.When we finally made it back to camp that evening, Jeremy decided to check out the creek while the rest of us began to chop onions and fire up our stoves. A few minutes later, we heard him shout.

While eyeing a path of stones so he could cross the little creek without getting his toes wet, Jeremy heard a deep rustling in the trees upstream. He thought our Australian companions were perhaps out exploring as well, but quickly realized otherwise as the rumbling sped towards him.

He thought it best to take a few large steps back from the water’s edge, just in time to watch a tall foaming wall of water gush up the once trickling stream, churning forward in a chaos of broken tree limbs and red mud. The flash flood raged past him, turning the once small stream with a clear view of the bottom into an angry, murky mass quadrupled in size.

We hurried down the wash, and stood astonished at the newly created scene. The little creek from this morning was now unrecognizable, and the rushing water created loud rapids that sped past small brush plants clinging to the remaining embankment. Floating logs frequently amped past, leaving crackling echoes in their wake as they crashed against stones in the flood.

I had never seen anything like it.The flash flood that swept through the wash just below our campsite at Indian Creek.

Our little crew stayed and admired the flood until the sun set and the wash began to grow too dark to navigate. When we returned the next morning, all that remained of the flash flood was a vast stretch of wet mud where the water had surged the previous night. The little stream now ran a cloudy red color. It was hard to believe that this was the same wash that had been gushing with violent water the night before. The creek was calm once again the morning after the flash flood.

By the time we left Indian Creek, the entire creek bed dried up, leaving nothing more than a few muddy patches of thigh deep quick sand and sad little puddles of stagnant water. During the past few months spent in the desert, I’ve heard a lot about the dangers of flash floods – but it has always centered around places like slot canyons. Experiencing the flood first hand was really eye-opening about how surprising and influential flash floods can be. For Jeremy, the landscape morphed in an instant, changing from docile and manageable to a volatile place where he easily could have been in harmed if he hadn’t taken those steps backwards from the water’s edge.

I guess that’s why you’re not supposed to set up camp or hike in dried up washes!

 

Climbing, camping, and coffee hour at Indian Creek

We first came to Indian creek on what can only be described as a whim. Jeremy, who we met in Joe’s Valley, egged us on for a few days about his yearning to make the short drive out to Moab to climb at Indian Creek. We easily relented, stuffed our crash pads into Vikki and Spenser’s trailer for the weekend, and caravanned to Indian Creek with newfound friends Jeremy and CP, Cox from Tallahassee Rock Gym, and Lauren, who I knew from Vertical Ventures in Tampa.

The original Indian Creek group gathering for a crew shot after climbing Wavy Gravy.

During my first two days at Indian Creek, I climbed a total of two routes (both on top-rope) – but I was totally exhausted after just two experiences shoving my body into perfectly formed sandstone cracks. I on-sighted Twin Cracks (5.9), and had a fantastic flail session on Wavy Gravy near the ultra-classic Scarface line. Niko continued to practice trad leading, and CP discovered that his hands are a perfect fit for lines that use a lot of number three cams.

CP crushing at Indian Creek in Utah.Me climbing Wavy Gravy in Indian Creek.We camped at Bridger Jack, and adopted a morning routine that involved a lazy “coffee hour.” With a small total of six cracks conquered during our weekend trip, we all decided to spend at least another week in Indian Creek to get the full experience. Niko and I returned to Joe’s Valley one last time to pick up our crash pads, then quickly resettled in Indian Creek – at a new campsite, which didn’t involve a heinous off-road scramble like the path to Bridger Jack.

The first night was rainy, and the next day’s forecast predicted an even higher chance of continuing storms. It didn’t look too promising, so we spent the morning slowly waking up and making coffee at camp.

The weather finally let up, so we decided to scope out the cliffs around Generic Crack to see if they had dried. They had indeed gotten some sun, and by 3:00, the Super Crack parking lot was starting to fill up with climbers.Niko hanging out beneath a climb at Indian Creek.Jeremy Rush killin' it in Indian Creek.

I stayed behind to catch up on writing for the day, and while I was lurking in the van I noticed – more than twice – non-climbers who were driving past, pumping the brakes, reversing into the parking lot, and pausing to admire the climbers while taking pictures and gawking through binoculars. It was a great little moment watching how intriguing climbing appears to be to the outside world – I wonder how unusual people think must we are, hanging onto the side of cracks along the scenic road to The Needles in Canyonlands National Park.

Gettin’ in over my head: I’m heading to climb cracks in Indian Creek for the weekend!

Here’s a not-so-secret confession: I am not the best rope climber. I’m not quite sure what it is, but as soon as I have a rope tied to my harness and some gear dangling from my hips, my climbing skills degrade severely and my mental stability goes out the window. I am shamefully a pebble-pushing pansy. There, I said it.

My lackluster rope skills are part of the reason why I’m a little intimidated to announce what I’ll be doing this weekend:

I’m going crack climbing in Indian Creek!

The gorgeous landscape at Indian Creek. (Image courtesy of the Chicks Climbing Facebook page.)

The gorgeous landscape at Indian Creek. (Image courtesy of the Chicks Climbing Facebook page – click through to see more!)

Here are a few more confessions: I have never climbed a proper crack outdoors (unless you count a few bouldering cracks I climbed at Boat Rock in Georgia), nor have I ever climbed trad. Basically, I am going to be in way over my head this weekend. I’m totally petrified about my first attempt at hauling my little body up a towering crack – but I know it’s going to be a great learning experience. My hands will be shredded, my footwork will be schooled, and I have no doubts that the fellas will be laughing at me many times throughout the weekend.

Haley Dahle rocking the art of crack climbing at Indian Creek, my hero! (Photo by: Terrell Barry via the ClimbRunLiftMom Facebook page.)

Haley Dahle crack climbing at Indian Creek, my hero! (Photo by: Terrell Barry via the ClimbRunLiftMom FB page.)

Luckily, the lovely Haley Dahle from ClimbRunLiftMom will also be heading to Indian Creek this weekend, so I’m looking forward to meeting up with her and soothing my bruised ego over a campfire accompanied by some whiskey. She is a total fanatic for the impressive crack climbing at Indian Creek, so I’m hoping to soak up some of her expertise and confidence to help me in my pursuit of becoming a crack climber.

For me, this is one of those situations where you really just have to be honest and upfront with yourself about pushing limits and taking things easy. Do I plan on leading a bad ass 5.11 trad crack this weekend? Absolutely not. Will I be 100% satisfied with myself when I top-rope a 5.9 crack for the first time? You better believe it. Sometimes, you have to be okay with taking baby steps – and there is no shame in that.

Frankly, I’ll be beside myself with pride if I even place a single piece of trad gear on my own this weekend. What would be ideal is if I could teleport through time to the Chicks Climbing clinic at Indian Creek on the weekend May 1st, learn a thing or two about the finer techniques behind crack climbing, then return to the present to show hold my own and hang with the big boys. But alas, I’ll just have to wing it.

Have you been climbing at Indian Creek? I’m all ears to any tips, recommended routes, advice on taping my hands, whatever you’ve got to throw my way! 

PS: Since I’ll be deep in the desert until Monday, you should expect me to be totally disconnected this weekend. I’ll catch up on all the comments, tweets, and e-mails after my first crack climbing adventure – and you can look forward to some stories and photos acting as evidence of my inevitable fumbling, faces of terror, and bloody knuckles. While I’m gone, make sure to enter my giveaway for a package of Premier Protein energy bars and shakes!

A peek into my desert-dwelling future with Austin Siadak’s “A Desert Life,” featuring Alf Randell

The cinematography is sharp and superb, the scenery is stunning, and let’s face it: Alf Randell is way too sexy with those big ‘ole turtle spectacles. Sure, he’s old enough to be my dad, but looking at him is like looking into my boyfriend’s future – and I’m pretty pleased with the outlook.

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