The end of an era: A bittersweet farewell to Joe’s Valley!

On our last night in Joe’s Valley, it rained. The canyons were hung thick with clouds, and the tops of some peaks were being dusted with snow. It cast a solemn tone on our departure – which was fitting for me as I finally bid farewell to this valley I had grown to adore so much.

We spent a total of 43 days over a nine-week period in Joe’s Valley, and in the last month we had knit a family unit that took up residence on the second pull-out in the left fork. Some stayed for the entire stint (or at least most of it), with folks like Spenser, Vikki, Adriana, Steven, Jeremy, and Randy becoming staples amongst our makeshift community. Others came and went, like Brad from Colorado and a flock of more than a dozen Floridian kids. Most days were spent climbing with the crew, and evenings saw us huddled around the impressive fireplace behind Vikki and Spenser’s trailer.

Niko on the iconic Angler problem at the riverside area in Joe's Valley.CP Santos finally crushes the Angler at Joe's Valley.

The final few weeks we spent in the valley are a blur of afternoons spent climbing by the riverside, discounted donuts from the Food Ranch, and lazy naps in the hammock. There are no new hard sends for me to report; I exhausted my list of projects, and lost the motivation to try-hard on any new ones. My laziness combined with multiple weekend trips out to Moab made it difficult to will myself to pull hard on anything.

Lounging in my ENO hammock at Joe's Valley.Pretty little things in Joe's Valley.

Perhaps the most memorable event of the last few weeks at Joe’s Valley was the bright Saturday morning when we teamed up with The RV Project, Steven, and Adriana to lend a hand during Orangeville’s annual city clean up. We figured it was the perfect opportunity to express a bit of gratitude to this small town for letting dirtbags live in their canyon and eat all their donuts.

My favorite moment was when the event organizer first laid eyes on us. One of the boys stepped forward and asked what we needed to do to get started, and the woman replied:

Oh, you’re here to help? I thought you just came to eat!

We all laughed, and quickly realized that our crew of six climbers nearly outnumbered the amount of town residents who had shown up. The morning was spent shoveling debris from the sidewalks, pulling stubborn weeds, and clearing out gutters. Our work was rewarded with a picnic at the neighborhood park, and the locals insisted that we take every single leftover with us back to camp. It was definitely a productive and positive day for climber and local relations.

The van worked real hard holding our rakes during the Orangeville city clean-up.The crew feasts on local treats after the clean-up.

Fast-forward a bit, and you’ll find us not in Joe’s Valley, but in Indian Creek. We took a quick weekend trip out to the Moab area to climb some cracks, fell in love with the creek, and then hastily returned to Orangeville one last time to retrieve the crash pads we had left behind at camp. As much as I had been clinging onto the comfort of our little Joe’s Valley nook, it finally felt like time to say goodbye to our little family and move on to the next chapter of our adventure.

The family.

The last evening in Joe’s Valley was spent huddled in the van with Vikki and Spenser. Rain had turned our campsite into a mud pit, and all the firewood was soaked – so we got cozy in the van and watched The Royal Tennenbaums while munching on kale and booze from Trader Joe’s.

Joe’s Valley has by far been my favorite experience of this trip so far. The people I met there, the idyllic bouldering, the town of Orangeville – this place is just perfect. I’m not quite sure when yet, but I will be back. In fact, this whole living in Joe’s Valley thing might be a yearly tradition.

New climbing companions, Niko’s first ascent, and deciding to return to Joe’s Valley

Last week, the tribe I had been traveling with for the past few weeks finally disbanded. Our two main companions, Zach and Emily, drove back home to Minnesota, and the rest of the crew headed off to other climbing areas like Bishop and Red Rocks. We had planned to hightail it out to Moab on Friday morning, but ended up forced to stay in town until I sent my nemesis climbing project, Kill By Numbers – and I’m so glad it took me so long to finish that boulder problem.

While moping around the Food Ranch, I happened to meet a charming lady who mentioned working on a blog post. Naturally, I asked what the name of her blog was, and it turned out that she’s half of the two-climber team that runs The RV Project. I told them we were planning to head out of town the next morning after sending Kill By Numbers, but wished them good travels in Joe’s.

The following day, I gave my all on an early attempt of Kill By Numbers, which was a horrible failure with me unable to even lift myself off the first move. Defeated, I retreated to the Food Ranch once again – and opened my e-mails to find one from Spenser, the other half of The RV Project. It basically said, “Love your blog, wish you were still in town so we could invite you to our campfire.”

And I wrote back, “Well, as it happens, we’re still in town.” A few more correspondences were exchanged, and suddenly we found ourselves huddled around a fire with strangers who would become family overnight. We made plans to climb together the next day, and it wasn’t very long before Vikki and Spenser convinced us to just come back to Joe’s Valley after our trip to go climbing in Moab with a few old buddies. We awoke the next day with a reinvigorated passion for the valley, which was amplified by the great vibes we got from climbing with Spenser, Vikki, and their buddy Will.

Spenser climbing Save Yourself (V9) in Joe's Valley.Will works the beta on Eden (V9) in Joe's Valley.

I spent the day working Kelly’s Arete (V5) with Vikki and two other super strong gals while Niko and Spenser hopped around the boulders shooting photos. It was so inspiring to enjoy an all-ladies bouldering session – there’s something special about sharing beta, cheers, and promises of a send train.

One of my newfound lady friends crushes Kelly's Arete (V5) in Joe's Valley.

Finally, the moment came for me to send Kill By Numbers the following morning – and by some miracle of climbing, I crushed it on my first attempt. A celebration of PBR and “oreo dessert” from the Food Ranch quickly followed as I moved on to watch the fellas climb a few projects, including a never-climbed line scoped out by Steven Jeffery, who is working on a new Joe’s Valley guidebook.

Niko works the first moves on his still-unnamed first ascent of a V7.

Niko spent about an hour working out the beta for the first moves, which involves a strong, stretchy crank up to a sloping pocket from an overhanging ledge. He quickly solved the sequence, and eventually found himself on the tall bulge top-out. As he pushed his body upwards, he started uttering one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard him say while climbing:

Niko delicately manuevering the top-out of his V7 first ascent.

 

 

“Please don’t break,
please don’t break,
please don’t break.

 

 

I guess that’s the price you pay for snagging a first ascent. Fortunately, none of the sandy  he was pulling on broke, and Niko proudly claimed the first ascent of the problem, which he gave a V7 grade. He hasn’t given the problem an official name, but we’re toying with the idea of “Oreo Dessert” to pay homage to one of the Food Ranch’s finer delicacies.

After a few more campfires fueled by booze, a bout of nasty weather, and a dip in the local pool, Niko and I finally willed ourselves to leave our little Joe’s Valley home for a few days to go explore in Moab – but one thing is for sure: we’ll be back.

Three Weeks of Climbing at Joe’s Valley in Words and Photos

A frozen waterfall at Joe's Valley in Utah.It all began with a dreary midnight drive through the nothingness of rural Utah. We arrived in Joe’s Valley after a brief stint in Moe’s Valley that left us eager for cooler temperatures and a landscape with more than just blistering sand. It was dark when we pulled up to camp, so I was elated to wake up on the first morning surrounded by tall pine trees, snow patches, and a gushing river that snakes through the left fork of the valley.

I didn’t do much sending during the first week due to my tweaky tendon, but just getting to explore the incredible valley was enough to keep my spirits lifted. Our old housemate Bo was with us for the first few days, and another Tally Rock Gym-er, Bryan Cox, drove out from his new home in Salt Lake City to join us during that first week as well. Even better than the climbing was getting to watch all the fellas reunite.
Niko, Bo, and Cox messing around on the landmark crack boulder in the Left Fork of Joe's Valley in Utah.We broke up our three weeks in Joe’s Valley with a weekend in Salt Lake City, and a quick escape to Moe’s Valley for two days while the temperature dropped down to single digit wind chills in Joe’s – but every time we left for a bit, we felt a persistent urge to return to the valley. So, we kept coming back.

There were many highlights for the crew during our long climbing sessions at Joe’s Valley, including a very successful Easter Sunday where Niko sent his first V10, and I climbed V6, 5, and 4 all within two or three attempts. Our lady friend Emily sent her first V7, and many more projects were ticked off all our lists. I also had an awesome experience flashing a V5 for the first time, which I totally did not expect to happen. Here are a few of the highlight shots from the past few weeks:
Angus executes the ultimate beast-mode while climbing Playmate Of The Year (V9) In Joe's Valley.Here's a shot of me flashing Blue Eyed (V5) in Joe's Valley, Utah.And a few more..
Angus looks heaven-sent while projecting Beyond Life (V10) at Joe's Valley in Utah.Bo throws some fancy footwork on during his send of Bring The Heatwole (V7) at Joe's Valley.
My favorite climbs at Joe’s Valley were two V5s that offer a style of climbing not often encountered at this climbing destination full of face and mostly vertical climbs. The first send, Self Service, is a beautiful line in the New Joe’s area that follows big holds through big movements up to a committing top-out. I’d call it a bit soft for the grade, but a blast nonetheless.

I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to send Self Service when I first hopped on it – one of the first moves is a left-hand reach up to a crimpy edge, and my tendon was still aching like crazy, plus my still-sprained ankle was NOT happy with the heel hook beta I originally tried. Eventually, I found my own beta, muscled up a bit, and pulled off the send.
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The second favored send was possibly my hardest personal triumph in climbing thus far. The problem, Kill By Numbers, is an outstandingly burly V5 with gnarly heel hooks, strong arête slopers, and a big first move that required some serious lady beta for me. I spent days working it, with two days of many attempts, followed by two days of “oh man my butt hurts,” and one “today is the day” attitude that led to a send on the first go during a fresh day. I think it may just be my proudest send of all time – it feels even more earned because of all the work I had to put into it.
Gunning for the perfectly placed crimps on Kill By Numbers (V5) in Joe's Valley, Utah.Thus far, we’ve spent the majority of our time at Joe’s Valley in the company of our friends Zach, Emily, and Angus – two of which had to return home to Minnesota, and one who headed out to the Red Rock Rendevouz in Nevada. We ended up spending a total of 30 days traveling with Zach and Emily, from Hueco Tanks to Red Rocks to Moe’s and Joe’s Valleys. It was an incredible experience meeting them and becoming a little family on the road together. As for Angus, well, the kid can crush, as you’ll see in this awesome Joe’s Valley bouldering video he recently posted (and he’s as sweet as he is strong).

It was a sad moment when we all parted ways. The crew spent our last evening together huddled around a campfire, roasting marshmallows and drinking the only full-proof beer we could get our hands on in this little Utah town. In the morning, we all scattered to our respective “final projects” in the valley, and bid our final farewells.
The original Joe's Valley crew on our last night together in Utah.
After a few days on our own in the valley, we met Spenser and Vikki from The RV Project, and have been camping, climbing, shooting footage, and hangin’ ever since. Meeting them has totally reinvigorated our stoke on climbing at Joe’s Valley. We were originally planning on leaving Joe’s Valley to check out other areas, but have decided to come back to the area for a bit after we do a little bit of sport climbing in Moab this week.

Come back tomorrow to read more about why we’re coming back, and Niko’s V7 first ascent!
And, since I’m in such a sharing mood, check out this still we pulled of Niko climbing Resident Evil (V10). We’ll have an awesome video coming out sometime this week, featuring some of my favorite Joe’s Valley climbs, with a few bonus sends from Moe’s Valley and Red Rocks!
Niko getting the high foot on Resident Evil (V10).