Gap: Sublime Sandstone Climbing

Written by: Lia and Emma

Hello from Utah! 

Our group has spent the last week camping and learning how to crack climb in Indian Creek, Utah–which is home to some of the best crack climbing in the world. For the majority of the group climbing cracks is a new skill that has been exciting to experiment with and learn more about. We had four days full of learning new technical skills such as hand, fist, and foot jams as well as one day of service on a climbing approach trail. It’s been fun to see how quickly everyone has grown comfortable on the beautiful sandstone cracks we’ve been spending our days on. 

After a long day of climbing this week our group had a chance to learn more about desert ecology during a class taught by an instructor Shona. We have gotten to experience desert ecosystems firsthand by finding tarantulas on the trail, as well as spiky plants stuck to our clothing daily. The desert of the Moab area is unlike anything else, and it’s been exciting to learn about how the unique ecosystem can function and thrive in such a drastic environment. 
During our next week in Indian Creek we will have the chance to rest our sore hands while we work with the Front Range Climbing Stewards. We will be continuing to build a trail up to the famous Scarface Wall, a trail that HMI gap students have been working on for three years. By moving large stone blocks to build stairs and covering up harmful social trails, we hope to finish up a lasting trail that will prevent damage to the fragile desert ecosystem. If all goes well, thousands of climbers should be walking on this trail to reach the Scarface Wall, one of Indian Creek’s most famous crags. 
After service on the trail we will be spending more time climbing before moving on to our next campsite in the Moab area, Big Bend. Before then we hope to enjoy Indian Creek as much as possible. Students have begun the process to learn about trad climbing (traditional climbing, where the climber places protection in a crack on their way up the climb), by placing protection in cracks on the ground. We then check for the safety of the set up and practice building anchors with these placements on the ground. The next step folks are able to advance to is to “mock trad lead climb” wherein a climber can practice placing protection in the crack while still using a top rope to ensure a more risk mitigated environment while still learning. Students do not have to trad climb during the semester, but many have been enjoying forming a strong trad climbing foundation.

Despite some cold nights in the desert spirits are high here in Indian Creek as we reach nearly halfway through our semester at HMI. We are all excited for many more days of climbing, service, and finding bananas in strange locations ( a group inside joke.). 

Life is good in Indian Creek!