Lowering down the splitter thin hand crack on Pente, Indian Creek
One of the (few) benefits of traveling frequently for business is that I accumulate lots of airline miles. And the great thing about airline miles is that you can use them for last minute flights that would otherwise be very expensive. Last week our realtor suggested that we vacate our house (which recently went on the market) over the weekend for an open house and showings. Megan had a tennis tournament and the kids went to grandma’s so you can probably guess what came to my mind. I checked the forecast at a few climbing hotspots and decided on Moab.
I flew in to Salt Lake City Friday evening and drove 4 endless hours across barren desert to Moab. This was a solo trip, so I had arranged for a climbing guide for the weekend. When you have limited time and aren’t familiar with an area it’s nice to hire a local. It’s also an opportunity to climb harder routes than I normally would. And I had a very specific route in mind: Fine Jade (5.11a, 5 pitches). Fine Jade follows a gorgeous crack system on the southern prow of The Rectory, facing Castleton Tower. The route is considered by many to be one of the very best climbs in the desert.
Approaching The Rectory, Castle Valley, Utah
The climbing season in the desert southwest is rapidly coming to an end and the forecast for the weekend called for highs in the upper 80’s. So we got an early start on Saturday and were able to do the short but steep approach hike – and the majority of the route – in the shade. I can’t say enough about the quality of Fine Jade. Every pitch is great. I don’t get to do much pure crack climbing so it felt difficult – especially since the strenuous crux comes low on the very first pitch. If you want the blow-by-blow, here’s my GoPro video of the first pitch that includes a fall (at the 2:50 mark) after botching the crux sequence of moves. Fine Jade definitely goes on my top 5 list of all-time favorites. I want to go back and lead it soon.
Summit of The Rectory via Fine Jade
To become an expert trad climber you have to master crack climbing. Cracks come in a wide range of sizes – tips, fingers, off-fingers, thin hands, hands, off-hands, fist, offwidth, squeeze chimney, and chimney – and each requires different technique. If you want to hone your technique, the very best place in the world to go is Indian Creek, about an hour south of Moab. It’s a crack climbing mecca with literally thousands of clean-cut cracks of all sizes.
I had never been to Indian Creek, so I was excited to check the area out. Living in Fort Worth, most of my climbing happens in a gym where it’s nearly impossible to practice crack climbing. So I was curious to see how I would fare at Indian Creek.
We visited Reservoir Wall, one of the better shaded crags at Indian Creek and did a handful of routes. The highlight was Pente (5.11-), widely considered one of the area’s best routes. I felt pretty solid on all of the routes we did (mostly 5.10s). I’ll definitely be going back to Indian Creek when the temperatures cool this fall. And I might even build a crack machine for my man cave to train at home…