There's nothing like calling home and hearing that it's snowy there... Still sunny and warm here in Moab, although we had biblical winds last night that turned our campsite into a garbage mess and ripped up a few tents. Sand everywhere, it reminds me of a theory I read once that the Anasazi commonly died young because their teeth were too worn down from eating sand-filled food. I can see the truth in that idea after munching sand for a while, I'm starting to notice flavour differences; desert patina, Cutler vs Dakota, they all taste different... Not really, but sand is a integral part of the culinary experience here.
We had to take a break from cracks on Thursday and went into Mill Creek with the ever-psyched Lisa, who pointed a team of us at various routes. Mill Creek is a great place to climb, a lush oasis (still some snow down there despite the new leaves and sun) after the starkness of Canyonlands. Lev is close to senind "The Bleeding," an old Noah Bigwood route that hasn't seen a second ascent despite some good efforts, he again came close but no chains. Good to see him and Lisa as always, we had so much fun that we destroyed our fingertips, so it was back to Canyonlands on Friday, a hot day.
I talked to two of Moab's more prolific crack climbers last rest day, and they told me their secrets to climbing hard cracks: Aspirin and tape. Yep, even the pros find the harder cracks painful, it's not just my wussy ice climber skin and feet...
We were going to head up to the Optimator buttress but it was in the sun, so Greg, Ben and a new arrival, Nathan, and I headed to whatever buttress is across the drainage from Optimator. A couple of Aspirin, lots of tape, and a fun 5.10 corner later I was fired up to try something a little harder. Greg and Nathan had both had a go at a supposed 5.10+ just down the way, and then I had the battle of the trip on it, green Camalots on bad rock (we trundled a small car out of the start) to Red cams (OK). I got up to where it was supposed to turn Gold cams (good hands) and found another 25 feet of overhanging green cams, of which I luckily had two. I got excited and sent it with some choice words, definitely the hardest thing I've succeeded on this trip. Ben made me feel better by also using self-encouraging words on it. It felt like an exam or something, I was happy to get by with a pass if not an A for technique. The tape and Aspirin are essential, thanks to Dean and Steph for that info, I've never used Aspirin for rock climbing before, it's key for nasty cracks.
We then had a cool hike contouring around the drainage to the Optimator buttress; it was cool because it's very shady, lots of green grass, little seeps under huge soaring rock buttresses, I'll remember that hike for a long time. The contrasts in the desert are what make it so special I think, green and red, blue and white, the boundaries between the colors are sharper down here.
At the Optimator buttress we found a very cool overhanging crack on the back of a big block, Annaki or some thing (I don't have a guide down here, just climb what looks cool, so all names are phonetic guesses based off what people are saying). Annankai is the best single-pitch crack I've ever climbed, steep, good pulls, good gear, not painful. Ben and I both sent it first go, then did a few victory laps on it 'cause it was just so much fun to monkey around on the steep jams. I'd spend the rest of my life climbing cracks if they were all like that! You've gotta do that route if you're ever in the area, it's stellar!
Today we're thrashed, we've been 2 on, one off cycle since before leaving Canmore, time for a rest day. It was a bit sad breaking down camp this morning, the Canadian Invasion is splintering apart. Steve and Paul are on the road for a while longer as are Ben and Sarah, Erica and the other Sarahs have headed out. We're all headed to Castle Valley way in the morning for one last day of crack-whacking, then who knows, Greg and I are likely heading to Salt Lake City for some flying and bouldering/work. I need to turn some circles on my glider, I've been dreaming about flying a lot and the itch is turning into something immediate...