Indian Creek is the United States’ most world-famous climbing crag. It’s truly like nowhere else on Earth, with miles of long, parallel-sided cracks shooting up red sandstone cliffs. If ever there was rock made for climbing—or at least crack climbing—Indian Creek’s splitter paradise is it.
Until 1976, what’s now known as the Creek was just a set of cliffs along Utah 211, the highway winding through the desert from Canyonlands National Park’s secluded Needles District to the nearest town, Monticello, 55 miles away. That year, however, a group of climbers from Colorado noticed a perfect 300-foot splitter crack on one of the undulating cliffs, towering above the desert floor atop talus slopes. They weren’t sure it could be led safely—cams, which actively expand to securely hold in cracks, had only recently been invented, and the group only had hexes, or hexagonal chocks, that might just slide all the way down the parallel-sided cracks. Earl Wiggins stepped up to lead the climb and sailed to the top—hand jam, foot jam, hand jam, foot jam, all the way up. The climb became known as Supercrack and opened Indian Creek for climbing development.
Today, more than a thousand routes line the sandstone, and climbers flock to Indian Creek from all over the world. The advent of camming devices, which made climbing parallel-sided cracks safer, enabled extensive development of routes at Indian Creek over the following decades. It didn’t make the actual climbing of them easier, though: The dead-vertical nature of most climbs, along with the uniform crack size, means the climbing can initially be extremely challenging. If you don’t have crack-climbing skills—hand jamming, foot jamming, finger locks, ring locks—Indian Creek will make sure your ego is in check your first day there. After toproping a few routes and teaching yourself to trust the security of a hand or fingers wedged in the sandstone, you begin to understand its magical appeal.
Reblogged from National Geographic