Written by Griffin Mansi
This past Block Break, members of the Colorado College climbing community made the annual pilgrimage to Indian Creek near Moab, U.T. Indian Creek is located about an hour south of the town of Moab and is often referred to as the “crack climbing Mecca” of the climbing community.
About 40 current and recently-graduated students made camp at the Bridger Jack Mesa campsite below 300-meter-tall cliffs of Wingate sandstone. Climbers are drawn to Indian Creek for its abundant crack climbing and beautiful scenery.
“I’ve never woken up to such majestic surroundings before,” said first-year Ale Tejada of her first time at Indian Creek. “Waking to the sun rising over the desert and falling asleep under the Milky Way left me in a state of awe I find trouble describing.”
Crack climbing is a form of climbing where climbers use special techniques to follow a crack up a rock face. These cracks are referred to as ‘splitters’ in climbing jargon. Climbers leverage their hands and feet into the cracks to gain purchase on the rock. This special technique is known as ‘jamming.’ Because there are no obvious foot or hand holds to balance upon, climbers resort to shoving their hands and feet into the cracks and twisting them into positions that will allow them to stick. For even the most experienced climber, crack climbing is a form that can be incredibly challenging and humbles nearly all who attempt it.
A large part of the trip is about introducing students to crack climbing. Although not organized by the outdoor education program at CC, more experienced climbers put up ropes and teach new climbers about the sport. As the Creek consists almost solely of “trad” climbing in which climbers place protective gear within the cracks to ascend, rather than clipping into established bolts, setting up climbs requires a high level of experience and safety knowledge. However, those with many trad climbs under their belt happily established top-rope routes for the duration of the break to allow newcomers a taste of some of the best crack climbing there is.
Due to the generosity and patience of these experienced climbers, everyone at the Creek had ample opportunity to climb. At any given time there was always a mix of climbers of all ages and abilities at the wall. Throughout the trip there were just as many people cheering for someone on a hard climb as people cheering for someone on their first climb ever.
For these reasons, this annual trip to Indian Creek naturally helps build a stronger, more supportive climbing community. Together, students rise at dawn, scarf down their oatmeal, and hit the crags. Not only do they connect while at the walls, sweating in the Utah sun and eating tortilla peanut butter and jellies, but they connect back at camp under the clear stars and around the campfire. Peers share skills, techniques, and safety tips in a relaxed environment that easily translates back to the CC climbing gym and beyond.
“In the same way that Breck Break fosters a community of rad skiers, Creek Break fosters a community of rad trad climbers,” said sophomore Nikki Mills.
As long as older students continue to maintain a passion for not only the Creek, but educating new climbers, this pilgrimage will not only remain, but flourish.