A group of Colorado College climbers stand around a campfire below the Bridger Jack Mesa in Indian Creek, Utah. They are dirty, sunburnt, and scraped up, but all are happy. This group is filled with climbers of all abilities, from strong desert veterans to first-years who have just learned to climb.
Around 50 CC climbers made the annual second Block Break pilgrimage to the ‘crick,’ as climbers affectionately call Indian Creek. The CC student tradition of “Creek Break” has been going on for as long as anyone can remember.
Climbers, just as these CC students, have been drawn to the desert sandstone around Moab since the early ’60s. Indian Creek, which lies an hour southwest of Moab, has become a destination climbing area for its crack climbing. When crack climbing, climbers wedge hands and feet into cracks in the rock in order to ascend the walls. It’s a difficult form of climbing, especially as the cracks get smaller. Some cracks are only large enough to fit fingers.
This CC trip, although not associated with the Outdoor Education Department, is integral to growing the CC climbing community and teaching less experienced students to climb. “It was great to be able to provide for the new group of climbers what was given to me my freshman year in the Creek,” explained sophomore Joe Vuchetich.
One of the highlights of desert climbing, aside from the cracks, is the ability to summit towers, or free-standing columns of rock. One tradition is climbing Easter Island, a tower 200 feet tall that overlooks the campsite where the group resides. During the trip, three groups stood on top of Easter Island—one of those groups even ascended in the dark. The route includes two pitches: one wide traditional crack rated at 5.8+ followed by a slabby 5.10b sport route that curls around the tower. It is possible to rappel the full 200 feet down in one go, allowing climbers to rappel through sections of free air, without any wall to lean against.
Easter Island wasn’t the only tower summit of the break. A group led by Nick Crews ’18, Rob Balloch ’18, Austin Martin ’18, Grace Ford ’19, and Sarah Laico ’19 summited the iconic “South Sixshooter,” a three-pitch traditional route rated at 5.7. The group managed to fit 14 people of all climbing experiences and abilities on the top—a tight squeeze, but likely a CC record.
Amid the noteworthy tower ascents were also impressive crack sends. John Higham ’18 and Claire Bresnan ’19 sent a difficult crack climb called “Slice and Dice,” rated 5.12, at the Way Rambo wall. The crack requires the difficult technique of “ring locking”: to put it simply, this technique involves shoving the thumb and forefinger vertically into a vertical crack. The guidebook jokes that to train for this climb, one should place their thumb in a vice for a few hours a day for two weeks prior.
Finally, there was also a birthday while on the trip. John Feigelson ’19 celebrated his 20th birthday by doing birthday pitches. A classic birthday celebration among CC climbers, this is when a climber does the number of pitches, or climbs, that corresponds to the number of years she or he is turning. This is generally done during the 24 hours of one’s birthday. Due to the slower nature of setting up crack climbs and getting out of camp, Feigelson decided to break up his pitches over the three-day break. Still, he did the majority of his pitches (13) on the last day, his birthday. The feat required him to climb past sunset with a headlamp on.
Creek Break 2017 was filled with the usual merriment around campfires, sandy and sunscreened faces, and the passing of knowledge from older to newer climbers. As long as there is a passion to pursue cracks and a willingness to teach others, the tradition of Creek Break will live on with fervor.