Climbing at the Creek

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By Outdoor Prolink Editorial Intern Sara Aranda. Sara likes to climb, trail run, travel and adventure. She comes from California but is making Boulder, Colorado her new home. Sara also works at Movement Climbing + Fitness in Boulder. Look for more blog posts and photos from Sara coming soon!

Where do I begin? In the fall there’s always ice on the cars in the mornings. The sun finally makes it over the cliffs by 7:30 am. I crawl out of my nest of sleeping bags and bedding in the back of my Jeep, and so begins another day at Indian Creek. We hike up the hills to the base of a cliff and only choose a few, out of hundreds, of routes to climb.

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Lost and Found – Creek Style
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Fellow climber Kyle Heppenstall on Anasazi, 5.11a

I sat staring at a crack, recalling my first drive into the canyon. Suddenly there were cliffs: sheer and smooth, their cut edges like wires taken to blocks of red clay. The desert was no longer a flat endlessness. The walls cut you off from the horizon, and send you through canyons and halls of painted stones. It was as if the sun had permanently bled itself into their skin, only to be dyed and washed with the passing of seasons, over and over, rinsed of its reds and purple stains, snow-polished, then scoured again. Time laid herself open. Was I going back in time as I dropped into her canyon?

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Indian Creek is such a special place for trad climbing. Usually, you’d go to a crag and you’d have your single or double rack of gear and you’d be fine. Here, you either have to own a crazy amount of gear, or you have to make friends, because the crack you want to climb takes 4, 5, or maybe 7 of the same size cam! Incredible. And making friends is exactly what I had to do. This past fall I came to Indian Creek completely on my own. My personal rack only consisted of three lonely cams (BD .75, 1, 2). I arrived earlier that week, and found myself at the Superbowl Campground. I pulled in, organized my sleeping space, ate some summer sausage and crackers, and decided to take a quick walk before the sun disappeared behind distant cliffs. I could hear the faint babble of water and followed it to an arroyo. The sun peeked over, shone its last light upon the surface of the water, and fell away.

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It was just after 5:00 pm. Winter is dark. I crawled into my bed and took out a book. It was a journey of firsts: I was en-route to Boulder, Colorado, a place I had only heard of. When 7:00 pm finally rolled around, I rolled onto my stomach and saw a glow reflecting from my driver-side mirror. It was a campfire.

I put on my over-sized, thrift-shop-found down jacket and grabbed my headlamp. I was stunned by the amount of stars – I didn’t even need my headlamp they were so bright. I could hear laughing coming from around the fire. For some reason my heart started to beat faster. I was nervous, but the journey I was on depended on my actions. I could either walk up to them or go back to bed.  I lingered just beyond the reach of flaming light. I felt like such a creeper for a minute, but I just had to ask myself, “How do you want your trip to be? Full of fear and hesitation? What can you lose?” Nothing. F-it. And it was easy. We laughed all night.

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White gas shenanigans

So how would I describe the week that followed? I made friends fast. And the climbing, well, the cracks are so splitter, you really can practice exactly what each size entails. I’ve learned that #2’s and #1’s are awesome hands/tight hands for me. #3’s are harder but doable, and .75’s can be quite burly. There are so many options, in regards to styles. There are corners, off-widths, chimneys, lay-backs, fingers, roofs, et cetera!

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Fellow climber Bob Smith racks up for Generic Crack, 5.9+

Never before have I done perfect hands for over almost a hundred feet. The outsides of your hands get sore from rubbing the same areas over and over again. I found tape gloves helpful for this reason! Not to mention the climbs are all really steep, which makes feet a little harder, and overall more committing.

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Outdoor Prolink Intern Sara perfecting her hand placements at the Cat Wall: Mad Dog, 5.11
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Fellow climber Michael Swartz on King Cat, 5.11+
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Fellow climber Ralph Swansen on Twitch, 5.11

The days rolled on, and despite cold nights, we had perfect climbing temps. The next thing we knew, it was Thursday, November 27th: Creeksgiving. The crowds of climbers had already sky-rocketed. Every campsite was full, and no wall was empty. The group of friends I had made had grown as well. We took over a whole cul-de-sac in the campground, and when it was late afternoon, after another beautiful day at the crag, it was time to prep our campfire for a Thanksgiving celebration, Creek style. The vegetarians of the group had brought a small Tofurkey, but for the rest of us, we had a serious turkey. A new friend, Rebecca, who arrived just the day before, had planned ahead, thankfully, so the turkey she brought was actually already cooked. It was just a matter of re-heating it over the campfire.

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Turkey and Tofurkey roasting over the campfire
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Camp-made stuffing, gravy, and potatoes for our Creeksgiving feast

That night we ate and drank wine, a feast fit for royals. The glow of the campfire lit our grinning faces as we laughed, talked climbing, and shared stories. I remember feeling so lucky, so utterly free of worries and hesitations. I had come alone, and there I was, completely surrounded by like-minded people. The night was long, but we had each other, and when my eyes couldn’t stay open any longer, it didn’t matter that it was only 8:00 or 9:00 pm. I crawled into my Jeep, slept the night, and woke up to sunlit ice on my windows —  and so began another day at the Creek.

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All the friends of Indian Creek, with Sara Aranda in the middle

 

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