Indian Creek is truly a crack climber’s paradise. With mile after mile of beautiful splitters in a magical desert setting it’s easy to see why crack enthusiasts return year after year. But for all you first timers out there this article will focus on some of the key equipment needed for a trip to this dessert climbing mecca. Of course I’m not going cover the obvious stuff like a helmet or camping stove. Instead I’ll focus on the gear that’s easy to miss on that first trip.
Lets start with some essential camping kit:
High Quality Cooler:
Now I know I said we wouldn’t discuss obvious stuff and a cooler is clearly needed when car camping. However I’m not talking about just any Walmart cooler here! You’re going to want a good quality unit that keeps your beer and perishables cool for several days at a time in the hot desert. Preferably 2 climbing cycles (2 or 3 climbing days & a day off is a cycle) so town visits aren’t required on every rest day.
So what type of Cooler? Well there are a number on the market but one of my favorites is the Tundra cooler from Yeti. The Tundra series of coolers are simple, super durable and will keep your food cool for days on end. For the creek something in the 75 range works well. Big enough to store a block of ice and some food but small enough that it’s still manageable to move.
As there’s no potable water available at any of the Indian Creek campgrounds it’s important to bring some with you. I typically take one or two 5 gallon water bottles per person as they’re cheap and you can never have too much water . The bottles can be filled in Moab at Gearheads, a local climbing and camping gear shop, and at the Shell station in Monticello, to name a few locations.
On my first trip to Indian Creek I was very surprised to discover that the beer not sold at state liquor stores is watered down to 3.2%. Now while this may be hydrating I really like my regular strength IPA’s over beer flavored water. So if you’re like me and want some regular beer for the the Creek plan ahead and grab some before you hit Utah state lines.
Now some essential climbing kit:
A Variety of Cams:
While in some climbing venues you can rock up with a double or triple rack of cams and be good to go but not the Creek. With all the long splitter sandstone cracks such a rack barely scratches the surface! It’s not uncommon for a given route to require 6, 8 or even 10 cams of a single size. Of course this is fairly well known. But what might not be as well-known is that a variety of cams from different companies is the best approach. If you have all one type, say all Metolius or Black Diamond cams, you’ll find sections of cracks that fall between two consecutive cams sizes.
As an example, if the route you’re climbing has a section of crack that’s 35mm wide a black Metolius cam will fit just perfect. However, it’ll be a bit loose for a green Totem, Camalot or Dragon but too tight for a red Camalot, Friend, etc. Alternatively, a Dragon might fit well in a crack that’s just a hair too small for a Camalot. I’m sure you get the point.
A Sturdy 80m Rope:
To put it mildly, Indian Creek has a lot of rope stretchers. Pitches that require every inch of rope to get a climber back to the ground after a pitch (yes, definitely put a knot in the end of that rope). This means that a 60m rope is basically useless, a 70m rope works but an 80m line is the way to go. Of course there are still climbs too long for an 80m rope, but not too many so don’t bother looking for a 100m rope.
Aside from length you’ll want to consider something in the mid-9mm range with a tracer yarn or center weave change. The desert sandstone is hard on gear in general so you don’t want something too thin or it will wear out fairly quickly. Besides it’s very likely that you’ll end up having a few people TR’ing on your rope here and there given the social, single pitch nature of the area.
Edelrid’s new Tommy Caldwell ProDry 9.6mm rope makes a solid day-to-day Indian Creek workhorse. It’s available in an 80m length, has a burly sheath and is dry treated for additional protection. The middle is also easy to find with a tracer yarn that changes color, a nice feature in areas where the route length provided in the guidebook can be suspect. The TC ProDry has a reasonably soft and supple feel, though not quite as nice as the Boa Eco, a 9.8mm rope that would also be good option though it doesn’t have the tracer yarn.
A (very) Large Pack:
Now that we’ve loaded you up with a bunch of different cams and an 80m rope you’re going to need a big ass pack to get it all to the base of the wall! Of course there’s a plethora of large crag bags on the market that would work. However, a beefy mid-sized haul bag is also a great option. Easy to load and unload these cavernous bags make packing all that gear easy (possible). Of course haul bags arn’t the most comfortable packs in the world, luckily the approaches at The Creek aren’t overly long. If you’re thinking about a haul bag the 70 liter Metolius Quarter Dome is a great option. It’s big enough to pack what I need while not being overly large. It keeps the weight close enough to my back that I don’t find it unwieldy at all. And with aluminum buckles, Durathane body and double layer ballistic lid it can take all the punishment the desert sandstone can dish out.
Climbing Gloves & Tape (lots of tape):
Now the last, but possibly most important, item to make sure you bring is hand protection. Crack climbing gloves and tape are more necessary here than anywhere else I’ve ever climbed. The deceptively smooth feeling stone wears away skin quickly and can cause trip ending gobies in a pitch or two if you’re not careful.
If you’re not familiar with crack climbing gloves it’s important to note that they’re not all created equal. I wrote a comparison review of them a little while ago that’s worth checking out if you want to know more: Crack Climbing Gloves. For the Creek in particular I prefer a pair of the OR Splitter gloves for hand cracks and the Ocun gloves for off-widths. For thin hands and fingers I ditch the manufactured gloves in favor of tape.
Not all climbing tape is created equal either. It comes in different thicknesses, widths, colors and with different adhesives. My personal favorite is Metolius Climbing Tape. It’s thin, sticky and durable. Other options include Evolve Magic Finger Tape (I don’t find that it works well in the Creek), Leukotape (expensive but really sticky) and Meuller Mtape (good value). Just be sure to take a few roles to the crag with you as it will take some practice to get good at creating different types of tape gloves for different cracks/applications.
Disclaimer: Some of the gear used in this article was supplied for review while other gear I purchased out of pocket. Of course the source of the equipment doesn’t influence my opinions.