AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

North America, United States, Utah, Crag Climbing

Crag Climbing. Crag climbing began in the desert at Indian Creek in the 1970s, when the majority of routes established on the vertically fractured Wingate walls were one or two pitches in length and easily protected with the newly developed camming devices. It was at Indian Creek that summit ascents began to lose popularity, although Jimmy Dunn, Earl Wiggins, and a handful of others continued to climb through to the rimrock but on many ascents placed no fixed anchors. Crag climbers later repeated only the first or second pitches, thinking they had established a new line. It is now rare for a route to summit out.

Rivaling and perhaps surpassing Indian Creek in popularity is Wall Street southwest of Moab. The half-mile, 500-foot Navajo Sandstone cliff at the west edge of the Colorado River near Moab has more than a hundred crag routes established on it. The wall faces east and is a great place to climb throughout the winter and during the scorching summer months in afternoon shade, offering many hours of pleasant climbing. It is not unusual to count thirty or forty climber’s cars along Wall Street on a busy weekend. Although Jim Beyer has established several multi-pitch routes to the rimrock, some others too have recently pushed old aid lines higher up the wall. A Fistful of Potash (5.11) is now three pitches in length, put up by Peter Verchick, Jeff Slider, and Bob Novellino. Astro Lad, climbed by Jim Beyer and Pat Mclnemey at 5.11a, has been extended two more pitches at A2+ by Darren Watson and Paul O’Brien. Also of note is the old top-rope Flakes of Wrath Direct which was led by the late Brent Bartholomeu at 5.11c/d.

Six miles further down the Potash Road, in Day Canyon, there are now a dozen crag climbs, and 11 miles down-river from Wall Street, on the Offwidth City Buttress, there are nine crag routes established. On Deadman’s Buttress and North Spur, a dozen and a half crag climbs are now established. On Reptilian Wall, up Long Canyon, there are 12 routes, and at Maverick Buttress, crag routes number better than two dozen. Also in 1996, 10 crag routes were climbed on the Heat Wave Buttress south of State Highway 313 (north of Moab). Their difficulty ranges from 5.9 to 5.12a, and were pioneered by locals Dave Medara, John Merriam, Dan McRoberts, Bob Novellino and Jay and Jo Smith.

Crag climbs abound in the San Rafael North region with numerous routes in Buckhorn Wash on Scenic Byway Wall, Pine Canyon Wall, Chocolate Wall, April Fool’s Wall, Sex Wall, and Bad Obsession Buttress. Along Mexican Mountain Road, Dylan Wall numbers 21 climbs, Stock Exchange Wall five climbs, Emotional Wall and Spaghetti Western Wall up Red Canyon, nine crag routes. West of the San Rafael Campground, Trojan Man Wall now has several routes, and Halloween Wall west of Bottleneck Peak has five excellent routes.

Eric Bjørnstad