Seattleites United at Indian Creek Canyon

The next destination on our agenda was Indian Creek Canyon, another area of beautifully carved and eroded rocks with long, symmetric vertical cracks on the faces. One of Alastair’s friends had told him that two guys he knew, Andrew and Mitchell, were also going to be at Indian Creek Canyon around the same time as us. Although contact information and vehicle descriptions were shared, a lack of connectivity and pre-planning meant that we had no idea where they would be or what they would be doing. We’d just wing it.

When we arrived at Indian Creek (5/2) our first goal was to secure a campsite since all campgrounds in the area were first-come first-served. We followed the directions in a rock climbing guidebook toward the closest campground. It roughly translated to: drive a certain number of miles, turn left, cross the river, and the campground would be just a little farther down the road. Got it.

So, we drove along the main highway through the canyon while keeping an eye on the odometer. The drive was a pleasant one, following the quiet, meandering road through the valley and occasionally seeing rock climbers on the walls high above. As we approached our mileage marker we spotted a sign for our campground. There was a dirt road to the left leading toward the river so we knew we were on the right track. The Nanavan always handles dirt roads with caution to avoid sneaky potholes and/or reduce the amount of teeth-chattering vibrations caused by washboards. Thankfully, this section of dirt road was in pretty good shape.

As we continued down the road we went around a curve and the river came in to view. Then I hit the brakes, we simultaneous said “nope,” and I shifted into reverse. The guidebook failed to mention that the river crossing was not accompanied by a bridge. Although the river wasn’t very wide, we had no idea how deep it was and were not about to test the Nanavan’s limits. A conveniently located pull-out allowed us to easily turn around and head back to the highway. With just a few more minutes of driving up the canyon we found another​ campground with an open site that suited us just fine; no river crossing required.

We settled into our campsite by early afternoon then backtracked down the highway to a climbing area Alastair had his eye on. There was one route in particular he wanted to start with so we headed there first. On the way we could see there was a climber on the route, but we continued on anyway to at least see the route up close and figure out how long the climber and his belayer were going to be occupying it. We arrived at the base of the route and exchanged “heys” with the belayer, then stood and watched for a bit.

At one point Alastair heard the belayer say, “Good job, Andrew!” and this made his ears perk up since one of the two guys from Seattle with the mutual friend (as previously mentioned) was named Andrew. We waited until the climber was done and back on the ground, then Alastair approached them and said, “Hey guys. Where are you from?” They said they were from Seattle. It was them. It was their first day at Indian Creek as well, and this was the first climbing route they were attempting upon their arrival. Great minds think alike?

Alastair top-roping up a route at Indian Creek.

Alastair being belayed by Andrew at Indian Creek.

For the next couple days we met up with Andrew and Mitchell in the mornings​. Then the guys would spend several hours climbing while I hung out, took pictures, and/or chilled at the van reading, writing, and snacking. This gave me a break from belaying and provided good conversations since we had shared interests (Mitchell just transitioned to van life, and Andrew will be going to medical school soon with hopes of working in a rehab realm) and more mutual friends/acquaintances than initially realized due to being in the Seattle climbing community and being members of the Mountaineers club.

Alastair leading the way up the Supercrack route at Indian Creek.

A close-up of Alastair lead climbing up the Supercrack route.

On Friday (5/5) the four of us took a break from climbing and went on a nearby hike in The Needles area of Canyonlands National Park. It was nearly 90 degrees so the 11-mile hike in the desert was a hot one! The best part of the hike, though, was exploring cracks in the massive rocks. These passages felt like slot canyons but were actually formed by expanding joints in the rocks rather than water erosion. Some joints were so narrow we had to take off our backpacks and walk sideways, and some eventually narrowed to the point of being impassible. Because little to no sun reaches these areas, it was significantly cooler and was an amazing place to escape the sun for a brief while.

A view of The Needles area of Canyonlands National Park.

During our hike through The Needles with Andrew and Mitchell.

Alastair, Mitchell, and Andrew practicing their climbing skills during our hike through the joints at The Needles area of Canyonlands National Park.

On Saturday (5/6) we parted ways with our fellow Seattleites and this hike was a nice way to end our time together. We bid each other farewell and wished each other luck on our respective journeys ahead.

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