Mountain Project Logo

Question: Good Desert Crack Progression


Original Post
Jeremy Franz · · Berthoud, CO · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 55

Been climbing for about seven years, so not necessarily a beginner, but wanting to foray into some more Desert Towers. Who has some advice on a good progression of well protected desert crack climbs to build skills and confidence for a climber hoping to eventually take on climbs like Fine Jade or Primrose Dihedrals?

Cheers!

Jeremy

Nate Furman · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 395

Hi Jeremy,

The best answer is mileage.

It's kind of a tough question, because there aren't very many "easy" desert cracks out there. Wall Street/Potash Road in Moab has a good selection of easier sandstone crack climbs.

I guess I'd recommend heading down to Indian Creek and top-roping a lot. I'd take a look at what towers you want to climb--Fine Jade, for instance--and examine what type of crack skills you'll need for it. Fine Jade has an 11- fingers crux and a 10+ thrutchy wide hands crux, so you know you'll need to climb at that grade for those pitches. You might try Think Pink in IC for the wide hands training. Don't feel bad about aiding at IC to hand a TR on climbs that are a bit out of the way.

Sorry that this doesn't line out a slick little progression, but because almost everything is vertical there's not much under 5.10 crack climbing in the desert.
Cheers,
Nate

Jeremy Franz · · Berthoud, CO · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 55

Thanks for the tips fellas... Those are some good climbs to put on the to-do list. We got a week-long trip to SE Utah coming up in the spring. Think I'll try to get out to IC for an extended weekend prior to that trip and get some mileage in. Good reminder on aiding up something that's over my limit to get a bunch of laps. Also pretty easy to bum a toprope down at the creek. I just built a crack machine in my basement so I can practice there too!

Cheers,

Jer

Jeremy Franz · · Berthoud, CO · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 55

Thanks Dave, I could probably dial it out to about 5.5" which would be a good off-width. Get a little hand-stacking practice. I know a good place to practice off-widths up in your neck of the woods - Vedauwoo! I ought to be able to make it up there a few times this spring...

Petsfed · · Laramie, WY · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 945
Jeremy Franz wrote:Thanks Dave, I could probably dial it out to about 5.5" which would be a good off-width. Get a little hand-stacking practice. I know a good place to practice off-widths up in your neck of the woods - Vedauwoo! I ought to be able to make it up there a few times this spring...
Depends on when your spring trip is planned for. Vedauwoo's high altitude and exposed nature mean that if the winter is bad, every fat crack up there will be jam packed with snow. We locals wait for the one day a month with perfect conditions, then bail on work, school, and most everything else to make use of it.

Also, the crux pitch of Kor-Ingalls is nothing to sneeze at, especially if you try to thrutch your way up it, instead of climbing it the same way as the first ascent party.
Tico · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 0
Jeremy Franz wrote:Thanks for the tips fellas... Those are some good climbs to put on the to-do list. We got a week-long trip to SE Utah coming up in the spring. Think I'll try to get out to IC for an extended weekend prior to that trip and get some mileage in. Good reminder on aiding up something that's over my limit to get a bunch of laps. Also pretty easy to bum a toprope down at the creek. I just built a crack machine in my basement so I can practice there too! Cheers, Jer
Just suggestion, here's some progressions at the creek:
Donnelly: Binou's, Chocolate Corner, Elephant ear, mr. peanut
Original meat: wee doggie, tofu, ladies first
blue gramma: petrelli, 5.9+ wide hands, dawn of an age.

Also at the left side of blue gramma is three cracks sharing two anchors, if you're into toprope laps.

But I think that TR'ing a creek line knocks about a number grade off, so if you're going to aid to TR, aid some 11's if you want to climb 10's. Also, building the endurance/confidence to A0 (french free) creek routes rather than full-on aid them will help out your speed on any wall routes in your future (the stovelegs and lots of pitches on moonlight come immediately to mind).
slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,107

if you are looking to prepare for climbing towers, the typical creek routes won't get you completely up to speed. tower pitches tend to be more varied, less sustained, and usually have more of a 'dense' crux than an endurance crux. of course there are exceptions to this, however for the most part, you will want to concentrate on creek routes that throw a lot of different stuff at you. the previous poster's creek list looks pretty good, as it will require a lot of different techniques.

an example of a good tower preparation day at the creek would be:

tenderloins wall (all of these routes are clustered on R side:
Incredible Spam Crack (9) - good warmup hand crack in corner
Steer It Up (10) - good long, varied, with a lot of big hands and more complicated geometry, tight hands crux.
Heinz 58 (10) - good lower angle finger crack with feet and pods
Chopped Liver (10+) - good variety with off fingers ringlocking/laybacking at top
Mad Cow Disease (11-) - again, good variety with some OW, good hands, flared chimney, thin hands, and fingers.

if you can do pretty well on these in a day, you shouldn't have any problems on the tower routes you listed.

also, another local area for you that would have good carryover to tower climbing is eldo, in particular flake and crack systems. these tend to have trickier cruxes and feel more like tower pitches than most of the creek pitches do. also, eldo can give you experience climbing on questionable rock, which is pretty much a staple of tower climbing.

good luck!

Jeremy Franz · · Berthoud, CO · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 55
Bill Duncan · · Jamestown, CO · Joined Mar 2005 · Points: 2,912

Some good suggestions above. Particularly the OW practice and TP's recommendations. I might add a couple more . . . as long as your in the Colorado National Monument, add the Watusi Spear to the list (I think some call it Sentinel Spire, but Kor named it the Watusi, so I'm sticking with the Man). Fast Draw is Very Doable, in fact it was one of my first desert leads. As with all desert towers, if you need to tug on a piece every now and then, it's really no big deal. Time is a factor on routes like Primrose, do what you have to do to move fast. Next I would suggest Bell Tower (again, Kor's name, some call it Kissing Couple now). There is 1 move of 5.11 face that is easily aided. The rest of the climb goes at 5.10 or easier. Fantastic climb, and the approach is much shorter if you park above the tower and route down to the west/NW of the tower.
Tuning up on the OW stuff is a must for towers in the desert. Climb with racks bigger than you need on stuff around here, so when you get out there, you're used to the huge rack. Climb with at least doubles of everything up to a 5 or 6, and you'll be ready. Figure out how to deal with all of that gear in an OW around here first.

Have fun! Be safe.

Jeremy Franz · · Berthoud, CO · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 55

Thanks for the tips Bill. I've been honing my off-width skills at Vedauwoo this summer... Cheers! Jeremy

LeeAB Brinckerhoff · · Austin, TX · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 10,338

Fine Jade to Primrose is a huge step up.

Fine jade has about 20 feet of 5.10 thin hands to a long reach past a OW section, or carry a big purple camalot and you can shove it in and pull on it, there is no need to do an OW move on Fine Jade. The finger crack crux is only about 2 or 3 moves from when your feet leave a ledge till you get a good horizontal crack, again easy to aid with one or 2 pieces, nice fingers though. The rest of the climb is 5.10- unless you do the direct finish which is 5.11- on bolts. You can rap Fine Jade with a single 70m rope...I belive, anyone else know for sure? which makes it a bit easier as you don't have to deal with managing multiple ropes.

Primrose is at least 1 1/2 times as long as Fine Jade and far more continuous, you will definately need OW skills or confidence laybacking on it. a long pitch of big hands as well and dealing with 2 ropes for the descent.

I'd say just get on Fine Jade as long as you're solid with your gear, but take some time to build up to Primerose.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Beginning Climbers
Post a Reply to "Question: Good Desert Crack Progression"

Log In to Reply