Back in August my good friend and “Route Setter to the Stars” Lee Brinkerhoff emailed me to inquire about potential Fall climbing vacations.  Lee is an amazing climber who never seems to get pumped.  He is a master on sight climber and I’ve learned a lot watching him climb over the years.  I met Lee at the end of the last millenium when he was managing Stoneage Climbing Gym in Albuquerque.  Stoneage has the best route setting of any of the 50 or so gyms I’ve climed at, and Lee is a big reason for that.  Lee has set for national comps and helped nurture the likes of Cody Roth and Jon Cardwell.  Lee was my partner on Serpentine (Taipan Wall, Australia) when by dumb luck we happened to run into each other at the Grampians Campground. 

Working out the beta for Lee’s flash of Serpentine, 5.13b.

After much negotiation we settled on Maple Canyon, UT over Halloween.  I tried to convince Lee that we should go earlier in the season, but he really likes cold rock and insisted we arrive just before the first storms of winter.  I had climbed at Maple once back in 2004, and managed to climb exactly one route before a massive thunderstorm erupted causing flash floods in the Box Canyon.  I’ve wanted to return for a long time so I was quite excited when we finally made it out.

The canyon is quite unnasuming from the highway and could be easily overlooked by someone searching for a world class sport crag.  Once in the canyon a maze of cobble-coated slots appear around every corner.  Bulbous hoodos and soaring buttresses pierce the skyline.  This is the type of crag that is just fun to look at, even if your feet never leave the ground.

Kate crushing the Waterfall Route

I decided to focus my energy on on sighting, and just generally trying to climb as many routes as possible at as many different crags as possible.  With so many nooks and crannies there are many different crags to visit and they all seem to offere a little something different.  Fortunately the canyon is densely populated so its pretty easy to visit multiple walls in a single day. 

The objective for day one was to investigate the notorious Pipe Dream cave.  This thing is massive, with rope stretching routes that clip as many as 30 bolts.  The Waterfall Route was one of the best 5.11s I did all week but the 5.10s were a bit slopey and dusty.  I did the classic Orgasmo then attempted to on sight Sprout, apparently the best of the 13a’s that climb out the main cave.  It was a good effort complete with wild dynos but I hosed the kneebar beta turning the lip of the cave.  Next I did Deliverance which turned out to be one of my favorite routes of the trip.

The name pretty much says it all: Orgasmo, 5.12c

That night was Halloween and we were all anxious to take the boys trick-or-treating so we could raid their stash after they went to bed.  We stayed at the Red Apple Cottage in Fountain Green which was an awesome experience we plan to repeat.  The first order of business was to carve our pumpkins, and we even got a few Trick-or-Treaters before the pumpkins were done.  We got the kids suited up then headed over to the park where there was a “Trunk or Treat” in progress.  This novel innovation entails a line of cars in the parking lot with folks handing out candy from their tailgates.  As an engineer I was very satisfied by the efficiency of this development.  As a lazy glutton I was stoked that we wouldn’t need to get any unintended exercise walking from house to house for a single fun size snickers.  I have to say though, it takes some of the fun/challenge out of trying to race around town to maximize your take.  I was happy to see that most of the kids went door-to-door once the trunk line was exhausted.

Dylan & Logan show off their costumes and pumpkins at the Red Apple Cottage.

The next climbing day we started at the Box Canyon which was quite cold.  After some fun warmups (including the enjoyable Brown Hole) I attempted a couple of harder routes, in particular Captain Bullet which was outstanding in movement and position.  Unfortunately I blew the onsight when I fumbled one of the roof holds and was unable to clip.  I ran it out to the next draw, hoping to find a clipping jug (which I didn’t), then whipped in spectacular fashion, clearing the berm of the road by only a few feet.  Next we headed to Pipeline where I did a number of fun lines, in particular Golden Boy and Chia Pet.

The line at the Trunk or Treat. Despite no prior experience, Logan picked up the Trick or Treat thing really fast. It must be instinctive.

That night my buddy Steve Bechtel arrived with his 4-1/2 year-old son Sam, and it was a full on slumber party at the Red Apple Cottage.  Dylan and Sam hit it off right away and Logan was simply in awe of their boundless energy and…let’s say, “volume”.  It was a really fun next few days with the kids playing on the rocks and toddlers playing in the dirt. 

Saturday we hit the Minimum crag which is an outstanding, tall cliff overhangning around 20 degrees.  All of the routes I did on this wall were excellent long enduro jughauls (Zoaster Toaster was probably my favorite route of the trip), and it was a great hang for the kids (though a bit cold).  Next we hit the Zen Garden and Craggenmore, where we climbed another great 5.11, The Black Waterfall.  The Knezek guidebook has a stunning photo of Stupid Sexy Flanders (on Simpson Rock) and that photo, along with the irresistable name, had me itching to give it a go, so I did that to end the day.

Attempting Captain Bullet. Probably should clipped that draw at my waist. Photo Lee Brinkerhoff.

The final day was a flurry of cleaning and packing, ending with a quick trip to the Low Standard Cave, which has another great 5.11 (Oneida) and a worthy 12a (When Cobbles Fly).  Steve suckered me into Eat Your Liver, which is kinda neat but probably best saved for someone who has climbed all of the more obvious options.  Fortunately he cleaned it for me as it overhangs severely.  We finished off the trip with a quick stop at the Windshield Wiper wall on the way out.  This cliff is reminiscent of Minimum, though not quite as steep and a bit less clean.  The climbs were stellar and with traffic will become among the very best at Maple.

The trip was probably the most fun I’ve had climbing in several years.  The routes are just plain fun and the glassy smooth rock allows you to climb for days on end.  There was a great group of people and perfect weather.  By the end of the week I think I even started to figure out how to climb cobbles.  I can’t wait to go back!

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