Have fun doing what you do well and you are on to a winner: that’s the motto of Gerda Raffetseder, a successful climber and route creator. Sometimes that doesn't work on demand, like climbing cracks in the USA. On her first attempt in 2009 she failed miserably on the cracks in Utah. Of fun there was no trace; winning wasn't even in the running. That had to change: more than two years later she went back again to prove to the climbing routes on the other side of the pond what she is capable of. As well as Stefan Brunner, who had accompanied Gerda on the first tour, this time climbers Felix Denkmayr and Stefan Lengauer (Steff) were on board. They packed no fewer than 119 SLCDs (spring-loaded camming devices), or friends; three kitbags, a huge suitcase and a haul bag were checked in at Munich/Germany for the flight to Las Vegas/USA. With a rented minivan they immediately drove from Vegas to Utah.
Their destination: Indian Creek, at the gateway to Canyonlands National Park. Aka the crack climbing capital of the world! On arrival the four climbers drove slowly past the rock faces in Indian Creek Canyon. The adventure can begin:
"What's up with Stefan? Is he suffering from jet lag? Hasn't he got any motivation? Surely he doesn't need to pull himself up using the cam on this easy warm-up route?" That's what I was thinking as I got ready to follow him. Right after the first couple of moves I had to admit that I wasn't feeling quite right either. What a difficult route! I was struggling. Battling against 5.10-Goliath. And I only manage to get to the top using the rope. What a failure.
Those are my memories, bad memories, of my first trip to Utah. "Pride goes before a fall," I thought after making acquaintance with fist cam cracks followed by an off-width for the first time. Off-width is somewhere between fist-sized crack and body-sized crack. The 2009 trip ended in failure, frustration, burnout, physically as well as psychically. But I had discovered a new challenge — merciless vertical cracks! So far they had finished me off, but some-time soon it'll be the other way round, I decided.
Now there is a new opportunity to finish off the cracks. I am ready for it, prepared for the next climbing adventure in Utah, this time with my sights set on Indian Creek.
I am the only woman in the team and have to get used to working out my own solutions; none of the guys has hands as small as mine. This time I know what to expect and have been able to train on a range of granite cracks at home and in Italy. First we have to check in at the Super Bowl Campground. This is a barren campsite where there is neither running water nor any kind of comfort. Only a latrine protected the desert from unnecessary contamination. By chance there was also a table and two benches. Pure luxury — good for the back.
The weather is perfect, almost too hot, but as soon as we've set up the tents we get cracking on cracking. I start off cautiously this time with a 5.9. And on the first day manage to build up to 5.10 on-sight. That's a much better start than 2009. Now I'm optimistic and motivated.
The weather gets cooler after the second day of climbing so we move to the south-facing walls. The boys don't miss a beat and knock off one crack after the other. Super Crack, Scarface, Battle of the Bulge, Quarter of a Man, Generic Crack, and Incredible Hand Crack — the classics.
Stefan has been mulling over a difficult project since 2009 and decides right now to attempt Ruby's Cafe (5.13-).
I suddenly realize that there are lots of women climbing here. Strong women. I enjoy watching them climb. I like the way they work their way up gracefully, in no way overshadowed by the men. We are able to watch how Steph Davis checks out a route. That gives me and my motivation a boost and impresses the men too. Steff quickly develops into an off-width specialist.
Climbing Binge and Purge (5.11) his whole body is swallowed up by the rock in places. Later on in the day Felix also finds a project. The perfect hands crack Think Pink (5.11-). But because it was getting dark he was unable to complete the climb. His dreams are pre-programmed for tonight, however.
From our tent on the Super Bowl Campground we can see North Six Shooter Peak. A formation of different-height battlements linked together. We have to get up there; these imposing rock needles have a magical attraction. We start out on a sunny day and after a three-hour march across the desert at last arrive at the start of the climb to enjoy the four-pitch Lightning Bolt Crack (5.11-) in the sunshine.