Upon returning from our two weeks of backpacking and climbing in the Sawatch, we had two short days at the HMI campus in Leadville where we geared up and packed everything we would need for our month-long stay in Utah. It was exciting and also a little nerve-wracking meticulously calculating and planning our menu and shopping list for 8 days of “front-country” camping. After a quick visit to town, we determined we had sufficiently gorged ourselves with City On A Hill pastries and Sour Patch Watermelons and departed on the long drive to Moab. Despite the relatively cramped quarters, the psyche remained very high, as everyone was excited to go climbing in the desert. When we pulled into Moab, everyone was awed by the dramatic landscape of the desert juxtaposed to the grandeur of the La Sal Mountains. After stopping by a local gear shop to fill up our water jugs and stock up on last minute gear items (and of course, Clif Bars!), we drove an hour southeast up into the mountains to our first campsite: Oowah Lake. For the next couple of days we climbed at Brumley Cliffs, a local crag just up the hill from where we were staying, and learned the basics of traditional gear placements, top rope anchor construction, and rappelling. After four days of climbing and learning new skills, we needed a rest day, so we tagged along with Forest Service Recreational Specialist Autumn Ela to conduct impact research studies on some of the areas where we had just been climbing. The next day we headed down to Mill Creek, a “secret local crag” formed by the drainage of Oowah Lake with some of the most beautiful sandstone walls and aesthetic climbing lines around. For the first part of the day we worked with Autumn again doing more impact studies on the area, then after lunch (and a brief run-in with Steph Davis!) we got to sample some of the routes in the canyon and crush!
Saturday we drove back down into the desert for a day of service with the Access Fund, Friends of Indian Creek, and Front Range Climbing Stewards at the Castleton Tower campground which was a really fun experience and even more rewarding to other climbers’ appreciation for our effort as they came down from a day climbing on the tower. After cleaning up the campground, marking trails and dispersing illegal fire rings, we drove into town and were finally able to take the long awaited shower! We grabbed some grub and headed to the Reel Rock Film Tour, which was super inspiring and gave us a little bit more of a glimpse into the climbing world. On Sunday, we moved our camp down to the Castleton Tower campground and began our service project with the Front Range Climbing Stewards on the approach trail to Castleton Tower for the next eight days. We are learning lots of cool rock moving and splitting techniques and getting to be part of a major effort to care for one of the most iconic climbing objectives in the world. We’re obviously psyched for all the further adventures that lie ahead, especially the possibility that we might get to climb Castleton once we’ve honed our technical skills a bit more!