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Indian Creek in a Different Light

Photographer Ben Moon takes us on his journey to the desert to climb some splitters in Indian Creek, using the all-new Lytro ILLUM camera—designed to capture fuller, deeper, and more stunning images than ever before.

Dec 9, 2014
Outside Magazine

A trip to the “desert” started as a biannual pilgrimage for me back in 2002, while I was living in my camper van and developing a career in photography. For the past nine years, these visits have become far too infrequent, and meeting the demands of photo assignments almost caused me to forget about this special place. 

After the premiere of the fantastic Yosemite climbing documentary Valley Uprising, my friend Nick Rosen (of Sender Films) called and mentioned that he finally had a break after working on the film for seven years. He asked if I wanted to meet up in the desert to climb some splitters in Indian Creek, and talk about life and what is next. I agreed immediately, as it’s rare to have time with fellow creatives outside of our own projects. 

 A mutual friend and photographer, Eugénie Frerichs, quickly agreed to join us, as she wanted to work a personal photo project. The three of us are all around that so-called midlife-crisis age, so it was good to connect and reflect while in the vast mental space the desert allows for. Time with Nick and Eugénie is always insightful and entertaining, and this week was no exception.

Explore the living picture for yourself! Click to refocus, click & drag to shift perspective, and double click to zoom.

Nick and Eugénie approaching the Fin Wall as Nick’s dog Finn looks on.

Nick racking up for another pumpy splitter. Indian Creek requires piles of hardware, thick skin, and endurance. 

Nick rappelling after climbing Technicolor (5.11+), a sustained and overhung corner that saves a surprisingly difficult crux for the very last moves before the anchor. This pitch has a beautiful position and engaging climbing and is highly recommended.

Finn, the ever observant Australian shepherd, eyes the horizon after hearing a pack of coyotes yipping and howling in the distance.

Nancy Jackson belays Nick Rosen through the laybacks on the thin and slightly contrived Pringles, rated 5.12- if you eliminate using the crack that is within reach behind you. 

Ancient graffiti or a place to communicate the news? Newspaper Rock is one of the largest known collections of petroglyphs, dating back to both the prehistoric and historic periods as far back as 100 b.c. In the Navajo language, the rock is referred to as Tse' Hone, which translates to “rock that tells a story.” There are over more than 650 individual carvings, and the reason for the large concentration on this wall is unclear.

Photographer Eugénie Frerichs and her dog Tilly enjoy a definitive Indian Creek vista, with red rock buttresses and canyons stretching to the horizon.

Tilly, Finn, and Nick approaching a wall on a hot fall day. The desert is a place of extreme contrast, with the autumn months varying from overcast, windy, and freezing cold to scorching heat, with little reprieve. While climbing here, you often find yourself chasing either sun or shade. 

While waiting for it to cool off in the shade, Tilly naps while Eugénie reads aloud. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles, is an insightful read into the range of emotions all artists face while growing towards mastery of their craft. 

Nick reaches for another perfect hand jam on a Fin Wall warm-up called No Beggin’. Pure crack climbs like those found on the Wingate sandstone of Indian Creek require a whole new vocabulary of climbing technique, ranging from the more basic hand jam to the more advanced thumb stack required for cracks just wider than one’s fingers but too small for hands. By nature, this makes ratings at Indian Creek purely subjective, dependent on hand size. Because of my large fingers, I struggle on thinner finger cracks that someone with more slender fingers will simply cruise up, but a crack that is “rattly” for them will be absolutely locker for my fingers. 

Nick’s morning routine included a hammock, hot coffee, and Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire. Time in camp at Indian Creek can be utterly relaxing, with clear, starry nights and a sun that warms you the instant it breaks over the canyon wall. 

There is no such thing as too many cams while climbing at Indian Creek. Nancy belays behind a pile of wide crack protection. 

Ben Moon is a Portland, Oregon-based photographer with a diverse range of subjects and clients in adventure, commercial and music.

Surviving cancer in his twenties provided him a greater connection to the inspiring individuals he documents and gratitude for the astounding beauty of the environment around him.

With the Pacific Northwest as his playground and international travel assignments, Ben is accustomed to working in a wide variety of conditions. He is just as comfortable 1500' off the ground hanging from a rock face or swimming through heavy surf, as he is filming a musician in the studio or on-stage.

Ben's appreciation for every moment is palpable both on and off the set. He has an innate ability to capture the moments between while nailing critical composition, which gives his work an uncommon depth.

A sample of his work can be seen at benmoon.com.