While most of us were waiting in airport security and Thanksgiving traffic, a couple hundred climbers were heading south to Indian Creek, Utah. The Creek, 40 miles south of Moab, is a crack-climbing mecca, chock-full of legendary routes for those willing to suffer.
For the past decade or so, Thanksgiving has brought those masochists out in force, coming together to bloody their knuckles on gritty sandstone and split pumpkin pies pulled out of dumpsters. The gathering, informally dubbed Creeksgiving, is a last hurrah of sorts, a chance to climb a few more pitches in the sun before trading climbing shoes for ski boots—or at least crampons.
Bozeman-based photographer and climber Seth Langbauer was back this year for his third Creeksgiving, drawn to the red rock desert to log one last week of climbing before the snow started to fly. “There’s no service, so there’s this whole little beatnik climbing community communicating through notes left at message boards,” he said. “Everyone’s down there for the same reason: to hang out in the sun and climb cracks.”
Photo: Crack climbing is just what it sounds like: Climbers use special techniques to follow fissures up a wall. Indian Creek is home to a range of crack sizes, from those just big enough for a fingertip to chimneys wide enough to crawl inside and shimmy up. Looking for a break from hand cracks, climber Jake Woodland, who’s been living in his car while traveling from crag to crag, jumped into the wide crack of Big Baby. To inch up the 5.11 route, Woodland had to wedge entire limbs into the crack, topping out with bloody knees and elbows. Said Langbauer, “Shorts were a bad choice.”