Martian Bouldering for Earthlings
I crested the lip of the wash and looked out on the valley. The sun, after a week of hiding behind the clouds and cliffs above Indian Creek, beat down on my face, partially blinding me. I put a flattened hand above my eyes in a weak salute. Holy shit.
I read something online where Dave Graham likened Moe's Valley to a Martian landscape. I could see what he meant by that.
Besides the little green and grey shrubs, the perfect blue sky, the cryptobiotic soil, the proximity to the city of St. George, and the forty-or-so other climbers laughing and screaming and running around, it was exactly like Mars!
I popped open the photos on my phone, where I'd stored the complete bouldering guidebook (thanks to The Desert Rat, St. George's badass gear shop, for the handy store copy). After a few seconds of perusing the problems and surveying the area, something became clear: this place is like a damn outdoor bouldering gym. Everything is just right there. The landings are mostly flat. The boulder problems are of a manageable height for a single climber. The entire trail system (the existence of which is incredible in its own right) is clearly marked by stones. The local developers have clearly put in the WORK to make this a proper bouldering destination for the masses.
How can I know this? Well, first of all, this is sandstone – Shinarump Conglomerate Sandstone, to be exact. Any sandstone requires a bit (or perhaps a shitload) of cleaning. Secondly, I explored a few square miles of terrain just north of Moe's Valley on my second day in the area. The quality of the Shinarump varies widely, from sandy tan choss to gritty black razor rock (which may have been some kind of volcanic stone, in hindsight).
But there is rock everywhere. That fact is irrefutable. It was actually overwhelming; I was tempted to load my backpack and walk straight into the mountains for a few days. But the urge to move on was too strong.
Relief From The Wild
I haven't really been a boulderer for about a year and a half. In the summer of 2015 I got sucked into the realm of bouldering development – in the Colorado alpine and the Utah desert, for the most part – and haven't done much else. My experience in Moe's was the first time in many months that I've been able to traverse a well-established area and just climb my ass off. It was fantastic. I could top out a boulder, pack up my gear, walk for three minutes, and repeat the process.
Yesterday, day 3, between 2:30 and 5 pm, I climbed an amazing V4 called The Worm at the top of the boulder field, walked back down and worked a V9 and a V10 (Gription and Dead Rabbit, both of which casually swatted me away like a fly), then finished my evening by sending the incredibly classic Israil and Israil Direct. It was like a gym session without the gym – and without the friends. See the dark, grainy full-moon footage of Israil below.
Indian Creek kicked my ass last week. I was cold most days, my energy and motivation levels were absurdly low, I sent one boulder problem, and the great UNKNOWN of the future had me in a subconscious vice grip. But Moe's wiped it all clean. Reverting back to a child-like state of climbing joy (My god, I can climb this? And this? And this too? And that over there? All in one hour? And the rock is comfortable? And the movement is fun as hell?!) was the catharsis I didn't realize I needed. But I'm thankful I got it.
After my neck-breaking speed session yesterday in Moe's, I felt it was time to leave. Vegas, perhaps? Indecisive, energetic, awake, I decided to drive south.
A couple hours later I arrived in Vegas. I immediately knew it was time to leave there as well. That city is overwhelming, especially without a solid plan in mind. So I drove into the desolate reaches of southwest Nevada and southeast California, blaring podcasts to pass the time. At 12:30 am, completely out of gas, I arrived in Bishop. I drove straight to Buttermilk country to sleep. The full moon lit up the Sierra.
I haven't been here in ten years. It's hard to describe what I felt when I rolled quietly into the sleeping town last night. Some strange emotional concoction. Nostalgia...circularity...guttural joy...delirium...I saw my past and present selves standing next to each other. The same person a decade apart. Same like a boulder and the cliff from which it fell. Same like two brown irises in the same face. Other poetic images.
It's good to be back.