Don’t get me wrong, I love Indian Creek. I’ve been going there for a lot of years. I love the climbing, the people – the place. But, as is the case with so many classic destinations, it’s gotten comfortable for me. Maybe too comfortable. I was immediately intrigued when Alex Honnold asked if I wanted to join him on a boating and climbing trip down the Green River, where he promised Indian Creek sandstone and splitter cracks—alongside exploration, first ascents, choss, and most notably, Daniel Woods taking his first plunge into traditional climbing.
This would have been enough, so I was especially sold when I heard Renan Ozturk was joining our party. Renan played an influential role for me in the “school of hard cracks.” I met him and his crew in the Fall of 2004 when I took my first trip out to the sandstone mecca of Indian Creek. I was fresh off a competition climbing season but competing and chasing difficult climbs had lost its allure and I was in need of something more engaging, and less comfortable.
I met Renan at the base of the cliff and was amazed at the sense of community I witnessed. Everyone was sharing cams and top ropes and there was zero sense of competition. It was as if everyone was in it together. At the end of what was a normal climbing day for Renan, I was completely bloody and haggard. Climbing cracks was very different from bouldering in the gym, but that didn’t matter. I was just excited to be in the desert. It was something new to me to be treated as part of a tribe, and I remember sitting around the fire with everyone eating a communal dinner that Renan had harvested from a Trader Joe’s dumpster.
I had stumbled into the heart of the dirt bag climbing scene and couldn’t imagine going back to the gym. This first trip to Indian Creek sparked a sense of adventure and community that I would never forget, and ultimately played an imperative role in forming who am today as a climber.
Knowing that the Green River rock would be akin to the splitter climbing in Indian Creek, I was really excited to show Daniel the desert, its climbing and the sense of camaraderie that it fosters. It would be the perfect opportunity for Alex and I to show our love for traditional climbing to Daniel just like Renan had done for me years before. Plus, Daniel’s climbing roots are similar to mine and with his sense of openness towards new and challenging experiences, I knew he would at least deeply appreciate the experience.
Daniel is one of the most impressive humans at bouldering, sport and competition climbing I have ever witnessed; it’s undeniable that he has changed the game on numerous occasions. His psyche is unparalleled and his determination is endless. Over the years we’ve known each other, we have chatted about going traditional climbing together, but just never made it happen. I knew this would be the perfect trip for him to begin his personal journey of learning how to trad climb.
Alex, Renan and I threw Daniel directly into the depths of crack climbing and he took it like a champ. Day after day he would get shut down on grades twice as easy as his normal warm-ups, but after every pitch he lowered down with an earnest smile on his face which was inspirational to us all. In only 10 days he managed to climb his first 5.10,5.11,5.12 and 5.13 trad routes!
While Daniel was having the learning experience of his climbing life Alex proved once again to be completely unstoppable. We dubbed him Alex “no crack stands a chance” Honnold because he seemed to be completely unfazed by every pitch. It didn’t matter if it was a finger crack or a massive off-width, he sent everything with ease. I spent the whole trip just trying to keep up with Alex, and at the end of 10 days I was worked.
Traveling down the river, hanging with some of my closest friends, establishing new routes and getting to see Daniel through his first adventure trad-climbing trip was inspiring, and I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off my climbing season. It was an unforgettable mission and I’m already dreaming up plans for the next adventure with the crew.