We were a little intimidated before arriving at Indian Creek. We had two major concerns. One, did we have enough gear to climb anything? And two, could we climb anything at all? Usually on our multi-pitch trad climbs we rarely climb anything harder than 5.9, and flipping through the guidebook there was very little in that grade range.
Thankfully the style of climbing at Indian Creek is about as far removed from trad climbing as you can get while still placing your own protection. Our normal trad outings are usually comprised of many of the following: sketchy gear placements, runout sections, route-finding, problem solving, uncertainty, and fear. Pretty much all of these issues are removed at the Creek. Climbing here is like sport climbing on gear. In some ways it's even easier than sport climbing, as you pretty much know before you start exactly what moves you need to do, and often times it will only be one or two different moves repeated from the ground to the chains.
Here is our friend Chelsea leading Generic Crack 5.10-, 120 feet of pretty much nothing but hand jamming.
You will rarely encounter a crux. Cleanly sending a route is more about endurance than figuring out any crazy beta or getting stronger. Gear placement is for the most part bomber and continuous (which also means you can easily hangdog your way up). Cams literally slide into the cracks. There is little need for slings. The documented grades are more an indicator of the size of the crack than anything else, and jamming cracks is so dependant on the size of your hands that the grades lose much of their traditional meaning.
Here is Chelsea leading Battle of the Bulge 5.11, 70 feet of thin hands, which can be climbed as a crack climb (the way she did it) or by lie backing the entire thing (which is how we did it). It's pretty amazing that an entire route can be climbed with such wildly differnt techniques.
As you can imagine, one problem with having such awesome uniform cracks is having enough gear to climb them. Some climbs require upwards of 8 of the same sized cam. Thankfully not all of the cracks are so uniform, and thanks to our good friend Karl back home, we had a full triple set of cams, and even quadruples of a few of the smaller ones. Although our rack was inadequate for many of the long uniform cracks, we had no trouble finding routes we could climb on our own.
Here I am leading Chocolate Corner 5.9.
And here is Kristal preparing to rap off of The Warm-Up 5.9.
As you can also imagine, not everyone visiting the Creek has an enormous rack of gear, so it is quite easy to join other parties on routes and/or share gear. We conveniently ran into Chelsea and Laura on our first day there. We had first met them bouldering in Joe's Valley and we had a great time hanging out with them again for a few days. Not to mention Chelsea is a crack climbing master, and she graciously led some awesome climbs so we could top rope them. We had the entire Blue Gramma wall to ourselves one day along with their friends Max and Dan.
One day we ran into a group getting ready to climb the impressive offwidth The Big Baby 5.11.
Kristal offered them some of our big gear to use, which the gladly accepted, and they later lent us some smaller cams so that we could jump on the nearby Cave Route 5.10+. Here I am about two thirds of the way up.
And if you look real close you can see Kristal in the next photo near the top of the cave preparing to rappel off.
And here she is on her way down.
Many of the areas at Indian Creek have a 'sport crag' type feel to them, with people setting top ropes and working projects. It actually felt a bit strange after all the multi pitch climbs we've been doing lately. There are multi pitch routes up many of the walls, but most of the traffic they get is only on the first pitch. There are some impressive towers too, which we unfortunately did not get a chance to climb. We will just have to come back.