Moab 2001
Annual trip to Moab, May 2-6, 2001.
FeedbackBy Preston Hunt, 02 May 2001



Last week, I joined Tim on his annual trek to the mountain biking/rock climbing mecca known as Moab, Utah. The agenda for this year's trip was unchanged from previous years: mountain biking in the morning, rock climbing in the afternoons, repeat for each day of trip. After many trips to this exact destination (Tim has been over 10 times), all of the variables and kinks had been ironed out ... or so we thought.

But before we get to that, first allow me to introduce this year's Moabers: From Portland, Preston, Tim, Greg, Kim, Dorothy, Ben, Matt, Shari, Rich, and Hillary. From Seattle, Meg, Michael, Katie, Nina, and Acy. From Phoenix, Dan. From Malibu, Steve. From Missoula, Lauren. From Berkeley, Alison. From Long Island, Mark. From Vail, Mike. (If I left you off -- sorry!)

Only 5 inches of precipitation falls in Moab annually, and most, if not all, of that 5 inches fell during our stay. On Wednesday, after a 6am flight and a relatively easy 4 hour drive from SLC, Moab welcomed us with gray skies and drizzly rain... the exact weather conditions we had just left in Portland. Nobody had packed much in the way of warm weather gear, so many of us contributed to the local economy and purchased the requisite clothing.

We had planned on climbing Wednesday afternoon, but that was clearly out. So I went to Arches National Park with Ben, Alison, Lauren, Dorothy, and Matt. We eventually ended up hoofing the 1.5 miles to Delicate Arch (see pics). Upon returning to the hotel, everyone went their separate ways for dinner (my way took me to Fat City for some tri-tip).

Thursday morning brought more rain, low group morale, and a late start. After picking up our bikes at Poison Spider (I got a brand spanking new Gary Fischer Sugar 3, aptly christened "Sugar Daddy"), Mark, Tim, and I headed out to bike the full loop at Slickrock (aka Interval Training Hell due to its brutally steep heart-pumper uphill sections followed by brake clenching downhill sections). The rock was much drier and much less slippery than I had expected.

Things were going great (no injuries, hardly anybody out there) until about two-thirds of the way through the trail, when the ominous gray clouds that had been tailing us all morning decided to mount their attack. Biting wind turned to cold rain and then to sleet/snow, which in turn drove us to seek cover underneath what few scattered trees exist in the high desert. It was pretty miserable, but it could have been worse: On the way to our tree sanctuary, we passed a hapless group of neophyte bikers who were shivering in their cotton t-shirts and shorts underneath a large rock flake.

The cool thing about storms in Utah is that they are violent but short. After about 30 minutes, the storm moved along on its path of destruction and left us basking in a wonderful explosion of warmth and sunlight. Countless waterfalls sprang to life right before our eyes, borne from the flash floods caused by the desert soil's inability to absorb water. The slickrock seemed to dry before our very eyes as well, as the low humidity air sucked the water out of the ground. I quickly forgot the misery of moments prior and we continued on for one of the most enjoyable rides of the trip.

After the ride, we docked our bikes at the hotel, cleaned up, and then headed to the Slickrock Cafe, where we devoured a large, delicious, and expensive lunch. We then joined up with the rest of the crowd, already at Wall Street, for some climbing.

The first day of any climbing trip is usually spent getting acclimated to the rock and the confidence level of the group, and this trip was no exception. We generally tooled around looking at problems and producing mutterings such as, "Yeah, I think I could lead that one", or "You should lead that one", until somebody finally breaks down, dons their shoes and gear, and makes a go at one of the climbs. We ended up doing some classics from years past -- the fun, frictiony 10a slab (led by Acy), the infamous Zack Sickle Climb (10a R, Ben), and some very jaggedy and non-confidence inspiring 8/8+ (Lauren, Heather, me). (My memory is very bad on these climb names, if you know them, let me know!)

Friday, Mark, Tim, Greg, Mike, and I rode Flat Pass, which definitely does not reflect its name. We had barely started the ride when we deadended into a river too deep to bike across. Off came the socks and shoes so that we could fjord the frigid glacier-fed river. Brrrrrr. The rest of the ride was fine; every now and then a few drops of rain would fall, but the downpour never came. We encountered some offroaders taking their trucks up things that I didn't think it was possible to get a vehicle up... and indeed, a little bit later, we saw one of the trucks pulled off to the side with a broken drive shaft (or some hard-to-fix drivetrain part).

We grabbed a great lunch at the Moab Diner to recharge, and then headed straight to Wall Street for an incredible afternoon of climbing. Tim led (I seconded) the 2-pitch trad climb (Top Forty, 5.8), which shared a set of anchors with Skeletonic (5.11+). I did my first trad lead, 30 Seconds Over Potash, a 5.8+ crack/dihedral that was easy to protect, but relentless in pace and difficulty; it left me physically and mentally exhausted. After that, I top roped Nervous in Suburbia (10a) to the amusement and clapping of some random spectators, after which most of us took turns on the 11+ that we had set up earlier. I actually made it up with only small (avoidable) fall, which makes me thing the problem is overrated.

Saturday, a bunch of us piled into the A-Team van for a shuttle up to the top of Porcupine Ridge. This remains one of my favorite rides in Moab... it has it all: high elevation gain/loss, technical downhill for all skill levels, great vistas, and most importantly... tons of straight downhill single track. Woo hoo! I think this excerpt says it best: Beginning up Sand Flats Road and ending 3-4 hours later near the brink of the Colorado River, the Porc Rim skirts deep canyons and heart numbing overlooks along a mischievious spin of rocky uphill climbs, jarring descents, slickrock plateaus, single track glides and cliff-edged vistas in a 14.4 mile long sampler of what the high desert does best.

I made it back to town much quicker than I had planned (under 3 hours start-to-finish), wolfed down some Arby's, and then we set out for the Ice Cream Parlor climbing area, in hopes of meeting up with a group of people who had left earlier for it. We met up with the earlier group, found out that Michael was AWOL, and Tim and Mark set out on a search and rescue mission. Michael was soon located to the great relief of everybody... so we were all set to resume our trek in search of climbing, until, in the confusion, the keys got locked in the van.

So there we were, locked out of our car in the desert..... aayyiieeee! Most of the group headed back to get a tow-truck/locksmith, while the rest of us stayed there and starting exploiting security weaknesses in the van in an attempt to get in. I thought it was hopeless, but Ben, Alison, Lauren and Mark proved me wrong by actually getting one of the side windows open in a Promethean feat, and then using a Leatherman to pop open the driver's side lock. We were back in business!

By the time we got to the Ice Cream Parlor, I was actually feeling a little out of it, so I sat back and watched the others scamper up the rock, which is substantially different from that over at Wall Street - much more solid, frictiony, and less gritty. I top roped a climb, but got the most enjoyment out of watching Mark and Party Steve try their hands at climbing.

Along with Sunday morning came our final day in Moab. Truth be told, I was starting to tire of the Best Western complimentary breakfast and its concomitant annoying muzak. I had decided not to rent a bike for only a half day, so we headed back to Wall Street to knock off a few quick climbs before our 1pm departure from Moab. Lauren and Alison worked some trad problems, and Tim scampered up Bad Moki Roof (5.9 trad), a very cool highly overhung cave-type crack climb (see pics). I volunteered to second and clean this route, and I turned out to be the last person to climb it (we decidede not to TR this problem for everyone due to the excessive rope friction).

And the last climb of the trip: "Napping with the Alien" (11c). A few of us had seen some random idiot flailing around on this exact climb the day before, and sure enough, up on the fourth bolt, we could see a bail biner that he had left because he couldn't finish it. Now it was our turn: Ben did a terrifying lead up the first 4 bolts (to the bail biner), at which point we decided that the random idiot from yesterday maybe wasn't such a moron after all. I tried to finish it, got thoroughly spanked, and ended up using Dan's clip stick to snag the remaining bolts and finish the problem. Ben and I both have vowed to redpoint this problem on next year's trip.

That's it. We had the usual safe trip back to SLC in the party van, and the requisite group fast food dinner in the airport food court before boarding our separate flights. I am already looking forward to next year's trip!

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