We finally made it out to the iconic Joe’s Valley in Utah. After years of being told this place was climbing at it’s finest, we were excited to see for ourselves. By the end of day one, we were already completely in love with it. The fresh smell of pine, the turquoise waters, and the stunning countryside drive where we saw more deer than people and a wide variety of nature’s colors, were awe inspiring. The first climbs we got on raised the psych levels even higher. The rock has that nice sandpaper texture that makes you feel like your feet will stick even when they are actually on nothing. This was helpful in pushing past my highest outdoor grade on slab walls. I’m pretty sure there really were no feet in some of those sections. It wasn’t just the way the rock felt and the ease of climbing though. It was also the way the routes moved. These climbs were interesting and exciting. Some had some really unique and fun features. One thing I particularly enjoyed was that many of the top outs were easy. Everyone has a different opinion, but I like my struggle to be on route cruxes and not finishing cruxes. If you disagree, there is enough variety to have your tastes covered too.
Joe’s Valley is filled with boulders, but we suspect the development will only increase as the years go forward. The spread of boulders is endless. It looks like you can pull over anywhere and jump on something. To some degree you already can. Many of the boulders are scattered close to the road. The furthest hike was nothing compared to the hikes for pretty much any local area for us. People said it was like 15 to 20 minutes of hiking. About half of this was flat and slow uphill. It was easy to fit in a whole lot of climbing in a few short days. Of course, you need the skin to keep up with it. Being in dry weather on sandpaper textured rock makes that aspect a bit of a challenge. We found our skin tearing up pretty fast. You’ll hear no complaints from me though since I sent a record amount of climbs for myself on a trip.
One thing I will recommend, particularly if you have fair skin such as I, bring or buy sunscreen. The temperature technically wasn’t hot and the air was dry, but due to the elevation the sun was strong. About an hour being in it, if you’re not used to it, you can feel like you are burning up. We were trying to keep on hoodies even when it was hot and seeking reprieve in the shadows and mini caves. It is strong sun and it feels amazing with the proper precautions. Also drink plenty of water and/or stop at Cup of Joes. Okay, Cup of Joes probably isn’t an actual dehydration prevention strategy, but it tastes amazing and the people who work there are very nice.
When I went, I was informed that they had some secret menu items. I was able to get Butter beer. I’ve never tried this before, but I have seen Harry Potter and have been intrigued. I read online that places either make it like cream soda or butterscotch. I was praying and hoping for butterscotch, and my dreams came true. It was a delicious frap style butterscotch beverage, and I completely loved every drop. They also have a board where people can mark where they come from around the world. It’s amazing to see how many people from everywhere have been there in the short time they’ve been open. The just opened this year and there are people pinned from Australia and parts of Asia on the map. I’m sure they will do really well. I will gladly support them as much as I can by buying these tasty drinks any time I’m there.
When staying at Joe’s Valley, you will find way more free camping that you know what to do with. Some of this camping is in absolutely stunning locations. However, if you are not the camping type or like us you’ve traveled far by plane and it’s just sort of complicated, you can also stay at the San Rafael Bed and Breakfast. (http://www.sanrafaelbedandbreakfast.com). The man who owns and runs this is incredibly nice. They make a great free breakfast in the morning and are super helpful. One night we made our own dinner in the kitchen because it was Easter and everything was shut down. He let us borrow all the cooking supplies we needed.
It was also really fascinating because we were staying in the same place as some big journalists from CNN. I think this is safe to say by now because they are no longer there, so you cannot stalk them. We were able to have breakfast with them and hear all about this story they were doing. This area has the most people who deny climate change. CNN was trying to find out why and we are interested to follow when the story is published. The story will be written by John D. Sutter, who writes environment protection articles. It was incredible meeting them and hearing about their lives. They travel all over to so many interesting places. We heard about Patagonia, Norway, etc. It does seem like it would be a bit tough too. They are almost never home.
While on the topic of meeting interesting and famous people, we also had the pleasure of running into Nina Williams. She seems like an awesome person and it was really cool seeing her climb. However, we are sad we didn’t get to meet her hedgehog. Maybe another day.
Back to the Bed and Breakfast for one moment, because I have to say there were also two other residents that I really enjoyed the company of. That’s the two dogs who live there. They are incredible friendly and loving. I miss them.
On one of our rest days, we went up to see the reservoir. I highly recommend this for anyone who visits the area. It is like 10 minutes from the main bouldering areas. It is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen. You can camp there and enjoy the water. People were out of on a boat when we were there, and I’m sure there will be more of this as the weather warms up. I don’t even think the pictures do justice to the coloring. It was a bright blue, green. It was just stunning. Words can’t even really describe, so I’ll show you.
So you definitely want to check that out. It was breathtaking. We tried walking along the beach for as long as we could handle the intense, piercing winds. As we walked, we saw all these little bones. I’m not sure if it’s from the water level lowering or what, but a lot of little lobster? or similar creatures lives were lost on these shores.
Our other rest day was spent at Moab, but I feel like that deserves it’s own entry. Hopefully, I will be able to follow up with that soon.
Back to the climbing. I’m going to give a little shout out to Warm Me Up Scotty being my favorite V1 ever. I don’t necessarily recommend it being your first warm up climb. I got on it seizing the opportunity to use several pads because a group of people were already on it. They said they all thought it would be an easy warm up and ended up working it for a while. It’s not super easy in terms of warming up or actually being a V1 climber. I think it just somehow worked into my style and was easy for me. I really loved it. It was fun movement that flowed well and offered just enough challenge to feel rewarding. I do have this one bias though. I do not consider myself a very strong overhanging climber, so any time a cave route is doable to me I just get so psyched on it.
While on the topic of fun V1s, I also did this one that I believe is called One Mover. I will admit that first go I really hated this climb. It looks so easy and if you are tall, it is. I hate to play that card, but sometimes it’s true. I was just barely holding on to the lip and it’s just get a high foot and over. I say it’s easy if you are taller, because the lip is so good that you can just pull yourself up to the foot with ease….as long as you have enough hand on it to pull up. After a few minutes of hating it and wishing I was taller, I figured out beta. I managed to get both hands on decent holds and pull up to the high foot. Then I felt incredibly proud and happy because I was able to overcome and make it work for me. It’s an easy climb and I’m sure most people won’t find it all that spectacular, but sometimes the full experience you have with a climb is what makes it rewarding. I did two V4s on this trip. One I flashed and the other I put in a sufferfest session on little razor crimps. While there is a lot of fun and good times to be had for soaring your way up a flash, sometimes all that struggle and work makes for a more rewarding experience. A part of me felt more proud to fight my negativity on this V1 and find success than doing many of the harder grades. Everyone is different, but there is so much to learn from climbing.
All in all, I loved each boulder that I got on. All of them felt fun. All were rewarding in some way. I find myself really missing these boulders. I certainly feel like I could spend a long stretch of time at Joe’s. I hope to return soon. I have an ongoing project after all. I’m sure I will send it with skin and energy. It was the last one of the trip and I was just too spent.
I know that Josh will have a lot of projects to come back to as well. Specifically Resident Evil. He did this climb many times, but was punting at the top. This was incredibly frustrating for him because the top isn’t really hard. He was able to do that move individually. It was more about doing it after all these other difficult moves put together. It’s hard to know you are capable of something, but for different reasons can’t pull the whole thing together. I’ve been having this experience a lot lately because I will piece together moves of a project and then be too tired to send.
This trip also came together a little bit last minute and was following a recovery period after injury for Josh. While he felt like he wasn’t doing his best this trip, I thought he was doing really well. It can be hard to push through the come back of an injury where some of your previous high point performance is lost. It can also be hard to play the mental game and just have fun when you aren’t reaching your goals. It seemed like he had a great time working on this.
I would recommend Joe’s, not that it needs my recommendation by any means. I’d love to return to Utah. Everyone we met was friendly and the sights you see are unbeatable. When driving to Joe’s, we went through a stretch of country with vibrant green hills, a long river that ran parallel to the road and a railroad track that ran parallel to the road and river, and lots of sheep. The railroad went through the hills in those cool little tunnels. The sky was brilliant blue and the whole experience was like driving through a painting. It was so pretty it didn’t even feel real. How often can you say that driving is a vacation worthy experience all on it’s own, but that drive was perfect. Salt Lake City on the other hand….all those lanes and still traffic! Who does that mess every day?
We look forward to continuing our climbing adventures. I strive every day to be more like the epic climber this little guy is: