Morning in the Desert

35 degrees and windy don’t feel outrageous, until you brush snow off some rock to start climbing.  For a day ice climbing, this could be precariously warm, not so much for the splitters of Indian Creek. 
Last night’s wind blew one of the group’s tents over, much to the dismay of the occupant.  I had a reasonable night, listening to intermittent rain and snow through the night.  I did have to restake my fly at one point and I diligently waited for as long as my need to pee could hold out – how does the sayng go? “two birds with one frigid trip outside the sleeping bag.” Something like that. 
Over breakfast, racks are assembled by size, grouping gear brought in to useful sets for the unnaturally parallel cracks we would be assaulting.  The investment represented by the pile of cams is enough to buy an SUV.  At $60 to $120 each, a group of college kids and recent grads (myself excluded, of course) putting together 3 sets of 5-6 cams for each size between .1 Black Diamond x4’s through 6’s, is downright impressive.  I can’t help but be awed by the spectacle – this amount of gear puts most gear shops to shame.
We pack up and head east down the dirt road, to a parking lot that serves a group of crags.  The group has split into groups by familiarity and skill level and I get a good natured ribbing from Harrison for taking so long messing with my camera. I’m climbing with him, his girlfriend Heidi, and a couple, Avi and Mark.  I’ve climbed with Heidi previously, in Kentucky and North Carolina.  From the parking lot, Harrison points out some of the most iconic routes, we head towards Supercrack, a striking, ultra classic, 5.10 hand crack which varies in width by at most an inch over its 105 ft height. We drop the first tracks in the night’s snow accumulation, so we will actually be able to hop on the climb.  At other times of the year, there is almost certain to be a line of parties waiting on this climb.  Sure enough, even on a frigid November morning, another group arrives a few minutes behind us looking to get on Supercrack.
I’m most struck by the animated miming as Blake, the main organizer of the group, who has been coming here for Thanksgiving for the past 5 years, walks through various examples of finger locks, fist jams and timing.  “it’s all about the rhythm.  It really clicked for me on one climb, the first time I was here. Just find the right sequence and you will cruise.  It is a different challenge, it’s entirely mental.  The line between what you can do and what you can’t is tiny,” he tells me.  “The jams don’t change and you have to silence the voice in your head that’s telling you you’re pumped. You aren’t.  The next jam is the same as the last, just as solid,  you just have to win the mental game.”  He is easily the best climber in the troupe and owner of a disproportionate percentage of the gear in this morning’s pile.