Jessica Olson is making her way up to Skagway, Alaska to work as a climbing and hiking guide. On the way, she stopped by Indian Creek with her sights set on seemingly endless hand cracks.
Indian Creek is a mystical place that brings something special in the ways of inspiration for every climber that step into the fields, looking up at the walls towering above. The stillness of the surroundings is so pure without any type of pollution from the outside world. A place with no service, forcing you to make a real connection with the people you come into contact with and the adventures you seek out. The rock holds so much more than just climbs, they hold stories of times past, decorated with petroglyphs and chalk.
I learned a lot about myself in the two weeks I spent in this magical place. I learned about my weaknesses and was confronted by them both on and off the wall having to communicate my belayer and myself in trying to work things out. I learned about my strengths, overcoming limiting thoughts that flooded my brain not quite allowing me to push myself to the hardest potential. I learned about the land through some of the history of its original inhabitants. Most importantly, I started letting go, of expectations, of wants and desires, being able to feel free to do what was necessary to make the most out of every moment through every day.
The climbing was pretty spectacular too. Can’t forget about that part.
Every day was a new adventure seeking out new walls with different classic lines or climbs that had the perfect size crack that I knew my hands would be overjoyed to squeeze into. In the first week, we explored Donnelly Wall, Cat Wall, Super Crack Buttress, and Scarface. After taking a break for the weekend in Moab to re-up on supplies and check out the mountain biking scene, I headed back to the holy land to explore Reservoir Wall, Climb Ancient Art, Second Meat Wall then going back to Super Crack Buttress and Scarface for round two.
In the first week, I worked a lot on my understanding for what the creek had to offer. It felt like I was diving into the deep end without knowing what else might be swimming below. I was greatly humbled by the lines that seemed to go on forever, truly putting all that endurance training I have been working on to the test! The cracks differed in sizes forcing me to have to use fist jams, finger locks and being overwhelmed with happiness when I found those perfect hand crack splitters.
Towards the end of my stay, I felt as if the rock spoke to me in a different tone, allowing me to understand what the climbs were putting out allowing me to receive the information efficiently enough to really push the grades.
When I returned to Super Crack Buttress, I had two intentions set out for my day. Firstly I wanted to give the best attempt I could at Coyne Crack, a beautiful straight line from tight fingers that opened up into an amazing splitter #1 hand crack, which is my perfect size hands. Second, I had to get the Incredible Hand Crack clean. I had taken at the crux the previous go and knew I wouldn’t be happy unless I went back for a redemption burn.
My first go at Coyne Crack was rough, I fell a few times at the start of the climb, getting the chance to make sure all my placements were bomber. Once I worked through the initial crux, it opens to those perfect hands where I felt as if I was swimming through. Hand over hand, cranking with each pull placing my next move at my max span, being as efficient as I could with my movement. The last ten feet or so with a smile grinning from ear to ear, the surrounding rock on either side of the rock turns into a beautifully patterned rock filled with huecos giving a much-deserved rest for your feet.
We spent a good amount of time on the far right side of the wall so when we made our way to the Incredible Hand Crack, there was a line of climbers determined to send just as I had set my intention to do so. I sat at the base with Sarah, her boyfriend Brad, and our friend Dodge. We chatted with the 3 other guys getting the stoke levels high as each gave their attempts.
Each one gave it their all but everyone took at least one fall, so when I was put on the sharp end, the pressure was on.
I felt calm and collected and knew this had to be done, there was no other way, I had to send. After safety checks, I made my way up past the first ledge and underneath the overhanging bulge that encompasses the crux of the climb. It moves from a hand sized crack, widening up to a fist (which is harder and less secure than a hand jam – for me) at its steepest part. I knew the beta that hadn’t worked for me the previous time and had an idea for how the sequence would play out. I gave it one attempt and felt my hands slipping, this wasn’t right. I was able to regain my composure and move back down finding a rest to reevaluate how to go about figuring out the puzzle. Then I was ready. I went for it, got my right hand as high up as I could before the widening section, crossing my left hand over my body and around the bulge, sinking it into the crack to pull my body up and into the top section of the climb. It wasn’t over yet. I still had to maintain composure, ensure myself my endurance could hold on and push to the chains. Focusing on my breath, I worked up the climb, making sure that each placement was bomber, each hand, and foot sunk as if it were part of the wall. I did it. I made it up and yelled with victory, setting up the anchor to lower back down and do my victory dance.
I danced a lot the past few weeks, I laughed a good amount too. I felt more alive than I have in a long time and most of all I had a pretty damn good time. This will not be my last time here, and I’m happy to get my first notch on my belt so that now, every time I come back, I know what to expect, I understand what I am up against and I will be ready to give it my all my next go around. Climbing has opened up such a big door for me, giving me the inspiration to create not just a hobby but a lifestyle that I can continue to thrive from in more ways than I could have ever imagined. It’s an unspoken language of happiness and understanding, of people coming together from different backgrounds and experiences, different strengths and weaknesses, but being together for that same beautiful reason enjoying each moment as now. Whether you’re new to the sport, an expert through the years of experience or just reading this out of curiosity, I hope that you find that passion that fuels you to do your best, in finding balance, through the pure happiness, in being you.
• This article was written by lady crusher/ Arêt ambassador Jessica Olson who is making her way up to Skagway, Alaska to work as a climbing and hiking guide. •
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