Indian Creek

One of the areas described in Bjornstad’s guidebook was an obscure expanse of valleys called Indian Creek. Here was a location where the quality of the climbs—pure, vertical cracks splitting otherwise holdless cliffs—was so great, so perfect, that climbers began to forget about summits and instead began enjoying climbing the cracks just for fun.

Ed Webster and Steve Hong, inspired by their Moses ascent and with a fistful of Friends, were drawn to this magical place. But even earlier, Jimmy Dunn was perhaps the first to try leading Indian Creek splitters in the mid-‘70s, using just Hexentrics and nuts. These earliest leads were famously runout and dangerous. In 1976 came a lead that would change the desert: Earl Wiggins led the most parallel-sided, perfect hand-crack ever seen—Supercrack of the Desert, or Supercrack for short. Ed Webster and Stuart Green took photos of this historic ascent. Ed Webster, Earl Wiggins, Bryan Becker, and Jimmy Dunn all agreed that this near-perfect crack was “a climb worth dying for,” a distinct possibility given the way that Hexentrics lodged so poorly in parallel-sided cracks. It was Wiggins who stepped up and tied in. The tragic suicide of Wiggins, 15 years later, only enhanced the legendary allure of this lead.

Development of Indian Creek cracks would have been slow and halting—these early leads were basically unprotected and very bold—but for a revolutionary idea in climbing protection: spring-loaded camming devices that lodged securely in parallel-side cracks.

The first of these, Friends, appeared in late 1978. Friends, virtually overnight, made Indian Creek cracks safe and fun. Summits were out; splitters were IN!

Within a few years desert climbing had shifted gears. Inspired by the exploits of Steve Hong, Charlie Fowler, Ed Webster, Earl Wiggins, increasing numbers of lycra-wearing climbers were meeting in Indian Creek, exploring new cliffs and new boundaries of crack-climbing difficulty. The future was clean, free, fun, safe, and best of all, given the hundreds of miles of exposed Wingate cliffs around the desert, limitless.