o.k., bear with me on this one - I know that post is going to sound crazy to a lot of people! I know I'm going to get a lot of incredulous looks from this title from people who've visited one or the other, or even know what the climbing is like at either location.
Firstly, a primer. For those who don't know of either (especially non-climbers), on paper both locations are well-known in climbing circles but of very different character.
Indian Creek, about 40 minutes south-west of Moab, is a crack-climbing mecca. Basically it's giant cliffs of orange-red sandstone with perfect splitter cracks running up it. There's little or no friction on the front of the cliff, and with no edges, it means you have to climb using only the crack for your hands and feet. A very specific style exists and it's well known that anyone who visits always performs terribly until they learn how to do it.
Rifle, on the other hand, is based in Rifle State Park about 12 miles outside of the town of Rifle. It's narrow gorge, 1.5 miles long and the rock is limestone. But it's blocky and not very pockety like the limestone that most people know of in Europe.
Rifle has a very mixed reputation and quite a few people I know and have met don't like the place.
No easy climbs (about 40 of the 300-odd are 5.10/6a and less).
Lots of ego among the climbers.
And some of it is most likely true (we visited on weekdays only to avoid the crowds). The grades do feel stiff at first and there's definite evidence of the rock getting polished. But.......
On one of my first days in Rifle about two weeks ago, we met one of the local climbers who quite definitively stated that anyone who doesn't like the place, just needs to spend more time there to get used to the place. Honestly, he was pretty blunt about it and it could be so easy to take offense. But you know what, he had a really good point. Just like Indian Creek, where for the first few days you feel like an absolute beginner climber, it's pretty similar in Rifle. My first two days in Indian Creek, I couldn't even climb a 6a/5.10/E1-ish clean, it just kicked my ass and I had to just suffer it through and gain knowledge of how to climb splitter cracks. It wasn't fun, but by the end of it, I was starting to see some sort of light about what you're meant to actually do (managed to second 2 5.11's clean).
And in Rifle, it's a similar experience. Your first few days (at least), it's hard. The routes are long, really physical and really intense (every move feels as hard as the other), and lots of the moves are amazing but tricky and not just pulling on a hold, but involving knee-bars and squeezes. It's hard going and takes a few days to get used to. Sound familiar?
Just like Indian Creek, which takes time to get used to, it's no different for Rifle..
If you're struggling on something, it usually means you need to put more time and effort in. For me, that goes at Indian Creek (another post on that soon).
What do others think?
1: Pepper on Scarface (5.11), Indian Creek, Utah. Notice the lack of holds either side of the cracks!
2: Naomi on Feline (5.11), Rifle, Colorado. Notice the sheer number of blocky edges on the whole cliff.....