Friday, November 11, 2011

Ibex & Joe's Valley, Utah

I took a trip to Utah for the first time in late October and stayed there until early November. The objective was to do some bouldering in Ibex, Joe's Valley, and Triassic. We spent 1 day at Ibex and about 7 days at Joe's Valley. We never made it to Triassic, mostly because there was so much to do at Joe's and also because our trip was cut short due to the snow and cold weather. Towards the end of the trip, the daily high was just above freezing and the lows were in the teens.
Welcome to Utah.
Here's some beta and some of my experiences in these climbing areas:

Ibex
We left for Ibex from the Bay Area around 7AM (PDT) on Oct. 24th and arrived there around 7PM (MDT). It took about 11 hours to get there plus another hour from the time zone change. Ibex is literally in the middle of no where right off the 50. So make sure you have enough food/water to survive and fill up gas either in Delta (if coming from the east) or at the Border Inn (if coming from the west). 
Me staying warm in Ibex.
Ibex is indeed an eerie and unique climbing destination. The rock is quartzite and is quite frictionless. The holds may look rather positive and they may feel good when you first touch it, but it's a different story when you try to pull and climb on it. Not to say that it's a bad thing, but it's definitely different. The whole scene there is different. It reminded me of Death Valley in a way. We only saw 2 other cars the entire time we were there and did not encounter any other climbers.
The Lake Bed in Ibex.
The Ibex Crags is probably the closest and most popular bouldering area there. You will have to drive across a dried lake bed to access this area. A high clearance vehicle and 4WD may be helpful if the lake bed is wet (try to avoid the wet areas). Finding your way out of the lake bed will be difficult, so try to remember where you came from. You can also camp anywhere on the lake bed, but it may be very windy. We camped at Topus Mountain for our first night where there is a little more shelter and then on the lake bed for our second night. And by camp, I mean sleep in my car, so the wind didn't really affect us.

As it was pretty windy and cold, we weren't able to do very much climbing. I only climbed on the Topus boulder and Red Monster boulder, which had some really good problems on it. 25 Foot Ronald, Topus Arete, and Ju were the only problems I managed to do and are all worth doing in my opinion.
Jacquelyn on 25 Food Ronald (V0) on the Topus Boulder.
Jacquelyn on Topus Arete (V5).
Way Cows (left) and Red Monster (right) Boulders.
After getting fed up with the wind and cold, we finally left Ibex on Wednesday morning, Oct. 26th, and headed to Joe's Valley. We went from cold to colder, but at least Joe's wasn't windy, which made all the difference!

Joe's Valley
I'm not sure exactly how long it took to get from Ibex to Joe's Valley, but I think it was around 3-4 hours. There are many small towns driving through the 50, which slows you down quite a bit, so I'm not sure if this would be the preferred approach from the Bay Area. Taking the 80 through Salt Lake City may be much faster as the speed limit is 75 most of the way. It only took us 13 hours of driving time to get home via the 80 minus 1 hour due to the time change. 

So to make things easier, I'll just separate my experiences into essential sections.

Camping
The Right Fork, Left Fork, and New Joe's are the three main bouldering areas in Joe's Valley. There is no camping at New Joe's, but you can pretty much camp anywhere along the Right and Left Forks. The camping "spots" are all mostly just dirt pullouts by the bouldering areas. Some are better than others and the further up the road you drive, the more spots you will find. We camped on the Right Fork by the UMWA Boulders. There is a porta potty at both the Left and Right fork.
Joe's Valley Area Overview.
Food, Water, Fuel, etc
For the most part, we brought with us plenty of food, so we didn't need to buy anything. Although if you do need anything, the Food Ranch in Orangeville, about 8 miles from the Forks, will have everything you need plus more, except maybe good beer. It is a fairly large grocery store and prices are quite reasonable if not cheap compared to the Bay Area. They have a deli, which serves pretty good chicken strips as well as donuts to fuel you in the mornings. There is even an upstairs dining area, which we used to hang out with other climbers. 

Gas was $3.54 for regular (vs. ~$3.80 in the Bay Area). As for drinking water, it seemed like buying soda (99 cents for 1.5L) was cheaper than buying water there, but there is a spigot by the propane refill tank you can use to refill your water jugs. Bathrooms are by the left side of the building.

I was told there was another grocery store in Castledale (right next to Orangeville) with cheaper prices, but less accommodating to climbers. The liquor store is also there if you wanted something with more than 3.5% alcohol in it. Otherwise, Price (30 miles away) will have everything else you may want, but I didn't go there, so can't tell you much about it.

Showers
You can take showers and even go for a swim at the Emery County Aquatic Center in Castledale for $4. Just pay attention to their hours and schedule. They open at noon on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays. The facility looks newly built and is quite nice.

Guidebooks
Utah Bouldering (aka White Book) by Chris Grijalva, Noah Bigwood, Dave Pegg. Published in 2003.
A Bouldering Guide to Utah (aka Black Book) by Jeff Baldwin, Mike Beck, and Marc Russo. Published in 2003.
An Insightful Guide to Joe's Valley Bouldering (aka New Book) by Issac Caldiero. Published in 2011.

In my opinion, the white book is better than the black book, but neither are very good by themselves. Together, they are pretty good. If you only wanted one book, the new book is probably the way to go. Although I wouldn't take some of the descriptions for the problems too seriously in the new book. For instance, it may tell you to sit start this problem, but it is literally impossible to sit start it unless you stack 4 pads beneath you. Another example is with the problem Low Tide along the Left Fork, it will tell you to climb left, but really, you're supposed to climb right.

That being said. I think the black book is out of print, so it will be hard to find. The white book and new book can be ordered online. The new book is also sold at the Food Ranch for $24.95. 

Bouldering
The climbing here is just amazing. The sandstone is so well featured, it was almost like gym climbing. There is even an article titled "Seven Reasons Why Joe's Valley is Better than Hueco" in Climbing Magazine, issue 250, August 2006. I never read the article or been to Heuco, but Joe's is certainly a premier climbing destination. If you have the time, I would definitely try to spend a few weeks here.
Me on Kill By Numbers (V5) along the Left Fork in Joe's Valley.
As I mentioned earlier, the three main areas for bouldering are the Right Fork, Left Fork, and New Joe's. Most of the bouldering areas along the Forks will require you to drive from one area to another, but the approaches are normally only a few minutes long. New Joe's requires you to park in one spot and then hike to all the different areas. It also has the largest concentration of problems within the same area. The approach to New Joe's as stated in the old guidebooks is now closed and the new approach is listed in the new guidebook, which is to drive ~ 4.1 miles north on 57 and park at the large pullout on the right. Hike on the obvious trail for about 10 minutes passing an old rusted car, following many cairns, and then you will eventually arrive at the Bad Genes boulder.
This was a typical approach on the Left Fork in Joe's Valley.
I think I spent about an equal amount of time at each area. New Joe's is better for the cold days as it gets the sun all day. The Left and Right forks are both in a canyon and doesn't get the sun for very long. 

As for problems to get on, Mountain Project has a pretty good list of classics to start off with. Most of the problems that I did were all good in my opinion. My favorites are probably The Angler, They Call Him Jordan, Planet of the Apes, Chips, and G2-07
Jacquelyn on The Angler (V2) along the Left Fork in Joe's Valley.
Me on I'd Rather Be Climbing Her (V6) in New Joe's.
Me on They Call Him Jordan (V7/V8) along the Left Fork in Joe's Valley.
Rest Days
Ha, good luck with this one! It was so hard for me (and everyone else that I met there) to take a rest day at Joe's Valley. The featured sandstone here was so friendly on my skin, I was able to climb for 7 days straight! That was until I got on Scary Monsters (V6) and decided to go all out on that sharp and painful right hand crimp. Unfortunately I fell at the top out and wasn't able to do the problem, but I probably could have kept climbing every day if I never got on this problem.

It will surely be hard to want to take a rest day here. The climbing is so good and due to the fact that there is absolutely nothing else you can do to entertain yourself with, you will likely want to keep climbing even if you can't! Now that I think of it, I should have forced myself to rest, as it became apparent towards the end that the longer I stayed there, the weaker I became.
Some Other Useful Information
GPS Coordinates for the boulderings areas can be found here: http://www.emerycounty.com/travel/bouldering.html

WiFi: The library on Main Street in Orangeville has WiFi.

Cell Service: There is excellent cell service in Orangeville with 3G connections for both AT&T and Verizon (not sure about other providers). I was able to get a (weak) signal right at the junction to the Left & Right Forks with my Verizon phone. Otherwise, there is no service at the Forks. There is a good signal at New Joe's.

And finally, here's some bouldering videos I took in Utah:

Ibex
Joe's Valley

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