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Time Stands Still at Indian Creek Canyon

Here's a short essay that I wrote In September 2003 about Indian Creek Canyon for an Indian Creek climbing guidebook that Sharpend Books published. I was digging through some files this afternoon, found it, and thought it was worth another read.

I shot the two photographs of the first ascent of Supercrack in early November 1976. These are scanned color prints made from scans from the original Kodachrome transparencies that are signed by some of my friends that were at the Creek on that momentous day--Ed Webster, Bryan Becker, Jimmie Dunn, and me, as well as Chris Alstrin who made the film Luxury Liner about Supercrack in 2008.

I have a limited number of signed copies of the photos for sale. For more info and pricing, send me a note at

Here is the essay:

Indian Creek. To me, there has always been magic in that name. That sinuous canyon, lined with soaring walls of ruddy Wingate sandstone, is a special place. A place not just for climbing adventures, but a place to connect with the elemental earth and with the ancient ones who once hid in aeries tucked into the cliffs and scribed their art on desert varnished panels.

The first time I saw Indian Creek was in late November 1971. Jim Dunn, Billy Westbay, and I drove down the remote canyon in my white VW bug, en route to an early ascent of North Sixshooter Peak. That sunny first afternoon we stopped and scrambled up to the base of several buttresses. The most prominent one towered above the road and cattle guard. We walked along the cliff-base until we reached the most perfect crack we had ever seen. We dubbed it “The Supercrack” and longed to sink our hands into its perfection. But neither bong pitons nor our largest Colorado nuts, a new passive technology that lessened rock damage, could safely protect the parallel-sided slit.

In October, five years and many trips later to Indian Creek and our favorite campsite at Fringe of Death Canyon, I returned to Supercrack. Earl Wiggins, his wife Cheryl, and dog O’Thing, and I had caravanned over from Colorado, while Jim had driven west from New Hampshire towing Ed Webster and Bryan Becker. The following day Earl and Jim had a date with Supercrack.

I was to photograph and film the ascent. But Jim elected not to climb, the “vibes weren‘t right,” so Earl, belayed by Webster, jammed his way up the perfect crack toward a vault of azure sky. I recorded it all for posterity on Kodachrome, Super 8 film, and audiotapes. In my mind, that day was the start of modern crack climbing at Indian Creek—the best crack area in the world.

Over the years I’ve continued to sojourn to Indian Creek, but somewhere along the way I found there were just too many folks there. The cracks were getting worn on the edges and all chalked up. Trails crisscrossed the talus slopes. Toilet tissue flowers sprouted on clumps of sagebrush. Dogs ran everywhere with abandon. People came to climb, but many didn’t care enough about the place, its beauty, and its uniqueness.

That seems to be changing, for the better. So now I come to Indian Creek in the off-season when few other climbers are about. The resolute cliffs still wall the canyon’s sides. The fractured cracks still cleave the sculptured sandstone. The ravens still fly on errands through the cottonwoods. The rock and sandy soil still smells dry and dusty under the hot sun. Times change, yes. But time also stands still. At Indian Creek.

Photograph captions:

Left photo: Earl Wiggins jams the first section of the perfect crack on a cloudless November day in 1976. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

Right Photo: Earl Wiggins belays Ed Webster on the first pitch of Supercrack in November 1976. Photograph © Stewart M. Green


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