Freeze Creek: Emigration Canyon
Topping last week’s horrid routes was going to be a challenge. With Mick off backpacking in the Winds and Romney having been spoilt by the aesthetics of Ruth Lake (“I think I’d prefer to climb at good areas from now on”), I was up against what to do this week since I still wanted to get the dogs out, meaning that I’d leave the boys up in LCC to their offwidths without me.
Returing to the trusty James Garrett collection on mountainproject, I found a little crag up in Emigration that I felt might be the ticket. Most of the routes were given a star, but one star on MP equals no stars in any guide. Based on descriptions such as, “You gotta love this place for other reasons than the rock!”, I felt that I’d found our crag. Now I just needed a partner.
My first call was fruitful. Erica was coming off a broken leg and jonzing to get on any rock. So when I mentioned Freeze Creek she didn’t even balk. We left with the idea of doing the Freeze Creek routes and checking out the sandstone on the adjacent peak as well, but as it was NST, things would find a way to turn ugly.
Someone had erected a fence along the trail. Since there was a Mcmansion in sight, we figured it was there yard and followed a faint trail along the outside of the fence up into the wrong canyon. We didn’t know it was the wrong canyon until we hit the top. Then, instead of heading back down and looking for the right trail, we followed a 4wd road and then a series of goat trails onto the peak above. I figured this would get us to the sandstone routes first, where we would find the proper trail back down to the crag. Always up for a little exploration, I didn’t really mind walking a bit out of our way–at least that was my thought at the time. Erica was also game, since it could “make up for all the hiking I haven’t been able to do.”
At the summit, which probably took close to an hour to reach, I realized my error. The sandstone routes were far off on another ridgeline. Our intended crag was a thousand or so feet below us, with nothing resembling a trail. Just a drainage choked full of vegetation. Down we went.
Though our legs got a little scraped up (hamburger oomes to mind), the descent went without incident. The dogs loved it and we found out where the local deer slept, happening upon a series of flattened out hollows, hidden in the brush on the steep hillside. After 1:45, we finished the 15 minute approach to the crag. NST wasn’t about to disappoint.
Erica’s first comment was, “this is like climbing in New Jersey.” The Garden State’s dearth of rock meant that bad approaches through private land to crags that could fit into a large garage were the norm. Welcome to Freeze Creek.
I ran up the hill looking for a larger crag since Erica was convinced that we were at the wrong place. She kept looking at the description stating 40′. “Maybe if you count from here,” she said, looking at where the rope bag was situated, about 15′ from the base of our first route.
The warm-up was bad, but perhaps better than it looked. Still, trusting tiny coral-like rugosities, sorting through holds to find ones that wouldn’t move, and gardening were ever-present techniques over its 20 or so odd feet of climbing.
Since it shared anchors with another route, we opted to TR. This route was worse. Not horrible, just bad. The bolts placements were very strange, and the jug to clip the second bolt, from where you’d hit the ground, fell off when I dabbed some chalk on it. Of course, you could hit the ground from the anchors and limping back to the car would probably be your penance, so it wasn’t exactly terrifying.
The left climb–the one with the description written above–was actually the best. It had good climbing until the very top, where all of the limestone jugs were a mess. An oddity was a bolted on plastic hold that was worse than pretty much all of the naturals around it. I have no idea why it was added.
Finally, we tr’d the moves on a “project”, which went free with a little cleaning. The bolt placements were a little odd, and one clip would be very hard, but the route would go free at around 12c, should anyone decide it was worth a trip.
As for us, we were out of light. Our return path took us through the fenced area and, according to Erica, was seven times quicker than our approach.
I should add a description of a 160′ bolted traverse that Garrett aiding along the band of rock. He claims it will probably be freed one day. While I would agree that it could be freed, I would be shocked if someone actually spent the time to do it. I’m shocked he spent the time to bolt it. It’s really the type of thing you could see happening in a place, like New Jersey, where there wasn’t much rock. But here in the Wasatch, with thousands of routes within a 100-mile radius, it’s baffling. But, hey, I’m not complaining. I love having options and couldn’t be more appreciative of his work. Thanks, James!
All in all, my own version of NST is two for two. But it might be time to join Zac and crew before they run out of wide stuff. But I dunno, looking at those pics of pristine granite, I think they need to consider getting on some real scruff.
pic: Erica experiences some Deja Vu.