Climbing The Unknown – San Rafael Swell
There I was, standing as a speck amongst the vast desert landscape of the San Rafael Swell, 2,000 square-miles of sandstone cliffs, towers, slot canyons, trails, rivers, and amazing vistas.
It was President’s Day weekend and we decided to take advantage of the holiday by spending three days down in the northern half of “The Swell.” With our basecamp positioned along the Mexican Mountain road, we had quick access to the Dylan Wall and a short drive to some of the other crags.
On Day-1, we warmed ourselves up on the Private Pizza Wall. This south-facing cliff soaks in the rays and provides a great selection of moderate cracks.
Day-2 was spent up on the Dylan Wall, overlooking our camp and numerous mesas and towers that captured our attention for future adventures. The Dylan Wall offers up a great collection of adventurous cracks that bounce inside the 5.10 to 5.12 range.
Our last day, Day-3, threatened us with a 30% chance of rain, so we stayed close to our cars at an unlisted “road-side” crag that provided some short but strenuous routes. Without knowing anything about the wall or its routes, we jumped on what inspired us without relying on a guidebook or Mountain Project to give us beta.
While we jammed ourselves inside cracks that ranged from finger-size to offwidth, we enjoyed the comfort and protection of the Cypher Sentinel high-tops. It’s one thing to bloody up your hand while crack climbing, but bloody ankles are the worst. With the ankle protection that the Sentinels offered, we avoided any gobies on our feet.
Unlike the uniformed cracks of Indian Creek, each crack at the Swell varies in width from top to bottom, causing you to rack up with multiple sizes. By racking our cams with the various colors of the Cypher Ceres biners, we could quickly grab and plug the right piece without having to futz through all the pieces that dangled on our harnesses.
Have you ever climbed at The Swell? What is your favorite spot to climb there?