Cobble Wrestling in Maple Canyon

Maple Canyon is in a piece of National Forest tucked away on the Western side of Utah, and home to climbing unlike anything we’ve touched before. The rock is conglomerate, made up of a huge abundance of river-polished rocks. These “cobbles” are typically fist-sized to basketball-sized, but can range in size from grapes to small cars. The cobbles are all set within a sandy matrix that is surprisingly solid.

It looks like choss, and being aware of the choss is certainly a recommended safety precaution. Helmets are a good idea, particularly when belaying at less overhanging crags. That being said, it’s probably the most solid conglomerate you can get, and there are an abundance of awesometastic routes in Maple Canyon with undeniable fun-factor. Besides, I can’t think of anywhere else that you could wrestle soccer balls in a 90 degree overhang…

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Graham climbing out the steep roof in The Compound

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Graham and I on the summit of the five-pitch “Eagle’s Nest” (5.10c). Yes, we ARE wearing helmets in this picture! Photo credit: Dan Beland

So, what can be said about the climbing style in Maple?

Endurance is your number one friend.

The stamina required to get to the top of some of these routes is insane. We were hard-pressed to find any super tough bouldery moves, but linking somewhat-less-difficult moves together forever and ever is exceptionally difficult. Kneebars were our friends.

We made the mistake of popping into Maple Canyon after 4 weeks in Joe’s Valley, so even looking at the routes was pumping out our forearms. In the future, what would be the best way to train/prepare for Maple? Gym climbing. Almost everything is a rounded, open-hand jug and the routes are steep and sustained.

With all the open-handedness, we left Maple with perfect, unadulterated skin on our tips. The jug rash and flappers on our palms on the other hand….

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Ouch flaps. Photo credit: Dan Beland

We spent three and a half weeks in Maple, just long enough to build up some fitness and send a few projects. We climbed every day with our new friends Hal and Ashley, and Dan joined us for most of our time there as well. We also met fellow Canadians Mason and Katie, hung out with Maaaark for a week, and met several different super friendly SLC crushers.

With the exception of just a few climbing days, we spent most of our time split between The Pipe Dream Cave and The Compound.

The Pipe Dream Cave is a huge, steep wall with routes that are upwards of 110 feet long. There are an abundance of lines that extend and criss-cross each other, so orienting ourselves took a bit of effort. At this crag Graham worked on Millennium (5.13d) and I worked on The Diggler (5.13a) – two mega steep routes with big moves and awesome climbing.

Graham on Millenium

Graham on Millennium (5.13d)

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Kim on The Diggler (5.13a)

Graham on Millennium

Graham starting into the near-horizontal roof on Millennium (5.13d)

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Kim sticking the final dyno on The Diggler (5.13a). Photo credit: Mark Almack

The Compound has the reputation of being a much burlier/bouldery crag. The lines are steep but shorter and the climbing is awesome. The majority of the routes at the crag are 13b, but there are some easier and harder gems as well. Graham dispatched both Defcon 1 (5.14a) and Close Quarters Combat (5.14a) at The Compound, and I finished off Gun Tower (5.12c), 3-2-1 (5.12d) and 911 (5.13a).

Graham on Defcon (Dan)

Graham on Defcon 1 (5.14a). Photo credit: Dan Beland

Kim on 321

Kim on 3-2-1 (5.12d)

Dan on Defcon

Dan on his send of Defcon 1 (5.14a)

Graham excelled immediately at the more bouldery routes in Maple, and worked hard to push himself on the enduro-lines. I found the style of climbing in Maple exceedingly difficult and humbling. Once I gave up my desperate search for crimps and gave in to the need to build some stamina, I began to slowly get into the groove… but it still took me two weeks to get there. Being shut-down is a great learning experience in climbing though, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything 🙂

Kim on Diggler (2)

Milking the rest on The Diggler (5.13a)

***

Other than the climbing, what was life like in Maple Canyon?

When we arrived in mid-May, the weather was frigid. Our first few days were mostly spent hanging out and hiking in the snow as we waited for temps to rise. The snow days were followed by climbing with pants-beneath-our-pants, hand warmers in our chalk bags, hot tea at the crag, and a lot of complaining about numbing out. But the canyon was beautiful and fresh and green, with plants that reminded us of the Canadian boreal, and birds singing for breeding season. It was wonderful to just exist there.

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Morning snow!

Then almost overnight, the weather shifted from cold to hot hot hot! We started our climbing days later to get the afternoon cooler temps, and we wore shorts and drank hydration mixes. Despite the heat, the climbing was still good as most of the crags are shaded. Maple doesn’t lend itself to being slippery like hot limestone, and it was definitely worth having the days of numbing out behind us.

Graham at Minimum

Graham warming up at Minimum Crag

There is a 14-day camping limit per 28 day period in Maple Canyon (which we learned on day 24). We stayed in one of the lettered sites just after you enter the fee area. These are first-come-first-serve with plenty of parking spaces and a fire ring, for $5/night/site. Further up the hill are numbered sites that can be booked by reservation.

Rene and Margarita are the camp hosts in Maple and they are great! It was awesome to hang out and get to know and climb with them. They were super welcoming and helpful to us and really added to our Maple Canyon experience. Margarita also has a business called Dry Pointe, selling moisture-absorbing balls to keep your climbing shoes dry. Graham and I both picked up a pair and love them.

There was some excitement and commotion during our stay as a bear (who had originally made an appearance in our campsite before we arrived) put on a bold show in Site 4. As far as we know right now, campsites 1-6 are closed to tenters as the rangers and biologists attempt to capture the bear for relocation.

 

We occupied ourselves with other amusing activities like kettle bell and hangboard workouts, dyeing our hair, and reflecting on “flow state” in our climbing. Jeff Elison, a researcher from Colorado, is currently collecting voluntary survey info on climbers in flow – to participate, hit him up in Site 9 if you make a visit to Maple this summer.

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Graham dyeing my hair Midnight Amethyst ❤ Photo credit: Dan Beland

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Dirtbag shower…. Photo credit: Dan Beland

We spent our rest days in Ephraim, a small town about a 30 minute drive from Maple. Snow College is located in Ephraim, and has some great amenities for climbers to take advantage of. At the Horne Activity Center, you can buy a shower (that comes with a towel!) for $2. One dollar more gets you in for a swim. The College library has free wifi that is super-fast and the building is basically empty during the summertime.

The Market Fresh grocery store has some wicked deals on packaged foods that have just hit their best-before dates. The Malt Shop in town has awesome sweet potato fries and delicious malts/milkshakes – they are heavy though, so consider sharing one with a friend!

On the last weekend in May, Ephraim hosts a Scandinavian Festival, with art displays, activities, live music, and vendors.

Finally, in Moroni – a smaller town you pass on the way to Ephraim – is the Norbest Turkey Farm and processing plant. They have a small outlet store at the plant, where they sell their local preservative-free turkey for phenomenal prices. As in, $1/pound. A steal of a deal, meaning we just HAD to indulge. Yum.

***

Maple was a blast, and we will be back. For now though, we are off to the near-vertical-crimp-pocket-fest-land of Ten Sleep, Wyoming!!

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