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Hardpan Adventures in Ibex

With my SUV packed and Brisket (the Adventure Cat) loaded up, I headed out to grab the team. Josh loaded all his gear, and we headed over to Faith’s to pack all of her gear and meet up with Isaac. A Chevy Trailblazer can get stuffed with ropes, trad gear, bouldering pads and supplies. Luckily Isaac rolled up with his Dodge truck just as I began to worry. “Tie all the pads in the truck bed,” was all I needed to hear to end my concern and continue building stoke. It didn’t hurt to peek in his Yeti and see layers of PBRs either.

Our trip south from Salt Lake always involves a stop at In-N-Out just off the American Fork exit. It is effectively guaranteed when Faith and I roll out. When ordering: double double, protein style. Back on the road sends us past the Spanish Fork exit (Joe’s Valley, Moab, San Rafael Swell), sigh. But Ibex awaits, so the sadness is fleeting. For a 3 hour drive, it couldn’t be easier. Leaving Friday evening got us to the wall at night, and the moon lighting up the towering cliffs over our campsite got us psyched for the morning to come. Here is how it went: arrive, beers, tents, beers, sleep.

Sunrise left us in our tent, but Isaac, always on top of his game, was up and photographing the beautiful Ibex walls in their morning glory. Breakfast consisted of eggs, chicken sausage, and assorted peppers. Scrambled and served in flour tortillas, killer. Our chosen camp sits a few hundred feet from the wall so the approach takes as long as racking up. Bolted slab routes served as a warmup and our next route was the two pitch ‘Snakeskin’ named after the rattlesnake skin found at the base before the first ascent. The first pitch takes gear and the second has bolts. I led the first, brought up the crew and handed the lead over to Josh. He cruised the crux and disappeared over a bulge.

Then came the rain, and the real fun. Faith and I could see the wall of darkness coming from miles away, Isaac couldn’t from his point of view and I’m sure Josh saw it long before any of us. I told Faith “just climb fast, we’ll make it,” then BOOM, the rain hit. A few shouts of communication through the gusts and downpour led to Josh walking off the top of the route with Faith and me rappelling. We scrambled back to camp and jumped in our totally oversized expedition tent. Back out I went for snacks, more beers, and Brisket (who immediately headed into a sleeping bag). Ibex receives a few sparse inches of rain a year, and I have to believe we saw all of it that afternoon. The hardpan, normally desolate, filled up with water refusing to let the rain soak through.

When we emerged from the tent, it was exploration time. The rain had turned the normally muted cliffs into glistening maroon-brown towers. Waterfalls crashed down hundreds of feet and we knew the best point of view would be up on those faces. PBRs in every pocket and we were off. Some 3rd and 4th class scrambling lead to an all-time perch. Two-thirds up the wall, we kicked back on an exposed ledge with seating for as many as you dare. Two hundred feet above the ground you can dangle your legs over the edge, and we even managed to find a throne in the rock face to add to the exposure.

Our favorite camp dinner recipe is also amazingly easy, pita pocket calzones. Step 1: Tear a pita in half and stuff it with sauce, cheese, veggies and any meat you may want. Step 2: Wrap it in aluminum foil and place it just outside the campfire, near the coals. Every few minutes turn the packet to get even heating. Step 3: After 10 minutes you have a delicious calzone, with no cleanup! After our dinner ritual we grabbed the crowlers (32oz giant beer can growlers) we had bought from Squatters, a local brewery, and headed to the boulders.

Isaac had brought his light setup, as well as colorful solar-powered camp lanterns to light up the boulders and create a really unique setting for night bouldering. Climbing seemed to get more and more entertaining as the night went on, or maybe the 32 fluid ounces of 9% alcohol by volume had something to do with it... Back at the campfire we rounded out the night with a few more PBRs and then headed to sleep, excited for the morning light and more bouldering.

Another egg and tortilla breakfast had us prepared for some hard boulders. Ibex can be a bit sandbagged! We warmed up and hopped on two beautiful arêtes on adjacent boulders. The ‘White Arête’ was the highlight, a medium sized boulder with really cool moves. As a break from bouldering we walked out into the hardpan and snapped some really cool portraits, some even featuring Brisket! After a few more hours of climbing the rains moved back in, chasing us to our cars and on our way back to SLC.

7 Must-do Climbs in Ibex

1. Weigh Cattle (V3)

2. Topus Arete (V5)

3. Ju (V7)

4. Snakeskin (5.9+)

5. Tunnel of Love (5.10b)

6. Ewe.F.O. (5.11a/b) 

7. Quarter Inch From Falling (5.11c)

Do This:

1. Bring a shell. The MS010 Packable Wind Jacket will work nicely. Winds can get so high that climbing is out of the question in Ibex, and the rare storm will blow rain sideways and upwards into your belay stance. 

2. Buy "Utah's West Desert" by James Garrett. This quality guidebook covers not only the Ibex area, but multiple other deserted climbing destinations. You'll be stoked on all the adventures to be had. Get it here.

3. Keep moving. Just because you are out of skin from punting off the top of Ju doesn't mean there isn't endless exploring to be had on the cliff band. Not to mention an expanse of hardpan for that desolate shot you've been longing for. Ibex is a place of boundless adventure, don't waste it sucking down brews at the campsite (there's always time for that when the sun goes down).

Not That:

1. Drive or camp directly under the boulders. There is miles of hardpan to set up on and plenty of other spots tucked away. Keep those boulders pristine for those yet to come!

2. Forget anything important. The nearest town is 45 minutes away, not where you want to head in the morning when you look for the water that never made it into the car. (Bring your own wood too.)

3. Go to bed too early. Even the stars on moonless nights are bright enough to light up the beautiful red and white walls. Get to scrambling.

When Cody MacDonald isn't romping around dried up Utah lakebeds with his adventure kitty, Brisket, he's either cragging around Utah, or exploring the desert around his West Texas cabin. Keep up with his crazy life by following him on instagram!

What the heck is a RIMBY Scholarship?
Mountain Standard is stoked to fund a handful of badass Field Agents on dream excursions across the country. Each season, agents can apply for a RIMBY Scholarship to cover some of the gear costs for their proposed trips. Sara Aranda's Eastern Sierra domination tour is just one of the trips we helped fund this season. For more information on how to become a Mountain Standard Field Agent, click here