Ahhh, Maple Canyon. Despite the fact that Maple was one of the first crags I spent time at after moving to SLC about ten years ago, we’ve never really gotten along all that well. While my endurance on trad routes--in particular, sustained crack climbs--has improved significantly over the years, pure endurance for sport climbing remains elusive. When it comes to clipping bolts, my strengths are generally my footwork, crimping, and ability to pull off powerful individual moves. My weaknesses include open hand stuff and repetitive (yeah, I said it) enduro routes on forearm-sapping “big” holds. We should all work our weaknesses, of course, and relish the opportunity to challenge ourselves...blah blah blah...but really--it should come as no surprise that I’d choose Wild Iris over Maple any day.
Add in the fact that for most of those ten years there’s been no in-print guidebook for Maple available--meaning approximately 90% of climbers visited the same few walls every weekend--and my Maple time has dwindled over the years to the point that I now spend more winter days climbing the canyon’s fickle ice routes than I do clipping bolts the rest of the year.
So when my husband let me know folks had chosen Maple for a company weekend get-away he was organizing, I was less than thrilled. With two (!!) new guidebooks having been released with a couple months of each other, surely the crowds would only be worse, right? Hordes of Maple-devotees, Utah locals who flock to the canyon each summer to attack their projects, along with swarms of newer climbers seeking the comfort of easier grades and closely spaced bolts. At someplace where I’ve always, quite simply, sucked? Yeah, sounds like a blast. Sign me up. Oh, what’s that, hubby? You’re taking the Flip-pac with you? I’m packing now.
I started to second guess my commitment to going wherever the Flip-pac goes when we pulled up to the main parking lot and pondered where we might be able to squeeze our vehicle in. But everyone in our group was psyched to just be out, away from work for a weekend, so I tried to shelve my growing bad mood. An attitude adjustment was clearly called for, so for the first of many times that weekend I reminded myself that climbing was fun, that hanging out with a group of great folks was fun, and that it didn’t matter if I climbed hard or easy, twelve routes or two, perfect lines or choss. It wasn’t a perfect win, but I found that if I kept at it, I could revel in the beauty of the canyon, in the sheer entertainment of climbing rock that seems so improbable, in the exploration of the dozens of new (or simply new-to-me) areas covered in the just-released guidebooks, and in the ridiculous exercise of trying to figure out just which one of those seemingly endless features above me is actually a usable hold.
The weekend turned out to be a mashup of all things--I tried hard on a couple routes and had fun cruising up jugs on easier lines, I managed a reasonable number of pitches each day, climbed some great rock and some impressively chossy choss (new guidebooks meant great crowd dispersal but also some “sucker” crags that lured us in with overly eager descriptions of “stellar” new routes that unfortunately might have only seen the first ascent), and managed to balance out some bad attitude with mostly good cheer. At the end of it all, I concluded that I still, indeed, suck at Maple-style climbing--apparently avoiding it like the plague for ten years hadn’t helped much--but I left maybe just a smidge more interested in trying to suck less in the future.
[Many thanks to the talented Mike Portanda for the photos!]