An Amusement Park of Sandstone - The San Rafael Swell

Liberty Mountain employees, Jason Shumaker and Benjamin Eaton spent a weekend in the San Rafael Swell to enjoy some of dirty desert cracks and towers. Jason helps illustrate the elusiveness of the The Swell.

 “I can’t find that route anywhere!” A climbing partner of mine was trying to locate some beta on a new and obscure route located in the San Rafael Swell, the nominated National Monument swath of land in Emery County, Utah. He had looked in books, online forums and spent evenings bending the ears of potential informers at the local climbing gym but he was coming up empty. He had heard of the mystery climb from a friend of a friend who vouched for its new classic status and that it was the new must do when visiting the area. That’s how it goes for most of the routes in the Swell; they live like urban legends on the edge of conversations around the campfire but you can never seem to trace them back to the source.

I have been visiting the Swell for years and I have yet to scratch the surface of what it has to offer. When I scout for new route potential I stumble across numerous anchors positioned above splitters, chimneys and offwidths in areas that I was sure had no established climbing. I think that is what keeps me coming back for more; the remoteness and desolate locale protects little gems put up by friends, for friends, and are closely guarded from outsiders like prospectors scouring the desert landscape for the next big score. The Swell has taught me that you can’t find everything in a book and it is better to jump in with both feet, to explore and find out what is around the next bend.

My partner was still bummed that he hadn’t found any information on the mystery route but once we pulled off Highway 10 and onto the dirt track heading south, the anticipation of discovery spread across his face as we discussed the possibilities for the weekend.

Private Pizza Wall - San Rafael Swell, UT

Lightbulb Tower - Lower Buckhorn Wash - San Rafael Swell, UT


On top of having fun, we were able to test out some new products from Cypher and Singing Rock. The new Singing Rock harnesses have just hit the market and they are pretty sweet. I climbed in the Crux (a minimalist harness, thin and light) while Ben climbed in the Guru (a wide and comfortable harness). Not yet on the market, Ben and I sported two different models of Cypher climbing shoes. We were very happy with how the Code and Rubik both performed while jamming our feet in sandstone cracks.

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