This legendary and almost mythical feature that breaks the Dakota standstone on a certain wall in the Canyonlands of Southeast Utah is, without a doubt, one of the most famous rock climbing routes in all the world.
First climbed in 1976 by Earl Wiggins, five years after it was discovered by three young unruly, yet talented and athletic fellows, who were exploring the desert for new routes, Supercrack draws climbers like a religious monument draws the faithful.
They come loaded down with braided rope and slings full of cams, and they stare in awe when they finally stand below this magnificent four inch wide crack that splits the nearly featureless, bronze colored rock face, for it is truly a sight to behold.
And once you step into your harness, tie into the rope and make that first hand or fist jam, depending on how big your paws are, and take that first step off the ground, you are in it. You are committed, because if you came to climb Supercrack, there’s no giving up. You made it this far and if you do not reach the top of the route, it will only be because your muscles or technique came out, not because your heart lacked the desire.
Unless you’re an expert climber, it’s by no means easy. Supercrack is rated 5.10, and that means hard. It’s a stout climb, and it’s perhaps the perfectly designed route, because as you stuff your hands and feet inside the crack, you discover it to be deviously off-kilter, not too mention the fact that there is absolutely nothing whatsoever to grab or hold on to as you struggle to make your way higher. Plus it’s dead vertical.
When you’re halfway up, your forearms begin to burn. If your crack climbing technique is bad, then you’re even more spent. Supercrack is relentless. It makes you fight for every single inch, and as you expend muscle and energy to propel yourself upwards, the crack begins to widen, which makes it even harder. It’s like some kind of cruel joke.
At one point, you probably look down and realize how far you’ve come, but your joy only lasts so long because looking up, you realize that those last thirty feet will take every bit of strength that you have left.
You lean your body to the side, trying milk every bit of friction that the crack gives against your hands, arms and feet. It’s friction that keeps you from falling out. Friction and muscle. However, you pay the price in lost skin. Like fine grit sandpaper, Supercrack abrades. It rubs. It cuts. If your technique is sloppy, and who isn’t a little bit sloppy after eighty feet of hard climbing, you lose even more skin. In the end, whether you make it or not, you’ll come out with the Supercrack signature rash. We all get it.
As with any desert crack, the last fifteen feet is the hardest and only guts, heart and endurance will see you through. If you reach the top of the route… well, I won’t tell you what it’s like. You either know or you don’t. If you run of of steam or if the crack spits you out, then you’ll lower off and come back another day.
Nearly every climbing and adventure photographer has photos of Supercrack. This is mine. It’s my friend Heath Mackay. He made it to the top that warm November day.