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Riding the San Rafael Swell


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Springtime in Utah’s San Rafael Swell is perfection. It looks like Canyonlands or Moab but it’s less developed, less restricted, and less hectic. No hordes of tourists chasing their recreational nirvana. Cottonwoods are lighting up bright green in the washes as the desert comes back to life. Soon it’ll be hot. Spring is the time for some rootsy camping and chilling with friends and doing a bit of climbing.


We camp in a little wash, all private and nooked in. Firewood is not plentiful, but the adjust-a-grill doesn’t need many coals to set us up with some old time franks and beans chased with a few PBRs at night. We breakfast on yogurt, cereal, fruit. Bring plenty of water. The San Rafael River is looking pretty briny.


The Dylan Wall area has a bunch of worthy climbs. We hit the Pizza Wall one day for a few short but sweet cracks. Cheek Full of Redman (5.10) and Private Pizza, a twin crack corner, (5.9) are both sweet. On the second day we climb James Tower, a 5.10a/b A1 crack that winds around a mini tower in three short sections, it’s all there but not a cake walk by any means. The last pitch is a surly bolt ladder to the summit, where there was barely enough room for the three of us to sit while we looked out and celebrated the spring desert. —Lee Cohen

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