Callout weekend got rescheduled due to rain, so I (Marshal Herrmann), Shao, Ansel, and Melanie checked out Illinois’ newest crag on Sunday, April 23. Summarized into quick facts, the good, the bad, the (driving) beta, the verdict, and an outline of our day.
Quick facts about the park
The (driving) beta
Google Maps gave me 3 pretty different routes with virtually the same driving time. Taking I 72 past Springfield would definitely be the fastest way – you could go 90 mph if you wanted (pretty empty country roads). I57 and I70 is much more scenic however (follows Mississippi River, see something other than cows and cornfields); pictures below. This route also passes through Alton, IL which is a bigger tourist town on the river just past the park. Alton has a variety of restaurants and other accommodations. We took the quicker way in and the scenic way out, which is my recommendation.
The climbing lot actually shows up on Google Maps - click here for link. It is unmarked in person. If you look at satellite mode, you’ll notice there’s a much larger parking lot just down the road (it has a sign saying “Day Use Parking” – probably an extra minute hike).
We stopped at O Jans Fish Stand, a sketchy fish stand along the river with big portions for cheap! If you like greasy food and no frills, come here. Otherwise, drive into Alton for more restaurant options (fast food, ethnic, diners, burger stands, nicer places, etc).
You could do 75% of the park in a day with a 10c leader, a 35m rope, and 6 quickdraws. Maybe 95% if you bring a trad rack. It’s probably best for bringing newbs or single day trips. I would not recommend spending more than a day here, but it’s worth checking out if you can only climb for 1 day. The routes are fun and have some variety – it’s certainly a change of pace from Jackson.
I picked everyone up at 5am, and off we went! We arrived at the crag around 8am with just 1 other group already there. I had a GoPro I rented from the library to play with, and will probably add the video as an addendum to this later. We first walked into the Meadow Slab wall and warmed up on a 5.6 and 5.7+. I was feeling adventurous and along with Ansel, free soloed a 5.2. We found a solo climber with 2 dogs; coincidentally, also a UIUC student. We climbed with him for the majority of the day.
After this area, we kept following the trail and kept finding bolts. So we kept climbing! I didn’t keep good track of what we climbed, or what we liked, because well we climbed almost everything the place had. Shao estimates he climbed 14 routes (and we left with 2 hours of daylight left!). I can’t provide any recommendations on routes, just do all of them.
We were getting a bit confused about which route was what since there is no guidebook (but not a huge deal since everything sans a few routes are 10s or lower). The routes are well depicted and logged on Mountain Project though; any confusion was definitely user error. Case in point: Shao led a 5.11d, The Father's Gift, without knowing the grade until afterwards. Other people did tell us it was the best route in the park. I followed it on top rope like a true champ, so there’s my recommendation afterall: climb this route.
Shao clipping a bolt on The Father’s Gift, 5.11d, “best route in the park.” It traverses left near the top. Ansel on the right climbing Vista, 5.10c. Both at Ryan’s Balcony wall.
The last wall we visited was pretty crowded, but because of the short routes, it cleared out pretty quick (routes have high turnover). This area also has a nice picnic area.
A little busy at this wall, but cleared out soon after
We left fairly early since we experienced most of what the park offers (5pm or so, my guess). While the crag was very clean, the highway is full of litter: we packed out half a trash bag of cans and bottles on the way to the parking lot.
We voted on fish for dinner, and headed to the aforementioned O Jans Fish Stand (5 minutes from the crag). This place epitomizes no frills. I asked the lady at the counter what she recommended. She laughed at me, quipping that she eats everything. It didn’t help narrow down the menu options, but gave me a laugh. The lady was very obese and I can see why: the fish stand serves up huge portions of greasy fish for cheap! It would be dangerous living near here, and especially working here. To keep a balanced climber’s diet, you can round out the fat and protein from the fried fish with some carbs from their huge variety of pies. Somehow I managed to avoid that sugary goodness temptation. You better climb hard to earn dinner at this place.
Yes, they serve you in cardboard boxes that they reuse. And yes, those 2 big fish filets are a part of one $4.50 sandwich.
Afterwards we were on the road again. We took a 3 minute detour (calculated by Google at the time) and followed the Mississippi River for a bit eastward instead of heading straight north. Pretty nice views, breaks up the traditional Illinois interstate monotony. We were home by 10pm.
Beats the Interstate
Be sure to check out Melanie’s quality photo album (featuring high res pics and not stills from a GoPro, like my report). My GoPro video montage to be released at a later date (gotta make it gnarly!)
Marshal Hermann - April 2017
This weekend was the Badass Bitches Climber Crew climbing trip. We went out to Jackson Falls for the weekend with a crew of nearly a dozen women. We stayed up at the campsite near the dog walk which was a first for me. We arrived Friday night and just passed out.
Saturday we went down the dog walk to Snakes Roof where several of the ladies stayed to climb. My friends Lena, Natalie, and I went over to Spleef Peak to get on some different climbs. We started out on the 5.8 Blue Spark which was an okay climb. Followed up an okay crack in the wall but didn’t have much in regards to feet.
Next we did Through the Smoke (5.9). This was a tough one to the left of Blue Spark. I got two bolts up and was going for the third when I fell. I unfortunately swung and caught my leg on the side of the rope and got a bad rope burn on my leg.
Beautiful right? But I got back up and finished the route with no other issues. The top part was more pleasant than the bottom part. There is a frequent occurence in Jackson that the bottom part of the routes are tougher than the rest of the climb. (Not always though.)
Next we tackled the 10a to the right of Blue Spark. This route was probably my favorite of the three we did on Spleef Peak. It had a lot of interesting foot holds and the hand holds were clear to see. The moves were challenging enough for it to be enjoyable though. It was also my first on-sight 10 outside. So I was pretty excited. You can also see that there is a pleasant little sitting area at the top to enjoy the views of Jackson.
Paige Mundy on top of The Garden Route. Photo by Katie Konocel
Paige Mundy on top of The Garden Route. Photo by Katie Konocel
(Only photos of me during the trip. Enjoyed the view at the top though.)
After that Lena and I went to meet up with my friend Peggy who was crushing it on Feed the Rat. Our friend James Fran made the FA of this huge off-width that required Cams the size of your head and a lot of courage.
Peggy Flavin climbing Feeding the Rat.
At this point my leg was not in the mood to do anything else for the day. I had intentions of trying Wild at Heart (5.11a) which was opposite wall of Feeding the Rat. I had TR it the fall before but I just wasn’t feeling 100% for it. So I chilled for the rest of the day in hopes that I’d feel better.
We went back to camp and went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant about 30 min from our campsite. After stuffing ourselves full of delicious food we went back to meet up with some other friends who happened to be at Jackson that weekend. When we got there we saw glowing Easter eggs around the campsite and people wearing bunny ears around the campfire. I got to meet some UIUC alumni that are currently living in Chattanooga. There were great stories and company. Probably one of my happiest nights around a campfire I’ve ever had.
That night I tried my new blow up mattress and slept in my car. It was so much better than the dinky sleeping pad I had been using.
The next day we got up and went to go watch Peggy climb Off-Width Exam. Our buddy Alex crashed our girls weekend and joined us. Peggy has the energy of a goddess. It took her about an hour but after several dozen tough moves, two pigeons flying out of the crack at her, and some serious bad ass persistence she topped out of the climb.
Alex Bragg climbing Off-Width Exam.
Peggy Flavin on Off-Width Exam
After that three of the girls wanted to head home but I decided to stay. So I followed them to the falls where they climbed out on a 5.8 called Lovin’ Lizards after one last foot dip to the falls. Then I headed back to Exam Wall area to meet back up with Alex, Peggy and some of the people from the campfire the night before. Alex was trying to finish a route called Eminent Domain (5.12D) that had a bail beaner left behind. After several valiant attempts he switched out with Peggy who also gave it a go.
After that we could tell it was going to start raining soon so I wanted to get in one more climb really quick before we had to head back. So I did The Dagger (5.8) a few routes over and my leg was throbbing from the rope burn so I wasn’t on the top of my mental game. I managed to finish and get to the top where I found a tiny painting about 2″ x 3.5″ on a tiny easle. It was a nice scene of a forest, lake, and a little sun. I have seen several of these around Jackson now. They are apparently left behind by the cancer society. It’s super inspiring. I’d love to figure out the stories of those who put them there. Anyway…I finished the route and then Alex decided he wanted to give it a go too. I gave him a belay where he practically ran up the face of the wal, then we decided to head out due to the growing thunder.
We headed out of the canyon and went to clean the anchor for Off-Width Exam. It was then that the rain started to pour. The others told me to go on ahead to get out of the rain. So I literally RAN all the way back to the parking lot and threw my stuff in the car. First off…I haven’t ran in the rain in years. It made me feel so refreshed and like a kid. (Plus it kind of washed off the grims and sweat of the last two days of climbing.) It felt so amazing. Alex and Peggy came shortly after and after briefly saying we were going for food. We headed out of Jackson and stopped at Tequillas in Marion where we had well deserved Margaritas and food.
One of the best trips I’ve ever been on.
- Trip report by Paige Mundy, April 2017
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