Moab with Bobby Sorich & Mike Leary
When I first began my journey into the world of rock climbing, I had envisioned myself in the wild, on real rock, climbing multi-pitch routes. After a year and a half of climbing, I found myself scaling the walls of artificial rock at the local bouldering gym… My vision of the wild was only visited by the occasional weekend trip.
My dreams of climbing outdoors were finally coming to fruition. My passion for climbing started taking me to world-class destinations. I had recently returned from a trip to the legendary Fontainebleau in France and Siurana of Spain, along with taking frequent trips to local crags like Black Mountain and Tahquitz.
Mike and I had spent the last two winters shooting a documentary following the US snowboard team. With the little downtime we had on shoots we would manage to squeeze in some runs on the mountain or make our way to the local climbing gyms. It would turn out that Mike and I shared many similar interests. Two skateboarders turned mountain people, both spending days on end climbing rocks, chasing light, and exploring the great outdoors.
So when Mike told me about his 6-month expedition exploring the North American West, I had to get in on some of the action. I packed up my gear, jumped into the passenger seat of Edmund, Mike’s Subaru — named after the famed mountaineer Edmund Hillary, and hit the road.
May 12 / The Road to Utah
7am, coffee in hand, we began the 10-hour drive towards Moab.
While Mike drove, I scoured the map and came across a place northwest of Moab, called Joe’s Valley. It sounded familiar and after a little reconnaissance, turns out Joe’s Valley is a world class climbing destination. Our first stop was on the map.
May 13 / Joe’s Valley
While doing my recon of Joe’s, I discovered a photo of this beautiful boulder sitting on a vibrant aquamarine river. It was the Angler, a V2 rail climb with little to offer in the footing department. I knew right away I had to shoot a photo of Mike on this majestic sandstone. After warming up on Slabland, we made our way to the Angler.
Joe’s Valley Ticklist:
- V1 Canadians Finest
- V2 Lord Calvert
- V2 Admiral Nelson
- V2 Moose Drool
- V4 Devastator
- V3 Whiskey Sweats
- V2 The Angler
May 14 / Joe’s to Moab
We hit the Angler one more time for good measure, then took off in search of grander views and taller climbs. After a few hours on the road, we arrived at Canyonlands National Park with plenty of time to wander off the beaten path before shooting the sunset at Green River Overlook.
May 15 - 16 / Canyonlands
We knew that in order to get a spot and capture the ideal shot of Mesa Arch at sunrise, we’d have to arrive super early. The park campgrounds were already packed. Being eager to chase the light, we set our alarms for 4am, and camped just outside the park on BLM land.
After shooting sunrise we cruised back to camp for a snooze in the shade followed by a mission to town for burritos and local knowledge on any nearby climbing. We were pointed towards the Wall Street area of Potash Rd, a local crag that sits on the Colorado River.
There was one minor issue. Summertime was approaching. This meant the rock was roasting in the sun until 3pm. While we waited for the shade to settle onto the rock, we found other ways to stay cool.
And after several days on the road, a shower was for sure needed, and what a better way to clean up and cool off than to take a dip in the local swimming hole.
We had our dirtbag baths, and it was nearing 3pm...so the time had come to go find out what Wall Street was all about. We quickly found out there was no insider trading allowed, just slabby sport routes — Mikes forte. I’d find myself frozen on the wall while Mike cracked jokes as I tried to steady my Elvis leg. We would spend the next two days climbing Wall Street, swimming at Mill Creek, and even Edmund got some action at Hoorah Pass — an off-road trail on the other side of the Colorado River.
- Steel Your Face- 5.10
- Slab Route- 5.7
- Neapolitan- 5.7
- Hidden Message- 5.5
- Brown Banana- 5.9 (Pictured)
- She-la the Peeler- 5.9
May 17 / Delicate Arch
Of all the amazing destinations near Moab, there was one in particular we wanted to shoot most… Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. Standing sixty feet tall, the arch illuminated a glowing orange hue as the evening light hit the sandstone giant. Easily the most iconic landmark of the West, with a convenient mile and a half trek from trailhead to arch, attracting tourists like grazing cattle. (They lined up) Lining up to get their selfies under the arch in proclamation that they too had visited the landmark. But don’t let the crowds discourage you, there is a reason so many flock to Delicate Arch.
May 18-21 / Rifle, CO
We started our last day with a sunrise shoot at Double Arch, and just like that, our time in Moab was over.
- Dr. Strangelove- 5.9
- Martin & Lewis- 5.9
- Pryor- 510a/b
- Rickles- 5.7
- Sellers- 5.10a/b
- Rachel’s Route- 5.7
- Irish Blood- 5.9+
- Dirty White Boy- 5.8+
- Hot Potato- 5.9
- Do the Mashed Potato - 5.7
- Spuds in Space- 5.8+
We would spend the next two and a half days in Rifle, climbing its long and funky limestone routes. It’s challenging to shoot photos of sport routes when there's only two of you, and we wanted to climb as much as we could before parting ways. We dodged a little rain with help from our friend Edmund, and spent our nights sleeping with the cows on some nearby BLM — sharing stories by the campfire with a handful of other climbers.
And just like that, my journey was over. Mike would continue his trek to Alaska and I would fly back to Orange County. Until next time. Here's to all those we met along the way, and more days in the wild.
Starting their careers as skateboard filmmakers from the Midwest, both Bobby and Mike have ventured outside, quite literally, after finding a passion for climbing and exploring the wilderness that the west has to offer. Follow more of the their adventures on IG at @bobbysorich and @_mikeleary_