High on Moab Guidebook Review


Like many guidebooks, there were rumors of one that was in the works for Moab area for several years. One that would be much more comprehensive than those before it and would include many of the new areas that had been popping up all over the area. I’ve spent a lot of time in the region, even added a few routes here and there, and so I was eager to see this new book come to fruition.

When I finally got my hands on a copy this fall, I was not disappointed. This is a beautiful book, with many great action photos and excellent cliff shots that make locating climbs a breeze. Unlike most recent guidebooks to the Moab area, this own actually provides info on stacks of climbs that previously have not been published anywhere (of the 850 routes in the book, around half have not been in print before).


Aside from updated routes at well established areas, the book also covers these spots in a more comprehensive way or for the first time at all: Long Canyon, Kane Creek, The Theater & Cinema, Lower Brumley, North Dakota.Town Wall, Green River Buttress, Mars, the Scar and more. From crags to mulitpitch adventure routes, this book does an amazing job laying out all the beta you’ll need for countless days explore the climbs of the Moab area. As an added bonus, all proceeds from the book go straight to the Access Fund to support their continued work to keep our crags open across the country.


While the book intentionally doesn’t cover every crag in the region, notably absent are Mill Creek and Stupid White Man. The former was partly because of concerns the Forest Service has with parking issues and some rare plants, the latter because, well, a “secret” crag 200 yards from the road should probably stay secret, right? Those things aside, this is an amazing book that has me looking forward to the winter climbing season so I can check out some of the new spots.


Retail is $35, you can purchase over on the Sharp End Books website.

I also caught up with guidebook author Karl Kelly in between shifts at his restaurant to talk about the new book and find out what it was like to work on a project of this scale.

What was your motivation for putting together this book and how long did it take?

In a nutshell it was about 7 years! There are so many reasons—some selfish, and some altruistic. It gave me a great excuse to walk around the desert and explore! Putting out this book was really a life changing event for me. I took it very serious. Like a lot of places on our planet this place, Moab, is special. Possibly the people whom choose to call the place “home” even more special! There are folks out there that really did not want any more attention focused on this pristine area. I decided then that if I were to go forward, I would give it my 100%.

Previously Eric Bjornstad had published 5 volumes to our area. At the time he created them, they were to be comprehensive—a huge undertaking to say the least. There are thousands of routes here in our valley. Putting them under one lid would make for a book to big to put in your pack. There would be no room for your gear!  Other folks have put out some smaller “select” guides which were filled with routes of their time. There had not been a book  in the recent years that had information of the new wave of development, the new “classics!”

I really wanted to put out a book that represented the past and the present. The book would be “select” so you could carry it in your pack. It would be comprehensive as far as crags go, but if the climbs were more secluded or not so “craggy” they would have to be at least be 3 star routes… Obviously the book is a representation on what I feel is worthy to be in a book. There are so many people in this valley that could fill as many if not more pages of what they feel is worthy. I started by asking as many climbers, of past and present, what should go in the book. I very much wanted this to be a collaboration of all those that climb here!

I truly tried to climb as many of the routes as I could to give the best beta I could. That being said the decision was made early that this would NOT be a book with PARTICULAR gear, and crux beta. In talking with stacks of climbers, there were many opinions as to how a guide book should be created. Should it have detailed beta? Should it just get you there and give you the most important beta like how much rope is needed, a range of sizes needed? We opted for the latter for a few reasons. Most of the folks I talked with around here wanted a book that didn’t give away the cruxes to the routes, to keep it more “wild” and to allow one to have the true “on sight” experience.

What was the biggest challenge in putting it all together?

Running a restaurant was, for sure, a major distraction. Many days I would go to work right from climbing. Many busy nights kept me from importing my beta or pictures into the computer which meant I would need to do that when I got home from work which is often very late.

Having time to get to some of the far reaches of the book often made it hurried to get back to work in time. Believe it or not , partnership could be a hassle—partners’ schedules with work or family, and their own agendas. Maybe they wanted to go to the Creek or up in the mountains, instead. My organizational skills proved to be a challenge as well. I would get emails, topos on cocktail napkins, sheets of paper with gear beta from all sorts of climbers in all sorts of places. Sometimes I’d forget them in my pack or have a Red Bull explode all over them. I still have all those in separate folders in a big filing box.

Another challenge was trying to not offend anyone with the creation of this book. With any climbing community, there are folks that just soon not see any publicity for the place in fear of what harm may come with more climbers coming to check it out! That may perhaps have been THE biggest challenge, mostly because I see both sides. Hopefully everyone that comes to climb here sees how fragile and special it is and treat it with the utmost respect.

What is an area that most people probably have not heard of before that they should check out?

Obviously I think all the areas are worthy to check out. Certainly one you may not have heard of before is the North Dakota area in the La Sals. It features Dakota sandstone and is mostly face climbing protected with bolts. It is a great area for all but the hardest of grades.  Its mostly 5.7 – 5.12 and well bolted for the grade. It is at around 10,000′ for some cooler temp’s.

Also there are two places that we have all heard of but I believe that are special in the book.

The Big Bend Boulders. Long time local hard ass climber Lisa Hathaway killed it for us and gave her profound knowledge of the area with up to date problems names and grades. Thank you Lisa.

Castle Valley. The legendary Jay Smith hooked us all up with his hand drawn topos as well as his newest route developments on the Rectory, Castleton tower and the Parriott mesa. Thank you Jay.

Awesome, thanks Karl!

Locals Corner

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