Climbing the San Rafael Swell, Utah

Climbing San Rafael Reef

It's a great challenge to try a climb that not only you haven't done but that hasn't been done by anyone, says Salt Lake City local Mike Friedrichs, seen here making the first ascent of Blood on the Tracks on the Dylan Wall in the crowd-free northern San Rafael Swell, Utah.  It provides an opportunity to use one's experience in route finding, gear, patience, resting—all the things that years of experience help.  Friedrichs is seen at the crux of the climb, about 60 feet above the ground with 20 feet to go.

I called the wall the Dylan Wall, and this may be the jewel of the entire crag, says Friedrichs, a chronic disease epidemiologist and frequent climber in the San Rafael Swell.  And the route is named after the title of one of the best, if not the best, Bob Dylan album.  The route is also a west-facing corner that catches the alpenglow in the evening and turns brilliantly red.

Getting the Shot

Last November I spent a couple of weekends at the Swell, with the intention of making photographs that would capture the feel of the place, says photographer Louis Arevalo.  Arevalo met Friedrichs the morning of the shoot.  My only plan for that day was to shoot late, when the light would be better.

To get his shot and capture Friedrichs climbing in the stunning desert landscape, Arevalo climbed and photographed along a fixed route, about a hundred feet to the left of Blood on the Tracks.  Arevalo’s late-day planning came together for this photo.  When the light really began to pop Mike actually volunteered to climb Blood on the Tracks without being asked.  I was super lucky.

Arevalo photographed with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and an f/4, 24-105mm lens.  Select the photo for the large version.