Creak Freak -- the making of an epic guide

Creak Freak -- the making of an epic guide

Posted by Fred Knapp on 27th Jun 2018

My publishing career started in the early 90s with a pamphlet-guidebook I authored; 50 Select Classic Desert Climbs covered the best routes of the Moab region, with a focus on towers. I hoped to share my love of the desert and inspire others to feel the same way. More and more folks discovered the amazing climbing and Sharp End (still called 50 Select Guides) added Marco Cornaccione’s Select Indian Creek guide a few years later. The book that changed climbing guides—David Bloom’s Indian Creek: A Climber’s Guide—followed in 2004.

Though I wasn’t the author, I wanted the book to amaze, to inspire, to tempt. It was America’s first full-color climbing guidebook featuring essays from Creek Freaks and pioneering climbers (a concept first explored in the well-received Black Canyon book).

The book was a success, describing nearly a thousand routes, most previously unpublished. It was more than just a guide. It was a dreamer book—creating excitement and anticipation for adventures to come.

It was during this time that I met Karl Kelley, an inspired Moab resident that was over-the-top passionate about the Creek.

Karl volunteered his help, and with each subsequent edition provided new material and corrections. He wasn’t concerned with recognition or money; he just wanted us to get it right. Our friendship grew and he became my primary desert partner. He later wrote High on Moab, the ultimate guide to the best crags and towers of the region. It’s a huge success and Karl donated all his royalties to the Access Fund, earmarked for the area that he so dearly loves.

Though passionate about the Moab climbs, Karl’s first love is Indian Creek. It’s his happy place. When not climbing, he walks cliffs, seeking unclimbed gems or forgotten classics. I dare say, no one knows the area better and it became clear to me (and many others) that he needed to pen the next book. Bloom’s guide was ahead of its time—and was a monumental task documenting the thousand routes and attempting to provide gear beta. The Creek, however, was blowing up, with new routes going in at a rapid clip. To create the ultimate guide, the author needed to be there full-time year-round, a local, clued into the community. Really, only one person had the dedication, commitment, passion and knowledge to complete the task.

Creek Freak is a work of monumental effort. Karl toiled for years, not just in the field, but on the phone, on the computer, face-to-face with developers. He added hundreds of new lines, climbed 1,300 routes, lived out of his van, tracked down first ascent info, and won over many holdouts. No one else could have done it. Trust me, no other guidebook on your shelf took this much labor. His reward is your reward: he’s given you a passport to adventure and discovery. Every penny he’s making is, again, going to the Access Fund. His generosity has inspired others: Gearheads, Pagan, and Sharp End are donating a dollar a book to the Access Fund. The Kennedy family who own Gearheads were so moved by Karl’s contributions that they made generous one-time donations individually and through their business. I see other authors, now, more excited to give back.

Enjoy this guide, and heed its calling to protect and preserve.