Black Diamond RetroModern Part 2: Blood Meridian

Black Diamond climber Sam Elias and filmmaker Mike Call have teamed up to produce a four-part video series called RetroModern. Elias has a historian’s eye for the cultural importance of old climbing routes, and the point of the series is to build a connection between climbing’s past and present. 

This episode takes place at the Ibex Crags, a remote area of western Utah full of quartzite boulders…and not much else. – Ed. 



Ibex feels like another world, a different planet. It is special to me because of the juxtaposition of the salt flats with the rock walls. It’s an unlikely place that just feels like it shouldn’t be there. It’s paradoxical. It makes me feel smallness, but also vastness in the way the salt flat stretches way out to meet the sky, and then the sky stretches out further, seemingly forever looking in one direction. Looking in another direction, it’s the way the single horizon line is violently broken by the infinite vertical lines of the rock walls.

Primitive camping very near to climbing, but hours away from civilization.

The rock is bizarre. It’s beautiful, high-quality quartzite. Solid white and light tan in areas. Solid burnt orange and brick red in others. Most striking when the color is streaking down the white tan. It’s very polished and slippery feeling, like marble, and it’s the hardest stone that I’ve ever drilled. It’s so exceptionally solid, perhaps even the best rock I’ve experienced. It requires thoughtful, intricate movements to climb. The whole formation is broken up in an interesting way and there are awesome boulders at the base, and single pitch routes scattered around, and multi pitch routes on the bigger walls. I haven’t climbed a lot out there, but it represents some of the wildest kind of crags. Primitive camping very near to climbing, but hours away from civilization. At night, Ibex is on par with the darkest places on earth. The night sky is the most spectacular version of itself. The sun can be fierce at certain times of the years, the cold at other times, the wind at any time. Staying out in these places for extended periods helps me reframe myself in the scope of things.

I wanted this whole project to highlight different places and different people, but to feel real and relatable. I had been living in Salt Lake City, Utah, for 10 years. Most people know that the state is special, but there are different reasons for why a place is special from a local, home perspective versus from an international, visitor perspective. None of the specific areas in this series are international destinations necessarily, however they all have been very special to me personally, and they are important to the story of climbing in Utah. Beyond that, they represent a broader reality — there is beauty and value and worth — everywhere. You don’t need to go somewhere “else.” There are places and people right in front of you, right now that can enrich your life.

Words by Sam Elias




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