Rock Crawling is the technical, refined version of Jeeping, but both have one goal in mind, to make it up an unthinkable climb.

“Throw a beer bottle at the wall and see if it breaks. That’s jeeping.” 

That was a cynical observation, made by a non-enthusiast, back in 2000 when I spent some time in Moab, Utah, covering the sport. And it’s sort of like that; jeepers and rock crawlers alike expect and prepare for things to break, but the object is still the same.

Jeepers are recreational, making a day or even a week of it, moving in caravans, taking turns up slick rock walls in hopped up CJ 7s or International Scouts. In some instances, their wives cook quesadillas on the manifolds during breaks in the action.

Rock Crawlers on the other hand will build their vehicles from the ground up, engineering them to overcome very specific types of obstacles. It’s safe to say that crawlers started out as jeepers, but it’s important to understand that a crawler with a custom rig is a very serious sportsman.

Intimately aware of all the systems and features of their rig, crawlers compete with others for the honor of having made it up the most walls or through the most intricate of ravines, or even for the pride of having taken the most spectacular spill and walking away.

Crawlers will spend hours at one obstacle at places with names like Potato Salad Hill or Hell’s Revenge. They’ll give as much attention to getting their rig up a wall as they will watching the other crawlers attempt it.

This is what makes rock crawling almost a science. Its participants are extremely mechanically adept, specifically curious about the forces of gravity, inertia, internal combustion and equilibrium, and they will spend years and thousands of dollars finding ways to blend them all into the perfect weekend.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons