Images by Drew Smith​​

Expansive. Grounding. Wild.

That’s how artist, Rhiannon Williams, describes her latest climbing adventure in the desert. Accompanied by friend and talented musician, Elle Rasmussen. The duo spent 5 days in the cold, arid desert of Moab, Utah climbing, camping, and communing with nature in her rawest, most pure form.

“From the wild cacti to the sculptural quality of the sandstone, there is endless inspiration as far as the eye can see. Everything invites you to look a little closer: the green moss patterns on the rock, a shard of obsidian half buried in the muddy ground, the skull of a small animal long gone. There are treasures everywhere.”

Sometimes the most satisfying of adventures are the ones without an agenda. They come with unexpected moments and beautiful mishaps, like hitting a huge snowstorm that rattles you to the bone as you try to get home, or waking up every morning before the sun and watching it slowly rise to reveal a soft, dynamic landscape. The desert also has a way of freeing you from the limitations of our modern world.

“I always feel connected to a deep sense of self in this environment. I feel free to be my whole self, unfiltered and raw. It feels like you don't have to hold anything back.”

Images by Drew Smith​​

“Just as the desert has the paradox of being so harsh and beautiful at the same time, the climbing follows suit.”

Images by Drew Smith​​

One perfectly serene morning of the trip driving down a desolate dirt road, Rhiannon and Elle spotted a random spire poking out of the vast landscape. They pulled over and assessed the spire, it was clearly not an established climbing route, but they went anyway — trusting their intuition.

 “Looking up at the sweeping sheer walls, at first it seems improbable to climb them.” That day, Rhi managed to channel the same sense of control and focus with climbing as she does with her artwork. 

“If I do ever find myself racked with fear or uncertainty, I rely on the trust between myself and my climbing partner, as well as my years of climbing experience.”

Images By Drew Smith​​

Throughout the trip, Rhiannon kept a live journal to chronicle her and Elle’s adventure. This is where her thoughts, feelings, and even pieces of the trip live pressed into the pages. It’s where she can put into words the color of the wingate sandstone, the soft sway of sagebrush, and the feeling of being engulfed in the stars. “I’m expressing a feeling rather than a replica of what I’m seeing. It’s a way to explore tangents and to experiment, freeing myself from the pressure of committing to a larger painting.”

Reflecting on her time climbing and camping in the desert, listening to Elle sing to the universe beneath the wide expanse of stars and the milky way, and journaling along the way—Rhiannon tells us

 “I’ve learned over the years that you need patience to let the process unfold, but you also have to have your heart wide open, in order to not miss the subtle nudges from within.”

Images by Drew Smith​​

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Rhiannon klee Williams

Rhiannon grew up in Wales but now resides in Salt Lake City, Utah. As a full-time artist, she spends her days creating watercolor paintings of the iconic climbs and landscapes that finds herself exploring often. You can follow her and view her artwork here!