The Tale of the Tower

Our time at Ten Sleep came to an end after eight sleeps –  an abrupt end, after I tripped on some uneven pavement and sliced open the tip of my big toe. The idea of putting my feet in my tight climbing shoes or hiking shoes gave me the heebie-jeebies, so I had to wait for it to heal a bit. Our time in Ten Sleep was amazing; it is a magical place, and I am so fortunate to have experienced it for just over a week.

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Here is some info about Ten Sleep and the climbing:

Ten Sleep is the name of the town close by the climbing area, which has a population of 200 people. Ten Sleep Canyon is the area that we camped and climbed in, about a 25 minute drive away from the town. The climbing has been developing since 1991 and it is clear that this place is still somewhat of a hidden gem: nowhere near as popular as Red River Gorge, but maybe one day it will be. The number of people is super unpredictable. On a Saturday, Tom and I ran into only one other party at French Cattle Ranch, and they happened to be locals; one of them had actually bolted the climbs that we were all climbing – how cool! The crag called Slavery Wall always seemed to have people on it, and the parking lot leading there was often full, holding a little over a dozen cars. Some areas, like the Circus Wall/Denial Wall area can range from no cars to a full parking lot, and the busyness appeared random.

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This photo was taken moments before I tripped and sliced my toe.

The new guidebook was released during our stay at Ten Sleep, which was exciting for us. After not being able to find the previous, out-of-print guidebook, we guided ourselves through the crags with a Mountain Project ap and the generosity of other climbers letting us peek at their guidebook. Sadly, the author of the new guidebook released a collectors-style book with unnecessary bells and whistles, such as 3D glasses. Priced at $100 USD ($120 CAD), there is no way we could justify buying the book.

As disappointing as the guidebook was, we must move on. Climbing highlights for us were as follows: I led a couple climbs in the 5.9-5.10a range, Tom climbed his first 5.11d onsight, and I climbed my first TR 5.11b onsight. I am really working on exercising my fear muscle, as it is becoming clear to me that I am strong enough to climb 5.11s, yet am crippled by fear on low 5.10s on lead. I am one of those people that has a really hard time leading, but I am definitely seeing progress. Woohoo!

Another funny thing worth reporting is the hilarity that was the local farmer releasing his cows into the area that also happened to be our campground. One morning we were woken at 6:30am by the calls of herded cows. We quickly learned that the area would also be their home for the time being. I have to say, after this experience, I do not like cows. They poop everywhere, they make really loud cow calls, particularly when the sun rises, and they seem scared of humans, yet often eat grass way too close for comfort. On the first evening, about 20 of them surrounded us, mooing and spying on us over the tall grass. We had no idea how to handle them.

During our rest days, we went to Thermopolis to use their hot springs and shower, and Worland to get groceries, eat some diner food, and get our oil changed. There is not too much to do here, but we made do.

The next stop was Devils Tower. Our first sighting of the tower was at sunset: a slightly tilted 867-foot tall cylinder emerging out of the ground, with a surrounding tangerine orange sky and dark purple clouds. Breath-taking.

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The first day, we got our bearings, taking it slow because of my toe injury, and scouted out routes we wanted to do. We set up camp at the Devils Tower Lodge, where the owner, Frank, let us camp on his lawn by donation. Frank hosts visitors at the tower as well as climbing guides, who bring people up and down the tower. Between 2007 and 2008 he climbed 365 days on the tower. He and the guides, who live at the lodge, were really nice and willing to give us lots of information in regards to climbs, gear necessary for each climb, approach trails, and cheap places to buy beer.

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This last photo is of the side we climbed to the summit.

I felt joyous when I was able to not only get my hiking shoes on, but my climbing shoes as well, only four days after injuring my toe. Tom and I climbed a two-pitch, called New Wave (5.10a), and another climb called Mystic and the Mulchers (5.8). On our last day we proudly summited the tower; it consists of many pillars that form cracks, so hand jams, fists, and off-width are the name of the game. We used the route Bon Homme Variation (5.8+) and finished on Walt Bailey Direct (5.7). Summiting was definitely the highlight of our stay.

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These were taken at the summit

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6 thoughts on “The Tale of the Tower

  1. It WAS awesome! Dad, I had every intention to grab a stone for you, but forgot once at the top 😦 Also, a ranger was at the top with us, so I would have had to take it sneakily. Not sure what the rule are about that there… But, there are more summits to come! Also, we did a timed photo for the one of the two of us at the top.

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