Roaming in Wyoming

Well, here we are back in Wyoming. To recap, Tom and I left Colorado in early July to bypass the rain, and spent 12 days in north-eastern Wyoming: Ten Sleep Canyon and Devils Tower. We returned to Colorado to spend some more time in Denver, Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Fort Collins.

Our last days in Colorado were spent escaping the crowds in Rocky Mountain National Park, and escaping the heat in Horsetooth Reservoir. We climbed White Whale (5.7 crack) in Lumpy Ridge, and attempted to boulder in Horsetooth, until the heat was too much, then cooled off in the Reservoir. So long, Colorado; it was a blast!

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At the top of White Whale
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Twin Owl at Lumpy Ridge

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Tom working Punk Rock Traverse (V5) at Horsetooth Reservoir

Wyoming is a magical place. Vedauwoo, Ten Sleep Canyon, and Devils Tower all hold a special place in my heart after our experiences there a couple weeks ago. On our way north out of Colorado this time around, we went back to Vedauwoo for two days, joined by Anthony and Magoon for one day. And, I am so glad we did go back.

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We were quickly reminded that the climbing grades at the Woo are sandbagged (climber-speak for harder than the grade the route was given). We struggled hard on a V1 diagonal crack called Cupcake, and panted our way up Ted’s Trot (5.7 chimney). We also played around on some 5.4 and 5.5 cracks/off widths, and a 5.8 slabs, then worked our way up a 5.10a crack called Friday the 13th. On our last morning, Tom and I cruised up Edward’s Crack (5.7) and loved every minute of its 70 metre hand jams, fist jams, foot jams, and the final gaping off width (larger than fist size crack) move. At the top of the climb we scoped the many unique piles of lumpy granite rock, and truck-sized boulders balancing on their tips. We were also welcomed both times to the Woo by a bright full moon, giving us a distinct moon shadow in the evenings. This place is magical, both for the climber and non-climber.

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Tom placing the #5 on Edward’s Crack (above), and celebrating being at the top (below)

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The next stop was the beautiful Lander, where we visited a sport climbing destination called Wild Iris. We have been fortunate to experience the luxurious free camping that Wyoming has to offer; situated just south of downtown Lander is City Park, equipped with a bathroom and picnic tables, surrounded by large cottonwood trees and luscious green grass. We stayed there one night, scoped out the town the next morning, then made our way to the Wild Iris camping and climbing area. The landscape here is incredible. Rolling green hills, distant blue mountains, slanted red cliffs speckled with desert greenery, and white Limestone cliffs of Wild Iris peering out from the treeline.

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And, the climbing is wonderful. I’ve been leading some good, classic 5.10as, and working on some low 11s with Tom. The approach trails are short, a five minute walk from our campsite to the OK Corrall crag. On our rest day (during which I wrote this post while waiting for our laundry to finish), we stumbled upon the NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) library, where we retrieved the 1993 issue of Rock and Ice where Lynn Hill talks about free climbing The Nose. What a piece of climbing history!

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Wyoming, you are a wild and glorious treasure beneath a stretch of endless sky.

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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

Getting Freaky in the Front Range

How wonderful it was to meet and hangout with the famous Magoon, Anthony, and Athena the dog in Denver, friends of Tom’s from his previous USA climbing trip. Atlas the cutie-pup also joined us. We squeezed in a lot of climbing over five days, especially considering that we got rained out multiple times. The first day (Canada day!) we climbed a couple cracks in Boulder Canyon, then climbed the first Flat Iron with Magoon (whose name is actually Megan). I never thought I would feel lame trad climbing, as about ten free solo-ers passed us on this 5.4 milti-pitch.

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Here are the Flat Irons from a distance. We climbed the one on the right.

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Above is Tom inspecting the 1st Flat Iron up close.

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Here are some of Magoon’s photos from the day:

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Day 2, we drove to Vedauwoo, WY with Anthony and Magoon. Pronounced vay-da-voo, this mystical climbing destination is filled with sharp, grainy granite cracks that leave any climber with scrapes at the end of the trip. And, if you have ever climbed outdoors with me, you will know that I always leave any area with scrapes and bruises. We all wore long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid the scrapes, but I still managed to cut myself. We hopped on a couple nice cracks, one off-width, and a couple boulder cracks. The off-width caused us all to wiggle like a snake up a vertical crack just big enough for our thighs and torsos to squeeze into. Sadly, I did not make it to the top, but I learned a lot about the skills necessary for off-width climbing. We all struggled a lot on an off-width roof crack boulder on Day 3 that was too painful to link any moves together.

Here are Magoon’s photos from the trip:

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Can you spot the Tommy?

 

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Can you spot the Sarah?

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Day 4 was Independence Day, and in the morning we bouldered in Eldorado Canyon with Anthony and a couple of his pals, Kristie and Dan. In the evening, Anthony kindly invited us to a BBQ hosted by his boss. It was fun to see and hear the continuous stream of fireworks set off by neighbouring houses; throughout the evening we had to raise our voices to be heard over the continuous cracks, pops, and whistles overhead.

On the fifth day, Tom and I repacked our car to head out of Denver. We were truly thankful to Anthony and his roommates, Lindsay and Fred, and the two dogs, Athena and Ruby, who were so hospitable and kind to us, letting us stay at their house during our Denver stay. And, thanks to Anthony and Magoon, who were amazing tour guides, and made time to hang out with us.

We managed to meet up with another friend of Toms, Alex, who he also met during his last USA trip. We had coffee, then ate at Watercourse foods – vegan and delicious. Due to a week of forecast rain in northern Colorado, Tom and I decided we would jump ahead in our itinerary. The next stop was Ten Sleep, Wyoming – we plan on going back to Colorado when the weather is looking better.

Driving north from Denver to Ten Sleep, we passed miles and miles of flat fields and hills of nothing. Cows appeared now and then, and the occasional town had a gas station, but that was it. All of a sudden the road was covered in fog, limiting our vision to about ten metres in front of us. Then, out of nowhere, instead of flat land, huge walls of rock towered around us: yellowy, pinky, and bluey-grey walls layered between lush pine trees, appearing like a lost world. I love the first moments of entering a new area: novel and full of potential.

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Ten Sleep was a bit of a shock to my system in terms of climbing. Steep walls full of finger pockets felt so different from cracks in Colorado and the bubbly slopers and jugs in Maple. Still trying to avoid the rain, Tom and I managed to hop on some good 10s and 11s at Slavery Wall, Wall of Denial, and Circus wall. We have found a nice hangout spot at the local Ten Sleep Brewing Company, where we come for some brews and wifi. Ten Sleep is a town of around 200 people, and was named so by Native Americans, who travelled ten nights to reach the town originally. We are planning to stay here for 7 sleeps. Is that wrong?

Road Trip into the Utah Desert

Hello internet! Here is a post that I wrote on Monday, June 1st, that I could not post because I was in Maple Canyon with no cellphone or internet connection. Right now I am hanging out at Alchemy Cafe, in Salt Lake City, taking a rest day after climbing for the past three days. Here is what I wrote two days ago:

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Hello everyone! I am writing from my campsite in Maple Canyon, a climbing destination in Utah. Today is day five of the USA road trip that Tom and I have been planning for months. So far it has been a blast, and I wanted to recount a little bit of our adventures on this blog, as not only is this blog about sharing food, but also about sharing adventures. And, so far, this has been quite an adventure!

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Day 1, Tom and I left Canmore, Alberta and drove south to a campsite just outside of Anaconda, Montana. We slept in our car that night for simplicity sake, and packed up early the next day to head out to Ogden, Utah. The drive was incredible, as the scenery changed from close-up jagged cliffs in Montana, to straight road, fields of potatoes and cows in Idaho with mountains in the very far distance. It felt like the view was just getting better and better as we drove into Utah, with rolling red cliffs in the distance, and huge snowy peaks in the far distance. We camped just outside of Ogden on day 2 and drove through Salt Lake City on day 3. We stopped at some sport shops, a brewery called Epic Brewery, and a vegan diner called Vertical Diner. At the diner Tom had a bean and seitan burrito and I had a Philly cheese steak sandwich made with tempeh and nutritional yeast cheese sauce. The menu was delightful, and I highly recommend it to anyone. And, Epic was pretty great too. Salt Lake City has a law that beer must be no more than 4% at restaurants, grocery stores, and on tap at bars, but at breweries it can be more, only in single bottle sales. We bought five bottles, one of which was a sage beer. Tom opened it after I had eaten a cookie (s’more Oreo, mmmmm), so I didn’t care for that beer much. Had I drank it with tofurkey or something savoury, I may have enjoyed it more hehe.

Day 3 also involved driving to Grand Junction, Colorado, where we saw Shakey Graves, a musician that Tom and I have gotten into over the past year. He performed for free at an outdoor street festival in Grand Junction. Tom and I enjoyed vegetarian paninis at Café Sol, and dairy-free gelato from a local vender before the performance. We got lost on the way to the campsite that night, which was in the middle of the desert. I think both of us were a little apprehensive, as we saw cars in the distance, who were driving in the opposite direction. Finally, we found the site, which was supposed to be free, but was asking for $10. We paid it, only to find that the site was full. A nice couple, who were also sleeping in their vehicle, let us share their sit, which easily accommodated two parties. I had the best sleep that night, after having woken up from being cold the previous two nights. Anaconda and Ogden must have gone down to between 5-10*C at night, and the dessert felt warmer. While the days go up to between 25-30*C, nights get chilly.

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Day 4, we drove to Maple Canyon and climbed a few routes in the late afternoon. This place is incredible, like no other climbing place I have ever been. The cobblestone rock appears bubble-like, and gives a plethora of holds, which can be daunting, as they are not always as juggy as they appear. As I sit here in my campsite, sipping on coffee, bundled in my puffy winter jacket, I am surrounded by humungous cliffs that peak in bulges and towers, like the top of a castle tower. We are so close to the cliffs that we can return to our campsite for lunch, which is unique, compared to the typical 20-30 minute approach trail.

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I am feeling fortunate, happy, and excited to continue on this adventure. Here is a recipe of overnight oats that fuels us before a full day, inspired by a recipe from ohsheglows.com. It serves two, though I often have trouble finishing my serving. Tom usually helps me out, or I save it for a snack.

Ingredients

1 yellow banana, mashed
2 tbsp protein powder
¾ cup rolled oats
¼ tsp salt
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1-1 ½ cups non-dairy milk

Optional: almond butter, maple syrup, hemp hearts, chia seeds

The night before I want to eat this breakfast, I mix together the first six ingredients in a mason jar with a lid. The amount of milk depends on how liquid you like your oats the next day, but it should appear liquidy because the oats soak up the milk. Since the temperature here goes down so low, I just leave the oats out by our tent overnight, but at home I would put them in the fridge. The next day, I serve the oats with the optional toppings listed above. This morning I omitted the maple syrup, as I have found the oats sweet enough without.

I am eating these oats as I type this! It is definitely worth trying, as cold oats are waaaay better than they sound.