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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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?