Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An Abbreviated Stay In Ten Sleep

As mentioned previously, back in 2009, Kevin "Rafscallion" Rafferty and I ventured off on a road trip that ended in Basin, WY with the vehicular harvesting of a mule deer.  On the road trip we had the bright idea of going to visit Yellowstone on the way out to British Columbia.  When driving through Ten Sleep, we were in awe of the amount of rock we could see on both side of the canyon, but didn't have a guide or any information on the climbing, so we decided to keep driving, but I think we both knew we would be back some day.

Seeing as we were basically recreating the first leg of our prior road trip, we decided to make a quick stop to sample the limestone that has been becoming more and more popular lately.  Here are a few things I noticed after our admittedly quite brief stint there:

  1. After climbing in the needles, the bolts are comically close together
  2. The best routes we did were all 5.12 or higher
  3. It is very high up, and the weather was awesome for climbing, even in the middle of August
  4. All of the cracks and ledges are full of bat shit
Ultimately, I was a bit disenchanted with the climbing there, especially after how much fun we'd had in the needles the last few days.  The scenery however was quite nice, especially at night.  At night, thousands of bats came down from the cliffs, and every night we thoroughly enjoyed watching them swooping around.  It was also apparently a meteor shower, and we saw a couple of incredible meteors, including one that Kevin saw that allegedly went from canyon rim to canyon rim.  I didn't see that one, but I did see a few others that were by far the biggest meteors I'd ever seen.  Very cool.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bike Week Kings

In addition to the birthday challenge, I also just got back from a great road trip out west to help my good friend Kevin Rafferty drive his new van/house back out to Utah for school.  The trip was loosely based around an ill-fated 2 month trip he and I embarked upon a few years ago.  I think he was 16 and I was 17 at the time, and we made it just past Ten Sleep where we hit a deer and totalled his car.  Still can't believe our parents let us do that...

Back in the day, our first stop was in the Black Hills, where we were definitely in way over our heads.  This time around we were much more prepared, and had a great time climbing the precarious, spindly spires.  Climbing in the Needles is a very similar experience to climbing at the lake, in that I'm constantly in awe of the boldness of the routes, as well as when they were first done. We also got in on the first day of the Sturgis motorcycle rally, so obviously that was awesome.

Hordes of bikers from the top of Bloody Spire

The first day we ventured into the Cathedral Spires, with an eye on climbing West Gruesome, South Tower, and Spire Four.  After spending quite a while trying to find the routes, we finally got to the top of West Gruesome only to experience one of the apparently common afternoon thunderstorms, and forced to retreat.  Luckily it was just a brief shower, and after waiting at the car for 15 minutes or so, we decided to climb Tent Peg in the Ten Pins.  Tent Peg was cool, and offered a great little intro to the Needles with a moderate run out to the top of the spire.  It also was a great experience hanging out on top as hundreds of bikes went by waving and shouting congratulations up at us.  The next couple of days we went and finished up the South Tower, Spire Four, and Spire Two, as well as went to the Needles Eye and did the Gnomon, Bloody Spire, and a "sport" route called Goldline with 4 bolts in about 80 feet.

Awesome view from Spire Two

On our last day, we ran into Mr Mix and his family who were returning from Wild Iris.  Unfortunately we were on our way over to the Ten Pins when we ran into them, and never got a chance to climb with them.  In the Ten Pins though we were excited to test ourselves after getting into the groove of climbing in the Needles the last few days.  We warmed up and simul rapped off of the super cool three pronged summit of Tricouni Nail, and then walked over to the Pete Cleveland scarefest, Hairy Pin.  The story goes that on the FA, Pete's belayer locked him off where the second bolt is, and refused to let out any more slack until he drilled the bolt.  Before I set off, we looked from all over to see if we could find the second bolt, but couldn't.  Luckily we had a topo in the guidebook, and I was pretty sure I knew where the bolt was.  After a couple minutes convincing myself to do it, I set off.  I made it up to the first bolt no problem, and spent a few minutes contemplating the crux moves and was still looking for the second bolt.  I pulled through the crux, and after about 10 or so feet got onto a big, but kind of awkward hold, that I had hoped I would be able to clip the next bolt from once I stood up on it, but it was no where to be seen.  I figured it must just be blending into the rock, and if I went up just a bit further I would see it.  About another 10 feet from there I made it to a bigger, but again rather awkward crystal, and still no bolt.  At this point I was pretty terrified, and called down to Kevin that the bolt wasn't there, and I had no idea where it was, or whether it was even still there (the bolts on Super Pin were recently chopped, and that was definitely in the back of my mind).  Despite my terror, I was somehow able to stay somewhat calm, when I realized I couldn't down climb, and had no choice but to keep going up.  I hung out on that big pebble for a while, eventually slung it rather poorly, and shouted to Kevin over the bikers that I was going up.  A few moves later the bolt finally came into view from its hiding place on top of a bulge, and I very thankfully clipped it.  The final "runout" to the anchors felt about as well bolted as a gym route, and just like that I was on top of probably the most demanding lead of my life.  When Kevin got to the top we exchanged high fives, and enjoyed the bikers for a few minutes before rapping down and heading further west.

On the summit of Hairy Pin