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Wyoming Adventure Part THREE – Last Days in Ten Sleep

On our last trip to Ten Sleep (in 2012), we only had 3 consecutive days in on which to climb (and we were so beat on Day 3 that we only made it til lunchtime.)  So this time around, we allowed more time.  After two incredible days at Sector Shinto and Superratic (summed up here in case ya missed it), a rest day was most definitely in order.

Happiness in Slavery 12b

This route is called Happiness in Slavery 12b…

We started with a drive high into the Big Horn mountains to West Ten Sleep Lake, where we enjoyed gorgeous views as well as a short morning hike down to the Ten Sleep Creek Falls.  We probably could have dawdled the day away here, but even layered in the warmest clothes we’d brought, we still weren’t prepared for the 38 degree temps we found at such a high elevation.  So back down we went,where the rest of the day could be summed up by the words “sleeping” and “eating.”

Happiness in dirt.  :)

This picture is captioned, “Happiness in Dirt.”

On Wednesday morning we found ourselves back at Sector Shinto, eventually, that is.  Our creek crossing shenanigans continued, as the creek was significantly higher after the previous day’s rain.  All of the rocks to hop across were either underwater or wet, and the fallen log now featured slick, icy spots.  While Big C is normally pretty fearless, the icy log was where he drew the line (which was fine by me, since I was not particularly jazzed on toting Baby Zu across the log in the backpack either.)  We decided that the guys would cross the creek and go ahead and get up there, while I drove back down canyon and hiked up the long way with the kiddos.  Thanks to LOTS of singing and some motivational huckleberry licorice sticks I’d bought in town, we made it to Sector Shinto not only with minimal whining, but a full FIFTEEN minutes faster than we’d done it the first day (it helped that our lungs no longer felt like they were exploding at the slightest incline…)

Sector Shinto

Wyoming Flower Child 5.11d – Though it was more difficult than the 10a to it’s right, this fun little number was a much more pleasant warm-up.  The holds weren’t nearly as sharp, and the business wasn’t until just before the anchors.
Dope Shinto 12a – CragDaddy and Third Man Caleb still had loose ends to tie up with the Left and Center Shintos, I made it my mission to tick off the other starred routes on the wall, starting with the dopeness.  Though easier than the other 12’s on the wall, this one is just as fun.  A sequency little boulder problem down low guards fun 5.11 climbing to the top.  Hanging draws I botched the sequence and pitched off trying to reverse the moves, but I sent 2nd go.
Wutang’s Wild Shinto Ride 12a – This was the last 12 on the wall left for me, and it was definitely a wild ride!  A tad sharp, but great (relentless!) movement with a glory pocket right that showed up at just the right time!  I needed a send to keep pace with my “35th (5.12) on my 35th (birthday)” goal, and while it didn’t go down without a fight, I onsighted it!  (Shout out to Crag-Daddy for hanging a few of the draws for me as he was lowering down off Dope…it definitely made things easier!)

Dope Shinto 12a

Dope Shinto 12a

Left El Shinto 12b

Left El Shinto 12b

Slavery Wall

Our last day in Ten Sleep happened to fall on my 35th birthday, and I couldn’t have picked a better place to celebrate than the Slavery Wall!  I started the day with 33 lifetime 5.12’s, so I only needed 2 more to reach my birthday goal of 35.

Steve sending Asleep at the Wheel 12a

Steve sending Asleep at the Wheel 12a

Asleep at the Wheel 12a – We’d been averaging 4 pitches a day (kiddos around + climbing as a party of 3 = quality rather quantity!)  So instead of “wasting” one on a warm-up, I decided to get down to business right away.  I figured this would allow me 2 burns per 12, rather than forcing me into a situation where I felt pressure to onsight (I’d also already done the stand out warm-up for the area, Beer Bong 10b, back in 2012.)    This one was great – and the first few bolts weren’t that difficult so it ended up being a decent warm-up anyway!  There were 2 definite crux sections, but great stances to suss things out before each.  I almost punted off the top, but kept myself together enough to tick it first go!  With 1 down, 1 to go, I was feeling pretty optimistic about my chances for number 35!

These kiddos are awesome.

These kiddos are awesome.

 

This bull snake was pretty cool too!

This bull snake was pretty cool too!

Strut Your Funky Stuff 12a – This one was aptly named, for both climbing style as well as being number 35!  The footwork was definitely funky, and the crux for me was finding the footholds.  The feet were actually pretty good, but since most of them consisted of small pockets that doubled as handholds, they were really difficult to spot once you moved up above them.  I wasn’t taking any chances on finishing my goal, so I enlisted CragDaddy, (who had just gotten off the route), to give me a complete spraydown of the holds in real time as I went up.  Definitely a gift-wrapped flash, but I’ll take it!

With the pressure to send off my shoulders, I decided it was prime time to hop on the area classic – Happiness in Slavery 12b.  I knew it was probably too little too late in the day (and trip!) to send something so bouldery and pumpy (especially hanging draws!), but I didn’t want to leave Slavery Wall without experiencing it.  It was hard, for sure, similar to Great White Behemoth but with slightly bigger holds on slightly steeper terrain.  I mostly went bolt to bolt, and even so I was running on fumes by the time I clipped the anchors!  I would have loved to have seen how it would have felt on a 2nd go, but I guess it’s good to leave something to come back for next time!

Getting funky on number 35!

Getting funky on number 35!

What a great present!  After one 12 in Wild Iris (recapped here), and eight in Ten Sleep, I bagged my 35th lifetime 12 on my 35th birthday, woo-hoo!  Happy birthday to me!  And while the end of this day marked the end of our time in Ten Sleep once again, we all walked away pleased with what we accomplished.  Besides, even though Ten Sleep was done, we still had to make our way back to the SLC airport…and we still weren’t quite done with our tick list for the trip!  Stay tuned for the FINAL edition of our Wyoming Adventure (the one that actually takes place in Utah.) :)

Initial boulder problem on Happiness in Slavery 12b

Initial boulder problem on Happiness in Slavery 12b

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[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Wyoming Adventure Part Deux: First Days at Ten Sleep

If you’re new around here, I’m recapping our family’s recent exploits in Wyoming, a few days at a time.  If you missed Part 1 (the Lander edition), click here to catch up!  For the deets on our first few days in Ten Sleep, read on!

After an easy Saturday drive from Lander to Ten Sleep, we awoke on Sunday morning psyched and ready to crank out the long hike to the Sector Shinto wall in the French Cattle Ranch area.  After a quick warm-up on an uncomfortably sharp 10a (Great Green Gobs…), we turned our sights to the main objective for the day, and possibly even the whole trip, Center El Shinto 12b/c.

Shaking out before the business on Center El Shinto 12b/c

Shaking out before the business on Center El Shinto 12b/c

"CLIP IT!"

“CLIP IT!”

This 5 star classic is one of the most popular 12’s in the canyon, and for good reason.  This route is technical face climbing at its finest – very sustained movement on stellar rock, and recently upgraded to a b/c “slashie” in the latest guide.  The crux is about 2/3 up, and includes a really difficult clip from a core intensive stance.  Having dogged my way up it on our last visit 3 years ago, I was hoping it would go down pretty quickly, considering I’m a lot stronger now than I was then…but after taking a crux beating while hanging draws, my confidence was more than a bit shaken.  But knowing that the 2nd go is ALWAYS easier (draws are in, moves are familiar), I got on it again, hoping to at least make it through the hard clip this time before popping off.

Creek-crossing shenanigans...

Creek-crossing shenanigans…

I made it up to the crux a lot more efficiently than before, and assumed the tenuous clipping position.  I did NOT feel secure, and for a half-second contemplated grabbing the draw (how I’d made the clip before.) But my belayer shouted, “CLIP IT!”, so I did.  The next few moves were thin, but I got through them to a decent stance.  The upper bit wasn’t nearly as hard the 2nd time around, and before I knew it, I found myself clipping the chains.  Woo-hoo!

We still had time left in our day, so I decided I may as well take a run up Left El Shinto 12b, another must do on the wall. and another one who’s grade was changed in the latest guidebook (this time downgraded from 12c.)  The initial boulder problem off the ground was really thin and balancy, and actually felt harder than the crux on Center, but the rest of the climbing was less sustained and with better rests.  It was a fight to stay on in places, but I made it through to nab my hardest onsight yet (further confirmation that it wasn’t really 12c ;)).

That evening as we sat around reflecting on our day, I realized that I had just had what was probably my strongest climbing day ever – first 12b onsight, and first time bagging two 5.12’s in a day.  Crag-Daddy noted that my lifetime 5.12 count was up to 29…we had 3 more climbing days in Ten Sleep, and if I could keep up my two-a-day pace, I’d be sending my 35th 5.12 on my 35th birthday!  As cool as that sounded, I thought it was probably a little ambitious for a road trip goal, but I kept it in the back of my mind just in case…

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CragDaddy on his way to onsighting Tricks for You 12a.

The next day we hiked in to the Superratic Pillar, this time via the upper parking lot.  Although shorter in distance, it ended up taking the same amount of time to get there due to some creek crossing shenanigans.  We started on Tricks are for Hookers 11b, a fun climb that ended up being a great warm-up for our next route that was just to the right – Tricks for You 12a.  Tricks for You was an engaging and enjoyable journey up the center of the wall.  Nothing too powerful, but very methodical movement with calculated footwork.  We both sent 1st go (and props to the Crag-Daddy for his first 12a onsight!)

Caleb getting draws up on Great White Behemoth 12b

Caleb getting started on Great White Behemoth 12b

Meanwhile, our “third man” Caleb had been around the corner hanging draws on another 5-star classic – The Great White Behemoth 12b (or “12b+” as it reads in the new guide, whatever that means!)  And while Behemoth was in many ways just as technical as Tricks for You, it was also much more powerful and bouldery – big moves off small pockets and tiny footholds.  I went bolt to bolt to start with, and while I didn’t struggle too much with any individual move, the thought of putting the whole thing together seemed beastly intimidating, as there was a lot of sequencing that needed to be executed just right.  But since I’d put in the work, I knew I owed myself a 2nd go.

Guy beta

Guy beta

Girl beta...I promise my elbow is not out of joint, its just a weird photo angle!

Girl beta…I promise my elbow is not out of joint, its just a weird photo angle!

Round 2 on Behemoth started out surprisingly smooth, and soon I was at the last hard sequence.  I completely forgot my beta, but thanks to accidentally finding a hidden foothold, I muddled through it, and latched the hold our crew had dubbed the “5.10 jug.”  (Without considering the pump factor, from this point the last 20 feet of climbing was probably no harder than 5.10.)

“I’m gonna send it!” I thought to myself as I shook out, took some deep breaths and waited for some feeling to come back into my forearms again…but I quickly realized that I was pumped beyond the point of repair.  The pump clock was ticking and I needed to get moving.  You know those old school arcade racing games where the clock starts ticking down, down, down, and then you hit a checkpoint that gives you +5 seconds to get to the next checkpoint, and so on?  The last 20 feet of Behemoth felt exactly like that, as my sending mantra quickly morphed into “Oh sh#$ I’m gonna blow it!”

Trying hard not to punt off Great White Behemoth 12b

Trying hard not to punt off Great White Behemoth 12b

I was redlining the entire way, and just when I felt like my hands were going to involuntarily open up, I’d hit a hold that was just good enough to buy me a few more moves to the next decent hold, and so on…until I finally came screaming (literally) into the anchors.  I was in grave danger of punting off with a handful of rope when I remembered there was a good stemming stance to clip from…PHEW!  And thus went the Great White Behemoth…which, at 2nd go, was probably not the route I’ve worked the hardest for overall, but it’s a definite contender for the hardest fight in a single go.  I was incredibly excited that it went down, and also super psyched to still be on pace for my “35th on my 35th goal!

The requisite "Christmas card photo with stunning background" shot.

The requisite “Christmas card photo with stunning background” shot.

 

While that may have ended our climbing adventures for the day, the hike out was anything but uneventful. Remember the creek crossing shenanigans I mentioned on the way in?  We had to find a different way across this time, because as we came down the hill and around the corner, we came face to face with a large bull moose about 30 feet down the trail!  It was definitely a little unnerving, as thick brush on one side, a creek on the other, and a big hill to our backs didn’t leave a lot of room to get out of his way should he get feisty!  Thankfully he seemed more curious than concerned about us, and after posing rather stoically for the camera, went back to his grazing while we bushwhacked around trying to find another way to get across the creek.  In the process, we discovered that our handsome friend had a lady friend as well, which added even more drama to a sketchy log crossing over shallow (but frigid and rushing) water!

DSC05190

At the end of the trip, we all sat around and talked about which days were our favorites of the whole trip.  For me, it was a close call between the two days I just described – amazing climbing that shattered PR’s for both Crag-Daddy and I, and a spectacular nature encounter!  Pretty hard to beat, although there were others in our crew who voted for what was yet to come, so don’t forget to come back next week to check out the recaps from the rest of our time at Ten Sleep, as well as our brief exploits in Logan Canyon!

 

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[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Dreams of Ten Sleep

It was a long, hot summer on the Colorado Front Range, so after a seemingly interminable climbing drought the family was fired up to head north and check out the latest rage that is Ten Sleep Canyon.  We’ve had lousy luck when it comes to Ten Sleep.  I first bought the guidebook in the Spring of 2007, with plans to head there that coming summer.  I developed a curious Sesamoid injury (that’s in your foot) that was mis-diagnosed as a stress fracture, so I spent that entire summer in a walking boot, meaning Ten Sleep would have to wait.  I don’t exactly recall our excuses for the next four summers, but to sum up, each year we made firm plans to go to Ten Sleep, each year those plans fell through, and each year the new edition of the Ten Sleep guidebook doubled in size.

The French Cattle Ranch, its just like France!

So you can imagine my surprise when we finally rolled through Ten Sleep Canyon early on Friday morning.  My objective for the trip was my friend Matt Wendling’s brilliant “Sky Pilot” and the recently tacked on extension at the aptly named “French Cattle Ranch”.  The highest compliment we can bestow on an American limestone crag is to compare it favorably to France.  This has been a running joke between me and Kate for literally ten years, when we first began exploring the limestone crag of Palomas outside of Albuquerque.  During one of our first visits we met some friendly chaps from Durango that had been lured several hundred miles to our humble bluffs by the dubious claim that it was ‘just like France’. 

But the Sector D’or et Bleu really is just like France–except that France has a lot more routes and the crowds to go along with them.   Not to worry, with five 5.14s, as many 5.13s and a number of projects, there is plenty to keep you busy.  The rock is beautiful pocketed stone, overhanging at barely 5 degrees, involving extremely thin, tweaky and technical climbing.  I imagine this is what the hard routes at Buoux are like: invisible footholds, half-pad monos, and calf-straining in their continuity.

Kate warming up on Tutu at the FCR.

After a fun warmup on the popular Tutu and the diminutive Lil Smokey I put two burns into my project.  To be honest I was a bit dismayed by the continuity of the line.  I hadn’t done a lick of Power Endurance training in almost a year, and I was assuming the hard lines here would have short, bouldery cruxes with lots of rest like the lines in Lander.  Although my power was as good as ever, I didn’t fancy my chances of stringing together so many hard moves in only three climbing days of work.  Wendling’s original vision ends at what is currently the 9th bolt, and it was all I could do to suss the moves to that point on my first go.  The next burn was dedicated to figuring out the newer 4-bolt extension.  I had decided to gamble and go for the whole enchilada, accepting that the effort expended working the harder finish may sabotage my chance at sending the easier original pitch.  I was able to work out all the moves, but they seemed unlikely to coalesce in such a short period of time.

After a long day of driving and climbing we headed in to Ten Sleep to explore the dining options.  Or should I say option.   I hear Ten Sleep is a bustling tourist town in the summer, but by early October the show has moved on.  The only establishment still open was the Ten Sleep Saloon, which fortunately had a diverse menu (the Carne Asada burritos I ordered were outstanding).  The real shock was that there was not a single grocery store in the entire town.  We had never even considered such a possibility.  We had enough power bars to get us to the summit of Everest but we had no real food.  A quick stop at the Pony Express convenience store lead to a brief panic attack at the thought of eating rotisserie hotdogs and HoHo’s for the next four days.  We were extremely elated to discover that full-service Worland was only 25 miles further west down US16, and made plans to visit first thing the next morning.

Some interesting possibilities at Castle Gardens

I’m a big advocate of rest days, primarily for injury prevention, but also for the plain fun of it.  The great sport crags of America all seem to be in the middle of nowhere, and it turns out there is a lot of fun to be had in such places.  We were psyched to explore a new venue.  We headed out to find Castle Gardens, somewhere in the badlands between Ten Sleep and Worland.  I managed to get us lost literally within 100 yds of turning off the highway, but after a twisting 20-mile detour we found the clearly posted sign pointing the correct route.  The Gardens are formed by gnarled hoodoos of Mesa Verde Sandstone and were a big hit with Logan.

My favorite rest day activity is staring at rocks, so after a grocery stop in Worland and an afternoon nap for Logan we headed up Ten Sleep Canyon to check out the seemingly unlimited supply of Big Horn Dolomite.  Far too much for one rock-staring session, so we planned to focus on the right half of the Mondo Beyondo cliffband.  The Slavery wall looked amazing, stacked with fun, steep lines and beautiful marble-streaked stone.  We passed countless tempting lines along the hike, and lots of friendly climbers taking advantage of the cool evening temps. 

The next crag to take my breath away was the Superratic Pillar, which lives up to its billing.  This crag also hosts a number of hard lines, but I was disappointed to see an obviously drilled pocket on “F’d in the A”.  I think its pretty sad that chipping is still taking place in this day and age.  I’d like to think that as a community we’ve learned from the short-sighted mistakes of the past.  Anyway, enough ranting.  Two lines here really caught my eye, “Hellion” and “He Biggum….”; I would love to return for these routes some day.

Logan on good toddling terrain at Sector Shinto

The next order of business was to find a good crag for warming up.  Logan is right at the age where he can walk like a champ and is starting to run–on flat, level ground.  Not much of that at Ten Sleep, so it was a real challenge to find crags where he could cruise around unsupervised.  By dumb luck the Sector D’or et Bleu was just such a crag, but there weren’t many good warmups there.  And frankly, Ten Sleep’s best-selling point is its plethora of delightful 5.10s and 5.11s.  We wanted to sample as many as possible during our short trip.  So we continued along the cliff to the far end of the FCR in search of crags with a nice flat base for worry free toddling.  The Big Kahuna Pillar had just what we were looking for, and a new cliff, the aptly named “Whiny Baby Wall”, though not ideal, was serviceable with a creative belay strategy.

“Racing Babies”, an airy arete at the BIg Kahuna Pillar.

With temps nearing 80 degrees in town, we decided to wait till the shade arrived to start our next climbing day.  This strategy backfired when Logan began falling asleep on the short drive to the crag.  Logan takes one nap per day, and that must coincide with climbing to get the most out of the crag day.  We knew if he fell asleep he wouldn’t take another nap, so we rolled down the windows, started tickling him, singing songs, and generally driving like maniacs to get us to the cliff before he went down.  Fortunately he brightened right up once it was time for the approach hike, and he took a nice long nap as soon as we got to the crag, allowing us to climb two stellar 5.10s and a nice 5.11 at Sector Shinto. 

I was able to get through the redpoint crux on my first attempt of the day on Sky Pilot, but I couldn’t get decent recovery at the mid-point rest.  I was able to fight through the growing pump for a few more bolts but eventually grabbed the last draw to forfeit the battle.  Normally I would beat myself up over such an act, but I hesitated for quite a while to consider the situation before throwing in the towel and I think it was the right call.  Falling while clipping is not an acceptable option in my opinion.  No single burn is worth getting hurt over.  After a nice long rest I was able to put some good work into the crux sections and find some slightly better rest stances, hinting that I might have a shot at this thing after all.  Unfortunately the slow building pump took so much out of me that I was pretty much shot for the day.  I gave it another go but it was over almost as soon as it started. 

Finishing up the entrance exam of Sky Pilot while Logan naps below.

At this point in the project cycle we approach the “Bargaining” stage.  What would I be willing to trade for a redpoint?  I have no firm plans for the next few weekends, but a quick look at the forecast reveals four consecutive days of snow, beginning the day after our planned departure.  Will Tuesday be the last day of the 2012 Ten Sleep climbing season?  One day left for all the marbles…

Sky Pilot is in your face from the get go, with long cranks off a pair of tight monos that feel more like finger locks.  This time slapping for the marginal rest jug seems relatively routine.  Not really pumped yet, so no need to shake, except my left middle finger tip is numb from the mono-lock.  After a few chalk cycles I step up to an awkward pod and execute a gymnastic traverse that leads to the redpoint crux.  A big stretch to a shallow sloping two finger pocket spit me off twice on redpoint.  Getting the pocket isn’t so bad but the hold is so smooth its very difficult to dead hang, let alone pull past.  As luck would have it, the otherwise plentiful footholds suddenly vanish right at this point, making the move downright desperate.  My solution is a tiny foot chip–really, a calcite stain–less than half a millimeter deep.  Fortunately I have a brand new out of the box pair of Tenaya Inti’s. 

Beginning the traverse with a big cross to a two-finger pocket.

Today is the hottest day of the trip, and with a 6+hour drive still on the agenda, there is no time to wait for cliff to cool off.  The pocket feels as slimy as ever, and I’m nearly certain this will fail, but I stick to my beta and pop my left hand to a miserable sloper, followed immediately by the right hand to another sloper just above the pivotal pocket.  Amazingly I’m still on, so I cruise to the route’s one truly good shake and set up camp.  Literally 10 minutes pass, including a super-not-recommended T-shirt removal episode that thankfully provided slight relief from the oppressive heat.  I can feel myself passing the point of diminishing returns and decide its now or never.  A big high step leads to a three-finger crimp, a shallow 2-finger dish, and a marginal shake in a shallow scoop.  This rest is a trap, so I shake only long enough to clip, chalk up, and rehearse the ensuing boulder problem in my mind. 

Mantle, scrunchy stem–powerful clip feels effortless this time.  Chalk one last time, cross, precarious wide stem, gaston, left hand to sharp mono, shuffle then bump to sinker mono, jug.  Clip the 9th bolt.  Sky Pilot is in the bag, so I won’t leave empty-handed, but the extension is looming.  Another trap shake at the Sky Pilot anchor, then quickly up through a sea of sharp coral dishes and micro crimps to another dubious rest stance.  The shake is good but hellish on the legs.  My left calf is screaming for relief but my fingers can’t take the extra strain.  Much longer here and I won’t be able to feel my feet…

Match the last good pocket, work the feet up.  Right hand: half-pad mono.  Step up, lock off mono to right shoulder.   Hips right, left hand windmill to two-finger chip.  Stand up tall, belly to rock, stab right hand to half-pad mono; precision is key.  Bump left foot.  Breath.  The jug looks too far. “Watch me!”  Dyno to jug…. 

That’s all for now, but we will be returning to Ten Sleep soon….

…STUCK!

It doesn’t happen very often, and perhaps that’s what makes it so sweet, but sometimes, everything just works out perfectly.

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