Category Archives: Wyoming

Ten Sleep Canyon Part 4 – Superfly 12c/d

So after a patriotic day at the rodeo on the 4th, the next day was back to the canyon for business as usual.  As I said in Ten Sleep Recap Part 2, the 3rd day on in our 3 day chunk was spent scoping out the moves on Superfly 12c/d at the Slavery Wall, so let’s rewind back to there for a minute.  The main difference we noted between Slavery Wall and everywhere else we had climbed was that it was WAY hotter in the morning, due to the lack of tree cover at the base of the cliff.  Thankfully though, our main objective climbed an east-facing corner, so it went into shade earlier than everything else.  

Some new found friends on the 11a beside Superfly

On our reconnaissance day, we warmed up on a route everyone that ever climbs in Ten Sleep Canyon simply must do once – Beer Bong 10b.  The face climbing on it is pretty polished in places, and the movement is just okay.  But the exposure and position out over the chimney in the last 15 feet is what earns this route its stars.   For a more interesting perspective than the typical crotch shot at the finish, we decided to take the drone up to capture some better angles while waiting for Superfly to go into shade (video here.)  

Beer Bong 10b

Hanging draws on Superfly was exhausting – 100 feet of technical climbing that demanded focus for almost every move.  After an hour (and a lot of stick clip hauling), I gave up two bolts from the top.  CragDaddy took a turn, and while he was able to clip chains, it wasn’t without aiding through the crux lurking right before the anchors.  To be honest I was a little discouraged tying in again, this time on toprope so I could work the crux more efficiently.  But my second run went awesome – I actually linked most of the lower section.  And though my initial attempts at the final sequence were pretty dismal, I ended up finding a pocket that CragDaddy had missed before – it made the move juuuuuust doable enough for me (though I had my doubts as to whether that beta would work coming in hot on a redpoint burn.)

Big C shakin’ his money maker

Knowing that a 3rd burn on a 3rd day on would likely do nothing but further rip my skin to shreds, I opted to quit while I was ahead, in the hopes of coming back a muerte on our final day in the canyon.  So fast forward past the rodeo, and past another day at FCR.  Last day equals last chance, so nothing like a little pressure, right?  The morning dawned sunny and hot, as the temps had steadily been rising since we’d arrived 10 days prior.  Although it would for sure be much cooler in the canyon, highs in the town were forecasted at 100!  That said, no one was in a rush to get up there right away, considering the lack of shade.  So we took a nice drive through the old road in the canyon, stopping here and there to play with the drone and take some token Christmas card pics.  

When we finally made it up there, we opted for the Red River Gorge strategy of warming up – a bolt to bolt run on the project.  Superfly is not a terrible warm-up option – the difficulty builds very gradually, with nothing harder than 11a in the first 40 feet.  Then come two back to back cruxes, the first being a hard lock off, the second using a series of insecure feet.  More long moves on decent holds leads to a pretty solid rest stance at 80 feet , followed by a little more hard 5.11 filler before setting up for potential heartbreak at the anchors.  

Having only had one run at it before, and therefore needing more beta refinement than me, CragDaddy offered to hang draws.  A welcome gift, especially considering that a lot of my tick marks had washed away during the freak deluge of rain from the night before.  Using the new hidden pocket I’d found the previous day, he also was able to do the final sequence, and lowered down feeling more optimistic about his send potential.

Down low on Superfly

My strategy for the first run was to climb like I’m sending until it becomes apparent that I’m not – ie, don’t get sloppy, and don’t get flash pumped.  I executed well, remembering most of my beta.  I got stalled out in the 2nd hard sequence, but managed to make it through and up to the rest.  After getting as much back as I was going to, I proceeded, til I was one bolt from the top, staring down the gauntlet of the final sequence.  I took a breath, pictured the moves then executed – Crimp, crimp, pocket, mono, make clip.  Done.  Get feet up and reach high for the hidden pocket – got it!  

I was almost out – all I had left was to bump my left hand to a better hold, smear my feet really high, and toss to a flat hold where I could then mantle to the chains.  But in my haste to hit the hidden pocket, my feet were lower than they were supposed to be.  Also, my right finger was sliding out of the shallow mono, and I was way too insecure to re-grip.  Not to mention that ever present pump clock.   Despite the fact that one of the cardinal rules of redpointing is to STICK WITH YOUR BETA on a send attempt, I just knew my original beta was done for.  I needed to go Rogue.

Now Rogue Beta is a slippery option that can only end in one of two scenarios – you either feel like a genius for making a wise, in the moment choice, or you feel like a chump because you hesitated and didn’t execute correctly.  Honestly it’s usually the latter, but I felt like I had no choice.  Instead of going left hand to the better hold, I went right hand, which allowed me to leave the mono early.  However, the hand mix-up cost me.  Not only was the mantle more awkward, it also left me out of reach of the finishing holds!  Panic started to set in again – the chains were literally at eye level, but too far to the right to clip.  True confessions – I thought about grabbing the quickdraw, but I knew I would hate myself for it on the ground, and that after all the effort I’d just put in, I couldn’t count on getting there clean again.  It really was now or never.  I held my breath, stepped my right foot level with my right hand, and precariously started to rock over, praying a gentle breeze wouldn’t blow me off.  Right when I thought I was about to tip backwards, I felt my center of gravity settle over my feet, and I could stand up.  Clip chains = DONE!  

CragDaddy high on Superfly 12c/d Photo by @izzyjams

CragDaddy sent on his next go as well (with far fewer dramatics.)  After a nice long break, he got some revenge on another near miss from 2015 – Strut Your Funky Stuff 12a.  Even Big C got on the send train with his toprope onsight of Shake Your Money Maker 5.7.  I was hoping for a similar effect on Momma’s Mental Medication, also 12a…but I fell going for the final pocket.  Womp womp.  That said, nothing could dampen our day too much.  It was a grand ending to an even grander trip!

Me with my favorites.

Initially, we had thought that this 3rd time to Ten Sleep might be our final time.  After all, there is so much rock to climb in the United States, it hardly seems fair to keep our pilgrimage in the same spot…but guys, I just don’t know if we can give up going to this place!  Especially now that the kids are older and are so vocal about how much they love it.  One advantage to growing children however, is that road trips are a lot easier now…and with homeschooling, it’s pretty darn easy to take our show on the road.  So who knows, maybe next time we’ll drive?  Anyone got any fun ideas for stops along the way?  For now though, it’s good to be home.  See you at the New this fall!  

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Ten Sleep Canyon Part 2 – Superratic

Big C crushing Boy Howdy 5.9

Our typical “vacation climbing” (ie, more than a weekend) strategy involves a smattering of rest days in addition to climbing days, so that we can climb as close to our best as possible whenever we are on the wall.  We generally try to avoid crowds by planning rest days for a Saturday, when the crag would be most crowded from local day trippers.  For this trip we also wanted to make sure we were in town for the 4th of July celebrations, so we ended up climbing in 3 “chunks” – 2 days on, 1 day off, 3 days on (with the 3rd day being short), 1 day off, 2 final days on, then home.  

The first two days of that middle “chunk” were spent at Superratic Wall, an area that, while absolutely stacked with classics, we’d not spent much time at prior to this trip.  Our 2015 trip had featured Tricks for You 12a, and Great White Behemoth 12b.  So for this time around, we started at the other end of the wall, with a relatively short but seemingly holdless line called Black Slabbath 12b

Now sometimes the routes at Ten Sleep, especially the very popular, classic ones, are accused of being soft at the grade, and sometimes I would agree…but not this one!  This one packed quite a punch in only 50 feet – starting with just getting onto the wall.  The holds were microscopic, the feet were barely there at all, and the climbing was so insecure it seemed as though the slightest hint of a breeze would blow you right off.  On my first go, I think my stick clip hung more draws than I did, but I rehearsed the harder sequences on the way down and managed to rally for a solid 2nd go send!  CragDaddy took a few more tries, but eventually put it down (video of his send here.)  In between his redpoint burns, I gave Tetonka 13a a couple of toprope tries.  Boy was that thing sharp!  It wasn’t pretty, but I did get up it, and I did do all the moves – although I have no idea how on earth I’d ever make the 3rd clip.  

Working on my ninja moves on Black Slabbath 12b

Big C’s climbing highlight of the trip was Boy Howdy 5.9, a juggy but steeper-than-it-looks little number that he got on both days, and was psyched to “toprope send” on the second day (video found here!)  His motivation for climbing can sometimes be hit or miss, and we certainly don’t want to push, but there was no question he was having a blast on this route.  Mental note – find more just like this for that boy!!!  

Same route, different climber!

Our second day at Superratic was even better than the first.  We decided to up our game a little bit with Walk the Dog 12c – while significantly longer than Black Slabbath, this one did have both better holds and better rests.  We both thought the grades should be switched?  It was CragDaddy’s turn to hang draws, and I was psyched that his tick marks left me a pretty good road map to follow.  My first attempt featured some hangs, but I was able to methodically figure it all out, and on the way down, I rehearsed the moves in chunks between rest stances.  And…we both sent! (video of me sending here.)

This much fun is exhausting….

We still had some time left, and CragDaddy wanted to take a turn on Tetonka since he’d missed out the day before, so I volunteered to hang draws.  I wanted to see if it felt any more doable now that I’d worked out the moves.  I actually was able to link a surprising amount of the bottom section, making it through the first crux section clean, but my power meter struggled hard around the 3rd bolt, and I ended up having to jug through to finish. In hindsight, considering how shredded my skin was after this end of day attempt, I probably should have left this one alone and opted for something easier, but it ended up being fine.  CragDaddy had a similar experience…

Sending smiles!

The close of our second day at Superratic marked that we were somehow already over halfway done with our trip.  We decided that our 3rd day on would be a reconnaissance mission to the Slavery Wall, so we could suss out the beta for Superfly 12c/d, a route that had been recommended to us earlier in the trip.  More on how that went later, but the next post will be all about our rest day shenanigans!  


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Ten Sleep Canyon, Part 1 – French Cattle Ranch and Valhalla

CragDaddy working through the opening boulder problem on Pussytoes 12d

Not sure about your summer, but ours has been nuts – especially the month of July. Last Friday I had vocal cord surgery (don’t worry I’m fine), and the week before that we were at the beach with extended family. So it’s hard to believe that it was just a little over 3 weeks ago that we were living the climber’s dream out in Ten Sleep, Wyoming! Since Ten Sleep is one of my very favorite places in the world, I could go on all day about it, but I’ll spare you the day’s work, and try to limit myself to just 4 blog posts – 3 parts for the areas we concentrated our climbing efforts on, and 1 part for our around town/rest day shenanigans. Sound good? Here’s part 1…

FCR offers some of the best rock in the canyon, but as for most areas in Ten Sleep, you gotta work for it to get there.  Make no mistake, this hike is long.  Guidebook suggests 45 minutes, which seems about right if all members of your party have grown-up sized legs and hike with purpose.  But if you add in a pair of 8 year old legs, along with some 4 year old legs, and your focus is more intent on meandering through fields of wildflowers, plan on around an hour and a half to get up there.  It’s worth it though, trust me!

Now the way most people do the south-facing side of the canyon is to sleep in late,  show up around lunchtime when the wall goes into shade, and climb until late, as the sun doesn’t set til around 10 in the summer.  But coming in with kids on East Coast time didn’t provide us with that luxury – ie, our first morning began at 430 (630 EST).  Our strategy was more of a get-out-early-and-suffer-through-the-warm-up, then enjoy the shade until 5 or so.  As my fellow east coasters know,  heat WITHOUT suffocating humidity is really no big deal.  Besides, the base of the cliff in most areas has plenty of tree cover for shady hang outs, and often times even filtered shade on the lower part of routes.  

Beauty as far as the eye can see!

We’d tackled all of the super classics on the Shinto Wall on our last trip, in 2015, so our main goals for day 1 at FCR was to shop around for potential projects later in the trip.  (CragDaddy also wanted to wrap up some unfinished business with Center El Shinto 12b/c from last time.)  But getting accustomed to the limestone was harder than we anticipated – on previous trips, we’d always climbed somewhere else first to get acclimated, either Spearfish, or Wild Iris, and were always feeling great by the time we rolled into Ten Sleep.  This time around, we probably should have factored in a little more adjustment time.  

Jedediah 12a

I did manage to send a 12a on Day 1 called Who the F*** is Jedediah?  And let me tell you, I don’t know who he is either, but this route felt pretty darn hard.  Multiple long, sustained cruxes without a hint of chalk…probably would have felt different by Day 10, but this one took me 4 valiant efforts to put down.  Other routes of note were Tutu Man 10d – a fabulous warm-up that climbs a shaded corner, and Euro Trash Girl 10b – a decent warm-up that unfortunately didn’t climb as good as it looked.  

As far as project shopping, we tried a few, but more or less struck out on Day 1.  We did end up going back to FCR on Day 8 with a little more success.  CragDaddy was able to put down Center El Shinto first try of the day, but still got shut down on Pussy Toes 12d.  Second time around I found I could in fact do the boulder problem on Zen Garden 12c, but it also felt very sharp and tweaky, and by that point I wanted to save my skin (and tendons) for our final day.  I bailed on it in favor of an onsight attempt (and success!) of Crazy Wynona 11d – I’d done 2 of the other 11’s on the wall during our 2012 trip, and this one was just as good as I’d remembered the others! 



Big C on Macaroni 5.8

The 2nd day’s main goal (along with more project shopping), was Cocaine Rodeo, one of the few five-star 12a’s we’d yet to touch.  The hike was a good deal shorter (estimated family hiking time = 50 minutes.)  After warming up on the super fun Heroin Hoedown 11a, we got down to business.  CragDaddy onsighted like a boss!  I unfortunately blew my flash by getting sucked into his tall man beta at the 2nd bolt, but was wisely told to come back down, wait a few minutes, and start again.  I did my own thing the next go and got through, and with the CragDaddy beta hose spraying me down for the rest of the route, the next go send came easily enough…although I did get stalled out for a hot minute in the middle, as the big mono move was NOT a sure thing!  (Had I not been on point, I probably woulda hung!)  

Also worth mentioning from Day 2 –Dicken’s Cider 12c and Last Dance with Mary Jane 11b/c.  After waiting out a freak hailstorm in the middle of the day, we attacked both of these in the afternoon.  I was psyched to nab the flash on the latter, but the former kicked both of our butts.  Great movement on some really cool holds, but didn’t feel doable for a short term trip.  

If you’ve followed us at all on here or social media, you are probably aware that in addition to being climbers, we  are certified nature dorks.  One of our favorite things to do on any hike is to identify any flora/fauna that we see, then go home and draw it in our nature notebook.  We were looking forward to being in a new environment with new critters and wildflowers to observe.  In fact, my 8 year old has such an exciting memory of us stumbling upon a moose on one of our hikes here in 2015, that he said the one thing he absolutely wanted to see was another moose.  And, wouldn’t you know on our hike out Day 1 from FCR, we almost literally ran smack dab into a mama moose with her “teenager” looking calf!  We kept our distance, but they didn’t seem bothered by us in the slightest.  We shared the trail with them for at least 5-10 minutes, until they finally got tired of us following them and loped down off trail into the meadows below.  Amazing experience, and one that I hope both kiddos will remember (at least via photos) for the rest of their lives.  

There are moose on the loose!

Part 1 = done!  Stay tuned for our adventures at the Superratic Wall coming up next!


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Wyoming Adventure Finale (aka the part that happened in Utah)

Like a Limestone Cow(girl) 12a

Like a Limestone Cow(girl) 12a

After one last wonderful climbing day in Ten Sleep (summed up here), we dragged our tired but satisfied bones back down to the car, and drove west back to Lander.  The next morning we made tracks to Bear Lake, UT, which is probably one of the most beautiful bodies of water I’ve ever seen.  CragDaddy and I had visited there once back in the pre-kiddo days of 2009.  The lake is situated at the end of Logan Canyon, which offers some great roadside craggin’.  Only an hour and a half from the airport, it was the perfect final stop on our adventure.

After enjoying some raspberry milkshakes that lived up to their “world’s best” claims, we weren’t exactly feeling light and tight, so we decided that some relaxation by the lake was in order.  Though less adventurous than our previous water experience in Sinks Canyon, Bear Lake was definitely warmer!  The kiddos splashed around for an hour or so, then we headed into the canyon, where we pulled off to squeeze in a quick pitch before dinner.

We parked at the Fucoidal Quartzite area and hopped on Illusions 10a, which felt a bit more polished than we’d remembered.  But the highlight of the day for sure was Big C suiting up for some climb time of his own!  Ten Sleep didn’t really have any good “kid routes,” and Big C really hadn’t expressed the desire anyway.  But when we pointed out Tiny Toons 5.5, he was all of a sudden psyched to harness up!  I’m not gonna lie, his first attempt was an exercise in patience for us, and frustration for him.  There was a lot of whining involved, but every time I suggested that he come back down, he adamantly refused.  At one point he said that he was scared, and I encouraged him to sit back and rest on the rope.

Big C crushing Tiny Toons 5.5

Big C crushing Tiny Toons 5.5

I had mistakenly assumed that he was afraid of falling.  However, his answer revealed the real fear – failure.  “BUT I WANT TO SEND IT!!!!” he screamed with all of his might (not the first time we’d heard this sentiment from him.)  Finally we convinced him to take a hang, figure out the moves, then take another “sending burn.”  When it was his turn again, he was far more confident and efficient (aren’t we all on the 2nd go!), and went right up without any trouble!

Like a Limestone Cow(boy) 12a

Like a Limestone Cow(boy) 12a


We spent the evening trying to pack up our gear as best we could.  It was an hour and a half drive, and we needed to be at the airport by 3:00…but we still had one more route left on our agenda – Limestone Cowboy 12a.  Also in the Fucoidal Quartzite area, this one was supposed to be the best 12 in the canyon, so we couldn’t leave without at least giving it a try!

The next morning we got out earlier than we had the entire trip, and decided to forego the warm-up in the interest of time.  Perhaps that wasn’t the best idea, as no one flashed, and we all fell at different places.  The toll of so much climbing on so little rest was catching up to us.  Two of my fingertips had “holes” in them, and the skin on the other finger tips was feeling pretty raw.  Caleb’s skin was okay, but the tendons in his fingers were aching.  And the CragDaddy was feeling a little all of the above, with a side of de-motivation.

Meanwhile however, Big C was just getting started!  He took a “beta lap” up a different variation of Tiny Toons.  It had a pretty interesting sequence for him down low that allowed him to practice some compression-style moves, which was something he’d never done before.  When his turn came round again, he nabbed his second clean TR ascent of the trip!

Compared to what we’d been getting on in Ten Sleep, Limestone Cowboy was a lot less sustained.  The first couple of bolts are no harder than 5.9, followed by a no hands rest.  The face is thin and sequency, but not that hard once you figure out the beta, with a great jug rail to shake out on before the overhanging finish.  The boys took a while to figure out the face moves, but had no trouble with the finish.  I made it clean through the face, but then got pummeled on the overhang.  The moves are BIG (like, feet-cutting big), and while the holds are also big, they are angled in such a way that definite technique is required (not just a gimme jug haul.)

Big C doing the "hug beta"

Big C doing the “hug beta”

CragDaddy and Caleb both sent 2nd go, but I got my feet too high too soon on the face, and punted off.  I was feeling pretty exhausted, so I was planning on just cleaning the route when I got to the top, but I found some better finishing beta thanks to a decent intermediate hold I hadn’t seen before, so I decided to give it one more try.  I sent 3rd go, making Limestone Cowboy my “most-tried” route of the entire trip!  Yay for sending!

And since that marks the end of our whirlwind Wyoming (and Utah) adventure, I’ll also say, “Yay for training!”  After seeing great results this spring from the training plan outlined in the Rock Climber’s Training Manual, I’d started another training cycle at the beginning of the summer, with “Ten Sleep success” as the primary goal.  I defined “success” as racking up as many classic 5.11 and 5.12 sends as I could.

As far as 5.12’s go, initially I was hoping for one in Wild Iris, and maaaaaaybe one per day in Ten Sleep (since I knew going in that the climbing there tends to suit my strengths), which would bring my trip total up to 5.  (I thought by the time we got to Logan Canyon, I’d be lucky to get up 5.10, so I didn’t factor that in at all.)  But apparently I underestimated the effect of all the training…and my trip total ended up being 10 – double what I’d been hoping for!

I hope that the previous paragraph doesn’t come across as spray…my intention is to highlight the impact that a periodized training program had on my goals.  In my mind, it played a big role in how the trip went for me.  No doubt I would have had a blast on stellar routes either way, but the training allowed me to have a lot more success on a much higher level of climbing than what I was expecting.  Now that we’re back and settled into the daily grind (unbelievably, Big C started Kindergarten this year!), my question for everyone is…who’s ready for SEND-tember?!?!


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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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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



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…


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!


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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Wyoming Adventure Part 1: Around Lander

Caleb checking out the moves on Poker Face Alice.

Caleb checking out the moves on Poker Face Alice.

If you’ve been regularly following this blog, you may have noticed that it’s been pretty quiet of late.  That’s because our family spent 10 days frolicking around in the wilds of Wyoming.  And then recovering from said frolicking.  And now finally getting around to writing about said frolicking.  Since summing up the whole trip in one blog post would probably make my head explode, I’ve decided to break it down by area, starting with our first stop in Lander.

Day 1:  Wild Iris and Popo Agie Falls 

With so much climbing looming before us, we’d intended this day to be somewhat of a “warm-up”…but it ended up being one of the longest, most action-packed days of the entire trip!  We climbed at the OK Corral area, which had a nice short approach, and a great selection of routes from 5.easy to 5.hard to choose from.  Since our time here was short, we were pretty picky about sticking to the heavily-starred routes in the guidebook.

Red Ryder 10a – Good intro to Wild Iris limestone.  Cool holds and cool moves.
Winchester Pump 11b – We were all feeling the pump by the top of this one, but all sent 1st go.
Rooster Cogburn 12a – This one looked pretty doable, so I intentionally didn’t look when everyone else was climbing, in order to preserve my onsight chance.  (Non-climber note: An “onsight” means to send a route with no falls or rests on the rope on your first try, without any prior knowledge about the route.)  There were a couple of cruxes, but with good rests in between, linking the moves wasn’t all that hard.  Onsighting a 5.12 had been one of my goals for the trip, so it felt really good to get that out of the way on Day 1!

Steve on Rooster Cogburn 12a

Steve on Rooster Cogburn 12a

Tribal Wars 5.11b – After proclaiming all the previous routes as soft for the grade (I think our actual words were, “If that 12 were at the New, it would only get 11c!”), we had to eat our words on this one!  Probably the best route we did at the Iris, Tribal Wars featured a tricky technical crux on the face before some steep, pumpy climbing to the chains.  The technical crux gave me no trouble, but the overhang had me breathing pretty hard – the moves were longer than I was expecting, on holds that weren’t quite as good as I’d wanted (although some locals told me I missed a few jugs hidden in the sea of pockets.)  By the time I got to the chains I was pretty desperate, but managed to hold out for the onsight.

Me shaking out before the overhang on Tribal Wars 11b

Me shaking out before the overhang on Tribal Wars 11b

Not wanting to blow our forearms out on the first day, we decided to call it quits (especially since by now the whole crag was in full sun and it was pretty hot.)  However when we got back into town, it was a little too early for dinner.  Being amped for exploring our new environs, we opted to head to Sinks Canyon to hike to the infamous Popo Agie Falls water slide.

In hindsight, this endeavor was far too involved to be attempting with two hungry kiddos that were still on Eastern time…but all’s well that ends well, and it was definitely worth the late bedtimes!  Even if you aren’t interested in taking the plunge, the hike is still a must-do in the area.  The distance to the best viewpoint of the falls is 1.5 miles (with gorgeous scenery the whole way), with another half mile to the slide.  The slide itself is about 15 feet long to a drop of about 10 feet into a deep pool that has redefined my understanding of the word “cold.”  A far cry from the bathwater temps we southerners are accustomed to in August.

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Crag-Daddy and I had gone back and forth about whether or not to bring Big C’s PFD (for the sole purpose of this water slide)  It was bulky to pack, and we even sure he’d want to do the slide.  He can swim, but not good enough to trust him in a situation like that with so many unknowns.  But boy am I glad we brought it, because he didn’t hesitate one bit!  When he bobbed back up his eyes looked pretty terrified, but by the time we got to shore, he was grinning from ear to ear, and that’s all we heard about for the next several days!

DSC04497 DSC04527
Day 2 – Wild Iris Main Wall

We did the trek to the Main Wall on our second day, which although beautiful, we all felt was grossly underestimated in the guidebook (30 minutes?!?…although it could have been the elevation talking.)  Out of the whole trip, this is the one day that could have had better planning.  We did a lot of moving around, with not a lot of climbing to show for it.  We warmed up on Take Your Hat Off (5.10b), which was an excellent, engaging route.  Then we hopped on Arizona Cowgirl (5.11c), which felt a lot easier than either of the 11’s we’d done the previous day.  Our next stop was Hot Tamale Baby (5.12a),  an interesting route with a bouldery crux that Crag-Daddy put up just before a random hailstorm (?!?) rolled through.  With the weather being a little sketch, and not knowing if the upper sections of the route would be wet, Caleb and I both decided to toprope this route.  Afterwards, we kept moving up the cliff, but didn’t see anything we liked, and ended up hiking back to the parking lot.  In hindsight, we all wished we would have stayed and tried to send Hot Tamale.  Or stopped further down the trail earlier that morning to try Wind and Rattlesnakes (5.12a).  There were just SO many routes, and backtracking with the kiddos would have been a pain, especially since we were committed to end at a reasonable hour this time.

On the hike out, with Main Wall in the background.

On the hike out, with Main Wall in the background.

Our main goal for Wild Iris was to get acclimated to the elevation as well as reacquainted with limestone on our way to Ten Sleep.  I had hoped to send a 12 there, and having it go down as an onsight was icing on the cake.  The water slide was amazing, a memory that I hope my son will be old enough to remember, but if he doesn’t, we at least have tons of photo evidence!  On Day 3, we did the tourist-y thing at the Sinks Canyon Visitor Center, stocked up on food, and headed east to our main objective of the trip, in the sleepy little town of Ten Sleep (so stay tuned…)

Steve fighting through the crux on Hot Tamale Baby 12a

Steve exiting the crux on Hot Tamale Baby 12a…dont let the skies fool you, the hailstorm came 15 minutes after this picture was taken!

Huddled up to wait out the storm!

Huddled up to wait out the storm!

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An Affair With Ten Sleep Canyon

Dear Ten Sleep Canyon,Thanks for the amazing time.  Were it not for geography I would definitely make cheating on the New River Gorge a regular occurrence with you.  But the long-distance thing is gonna be hard, so we’re gonna have to settle for a rendezvous every year or two.   Love you long time,Cragmama     Over the top?  Not really.  This place was that good – a summer sport climbing paradise I tell ya.  First of all, the canyon was ridiculously impressive, making Spearfish look like nothing more than a small trench in the foothills.  The approaches were long but rewarded…Read the rest of this entry →

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