Limestone Cowboys: The Sequel (Ten Sleep, WY)–June 16-July 3

With only a few weeks remaining in our Still Moonin’ Adventure, we are once again behind on our blog. Somehow, we have managed to enjoy some great climbing during the past month without feeling like we were compromising our morals or the safety of others. One way that we’ve accomplished this is to spend longer in uncrowded areas instead of making a ton of quick stops in crowded places.

After two weeks of spectacular crack climbing and granite slabs, we moved from City of Rocks to Wyoming’s Ten Sleep Canyon. If you’ve followed our trip, you might notice us repeating last summer’s path. This wasn’t the plan, but what has this year taught us except flexibility and gratitude for small things (well, that and hoarding)? Ten Sleep is one of the most unique and grittily charming places I’ve seen, and I wrote quite a bit about the town’s flavor last year. If you aren’t into the climbing stuff, you might enjoy that blog more (USA—Summer 2019 heading in the side menu if you’d like to discover the best small town 4th of July celebration anywhere); I know that I really enjoyed reliving it before writing this one. The rest of this blog will focus on the climbing. I’m not sure why we didn’t take more pictures.

Ten Sleep’s climbing really challenged us last year; we’d never climbed on limestone before, and it was about as different from the Cascades as possible. It’s very physical and pumpy; technique is important, but power and endurance might matter more. After nearly 3 weeks of climbing limestone in Greece last fall, we are much more attuned to it. We knew we’d struggle with endurance since there was no way to train in a gym, but Ten Sleep’s bolting is so friendly that we wouldn’t have to worry about taking giant falls if our grip blew. Safe bolting makes TS a great place to push, and we gave ourselves permission to go bolt to bolt when the pump was too much.

Here are descriptions of our favorite climbs:

Ice Station Zebra (5.9 with 5.10c extension)—A grinfest of a bolted crack—like they say, no one comes to TS to place cams. The book says to lieback the bottom, so I did…only to watch Sarah stem her way up effortlessly after I grunted, slipped, and fell the first try. Hey, it was a warmup!  Sarah did the short arete extension, but she said it was nowhere as good as the crack.

Plinko (5.10a/b)—Okay, this one is weak for our list, but how often do you get a full pitch of bolted chimney? Sarah stemmed the bottom here, too, while I opted for some sort of weird arm jam to get into the chimney before testing the durability of my chockstone jacket as I inched up the entire way. I need to learn how to climb like a girl!

Thor (5.10a)—Super fun! A short lieback led to a roof with great jugs to pull through; the whole thing is a super pumpy jug haul! Not the best match for our pipe cleaners, but we both liked it so much we climbed it twice.

Death Flake from HELL (5.10a)—A long, PUMPY ride full of big moves on pockets, jugs, and a steep flake at the top that lives to laugh at your wrecked forearms! This a main objective for me, but we did it after a full morning of pushing my grade on steep routes. I was a little ashamed to ask for a take at all 5 last bolts…not because I didn’t want to fall, but because I was too lazy to climb back up again if I did! 😊

BBQ Buddies Control the Cosmos (5.10B/C)—I love this climb! The crux is near the bottom—a few moves of liebacking with slippery feet. You get a nice rest in the middle on an easy slab before finishing on a bomber flake that goes on FOREVER. So much fun!

Dirt Gator (10B)—This was one of my favorites from last year, but I never got quite confident enough with pockets to lead it. This year, I led it twice…both times, I needed a take after an awkward clip, only to cruise the crux afterward. Sarah high clips it, which is ironically a bad habit that gets me into trouble sometimes. That clip is the only awkward part; the pockets are perfect the rest of the way.

Big Bear Memorial (10C)—If I could only climb one route in TS for the rest of my life, this 35m of awesome would be it. The bottom ‘s short crack is the technical crux; it gives way to a steep dihedral on bomber jugs and pockets before a hard move or two at the top. You can stem most of it, though, which helps manage the pump. This was my #1 goal to lead in TS, so I was super excited to get it done.

As all of you know, Sarah is a really good rock climber. She doesn’t normally tell people this, but you only have to watch her for a few seconds to recognize it. She also won’t tell you that she leaves stuff on the table sometimes because she wants to include me. So, I was happy to see her push (and succeed) on some stuff she wasn’t sure she could climb. Here are a few favorites from her world:

B1 Bomber Dude (11a) – My first 11a on-sight!  My favorite type of climbing is balancy, delicate and crimpy.  This climb delivered on them all!  I enjoyed the flowy movement and sustained crimps.

Munsterlander (11c) – I eyed this climb last year; it is located near Big Bear Memorial, and our friend Kelly told me I just had to try it as it is one of the best climbs at the grade.  My goal for TS this year was to try at least 1 climb that I didn’t know if I could get to the top.  This was the climb to try as it is 5*, well bolted and not too overhung.  It is long and sustained, so I had a few takes due to the pump factor.  I was grinning ear to ear when I clipped the chains!

Crazy Wyona (11d) – After our trip last year, I really wanted to climb at the Back 40 as all the climbs on vertical, crimpy and balancy.  Right up my alley.  I climbed 2 of the other 11s there before giving this one a go.  I approached it with no expectations, but after a few takes and 1 fall, I made it to the top.  I was ecstatic and couldn’t believe I just climbed 11d!  I would love to go back to try and climb it clean someday! 

While we really got into the climbing this year, we also enjoyed plenty of downtime. Ten Sleep Brewery and Dirty Sally’s ice cream cones helped with that. Having over two weeks in one place is a luxury that we don’t normally get in the real world, but we took full advantage of a few extra rest days that allowed us enough recovery time to climb hard the entire time. As you can tell from the pictures, we had one of the best campsites of all our travels—right on the creek, plenty of space, and lots of shade. We were also lucky enough to meet up with some friends from last year; Kelly and Maria, you have no idea how much we needed to share those socially distanced candlelight “campfires” with you.

We must have done Ten Sleep the right way because we climbed until we couldn’t climb any longer…literally, we had to stop early the last morning because we couldn’t hold on to the jugs! Time is a funny thing, as I think we’ve all learned this year. Now that we are winding down, I find myself thinking, “next year, when I climb this,” only to realize Ten Sleep is probably 15 hours from Portland. For now, I guess we’ll just be grateful for the opportunity to be here this summer. It may not be anytime soon, but Ten Sleep, we’ll see you again!

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6 Responses to Limestone Cowboys: The Sequel (Ten Sleep, WY)–June 16-July 3

  1. Doug says:

    One of your best blogs!

  2. Jill says:

    Sounds wonderful! My suggestion? Stay and keep climbing!

  3. George says:

    Your living right, Sarah and Mike. Way to go!

    • Mike says:

      George, so great to hear from you! We were just talking about the piton lesson you gave us a few years ago. Hope you are doing well!

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