A blog about climbing full time on the road.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Montana - Alberta - and - British Columbia

We left the Herzog's cabin last Sunday morning after a great week of climbing with friends. We were sad to leave, but as always on the trip there was something new around the corner that tempted us to keep moving.

We left and drove for a whole day just to reach westernish Montana. We camped near Anaconda Montana along highway 1 in forest service land, and left immediately the next morning. We arrived in Missoula around lunch, picked up some supplies and left immediately again. This time we left I-90 and headed up through Thompson Falls along highway 200 (thanks for the recommend Jesse!!). Cassie and I took a swim in a small river flowing out of the Cabinet Mountains. The river was almost 10 feet deep and so clear you could easily see the bottom, it was also incredibly cold. I had to throw mojo in to get him to swim. It was a beautiful drive and we camped that night along lake Kookanusa (spell it out Ko - Can - USA) and you get the reason because the lake (reservoir) crosses the border. There is some climbing there but we didn't get to do any because the weather took a turn for the worse and was very windy and rainy. It stayed that way off and on for about a week (until today). Again it was a beautiful night of camping along the lake and a lot of driving.

Next we headed east to Glacier National Park. Neither Cassie nor I had been along the "Going to the Sun Rd". Unfortunately it might have been incredibly beautiful but we sure didn't see any sun, and almost didn't even see any mountains due to the weather. We have very few pictures because it rained nonstop the entire time. Couldn't see a thing, but that's the way it goes. We headed north into Alberta and had a relatively easy time crossing the border. The border guard asked a lot of questions and eventually found out that we were unemployed. There is apparently some concern with illegal immigrants and he was happy to hear that we had enough money to leave the country and plane tickets to Europe. He could have asked for us to do a significant bit more work by having us hold onto some kind of card we needed to return when we left (their way of keeping tabs on us), but luckily he didn't. It's still incredible to me that people would think we might become illegal immigrants. Of course, if the debt crisis causes the US economy to tank we might not come back....

We drove west along Route 3 towards Fernie British Columbia and stayed at a provincial park there. It was almost our first paid campsite in a month. We opted for it because the first free site we found along the road which was incredibly beautiful in a field next to a river, also happened to be right behind a gun range. It only took a couple of shots before we realized how close we were and we got in the van and hauled outta there as quickly as we could. The next site had more skinned deer carcasses than I've ever seen and given the bear population and the disgust with the site we chose to move on. By then it was getting dark and we were exhausted. As luck would have it we pulled into the provincial park, found the last open site and we elated to get a break from the very nice person who collects the fees. After hearing our story of intended free campsites they "forgot" to collect the fee. Many thanks to you!!!

We continued driving the next day and made it to Kootenay National Park on the west side of the Canadian Rockies. The site was excellent and within walking distance of Marble Canyon which is an outstanding limestone slot canyon with brilliant blue-green water rushing through it. There is an interesting vantage point that is precariously being hollowed out below it by the water. A little disconcerting after you realize what you have been standing on.

The next day we headed into Banff National Park and did a hike to the Six Glaciers along Lake Louise. There is some really good climbing on the back of the lake but we figured that with all the climbing we are about to do and with the incredible scenery that hiking would be the best use of our time. It was worth it. The lake is incredible (other than the huge hotel) and the hanging glaciers were awesome. At the top of the hike is a cute little teahouse that has been operated by the same family for something like ninety years. They pack in the perishables on horse, and fly in the non-perishables in the spring. It was a pretty touristy hike, but the scenery was exceptional.

We camped that night at Rampart Creek, just south of Jasper National Park. The weather continued to stay good and bad with clouds helping to create a mysterious look to the mountains, but with rain causing hikes to be more difficult. We hiked to the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefield and only stayed a few minutes since the rain and wind created an incredible chill. Along the road we saw our first bighorn sheep and Cassie got some amazing pictures of them. We drove out of the park that day and stayed off the road near a creek just north of Blue River BC.

We woke up this morning and intend to get near Kelowna BC to climb some rock again for the first time in a week. During the drive we were commenting on how we hadn't seen any bears yet and that we were disappointed. Not 5 minutes later we saw two cubs in trees with a momma bear trying to coax them both down. Cassie took something like 150 pictures while we watched.

Today I write this blog post from the library in Kamloops. We are catching up on emails and relaxing in the air conditioning. Well that pretty much catches us up. Next post should have some climbing pictures!!!

NOTE: No pictures posted because of the incredibly slow internet here in the kamloops library. some pictures did make it to flickr but we only got about 25% of them uploaded. Will add pictures asap. here's the link to the pictures that did make it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

ten sleep continued

We love Ten Sleep!!

The climbing is amazing and to make things even better we've had friends to hang out with and a great cabin in the mountains to stay at. The pictures can say this all better than we can. We'll be in Ten Sleep through the weekend then will make our way to Canada by the end of the month.

ten sleep guide at sector shinto wall

ten sleep trail marker

jesse great green gobs of greenie goo 10a

euro trash girl 10b

wyoming flower child 11d/12a

ice station zebra 10c

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ten Sleep update

cassie-I-just-do-eyes-11b (2)
I just do eyes 11b

Tensleep is the best climbing we've done so far on the trip. Shelf Road in Colorado comes close with great limestone and tons of walls as well, but the variety and quality of the limestone here is more varied and interesting. The bolting is a little less spacy which also helps to inspire confidence and increase fun. Combine that with free camping very close to the camp and reasonable temps in the shade and you get a great experience.

Cows in Camp...

We arrived at tensleep on Thursday the 7th of July and have climbed every other day since then. Cassie's arm continues to feel good and we continue to push ourselves on progressivly harder grades. Our first day we climbed at an area known as Charlie's Circus which has great cool shady climbing until just after lunch or so. The climbs there are relatively short but are excellent. We did a few climbs around 11a or below our first day, then went back again found a few projects and worked them. I tried a really bouldery 12a called "The Barnum Route" and sent on my third try. A great long overhanging 11a called "Circus in the Wind" spit me off twice at the last bolt. I still need to get back to it and finish.


After a few days of easier climbing we headed to an area with a huge number of climbs called "Mondo Beyondo". We joined our new friends Tom and Laura. Tom is semi-retired and owns a eco-lodge in Panama and Laura is a pro x-country skier (one of the best in the country). They are both super hard climbers and worked on 5.12s all week without a rest. We opted for a few 11s called "I just do eyes" 11b and "Slightly Toasted Cracker" 11d. Both Cassie flashed or onsighted. Those are her hardest onsight and flashes to date and she was very happy with them. Both climbs are quite long (10-13 bolts) and are technical which is the style Cassie really excels at.

We also went to the Valhalla area and hopped on "Great White Behemoth" 12b which is the hardest lead either of us has tried to date. It's an incredible wall that is slightly overhanging the entire way. All of the moves are quite difficult and it just keeps coming. We were both impressed with the excellent rock quality and were happy to make it to the top even though neither of us redpointed the route. We are planning to go back for another shot.

Hoping for fish

Sunset Reflection

After a week of climbing Jesse, Nicole, Chris, Renee, and Tori showed up from SLC. Also joining us was Tom (Nicole's dad from South Carolina) We climbed at another area called Metropolis and the Daily Planet Boulder. Two good crack climbs warmed us up. Jesse led Luthor (a 9/10 that felt more like 10b) and I led "Captain Tombstone" (also a 9/10 that felt more accurate). The crew then headed over to "Moon Units Secret Shinto Ride" (10-) and I hopped on "Solid Gold Secret Sauce" (12a). After those we headed to some brand new routes on the Cigar that were 10b and 10c which Cassie and Jesse led. The shots were quite spectacular.

Solid Gold Secret Sauce 12a

That evening we headed to the Herzog's cabin on the east side of the Bighorns. It's a beautiful place next to a mountain stream and pond. Mojo has shown his obessive nature and is constantly swimmining in the pond and looking for fish. We've been eating great food, playing cards, watching the sun set, and relaxing by swimming in the pond. We also went to Crazy Woman Canyon yesterday and got on a few routes that were good quality. Crazy Woman is about 15 minutes from the cabin while TenSleep is more like 40 minutes or so. We're headed back to TenSleep tomorrow.

It's been great climbing with all our friends and catching up after months apart. Seems like we just pick up where we left off and everyone is laughing and joking.

We're headed into Buffalo to pick up our mail and get some supplies. We'll be climbing at Ten Sleep for about another week or so, maybe a little less. Then we head north to Canada!

Jesse - The Cigar 10b

Intense climbing shoe discussion

Herzog Cabin Sunset

Chris - Cowpoke 10d - Crazy Woman Canyon

Nicole - Bury the hatchet 10d - Crazy Woman Canyon

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ten Sleep Canyon

There are few possible reasons we don't post. The first is that we don't have internet access, the other is that we are too busy having a great time climbing. In this case both are true. We're having a blast in Ten Sleep. We aren't taking nearly enough pictures for a post, but with some friends arriving shortly and a few more days of climbing we should have enough for a true post.

Quick update: Cassie's arm is feeling better. She flashed (got on her first try) an 11a yesterday. So, things are looking up.

This limestone is the best!!!!


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bighorn mountains and the Cloud Peaks Wilderness

After our whirlwind tour of a few of the highlights of South Dakota and parts of Wyoming, we were ready to stay put for a few days. We found the most amazing field of wildflowers with a great view of the Bighorn Mountains and have set up camp there.

This picture took hours just to setup and then the deer had to come around. Ok just kidding it wandered about 50 feet from the van while we were inside avoiding mosquitoes.

We are very close to Ten Sleep and a lot of great climbing, but since my elbow was bothering me from Veedawou, we decided to wait for a while to take on any more climbing. So, we've been hanging out in the wildflowers, going for hikes, watching the wildlife wander in and out of camp and making some great food. We've made homemade chocolate-chip cookies, bagels, pizza, and calzones in the solar oven. A new favorite food is felafels which were a resounding success.

According to the locals, the wildflowers are especially good this year due to the high snow pack. Someone from the forest service told us that at one point their snowpack was 1000% of normal. This also means that many of the hikes that you could normally do this time of year are still snowed in. We've still been able to find plenty of hikes to keep us busy though. Even over the 4th of July weekend, we were quite surprised to find that the trails weren't too busy, there were definitely people around, but nothing compared to what we are used to from easily accessible hikes in the Wasatch and the Uintas. We did two hikes, one was into the Cloud Peaks Wilderness to a bunch of lakes via the Circle Park trailhead, and another along a jeep road near that took us next to the 7 brothers lakes. We were unable to reach the lakes due to high runoff and a dicey stream crossing. Mojo was very energetic and enjoyed swimming after leopard frogs and trout which he was unable to catch.

While we have gone on a few great hikes, we've also done our share of lazing about in the flowers around camp just being amazed by the beauty all around us.

We're planning on heading over the mountains to Ten Sleep tomorrow and give this climbing thing a try again.

Looking for fish

Leopard Frog

Rainy Lake

Cooperative Marmot



Old graves in the Wilderness
Cloud Peaks Wilderness


Friday, July 1, 2011

South Dakota and Wyoming

Final Day at Vedauwoo
Mike and some friends from Boulder joined us for our last weekend in Vedauwoo. It was great having friends to camp and hang out with. Due to some lingering climbing injuries, we weren't able to climb much though and we opted to take the very long way to Ten Sleep, WY. We left Vedauwoo on Monday morning and headed to Saratoga, WY on the promise that it had free hotsprings and would be on the way to Fremont Canyon. An unexpected bonus was that the Snowy Range (yes that's the name of the mountain range) along route 130 provide many beautiful vistas. It was a good thing that we got something out of that part of the drive because Saratoga was in the same shape as many towns along rivers this year. With a snowpack exceeding 200% in many areas rivers are overflowing their banks and causing much damage. Saratoga was in the same predicament and because of the high water levels the hot springs were closed. We pushed on towards Fremont Canyon. Though we weren't planning to climb I've always wanted to see the canyon because of its unique location. The North Platte river flows through the canyon and creates such steep walls that routes must be rappelled into which makes for a committing day of climbing. It was a beautiful canyon and one I'd like to come back to and climb.

Fremont Canyon

Casper Wyoming was far enough for the day so we camped there and talked about where to go next. We weren't quite ready to head north to Ten Sleep and the Bighorn mountains so we looked east to South Dakota. The Black Hills have always been on my list of places to visit but it seems that they are always quite far away. With our location in Wyoming it seemed like a good time to visit. We headed east from Casper and camped just west of Wind Cave National Park. We had seen the cave on a map and were interested in checking it out. It was very much worth $9 for a tour of the cave. Timp Cave in Utah has much more impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations, but what wind cave lacked in formations it made up in sheer volume. We walked for a good hour on the tour and hit only the tiniest portion of the cave. According to estimates only 5% has even been explored. The best part was that the 50 degree temps in the cave were a welcome reprieve from the 90+ degree day outside.

Cassie observing cave Boxwork

Once the tour was completed we headed towards Mt Rushmore. One the way we passed the statue of Crazy Horse being carved out of a mountainside. According to the signs all of Mt. Rushmore could fit inside the head of Crazy Horse. There was an entrance fee to see it so we kept driving. At Mt. Rushmore we found that the National Monument was run be concessionairs who get around letting us in with our National Parks Pass by calling it a "parking fee" instead of an "entrance fee". Totally bogus and not at all worth the $11 just to park. So, we did a u-turn and snapped a bunch of pictures out the window. We left frustrated and definitely not feeling any national pride, but rather disgust at capitalism. Such is life. We saw a mountain goat outside the monument. He was super cute.



John Gill is a very famous climber who put bouldering on the map. Before him no one considered boulders worthy of climbing. He was doing harder moves years before any started doing them on ropes, and established key test pieces all over the country. Two such classic lines are located in Custer State Park at Sylvan Lake. We decided to pay the exhorbitant $15 weekly fee which isn't so bad for a week, but pretty attrocious for a day use. We went swimming in the lake to cool off and I grabbed a crash pad and did two of the classics in a couple of tries. Both were quite high but with good holds at the top. The first was Free Ariel a V4 and then there was Middle Yellow Wall also a V4. Both were excellent lines and we left the lake feeling refreshed and in good spirits.

Middle Yellow Wall - Sylvan Lake

We drove through the Needles area of Custer State Park to finish the day off and were blown away by the crazy granite formations and even saw a huge buffalo as a bonus. That night we camped in forest service land west of Custer, WY and were swarmed by more flies than I've ever seen in my life and it was incredibly hot in the van. It was not the most pleasant camping we've done. Our next destination was back to Wyoming to see Devils Tower and get to the Bighorn Mountains near Buffalo and Ten Sleep.

Cathedral Spires - The Needles - Custer State Park

Devils Tower was an impressive formation and was easily visible from many miles away. There was no mistaking it on the grassy rolling hills. Luckily our Parks Pass proved useful here and we were able to enter and park without a fee. We hiked around the formation and checked out the visitor center. Some climbers were climbing the easiest route to the top even though there is a voluntary climbing closure in June out of respect for Native American religious practices. We were impressed with the west side of the tower because of the very difficult and continuous look to the routes.




As with many single destination places once you've seen it there isn't a whole lot else to do, so we headed west towards the Bighorns. About 30 miles away we saw snow covered peaks in the distance and were excited to think about camping in the mountains again. Luckily we found a forest service road off of Rt. 16 a few miles west of Buffalo, WY. The road proved to be a gem with a single campsite on a flat meadow surrounded by millions of the most beautiful yellow and purple wildflowers and a view of the Bighorn peaks. It rained hard after supper and the sun found tiny pockets to shine through. It was a gorgeous evening.

BigHorns and Wildflowers