I had no idea what to expect from my stay in the little town of Ten Sleep, WY. My decision to stop through on the way to Lander stemmed entirely from an article in Climbing magazine that praised Ten Sleep as a ‘Rocky Mountain limestone paradise’. I mean what more do you need? I knew that the town was small, and that sport-climbing was the name of the game. I hoped to meet some local or traveling climbers and find partners willing to show me around and swap belays. Needless to say my hopes were pretty well dashed when I rolled into town on US-16 Monday afternoon and passed six or seven buildings before rolling back out. That was it? Crap, this might not have been such a brilliant idea…
I spent the rest of the day driving up and down the canyon, completely awed by the seemingly endless limestone cliff-bands lining both canyon walls, and desperately seeking any sign of chalk, bolts, or climbers. At last I found something; a silver car parked in a dirt pull-out with Colorado license plates. This looked promising! I pulled in and followed a well-worn path that wound its way to the base of the cliff.
After exploring a bit and scouting some classic-looking lines I ran into the duo from Colorado, just finishing their last pitch of the day. They were friendly and helpful, and we were soon swapping stories and laughs over a beer at the Ten Sleep Saloon. Unfortunately they were only stopping through on their way home from the Tetons and planned to hit the road later that evening. With this news things were looking pretty grim again, but I decided to stay the night and make a last ditch effort in the morning. If I found a partner, great. If not, on to Lander.
I was on a run early the next day when I came across another pair of climbers, this time from Oregon, camped just down the road from me. The delightful couple exclaimed that they had more daylight than the two of them could fill with climbing, and were excited to have me join. I spent the rest of that day and the next climbing and sharing laughs with Will, Katy, and their dog Rowan. Will has been climbing for well over 20 years and was a perfect partner in crime, interested in checking out many of the areas best 5.11s and 5.12s. Katy, who grew up in England and speaks with a delightful accent, stomped on all the classic moderates and was glad to have the chance to snap some photos while Will and I tried the steeper stuff. All in all these two are pretty incredible human beings.
The climbing atmosphere in Ten Sleep is lighthearted and fun. The guide book, “Lies and Propoganda from Ten Sleep Canyon”, is worth buying if only for a laugh. Or rather, many laughs! I had the pleasure of climbing the classic Beer Bong 5.10b; a route where you are supposed to finish stemming while facing out from the wall so you can enjoy the view.
On Wednesday, after a healthy dose of fun 5.10s and 5.11s, I got to work on an incredible route call The Great White Behemoth 5.12b. After a painful first effort I managed to one-fall the beast with minimal rest, but it was downhill from there. This stunning two-finger-pocket extravaganza is the best pitch I’ve tried in Ten Sleep, and has me eager for a return visit.
On Thursday I said goodbyes to Will, Katy, and Rowan and teamed up with a trio from Portland for one last day of Ten Sleep pocket pulling. I got to sample a couple more brilliant moderates and ended my stay in the canyon on a happy note with a flash of Moltar!!! 5.12a. I probably gained too much information belaying to call it an onsight but I’m still proud of myself; and yes the exclamation marks are included in the name.
Today I am resting and enjoying a slow morning at the 2nd Street Bakery & Coffeehouse in downtown Ten Sleep before making the drive south to Lander. This place and the people I’ve met these past few days has me thinking this is going to be one incredible road trip.