Thump, thump, thump… snap. Thump, thump. Groggy, I sat up in my sleeping bag and peered out the small window of our tent. I squinted to make sense of the abstract shapes forming in the pre-dawn light. Thump, thump.. “What was that?” Robyn asked sitting up. The noise of Robyn rustling in the tent prompted our visitor to raise his massive head and turn to look in my direction. “Oh shit,” I said as I starred into the rack of a bull moose not 15 feet from my tiny window. We sat in silence as I weighed our options, stay still or risk it and flee? If it weren’t for a previous encounter with a bull moose in Alberta during which we ran for our lives as we were chased back to camp this decision would have been obvious. Thankfully, before I was forced to make any bad choices the bull lost interest, lowered his rack and continued grazing as he ambled through our camp.
The last week of July was spent in the same fashion of the previous year, camping and climbing with Ben in Ten Sleep Canyon in rural north-central Wyoming. Ten Sleep is a beautiful subalpine canyon bisected by Ten Sleep Creek and flanked with yellow and grey walls of high quality limestone. This year Ben’s friends and founders of the (sarcastic) climbing team “teamtryhardon” Chad and Chris joined the crew. We were even blessed with a surprise visit from the king of limestone himself Steve “Leroy Jenkins” Dodd, in his classic “oh hey guys, you were coming here too?” fashion. Our crew was strong; in fact this was the strongest group of people I have ever climbed with. Everyone was focused, stoked and killing it. We had an incredible week.
Robyn continued her unconscious assault on Ten Sleep Canyon, yet again setting personal bests with a flash of Tricks For You (5.12a) and a staggering second go ascent of the mammoth Left El Shinto (5.12c) marking her hardest climb to date. Her confidence on Ten Sleep limestone is absolutely through-the-roof and when she is in the zone anything can happen.
Despite injuries and surgery, Steve bounced back to take down several proud lines on this trip. Most notable was his perfectly choreographed ascent of The Gravy Train (5.12b). I don’t think I have seen anyone climb a route as well as he did that day.
Our star athlete Ben powered through several tough climbs thanks to his religious practice of max curls (see power tank photo below). On short rest he made a wild ascent of July Jihad (5.12b) as well as joining the send train on The Great White Behemoth (5.12b). Ben is climbing stronger than ever this year after an all-time spring during which he took down Al’s Diner (5.13a) at The Fins.
Ten Sleep was kind to me as well, and the group psych and encouragement saw me to the top of The Name of The Game (5.13a) after leaving the draws up for a day of rest.
Chad’s send of The Great White Behemoth (5.12b) was certainly one of the most inspiring of the trip. I was lucky enough to have been hanging from an adjacent climb to watch the action as he crimped and monoed past the low crux. His determination and intensity had my palms sweating proving without a doubt his role as the team captain.
Chris was solid all week, also sending The Gravy Train (5.12b) as well as flashing Tricks For You (5.12a) and sending The Great White Behemoth (5.12b) among others. Most notable to me though was his sense of humor that kept us laughing all week.
Ten Sleep Canyon has seriously increased its appeal as an extended-stay climbing destination with the addition of not just one, but TWO microbreweries! One is located in the sleepy town of Ten Sleep itself and the other in nearby Buffalo. Buffalo, also touting a free public pool (with showers!) a bowling alley and a grocery store still tops the list for rest days, but you would be amiss to neglect the 2nd St Café for its killer coffee and Ten Sleep Brewing Company for its down home atmosphere and great beers.
Summer isn’t normally considered ideal for climbing, but in our little Wyoming oasis we get to escape the hustle of everyday life and enjoy the company of great friends around a roaring campfire. To say this trip is merely a climbing trip would be cruelly unfair. It’s a time to reset, something to look forward to and then fondly back on. Anxiety can’t survive on a swaying hammock between towering pines.
Back in Golden the early morning air has that fall feel. By 10 a.m. the crisp air mixes with the heat of the strong Colorado sun, but a glance at the mountains shows the first dusting of snow in the alpine. Robyn is talking non-stop about pumpkins and cinnamon. Dreams of dry afternoon cragging sessions sans thunderstorms fill our thoughts. Already, plans for next year’s week long escape are taking shape. Where will we go next summer/fall? My guess is we will find ourselves tying in with many of the same faces at a crag not to unfamiliar. One that shaped who we are as climbers and one that is long overdue for a visit.