I used to think that decent climbing conditions didn’t exist outside of the cooler Fall/Spring months. Then I met Ten Sleep Canyon, Wyoming. I’ve put together some reasons why you need take a summer road trip to Ten Sleep.
Exhibit A: A graph of sends in Ten Sleep vs sends in the Red River Gorge over the course of a year (source: 8a.nu).
: You get to climb with the pros. Nothing beats going up a route, looking to your right and seeing someone you had only previously seen a Sender Films. This was going down while we were there ==> DPM CLimbing Article
Exhibit C: The wall gets morning sun. This means no getting up at the crack of dawn to get the primo conditions. It means sleeping in and letting your whiskey hangover subside until you hit the shady wall around 1pm.
If you aren’t already planning your trip up to Ten Sleep at this point, it probably means you are Nick Duttle
and thoroughly enjoy climbing 5.14c in conditions on par with the Everglades (what a beast). For everyone else, here is the lowdown on the best summer sport climbing this side of the equator.
When to Go: The graph says it all, June through August and you can get away with leaving your sub-zero sleeping bag at home.
Where to Stay: There is free camping on the old road running through the canyon where most of the climbers stay. There is also more camping off Highway 16. If you don’t mind hilariously redneck neighbors, the Deerhaven Lodge is the place to camp.
There are sites all along the river, some paid, some free. Drive past the lodge and ranger station, after ten minutes or so start looking for sites on the side of the road.
I wish I had a pole and a fishing license. If you’re an angler bring the gear, I saw people bring in some nice catches and you’ve got the whole morning to kill.
What to Bring: For most of the climbs you’ll be fine with 14 draws and a 60m, but there are some monsters that take 20+ draws and an absurdly long rope. As for supplies, make sure you bring everything you’ll need for your trip. Ten Sleep is a pretty small town and you may not be able to count on it for supplies. When we rolled through town the one burger place was out of burgers because of their 4th of July party. We were there on the 9th of July. Bring water or purification pills/pump, food, and stove.
No showers doesn’t mean you have to be a complete dirtbag. To take a bath in the lake, make a left out of the Deerhaven lodge and drive five minutes until you see the lake on your right. There are also outhouses at the lake if nature calls.
Like most of Wyoming, the guide
for Ten Sleep is quite the character. At first glance it seems the author must have indulged a bit too much in good ole’ psychedelics. Then you realize that people in Wyoming are all crazy and it makes sense to have an equally off-kilter guide book. Any place that has two head of cattle
for every person is bound to be a bit weird. That said, the guide does a good job pointing you to the good climbs, and the local color will keep you entertained around the campfire.
When you’re first driving in, the Godfather Boulder
is a great quick taste of Ten Sleep. Driving up the Canyon take the turn off to the right for the old road pictured below.
Drive until you hit the switch back and park at the top of the switch back on the dirt pull off on the left. Walk back down the hill and you will see a path on the left. Follow the path down to the stream, cross the stream, and continue to hike up for about 15min until you hit the obvious wall.
The routes here are a bunch of fun (and I’m not just saying that because I was lucky enough to send them first go). The overhanging wall climbs like small boulder problems connected by good rests. Just start on the left and work your way back, as the climbs conveniently go easiest to hardest.
As Wicked as it Seems 12a
The Godfather Boulder
is a great quickie, but the real business is over at the Mondo Beyondo. There is a pull-off of hwy16 that is usually easy to spot from the abundance of obvious crag-mobiles (pickups converted into campers, too many bumper stickers, out of state license plates etc…)
Park at the pull-off and head through the gate marked with the cattle skull.
The trail will eventually fork. Take the right to head towards the French Cattle Ranch
or left towards the Slavery Wall
. The approach is deceivingly long, usually 30min or so to the base of the cliff. I don’t care if you run marathons, the elevation will have you puffing by the time you put your pack down, guaranteed.
I’ll highlight some of the cool climbs I got on, but once you get to the wall you really can’t go wrong.
A 10b that has a fun finish where you can stem facing out into the canyon.
This 10b takes you out a super exposed arete. A great warmup for the French Cattle Ranch.
If you are into two finger pockets, this technical 11b is for you. I don’t have a picture but it was just so much fun I had to include it.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is this overhung 11d gem. Easy climbing leads to an overhanging finish that would fit right in at the Red River Gorge
If you’re into good footwork and pulling on small edges with a finger or two than this 12a is for you.
Slightly overhanging, technical moves, perfect pockets, this climb is the epitome of Ten Sleep. You’ll need to bring out the big guns to work through the bouldery sections on this 12b. (please excuse the photography, I forgot my camera this day)
What are you waiting for? Throw on your cowboy boots and head to wild Wyoming. Personally, I can’t wait to get back to Ten Sleep. Hopefully I’ll be able to answer any questions in the comments.