Climbing and Night Photography in Vedauwoo

I’ve been in Vedauwoo more this year than any other climbing area besides Eldo. It’s been fun getting a lot better at trad climbing (Though, I went sport climbing this weekend and last weekend, and it’s been a refreshing change). Alex Vidal and I went over Labor Day weekend and got on some great climbs.

Alex taking in the sunset at the incredible rock garden on top of Edward’s Crack at Walt’s Wall (Main Area)

I struggled up Currey’s Diagonal (5.10b+++) as it is an off-angle crimp rail with smeared feet and micro-cam protection  instead of the bomber hand jams you’re expecting. Then Alex and I climbed Edward’s Crack up to Hassler’s Hatbox, definitely one of my favorite climbs I’ve done. HH gets only one star and 5.6 in the book, but deserves 4 stars and 5.7+ (Vedauwoo rating, 5.8+ elsewhere). I then gave a strong go at Best of the Blues (5.10b), the first pitch of Lucille’s. Absolutely worth getting on. Fun climbing to a powerful roof bulge move. It protects very well. Then you can stare longingly at Lucille’s.

We checked out Reynold’s Hill the second day. It has a really nice approach, and it’s removed from the noise of the highway quite a bit. We climbed past a dead bird and through the bushes to a very stout but fun route, Cosmic Debris (5.8+++). Needs to get more traffic to clean it up a bit. We then climbed Pooh Corner a few times. Alex cruised this flaring hand crack, but it was a battle for me. I like variation as I’m still not 100% with pure hand jams. The Maiden  is a fantastically fun route that would be an ultraclassic if it were 60 feet longer.  It’s called 5.6 but would easily be 5.8 anywhere else. Then Alex fought his way up the Matron, a 5.8 squeeze chimney.

I found it a lot easier to face the other way, but then again I was on top rope. 
Unknown girl climbing Pooh Corner at ssunset 
View of Reynold’s Hill from the approach
The bridge

Every time I’ve gone to the Voo it has thunderstormed all around me, but it’s never rained or thunderstormed on me.  That night the milkyway was out in force and the lightning storm was creating quite the light show. I’m still working on really capturing the milky way well. I also forgot my tripod, so I was balancing my camera on rocks.

Vedauwoo – My New Weekend Destination

When it’s too hot in Boulder to climb outside, head to Vedauwoo, WY. It’s a little over 2hrs away, and it’s a great escape from the overcrowded crags in the Front Range. And you leave feeling like you’ve accomplished something – or just with sore muscles and tattered clothes.

I went back this weekend with Alex & Vincent. We attacked some great lines on Saturday:
~Middle Parallels Space – a fun 5.9 with a crux down low and a 5.7 chimney with a hand-to-offwidth crack for protection. The anchors are placed in an odd spot on a pillar, thought.
~Friday the 13th – Alex sent this 5.10a (heavily sandbagged) with much more ease than on my first lead. The greasy top of the crack pumps you out. Vincent worked on the second pitch, a short but powerful 5.11a out a roof.
~Hesitation Blues – A pretty stout 1st pitch of 5.11b. The second pitch looks so inviting, but the continued rating of 11b and our current state of being worked caused us to hesitate, then have the blues.
-Mother #1 – According to Alex, “The world’s hardest 5.7”. I would have to agree. An offwidth that is a struggle all of the way up.

Alex figures out the gear on Middle Parallels Space 

Vincent turned my camera on me giving Friday the 13th a send attempt. 

Using my head for balance

Since the weather was calling for a clear night, I decided to not set up my tent and sleep under the stars. I woke up to an amazing show of the milky way, but couldn’t convince myself to get out of bed to get my camera. Again I awoke, just as the sun was starting to come up to something scampering up my chest. With my hands in my sleeping bag I just pounded out on the bag, and looked up to see a chipmunk doing backflips through the air! The visual is still cracking me up.

Someone built this cairn in a cairn near our campsite

 Sunday we decided to try somewhere new. On top of the main area, where there are classics like Edward’s Crack, sits Hassler’s Hatbox with the iconic Lucile 5.12d/13a. We scrambled up the backside of the main area through a maze of fallen boulders – over, under, and squeezed through. Despite being in the baking sun, we found some great moderate and not so moderate lines.

~Cat’s Cradle –  5.8+ A very hard 5.8. The start is a chimney to an offwidth. Traverse a ledge to a very awkward and hard move off a ledge, into a handcrack that varies from perfect hands to off-fists (too big for fists – very hard size for me)
~Hassler’s Hatbox – 5.6/7 A very fun moderate with some kick. I was happy to have a 4 and a 5 camalot for the bottom, but the top section takes finger size gear. Do this route! My personal opinion on the rating, 5.8/8+
~The Best of the Blues – 5.10 that sits below the iconic Lucille (5.12d – which looks heinous). The first slab move is unprotected, but you get into a fun moderate chimney and handcrack up to a roof. The roof goes from cupped hands to off-fists and is very difficult to pull the bulge as a pure crack climb. Get your sport climbing skills on and lie-back and crimp up the bulge, and then sit on the duck.

Alex works his way up the start of Cat’s Cradle

Just after the crux of Cat’s Cradle, Alex looking for gear. The views from Hassler’s Hatbox were incredible! 

Vincent took this photo of me figuring out the crux. I think I tried every combination of orientations before one finally got me off the ledge. 
Vincent finally get’s a piece in on a hard slab move start to Best of the Blues, a bit of a one move wonder 5.10. 

Vincent kisses the duck

Vincent belays Alex up through the crux of Best of the Blues
The view from Hassler’s Hatbox.

As always, the Voo did not disapoint, and we had a great trip. Ripped some clothes. Shed some blood. And left sore in places we did not know could be sore. Till next time.

Crack Climbing in Vedauwoo, WY

Spent the weekend in Vedauwoo with some great guys climbing some sharp granite crack.

Vincent working hard placing pro on the first pitch of Friday the 13th, a fantastic 5.10a (sandbagged) hand crack with a greasy finish.

Hanging out above the trees, Vincent looks for a placement on Captain Nemo. 

Alex Vidal, Vincent Keller and I at the 1st pitch anchors of Captain Nemo before I embark on the 10d traverse.

I’m all smiles before the holds run out on the 2nd pitch of Captain Nemo

The sunset was one of the most spectacular shows I’ve seen. 

We were surrounded by storms on three sides with lightning streaking through the sky, but we had nothing but spectacular weather. I slept out under the stars both nights. 
The sunset reflecting off a cumulonimbus storm cloud. 

Vincent prepping his tape glove for the day. 

Vedauwoo reminds me up Hampi in southern India. I want to go back! 

Ice Climbing in Cody, WY’s South Fork

I’ve had a pretty fantastic ice climbing season so far this winter. Definitely my best yet, with over 22 days on the sharp and and sends of classics like The Squid, The Fang, and Joy After Pain. I’ve been mentally transitioning to ski mode over the last month or so, but still had some great climbing days. Two weeks after returning from Ouray, Alex Vidal, Vincent Keller and I decided to jump back in the car and drive the 8hrs to Cody, WY.

I went the same weekend the year before and had an awesome time. I was excited to go back. After arriving at 1am to our hotel, we got up at 5am to make the most of our 3 days in Wyoming. It takes about an hour to get from town to the parking area for many of the South Fork climbs. We crossed the Shoshone River just as dawn was breaking. There was a lot less water in the river than last year, but the temperatures were warmer and the ice seemed a little suspect.

Preparing to cross the Shoshone River at dawn 

Just after I said, “We should go one at a time, this ice looks thin.” I took one more step and the ice collapsed beneath me. I fell into the river above my waist, my torso landed on the ice in front of me. I kicked as hard and as fast as I could and made it back onto solid ice in a matter of seconds. On the outside I was drenched, but only a bit of water got inside my pants and boots, mostly through my open pocket. Technical clothing, we wear it for a reason. Without it my day would have been over and I would have been in grave danger of hypothermia. Instead, I had a little water in my boots and I climbed for the rest of the day. (Note: all photos from Mean Green are from my or Vincent’s phone / Instagram. I had a very dead battery on my Sony)

Left: Vincent got a shot of me dripping as soon as I got out of the river. Middle: A mountain lion print as big as Vincent’s hand. Right: Vincent and Alex returning back across the river on much more solid ice (Photos from Instagram)

 We discussed if we should go back, but I really wasn’t feeling very wet and said we should continue. We found the trail on the south side of the river and started following it.

It became clear we were not the only ones to take the trail that morning…a mountain lion’s tracks, with paws as big as Vincent’s hand, were following a deer’s tracks. The prints were quite fresh and the brush around the trail was perfect for a cat to wonder through undetected. We were on full alert for the 1/2 mile the tracks continued along the trail.

We finally reached our objective, Mean Green (WI5). The first pitch is 65 meters of fun 4 climbing to a shelf. When I reached the base of the 2nd pitch I felt like I could easily combine it with the first pitch on 70m ropes. Vincent and Alex were already tied in and started to simul-climb when the rope ran out (I was leading while they climbed below me. If had fallen, I would be caught by their weight and vice versa). The top of the 2nd WI4+ pitch was quite thin and snow had corniced badly over the exit. It took me at least 10 minutes to clear a hole in the cornice to reach the top of the falls, and no where was there good protection. Once I topped out I saw that the anchors were still another 40 feet away. I could only move as fast as Vincent and Alex were climbing, so I crawled, shoving my ice tools as deep into the snow, hoping they might catch something if one of my followers happened to fall. I was quite thankful when I attached myself to the anchor and put Vincent and Alex on belay.

Left: Alex approaches the first pitch of Mean Green Middle: Vincent leads pitch 3. Right: Alex tops out on pitch  3

The third pitch was a 30 meter 4+ that was quite thin at the top, which Vincent led. I followed up the column and posted up on the lip to take some photos of Alex Climbing.

We wallowed for a while to get to the 40 meter pitch 4, the crux WI5 pitch. The bottom half was steep then if slabbed out at the top.

From the anchor I could just make out the top of pitches 6&7, combined total of 85m of WI3-3+ climbing. From what I could see it was another 200+m wallow through waist deep snow to get to a snow covered slab – not the most enticing prospect.  It was probably an hour and half till dark and I didn’t want to have to find our way out after that, so we elected to descend after pitch 4.

Left: a “bomber” screw Middle: Alex is pretty excited to be the “fat kid” and descend first Right: The Shoshone River  

The rappel from pitch 3’s anchors were off some tat rapped around a tiny tree and equalized with more tat stuck in the frozen mud. Pretty confidence inspiring. Alex decided to put in the “bomber” screw (above) in a couple inches of ice.

The sun had been out all day blasting the ice on the river. We got back to the point where I had fallen in and the ice was even less thick. Up river a few hundred feet we found a very nice ice bridge to cross.

Waking up at “Oh dark thirty” again we get to the parking lot for Joy After Pain well before sunrise. I had been to Joy After Pain exactly a year before, climbing with Asa Firestone and Michael Goodhue. Asa & Michael led the harder pitches, but we didn’t get to “The Joy”, the last WI5+ pitch. I was excited to lead the hard pitches and climb the Joy!

Approaching the first pitch, it looked considerably thinner than it did last year. The base was barely touching down. And on closer inspection, the ice on climbers right was extremely suspect. There was a lone pillar that barely touched down in the middle. The ice above the pillar was clearly the best option for the climb, but that meant ascending a pillar six inches in diameter at the base!

As soon as I stepped up to climb the separated base section fell over. I lightly hooked my tools, did a pull up, gently set my right crampon point on a small feature, and wrapped my left leg around the pillar, realizing why people climb with heal spurs. I repeated for another 2 moves then was on slightly more solid ice. I didn’t want to place my first screw until I was at the point the ice met the rock. 
Left: the tenuous start to Joy After Pain Right: An overview of the first and second pitches. 

The bottom half of the almost 200m first pitch was slightly overhanging, getting my arms quite pumped. The top half angles back, putting most of the weight off your arms and onto your legs, which causes your calves to get pumped. I was happy to a V-thread anchor at the base of the 2nd pitch.

Cautionary tale: Check your knots!

Alex started following me up the Pain, and after only a little bit began yelling strange requests. “Slack!! Give me Slack! Hold up! Alright, On you!” I couldn’t see what was happening. Just after Alex had gotten above the pillar, he looked down to see that he had not finished his figure 8 knot.  He had placed a screw and gone direct to that to retie his knot. Definitely a wake-up for all of us.

Collage of a bunch of photos showing Vincent leading pitch 2 of Joy After Pain

Vincent’s first WI5 lead, the 2nd pitch of Joy After Pain

Vincent took on pitch 2, his first time leading WI5. Having just started ice climbing in November, its amazing seeing him progress so fast.

More snow wallowing – kind of the story of our trip. Makes you appreciate the vertical ice pitches in Ouray.

Pitch 3 is a WI3/snow climb up a small gully that leads to pitch four, 40m WI3+/5 (depending on where you climbed).

We wallowed some more to get to the final pitch of Joy After Pain, otherwise known as The Joy. There was a short 30ft steep WI5 section leads to a large shelf before the meat of the climb. Vincent and I decide to solo it to speed things up since it was getting late in the day. So not only did Vincent lead his first WI5, he also soloed his first WI5.

Alex is excited about the rope mess as I tie into the other rope.  Vincent took my camera and had fun documenting the climb

I take on the Joy! Steep, overhanging and largely featured WI5+ climbing. Shot by Vincent

I found a no-hands kneebar to shake out the pump.  Shot by Vincent

Shot by Vincent

I was psyched to have sent this climb that felt very hard last year (and we didn’t even finish it). The Joy After Pain – and incredibly classic climb. (We also didn’t get lost on the hike out, like we did last year).

Our last day in Cody we decided to climb The Schoolhouse Route, a popular route on the north side of the South Fork. The approach is one of my favorites, climbing small ice rollers and falls through a very narrow gorge following a creek bed for about an hour.

Alex on the approach to the Schoolhouse Route as the sun rises over the southern peaks. 

Vincent racks up to lead the first pitch

It was nice to climb in the sun for once. Much of ice climbing is trying to avoid the sun for the healthiest ice. This climb gets a bit of sun in the morning but mostly stays shaded. Vincent led the first pitch and Alex and I simul-climbed to save time. We got to the anchor and debated going to the 2nd pitch. None of us were feeling particularly motivated. But we decided to wallow for a bit and see what it looked like.

The 2nd pitch is usually in WI4 condition, but this year it was quite steep and wet, definitely at least WI5-.

Photo of me topping out the 2nd pitch. Shot by Vincent

Vincent rappelling the 2nd pitch

All of us were ready to be on our way back to Boulder, exhausted after 3 long days of climbing. We hurried down the drainage and got back to the car in roughly 20 minutes from the base of the 1st pitch. We kept our crampons on because we had to down climb some of the small rollers of ice. But I found out why you shouldn’t hurry with crampons on. While moving quickly to keep up with Alex and Vincent and stepped off the path and my left leg postholed up to my knee in snow. My right cramponed foot kept swinging at full speed and connected with the back of my calf. At first I thought I’d just given myself a good charlie horse and kept running downhill. It hurt, but I was still able to walk. When I got to the car, I took off my boots and jumped in the car. 10 minutes later I stopped to take some photos of the landscape.

When I jumped out of the car, my left leg almost collapsed. I couldn’t put any weight on it. I pulled up my pants to find a hole in my calf spitting out blood. I had stabbed myself quite handily with the front point of my crampon. According to the size of the hole in my pants and leg, the majority of the front point entered my leg. For reference, this is what that looks like.

It kept bleeding for around 4 hours and I debated asking Vincent to stop at a clinic on our drive home, but really, in most of backcountry Wyoming, there’s not much in the way of emergency clinics. I got back to Boulder, got a tetnus shot, and it healed quite well.

Fun times. Start the trip by falling into a frozen river and end it by stabbing myself with a crampon. At least I know I’m a clutz.

Wyoming sunsets

This truck was very overloaded, with the sleds sticking out quite far on both sides of the bed. The driver turned on the brights when he saw me sticking my head out of the sunroof to take this photo. 

The climbing in Cody is incredible, and there is so much more to explore. Definitely excited to return next year. There are plenty of routes to climb without repeating any again, but that’s one thing I love about ice climbing, each time you climb the same route it is a different climb. A great trip with great friends. 

Climbing Road Trip: Plan B is for Better!

People regularly ask me, “Do you have any trips planned?”, and for most of this year that question depressed me. I’ve been having a great year and have been getting out climbing a lot, but I also want a bigger adventure.

At a poker game with some buddies in Denver, Matt Lloyd asked me if I wanted to join him on an alpine climbing adventure in and around Banff in Canada. I’d been looking for this kind of opportunity and immediately said yes.

Four of us, two “old farts” and two young guns, piled into Keith North’s Toyota Four Runner in the early evening in August. It was a tight fit with all of our gear, but I was thankful we decided to take the SUV over a Subaru sedan with a canvas roof bag. I’m pretty certain we wouldn’t have fit.

We drive through the night to Buffalo, WY and find our way through obscure country roads to the Piney Creek Canyon parking lot around 3 am. We sleep all pile on a tarp and try to sleep beneath the bright starry night sky.

Typical Matt Lloyd, like a kid missing his Ritalin. 

We found spectacular limestone akin to Ten Sleep, but with very little development. There’s so much unclimbed rock there!

Matt Lloyd gets the send of Over Forty, a stout 5.12c. 

All the rock on the opposite side of the river is undeveloped; so much potential! 

Keith North getting the send. 

After a few hours playing on the fantastic limestone we pile back into the truck and make our way to the Canadian border.

Plan B
“Please park the car and come inside. A border agent will let you know the details.”

After driving almost 900 miles in the last 24 hours we were psyched to get into Canada. It was only 5 more hours to Canmore. Sitting in the waiting area we got the news. “You’re being denied entry into Canada.” I didn’t even know that was an option, I thought they let everyone in. We wasted three hours waiting at the border.

After the news sunk in we scrambled to salvage the trip. Matt got on the phone and started calling anyone he knew that had beta in Idaho and Eastern Washington. We talked about going to the Cascades. It seemed feasible until we realized how much further it was to the climbing. We were tired and upset. We got a hotel for the night in Conrad, MT and tried to piece together a plan.

The original plan was to climb a couple different routes on Mt Temple in the Canadian Rockies then make our way to Salt Lake City, UT for the Outdoor Retailer Trade show. Now we had a week to fill with unknowns.

Fifty miles west of Conrad, mountains form the eastern border of Glacier National Park. The wonderful tool that is told us there was climbing there. Not just climbing, but fantastic sport climbing on 600ft tall vertical-to-overhanging limestone cliffs!

Few have heard of Blackleaf Canyon, but those who have know the quality of this hidden gem. After getting lost trying to find the road into the canyon (with the canyon in full view) we finally made it to the base of the climbs. Only carrying a sport rack up the 15 minute approach, we’re quite energized and ready to climb. 
Matt, Dan and Keith eying “Bodisattva” a 5 pitch 5.12″a/13a”
Keith North climbing through the 5.10 crux of pitch 2

Keith enjoying jugs on pitch 3, 300+ feet off the deck. 
Dan fought his way up pitch 4, a slab 5.11 with very tricky, balancy, thin moves. We made fun of the noises he made until we got on it. Then there was pitch 5. The description reads: “P:5 (5.12+) didn’t try this pitch. It heads up a very slick looking shield.” Keith tried it, and really it looked impossible. 

Some weather looked like it might come in and we wanted to get on the road to Idaho. So despite having climbed only one route and walking past so many tempting lines in this amazing canyon we get back in the 4Runner and drive towards Missoula. 

Somewhere in Western Montana

The Elephant Perch
We wake up in our tents somewhere in Idaho and drive into the Sawtooth Range. The drive from Montana is spectacular. I never realized how beautiful Idaho is – it’s not one I think about as wild and mountainous. The Sawtooths are as described: Jagged, rocky peaks jutting into the sky. Matt kept saying they should be called the Sharktooths. 

We take a boat across Redfish Lake that cuts 6 miles off our hike. Yea, I’m a lazy hiker. I’ll take it. 

It’s a beautiful, if not a little bit too warm, day so we jump into the crystal clear water before embarking on our epic three mile hike.

For two miles the trail is pretty easy, then you cross a log bridge.

Matt balancing his way across the unstable log bridge.

The last mile is UP! A test of your fitness. But the beauty of the Elephant Perch and Saddleback Lakes make you forget the hike as soon as you see them.

A 23 photo mega panorama of the Saddleback Lake and the Elephant Perch, including our amazing campsite. Natively this image is 60 inches by 60 inches!

We wake up before sunrise to get on the route, Astro Elephant, to beat any other team from it.

Prepping our gear for the 1000 ft, 10 pitches of amazingness

After a bit of route finding (Matt climbed a dirty crack that kind of matched the description of the route only to find it didn’t go anywhere) we start up the 1000 ft face. Matt takes a single trad rack and jumps into the flaring granite crack. He climbs past the first belay, past an overhanging ledge and disappears from site. I wonder what he plans on making an anchor with and how far he’s run out the climb with so few cams.

The first two pitches (that Matt climbed as one pitch) are the crux pitches of Astro Elephant. I decide, in my not-quite-awake brain, that I should wear my “comfy crack shoes” on the hardest sections of the climb.  Needless to say, I’m glad I was not leading.

The right leaning flaring crack constantly tried to spit me out. My right foot kept skating off the rock, the rubber on the loose shoe feeling useless. Lesson learned. At the anchor I switched to my aggressive slipper that performed incredibly (Until pitch 9 and 10 where I could barely feel my feet).

View of the Saddleback Lakes from Pitch 2
Keith North struggling through an awkward chimney/off width move on pitch 5

Since my trad fall in March 2013 where I broke my back I have been slowly getting my trad lead head back. I’ve spent a lot of time this summer leading “easy” trad leads and working on good placements. The week before the trip Matt and I went and climbed Peanuts, a stout, strange 5.9+ in Eldorado Canyon, my hardest lead since my fall.

When I got to the Pitch 6 anchor Matt says, “This next pitch would be a great one to shoot, but you have to lead it first!” 5.9+ 700 feet up…sure. It starts on a heady move from a huge hueco jug, out right to a right leaning flake. The flake accepted decent protection, but you reach the top and have to traverse 15 feet to the left with very little opportunity for protection before the crux, moving from the traverse rail out to a very exposed bulge. I clipped a tattered piece of tat (fixed webbing) and tried to back it up with a nut. My hands, now on positive jugs, were shaking uncontrollably. “YOU’RE FINE!” I yelled at myself.  I took a few deep breaths and pulled myself onto a small ledge.

Daniel followed me up and belayed me back down the route so I could shoot Matt on the section I had just climbed.

Matt making the exposed move out the bulge on Pitch 7 

 Matt runs pitch 7-8 and 9-10 together, making bold moves with very few cams for protection. I lead the rest of the pitches up to 10, glad that I stole some of Matt’s cams.

As I belay Daniel up pitch 9 the sky opens up. In a full downpour Daniel and I simul climb the last pitch, following on Matt’s rope. I was happy to not be leading with a river of water running down the 5.7 hand crack, fully filling the arms of my rain coat. At the top of the crack you have to pull an incredibly exposed roof, looking straight down over a 1000ft sheer drop. I scrambled up the last slab, hi five Matt and Keith, just in time for the downpour to let up.  I was very surprised how well my soaking wet climbing shoes stuck to the wet granite (I always imagined you’d just slip off).

We jump from rock to rock across the ridge, careful not to get too close to the 1000ft cliff on the right and a steep slab on the left. We finish the down climb and pack up our camp to head out.

The last boat across Redfish Lake leaves at 7pm daily. I got separated from the rest of the group and picked the wrong trail in the delta of trails leaving the Elephant Perch. It led me to fern covered cliffs lined by waterfalls. I could either go back up to the perch and try and find the right trail, or descend the cliffs and try to reach the river which would lead me to the trail. I picked going down the wet, tropical-esque cliffs and crossed the waterfalls trying not to injure myself in a place that being rescued, or found for that matter, would be very difficult.

I cross the river and reach the trail about 6:40pm. With my 40+lb pack I had 2 miles to cover in less than 20 minutes! I took off running as best I could with a huge pack on my back, only walking on the uphill sections. I hear a crackle on my radio, “SCOTT!” I had been trying to reach anyone on the radio the whole way down the mountain with no answer. I let them know I was close and would be there as soon as possible.

I run through the campground, past confused looking BoyScouts. “If you’re trying to get to the boat, it just left,” one of the leaders tells me. Dejected, I walk to the dock to find the guys waiting for me. “It’s coming back for us, don’t worry.”

Tired, wet, and hungry we stop for dinner in Ketchum and get a hotel in Hailey. I’m pretty thankful for the hot tub.

We get a lazy start and drive to Logan, UT, enjoying a rest day with a viewing of Guardians of the Galaxy. Fantastic entertainment. To top off our rest day we camp at Crystal Hot Springs and enjoy the hot springs.

Clouds in southern Idaho

A squall outside of Logan, UT. 

Climbing in Northern UT
Just outside of Logan is a little known canyon with some spectacular limestone sport climbs. Matt warms up on a fun 11c “Pig in a Python” then Daniel and Keith climb “Nuclear Fingers” 12a right next to it.

Matt climbing “Pig in a Python” 11c

Daniel working “Nuclear Fingers” 12a

Keith on “Nuclear Fingers” 

After arguing about where to go next and driving in circles we found China Cave, a steep, Rifle-esque crag with several inspiring lines. Matt jumps on “Blank” 12 c/d and we all follow in succession.

Matt gives Daniel a gentle catch. 

Matt on his send of “Blank” 5.12b/c

The route is gymnastic and fun, but several of the holds are manufactured. 

Matt captured this shot of me on “Blank”
We arrived in Salt Lake City a few days after Summer Outdoor Retailer Trade Show had started and went straight to the Hippy Tree party to enjoy some beers and live bluegrass music. We stayed out too late and drove up Little Cottonwood Canyon to find a campsite in Albion Basin, which is in Alta Ski Resort. Not finding an open site we decide to just sleep in the 4Runner. 
After not sleeping for 5 hours we got up grumpy and headed uphill towards Devil’s Castle. I almost got stepped on by a moose as I came around a bend near some residence’s. The “Black Streak” goes seven pitches up the middle of Devil’s Tower on a black streak of unique limestone. 
The climbing is very interesting and fun, and getting seven pitches on a sport route is alway worth your time. There’s a 240ft runout in the middle protected by maybe four bolts that we simul climbed. The view from the top, overlooking Alta Resort and Little Cottonwood Canyon, is definitely worth the climb. 
Keith traversing to the rap anchors from the peak with Alta Ski Resort in the background

Daniel raps off “Black Streak” 

The rap descent was the scariest part of the climb. There are lots of loose rocks and every time you pull the rope you get showered with more rocks.

We spend a couple more days at the Outdoor Retailer show and Matt, Daniel, and Keith take off for Denver, stopping in Maple Canyon and Carbondale on the way home. I, not sick of traveling yet, get in a rattly Ford Explorer and head back to Idaho with BASE Jumper, Sarah Watson, for more shenanigans.

Despite getting turned away at the Canadian border, not getting to attempt our original objective, we had a pretty amazing climbing trip. Psyched to have gotten to climb in so many new-to-me climbing areas with stellar routes.

It’s quite amazing that after driving through 5 states, climbing in 5 new areas (7 for the other guys), traveling for 10 days, with roughly 40 hours of driving, and covering 2,400 miles, 4 guys in a 4Runnder, we didn’t kill each other.