Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Lilah enjoying some quality time with her favorite people just before we left Wyoming.

Traveling cuts into my free time left for posting photos and I've been traveling a lot.  After Kirk and Crystal showed up at Ten Sleep, we climbed a few more days and then had to split.  We caravaned through Yellowstone and I took a bunch of photos of one of the most amazing places on the planet.  As American's it's easy to forget how amazing our own country is.  We get stuck envisioning far-off lands in the Himalayas or Australia and maybe overlook the fact that one of the world's most unique and beautiful places is so close to home. 

The Western Tanager is a pretty little dude.  This species was first identified by Lewis and Clark.  They used to be a big deal.  Maybe you've heard of them?

Nevermore!  The Raven is an ugly, nasty, creature.  Edgar Allen Poe used to carry one on his shoulder to pick up girls.  When it died he stuffed it and put it in my Uncle Bob's restaurant...I think that's how the story goes?

This what I'm talking about.  Yellowstone is the only place in the world where you can see a bison herd in a sauna. 

  This is what those duders look like up close.  Seems like evolution would have made them more aerodynamic?

This is the river those Lewis and Clark A-holes were following on their birdwatching hike.

Another stupid waterfall.  For perspective, look for the 40 or so people standing just right of where the water pours over.  I wanted one of them to jump so bad!

Hot water comes out of the ground here, just like my faucet.  This is supposed to impress me how?

 More hot things.

OK, I get it!  Hot stuff comes out of the ground!  Dammit, give it a rest man.  

  Top secret free camping spot.  Guaranteed to wake up to the perfect view. 

I love the Tetons.  No other mountain range juts up from the plains with such visual force.  It's like Gandalf himself, rose his staff and created an impenetrable wall of stone and ice to stop an invading army.  Gandalf or Moses, or someone...  Nearly a decade ago I spent a few months living in Dubois which is just over Togwotee pass.  I didn't get much time off from work then but every two weeks I'd get two days.  During the summer months, I'd use one of those days to go climb a Teton.  I ended up doing four of the five.  I didn't do the lower (the one on the left) but I soloed the other four.  I was probably 23 and looking back, I was probably as cardiovascularly fit as I ever will be.  The middle Teton is a hike, Teewinot is a scramble, The Grand has one 5.5 move and some scrambling but Owen was a particular challenge. 

If you look at the photo, the rightmost peak is Teewinot and the one just left of it is Owen.  It's hard to tell from the 2-dimensional view but Owen sits 'behind' the other peaks.  The approach is much more difficult and the climbing is too.  The challenge of Owen for me was that you have to climb a long couloir of snow and ice.  The degree of slope is probably only 30 degrees but the thing is about 400 feet high.  For someone with crampons and axes this would be very mild.  I didn't have any ice gear at all so I was climbing the rock on the right side of the gully which ended up pushing near 5.8.  Near the top I realized I had to cross the couloir.  I was wearing shorts and some five ten guide tennies with slick rubber soles that are great on rock but disaster on ice.  I looked across to the other rock wall.  It was only 12 feet away.  Between me and the security of the other rock wall was just 12 feet of hardened snow.  I had one hand on the rock and I was desperately trying to kick steps in to the snow.  I'd get just a dimple in and try to weight it and my foot would slip. 

I couldn't believe it.  I was so close to the top and this 12 foot span of snow was going to stop me short.  I knew that once I let go of the rock and started to traverse left, one slip would be a 400 foot slip and slide to the bottom.  So many things go through your head right then.  All the pressure of knowing this is your only chance.  I knew I had to do the climb but then you think about how bad it would suck to fall...and your brain just goes back and forth.  I am not ordinarily a soloist and I don't do stupid things.  I wasn't going across unless I was solid and I wasn't.  But right as I was about to bail I reached out and found 'holds'.  The ice climbers that had come days before me had left little holes in the ice with their axes.  And they were deep.  I stuck my middle finger in the hole, kicked a half-assed step and ventured out.  No problem!!! 

It was crazy.  Every time I needed one, I found another hole for my finger.  I freaking mono'ed across that thing!  Hahaha!  What a trip.  I found myself on the other side, scrambling solid rock forever.  The final stretch toward the summit is a knifeblade of perfect granite.  The top is a jug rail that stretches for 200 feet and I was smearing my five-tennies and surfing up Owen with Idaho about 2000 feet below my soles.  I have never felt so invincible in my entire life.  And that day I was.
On the summit, by myself, I slowed down and thought about reversing the couloir traverse.  Not psyched!  Unbelievably, I actually found a rope.  How does that stuff happen?  I was able to sling a block and tension across.  No big deal.  It's cool to look back and remember experiences like that.  I was a different person then, but I did that!  It was me, and I was the only one there.  Up there in those Tetons having my own personal adventures with no one else around.  Crazy to think about.

So back to the present.  We left the Tetons and headed down to Maple Canyon, Utah.  It was the worst climbing experience of my life.  I can't believe that place is as popular as it is but if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all.  So I will stop there, having already broken the rule.  We left and went up to Logan Canyon, Utah.  The climbing there was much better and there was no one there.  All the people were at Maple.  What???  We stayed a week, I climbed on the famous upper portion of Super Tweak to check it out, did a few other routes, didn't take a single picture, and then headed to the outdoor retailer tradeshow. 
It was crazy, just like everyone says.  I can't believe how big this industry is.  I saw a bunch of good people, made some great connections, had some productive DPM meetings, and then drove to Rifle.  I climbed one day.  I have trouble getting really excited for something at Rifle.  Perhaps it's because it's very difficult climbing?  I don't know, but the cool temps of the front range were calling so I blasted out and arrived in Estes Park this morning to stay with my friends Nick and Katherine.  They have a sick set-up here.  Five minutes from Estes, which is the hub for high alpine climbing conditions. 

We climbed today at the Wizard's Gate and I'm very excited to go back and finish off some classico Jstar rigs.  The aptly named 'Cloak and Dagger' climbs a technical, blank-looking, shield of stone to a good rest then ventures out an intimidating and severely overhanging arete.  It is a great climb and we all joked Tommy Caldwell for not seeing that route before Jonathan bolted it!  It is classic!
The tentative plan is to stay here for a week then head back to Ten Sleep to meet up with Devlin, Anna, and Chanti.  I can't get enough of that place.  After that I'd like to come back here and climb with Nick.  He is a great partner that was kind enough to hike up to the Wizard's Gate with me on his rest day.  I will tell you the hike is no rest.  I was astounded to find out that the GPS said it's only one mile but with 1000 feet of gain.  It felt much further.  The crag is at 10,000 feet so breathing on route is difficult.  We'll see what happens.   

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