Fickle Spring Climbing

This is going to be a long one, but this about sums up my last climbing trip for those who don’t want to read:

That is the only picture I snapped of the entire trip. As the saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words… I’m betting you already guessed how the trip went. You’d be right and you’d be wrong.

I start off from the beginning. We leave Bozeman around 5:30 pm bound for Ten Sleep, I’ve been there twice, always having been the passenger, and Jo having never gone before. So we got to Laurel just fine and then look at the map to plan out where to go next. We followed Route 212/310 and after passing through the little town of Silesia, 310 makes a left and continues south into Wyoming. We happened to pass this intersection whilst laughing about something is my best guess. We got to about Joliet before we found out that the MT and WY highway system in rural areas has the speed limit go from 70 to 35 very fast as a sheriff explained to me on the side of the road. Not yet realizing how lost we were the deputy tried to get us in the right direction unbeknownst to us.

I may have realized it was wrong first, but I think Jo knew first that we were heading towards Red Lodge… Not the right way to go at all. So after a quick survey of the map we headed down into town and then took a bunch of back roads we had been on last November when we went to Cody, except for a crucial turn that pointed us back towards Ten Sleep. We arrived around 7 hours later, for what should take 4-4.5 hours, at 12:30 pm.

We awoke to an okay day, cloudy and breezy, but warm enough. We parked at the Mondo Beyondo wall for what we knew to be dry rock. The problem was that neither of us had gaiters and there was obvious snow fields covering most of the approach and totally covering the trail. So we post-holed our way in anyways, adding about 15 mins to the normal approach, not too bad considering we tried to stick to the path of least snow that lead to the top. As it Turns out the elk are better at picking out a trail through less snow than I am though…. As soon as we got started the sun came out and warmed the place up very quickly. I was climbing in a t-shirt and soon we started worrying about sun-burns more than the wet-to-the-knee’s pants both of us were wearing. We each climbed about 9 pitches for the day a great success and managed found a project for both Jo and I to work on for the following day. As we left we meet up with Chris, Ansel, and Dave who were on their way back to Bozeman that night. They had decided on climbing lower due to the snow at Mondo that day. Unfortunately Dirty Sallies’ was closed so we couldn’t get ice cream with them before they left.

Later, Jo and I were playing our 2nd game of Cribbage when the wind picked up and it got dark suddenly. We stopped what we were doing and put up tents right away, knowing a storm was on its way. This was my first speed record for the weekend putting up my tent solo while it was trying to be blown away, and in less time than normal it felt like. As I finished staking my tent down I turned around to find all our cards strewn across the campsite and then the rain just started. I flew around the campsite trying to pick up as many cards and other odds and ends as I could while Jo set up the rest of her tent. We both made it into the car just after it started to really dump in the canyon. We ate dinner in the car consisting of peanut butter sandwiches and random left-overs from our fridges. The rain cleared a little while after we finished dinner in the car leaving for bed uncertain about the weather for Monday.

Knowing that Jo woke up later than me the day before and wanting to wait for the cliffs to dry a little bit I slept in until about 10 am. I awoke to find Jo reading and holding the last card we hadn’t found the night before. We had a nice big breakfast and got a slow start getting to the parking for the Downtown Area (one pull out below Mondo) around 11 or 11:30. As we had driven up the canyon we went into one cloud and then just out of it just below another. As we hiked the cloud below us moved to white out everything and make seeing more than 100 feet hard to make out objects, even the cliffs disappeared into the mist for a bit. We got to Mondo about an hour later (about a half traversing on the trail half on a game trail and half making it up as we went). Almost everything was dry at Mondo except for Jo’s Project… We warmed up on School’s Out and Wagon Wheel of Death. The later gave the impression that you were much more exposed than you really were due to the whiteout conditions behind you.

Then I prepared for another try on EKV. The route is very fun but the crux comes down to one two finger pull that’s kind of annoying, enough that I didn’t want to waste the rest of the day trying it, we just needed to get the top 3 draws back I had left the day before. So I left the ground with a full set of draws and knowing that I had to sprint a little bit to the crux, there are so many holds down low that if you don’t skip a few its much more tiring. I made my way up to the last rest before the crux placed my last draw and then fired it. I think I may have used a higher foothold but it just felt good to get the pocket and then just stand up to the next pocket sidepull before the jug. From there it’s not easy but it’s not as hard the holds get smaller again but the angle kicks back enough to make it easy-ish. I got the chains stoked, I cleaned the route of our quickdaws and then we headed out to see if another cliff was dry.

As we moved out from the protection of the big roof at Mondo, the cloud that had rolled in rolled out reveling partly cloudy skies above us and a glimpse of the sun. Jo wanted to go check out the World Domination wall, which is littered with more four and five-star classics. We got distracted on the way over climbing a 5.11 that was the first put up in that section of the canyon. While we climbed another cloud bank rolled in but rolled out as quickly as it had come as we kept walking. When We got to the World Domination wall we sat down to have lunch and figure out our next move. As we sat there the clouds moved in again, but thicker this time like it had been when we walked in to the Mondo Beyondo. We decided to do Thor a classic 5.10b, that has all sorts of movement on it from cracks to slab and a dihedral move around a roof. As I climbed it started to spit a little bit and you could see parts of the cloud move quickly across the ground and cliff just 20 feet from you. When it came to be Jo’s turn it started spitting a few more drops than before, but backed off as Jo climbed to the chains.

The little amount of precip hadn’t gotten the rock wet at all so we decided to go for another classic endurance slab: Napoleon’s Highchair. The route is long just about 100 feet or so and moves from slab to steep vertical climbing to back to slab at the top. It involves many high-stepping moves to reach the next handhold and very delicate slab moves on small crimps and pockets, one of my favorite styles and one that I have become quite good at. As I reached the last few bolts I was exhausted, I could no longer find many good rests and the holds seemed to get smaller with every move upward I went. Then it happened, very rapidly the clouds started to rain and then pour down on me and Jo, who was totally unprotected at the base. I managed to hold it together somehow on the last moves going without chance of backing off to a few unknown holds. I completed the onsight and without hesitation went and cleaned the route knowing that it was now mostly wet, and Jo wouldn’t be able to climb it.

When I got tot he ground the rope bag had a puddle in it and we quickly got everything packed away. The rain wasn’t that back once we got our jackets on and started walking, but we knew this rain instantly brought the days climbing to a halt and most likely the end to the trip. We got back to the car at around 5pm, so it wasn’t a total bust of a day. We got back down canyon and went for an exploratory hike and then made dinner as the rain backed off for about an hour or so. gloomily we decided to wait till the next day to decide what to do, we only really had four options: stay, go to Lander (WY), go to Natural Bridge (MT), or go back to Bozeman.

As I went to sleep the rain picked back up again and I knew I was moving into an uneasy night fighting to keep my tent and everything in it dry… I awoke to the sound of nothing hitting the tent which was great but before I decided to get up I heard a pitter patter start up again so I went back to sleep. The next time I woke up it sounded like rain again so I went back to sleep, the last time I woke up I knew I wasn’t going to make it back to sleep and the rain sounded like it has stopped or was now just a light drizzle. When I unzipped the door of my tent I was immediately dumbfounded. Snow?! and about and inch of it so far. I quickly moved into the car, frustration brewing over this turn in the weather. At least the rain had been forecasted, but not this snow. I waited for Jo to get up and I seemed to snow about a half an inch by the time she got up. after much debate we made the decision to drive up canyon see what it was like. We drove past wet snowy cliff after snowy cliff before we got to the Mondo roof… it was soaked. the only dry spot contained four routes: School’s Out, Jackabite, Screaming Night Hog, and Aunt Jemima’s Bisquick Thunderdome from right to left. I had already done three of them, and was not psyched to slog through more snow for four routes. So we made the decision to head into town stop for breakfast and then go try Natural Bridge to make the best of what was left of our last two days.

The rain only stopped for about an hour in Northern Wyoming as we back tracked into Montana, but the rain was lighter and we could see the end of the storm when we arrived in Big Timber, MT. Having nothing else to do we walked around main street and went into every store we could. We found a really cool antiques shop, and a fabric shop for quilting that sold candy on the side that were of note, everything else was exactly what you would expect from a small ranching town on the edge of the mountains.

Next thing we stopped at the edge of the slot canyon to check out the cliffs before finding camping further up the canyon on national forest land. It was a good thing we stopped, too because everything, and I mean 98%, of the slot canyon was wet. The only thing that wasn’t wet was the cave to the climbers left of the falls and a small patch of the front side of the block that makes up the foyer.

Knowing that it wouldn’t dry out in time we went home to sleep in our dry beds and get out the next day to the Bozeman Pass. As we drove into Bozeman, we were greeted by a fantastic sunset through the light cloud cover. Everything was already mostly dry in town with great weather on the way.

The next day Jo and I went up to the Training Wall, most everything on the left side of the wall was still seeping from the rain and spring melt off, so we decided to work on Train Wreck, a route I did two years ago training for youth nationals. Jo gave it her best effort and made it half way before not being able to find the holds. I gave it a few laps, going both ways at the crux. Jo stuck with my original way going right at the crux and sent her first 12b in about 4 or 5 goes despite shedding some blood on the way!

All in all it ended up being a great three days of climbing even though it poured in Ten Sleep. I’m impressed with Jo, she seems to have made a big improvement in her climbing over the winter. She was able to do every route I did except for EKV, which had one move that she couldn’t reach, and was able to onsight a 12a and flash another, which at the time was the hardest she had ever climbed! It seems like this winter many people I know took advantage of spire this winter and improved a ton. I’m going to have to step it up again, if only I can fix my should permanently…

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