"Not all those who wander are lost"

Archive for December, 2012

Dirtbag Dining


There is no love sincerer than the love of food.

-George Bernard Shaw


Food.  We all love it.  Well, I suppose not everyone loves food, but I sure do and that’s what counts. This is the first in a new category of posts I plan doing.  Instead of blabbing about the tasty food I make or find in regular posts I’ve decided to make them separate.  And now, may I present: Dirtbag Dining!


Many of you would be surprised to know that the sprawling metropolis of Ten Sleep, Wyoming (population 260, but this might include cows) has very little vegan or even vegetarian food.  The local cuisine tends to favour carnivores over even the omnivores.  Basically if it doesn’t come from a cow, then you can’t get it.  Needless to say, I didn’t go out to eat much.

Instead I did my stuck to my usual dirtbag diet of rice and veggies, pasta, and burritos.  As with everything, this got old.  Soon I found myself experimenting to make the same old rice and pasta more interesting.  I made various curries and stir fries, which are absurdly easy even while camping.  The one that I found the easiest and best though was a simple stir fry with a peanut sauce.

It’s about as easy as you can get.  Step one, cook rice.  Step too, stir fry any veggies you want.  Step 3, mix peanut butter (sans sugar is much better for this), soy sauce, and siracha sauce with a little water to make the desired consistency.  You can also add any spices you want to the sauce, try experimenting.  Simple and delicious.

My real revelation was baking in my cast iron pan.  I’ve always liked baking, but it’s hard to do when all you have is a two burner Colman stove, or so I thought.  In reality, it’s just a bit different.  You can’t expect the perfect even cooking you get from a stove, but it can sure make some great food.

I started by making cornbread using a recipe I got from my mom.  It’s not a vegan recipe but I just ignored the eggs and used rice milk to make it vegan.  Cooking it was the real challenge.  In order to keep it hot without burning the bottom I put the burner on as low as it could go, occasionally moved the pan around to cook the sides more, and turned the burner off here and there.  In order to keep heat in I used various lids I could borrow from friends or my plate if no lids were available.  The real problem here was that all the moisture that would normally bake off in an oven was held in.  I would take the lid off periodically and shake water drops off it, but the top of the corn bread still ended up very moist.







In the end the cornbread was slightly crispy on the bottom and very soft and moist on the top.  The middle was cooked nicely.  Personally, I thought it tasted great and might even prefer it cooked like this.  Success!

Thus began a baking rampage highlighted by cinnamon rolls, hot fudge sundae cake, and more cornbread.  It was all quite tasty.  Hope some people out there experiment with baking in cast iron and if you do drop me a line and let me know how it went.

Ten Sleep (Part II)


The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.

– Alan Watts


Only 9 days after getting to Ten Sleep the entire crew had gone.  Not only that, but many of the other people who I had seen around climbing had left as well.  I had met one guy, Scott, who had said he would be around for a while.  It turned out that Scott (and his pup, Mondo) and I were the only ones there solo so we hung out and climbed together for the next couple weeks.  It was amazing how quickly Ten Sleep got so quiet even though there was no significant change in weather, time of year, or holidays to account for it.  We didn’t argue though, we just got down to business climbing.

I’m definitely a person who likes animals, but Mondo was especially awesome.  Only two months old when I met her she was already a chill crag dog.  While Scott and I climbed she contented herself sitting on his pack, chewing a stick, wandering around, or just watching us climb.  I know many people have issues with dogs at crags, but they sure wouldn’t if the other dogs were as good as Mondo.  All this and only a puppy!

The climbing psych remained high climbing with Scott.  Our first day climbing together we went to Superratic Pillar.  I got on the third of the three routes I was most psyched on: Great White Behemoth.  I decided to try to flash not onsight and got beta from Scott, but ended up having a foot pop.  I found a better foot and pulled the rest of the moves to the top.  On my second try I floated the beast.  I got to the top and was told “Congratulations, you are good at climbing rocks” by the trophy hanging from the anchor.

Scott’s a much stronger climber than I am so climbing with him meant I was pushing myself to climb harder and harder.  I soon sent my first 5.12c in the states and it only took me two tries.  It was a great route up an arête at Hound Dog Crag, but didn’t even have a proper name, just HDC 224.

In the middle of August I had a bit of a crisis.  Driving back from climbing one day I pulled into my spot and about 50 feet before I parked I heard an horrid grinding sound.  Within 5 feet my car came nosedived into the ground and came to an abrupt halt.

My stomach dropped.  No car, mid road trip, thousands of miles to anywhere I could leave all the junk from my car, this could be really bad.  Somehow the pin came out, the castle nut fell off, the ball joint popped out, and the CV shaft was pulled out of the transmission.  It looked like the only damaged part was the CV shaft which was under warrantee, but considering I could be dead if that happened at highway speeds I thought it best to take it to a shop to make sure rather than do the work myself.

Luckily my mom keeps me and my brother on her AAA plan.  I spent a rest day dealing with the car situation.  It turned out that (they claimed anyway) there was no other damage, but Carquest messed up sending the part so I headed back to camp until I could get the car the next morning.  I spent the night squeezed into my tent along with a set of drawers, my duffel of clothes, climbing pack, rope, and guitar.  It was quite, um, cozy?  The mechanic put in the new CV shaft and charged $160 for two hours of labor for a part I could have replaced in 30 minutes.  It was done though and I’ll I could do was keep climbing.

Despite being the longest approach, Scott and I spent the majority of our time climbing at French Cattle Ranch (FCR).  It was hard for either of us to argue since it has bomber rock, great routes, and plenty of the grades to keep both of us happy for a long time.

FCR is home to many routes in the 12+ to 13- range so I had a blast sampling the routes and trying to pull hard.  Most of the routes I didn’t put much time into, but one caught me as something I might be able to do.  My first try on Tangarine Fat Explosion went absolutely nowhere.  I struggled on nearly every move and took a few good falls because it’s not grid bolted like lots of Ten Sleep.  I worked each move, got them figured out, and somehow returned to the ground thinking I had a shot even though I barely linked 5 moves at a time.

Scott’s first attempt was better, but still didn’t manage to send.  I don’t remember which one stopped him, but one of the three cruxes got the better of him.  The first is just a couple awkward moves and a long, boulder reach.  It’s difficult, but it’s at the third bolt so it’s easy to be fresh for it.  After a series of moves on good crimps and pockets there’s a bit of a rest on some decent holds with good feet before firing into the second crux.  This involves increasingly long reaches and the last with only smearing feet.  Once the second crux has been overcome it’s 30ft of spaced out massive horizontal jugs.  After one last shake on the top jugs you balance your way up to hold a credit card edge and a triangular pinch that’s even smaller.  Using these with some high feel it’s a long reach up to a half pad crimp to clip the bolt and another long move up to the next, slightly better, small pocket a few moves that decrease in difficulty to the anchor.

In short, I loved this route.  It had such diverse climbing and holds that it was challenging in many different ways: awkward moves, powerful pulls, techy balance, and some pump.  This rig had it all.  My second try fell short.  I figured I might as well give a third try before heading out.  I cranked through and felt pretty good all the way up to the top crux.  I reached for the good crimp, touched it, and fell.  I didn’t quite have my feet right and was too tired to make it work without exactly the right beta.

Confident I would get it soon we returned the next day.  I cranked through the power moves, executed my beta perfectly on the techy moves, and clipped the anchors on my first try of the day.  MY FIRST 5.13!  I was elated.  After that figured I would belay Scott on Galactic Emperor for the rest of the day, but ended up trying it once on TR.  It was rather comical how pathetic my attempt was.  I was lucky if I pulled 3 consecutive moves on the route and many of the moves I just couldn’t even begin to do.  It was a good reality check.

Much of the rest of my time in Ten sleep was a blur of climbing and hanging out with friends.  I met another guy named Nate who was camped near me, Scotts friend Esther came, my friend Terri, who I met in Thailand, came, and Toby returned after a couple weeks away.  All of a sudden there were people around again.

I felt the pressure to climb all of the things I wanted to do before I left build in the second half of August.  So much that I stopped taking rest days so often.  Actually I only took one in my last 16 days.  Maybe it hurt my ability to climb a little bit, but I didn’t notice (for a while).  I still managed to send another 12c, Pick Pocket and get my hardest onsight (Left El Shinto, 12c).

I few days before leaving I decided to try Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV).  I had tried it once before and wasn’t too enthusiastic, but this time something clicked and I loved it.  After two burns working out beta I thought I had a shot of doing in one of the next two days before leaving.

I was quickly proven wrong the next day.  Although I had worked out beta for the entire route on my first try, I found that on point I couldn’t do it the same way.  My third burn of the day (6th overall), I stuck the crux but fell on some crimps just after because I messed up some foot beta.  I was bummed that I had blown it, but determined to get it I tried again.  It was a great exercise in futility.  I was too worked to even come close to pulling the crux moves.

I refused to let it go and convinced Terri and Toby to go back for a few more tries my last day even though I still had a long drive to Jackson that afternoon.  I tried it three more times, but each one was worse than the previous.  Eight days of climbing and seven burns on EKV in 25 hours was more that my body could handle.  Defeated I got in my already packed car and turned toward Jackson expecting to arrive around 2am.

EKV is the one that got away, but there are loads of routes at Ten Sleep that I’m psyched to go back for: EKV, Crown Prince Abdullah, Burden of Immortality, Aunt Jemimas Bisquick Thunderdome, Wall of Denial, Pussytoes, Kielbasa, Esplanada, Crux Luthor, Shut the Fuck Up, Dances with Cows, and much more.  Some I haven’t tried, some I have, all I want to send.

For anyone interested, which I presume you are since you’re reading this, here’s a list of routes I liked:

Great White Behemoth 12b Sequential
Happiness in Slavery 12b Power to techy
Tangarine Fat Explosion 13a See above
Center El Shinto 12b Thin and Techy, mosty vert
Cocaine Rodeo 12a See above
Tricks for You 12a Techy, cryptic, and awesome
HDC 224 12c Striking arete
Black Narcissist 12b/c Thin crack with tiny face holds
Wyoming Flower Child 11d/12a Easier version of Center El Shinto
Captain Insano 11d Crack with jugs and face holds
Gravy Train 12b Hard bouldery top move
Pick Pocket 12c Compression and techy
HDC 222 11c Crack with holds along it
Mr. Poopy Pants 11b Overhanging stemming
Character Witness 11a Just fun
Godfather 2 11a Juggy overhanging
Pussy Control 11a Classic pocket pulling
Crossbow Chaos Theory 11a Hard to see holds
Big Bear Memorial 10c Long dihedral, stemming
Beerbong 10b Novelty – Top bit is stunning

Ten Sleep (Part I)

Center El Shinto

If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing thing you don’t like doing, which is stupid.  Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spend in a miserable way.

-Alan Watts


The wheels began rolling and I felt a surge of excitement.  I was finally headed to the primary destination of my trip: Ten Sleep.  The rolling hills seemed to team up with my car in an attempt to keep me away, but I pressed the accelerator closer to the floor and managed to chug up the hill while tractors passed me.  Alright, I didn’t see any tractors, but my car did feel like it might burst into flames any second.

Excitement peaked as I pulled onto the old dirt road, old Highway 16 that is, and sped around washboard corners.  I found my friend Toby camped among the boulders and set up camp.  We caught up for a bit, but I was eager to get to sleep and speed up the time until I was climbing.

In the morning we headed to World Domination.  The routes were filled with superb crimping and pocket pulling.  I immediately liked the area when I managed to get three quarters of the way up ‘Napoleon’s Highchair’ after just doing one quick warm up.

I had a startling moment on the route when I reached for a two finger pocket and felt a buzzing against the tips of my fingers.  I pulled my hand out before the wasps stung me and quickly down-climbed away from them.  I waited until they calmed down and managed to cautiously climb around their hole.

Despite making it past the wasps on point I ended up falling while resting on a pair of crimps.  Yes, I fell while resting.  I somehow lost my balance and wasn’t able to recover.  I was disappointed, but was not interested in a second attempt even though I knew I could send.  My skin was precious and I wanted to try more routes.

We got on a few more routes and I was psyched to onsight ‘Moltar!’ at the end of the day.  One onsight and another onsight that really should have happened made me pretty happy about the day.  The climbing was my style and the grades weren’t very hard; what a great place to spend some time and boost the confidence!

Hanging out at camp was prime as well.  In addition to Toby, Matt and Ben had made the migration from Lander, my friend Kat, who I met in Thailand, had come down with her friend Christine, I finally managed find my friend Joe, who I met it New Zealand back when I started climbing, after several days of searching, and several new friends, Erika, Steve, Brian, and Asha, were made.

My second day I was really psyched to get on the classic rig ‘Cocaine Rodeo’ and see what I could do.  I was a little surprised and a lot happy when I onsighted the beast.  It’s a stunning route with a three mini-cruxes.  The first one is right after the second bolt on some poor pockets and crimps with awkward feet.  The second is, I thought, the hardest one, involving a long reach on a mediocre pocket or a move off a shallow mono.  The third one I couldn’t even tell you much about besides that it’s pretty close to the anchor, it’s awkward techy moves, and I was really focused on not falling by that point.

After a rest day I convinced Toby and Joe to head over to the Shinto wall so I could try the second of the three routes I was most interested in: ‘Center El Shinto.’  After Toby hung draws I flashed it.  I lost heaps of skin, but I managed to pull through.  Incredible!  Three days in a row I onsighted or flashed 5.12!  Certainly a new point in my climbing life, but it was hard to figure out if it’s because the climbing is my style and I’ve improved this year or if the routes are just soft.  I suspect a combination, but still like to take the credit.







We had some great times cragging, playing guide book charades, playing monopoly deal, baking cinnamon rolls and mango-chili-brownies, but as always, good things end.  Far too soon, in my opinion, much of the crew headed on to other climbing or returned to their normal lives.



[Credit to Toby Butterfield for the three photos of me]

International Climbers’ Festival

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.

-Andre Gide


While in Boulder I heard about the International Climber Festival in Lander so, after my visit in Cheyenne, I headed to Lander to check out the festival.  I missed the first couple days but showed up in time for the trade show on Friday.

I wandered around, collected schwag, and ran into a few people I knew.  First I ran into David, who I briefly met in the Red a few weeks earlier, and his friend Chase.  Excited to know people I could climb with, we made plans to climb the following day.  Later, watching the dyno competition I bumped into Sam Cody, who I had met on the road last year, then saw again in Tonsai.

I climbed with David and Chase at Sinks Saturday.  It was a fairly mellow day of climbing, just getting in some really fun 11’s and one attempt on Purple Galaxy, a great route following up a purple streak in the rock. We were incredibly fortunate to not be broiled by the sun thanks to clouds that hung around most of the day.

The evening festival event was a set of presentations by Kate Rutherford, Kevin Jorgesen, and Royal Robbins.  The presentations were a phantasmagoria, depicting their climbing in Patagonia, Yosemite, Bishop, Wyoming, and much more.  It was a great experience to see climbing legends, find out what they are psyched on, and see a bit of their side of the experiences.

Sunday I went climbing with Sam, another Sam that I met through Sam Cody while making dinner sitting on the sidewalk.  Our plan was just to go crag at Wild Iris, but when we got there we were told the wall we had our eyes on would be packed with people from the festival clinics.  As we headed out to find an area that wouldn’t be crowded, Jonathan Siegrist asked if we wanted to join his clinic since most people hadn’t shown up.  Of course couldn’t say no so we headed off with Jstar in the lead.

Since there only turned out to be six of us, including Jonathan, it turned into an informal day of cragging with a bone crusher.  We chatted, asked advice, and generally ogled over him walking up our projects.  When we had finished climbing, Jonathan headed around the corner and we got to watch him on Genetic Drifter.  It was the first time I had ever watched anyone even try a 5.14 and it was something else: casually cranking long moves off mediocre foot holds, cutting feet with only three fingers on, and some plain old awesome climbing.  I took some pictures too, my favorite of them (below) he put up on his blog.

What I had planned on being only a couple days of Lander quickly turned into nearly two weeks thanks to meeting more people and plentiful climbing partners.  We soon had one campsite with three vans, two cars, and five tents.  I ended up climbing and hanging out with Sam, Sam, Fritz, Matt, Ben, and Jen the rest of my time in Lander.

Stopping long enough to climb the same route more than one day allowed me to finally get stronger and begin having more success for the first time on my trip.  I sent a few good routes, but most notable was Ruby Shooter, my first 12b in the US.  I began working on it the first day at Wild Iris with Jonathan, but it wasn’t until I found my own sequence that I managed to send.  Lesson learned: I can’t use the same beta as 5.14 climbers, probably should have known that already.

At Erratic one afternoon I was taking pictures of Matt on his project, When I Was a Young Girl, I Had Me a Cowboy, and got a couple cool ones of BJ Tilden working on his long term project.  Turns out, he sent that rig this fall and now Moonshine is the hardest route in Wyoming.  Pretty cool to see something like that in progress.

I did several other stunning routes at the Iris, but my favorites were Court n’ Spark, Choke Cherry Eyes, Zorro, and Gaucho.  Court n’ Spark was especially fun because it required a couple really big moves off two finger pockets and rocking up onto a foot above your waist.  Though I had heard mixed reviews of Wild Iris, including that you need to climb hard to go there, I found that I loved the climbing.

(Matt on Young Girl)

(BJ Tilden on one of the big bouldery throws on Moonshine)