"Not all those who wander are lost"

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

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