Sunday, October 7, 2012

Three Times Ten Sleep Part 1

Submitted by Ken

I returned Monday, Oct 1, from a short trip to Ten Sleep. I was lucky enough to get down there three times this year. The first trip was early in the season, the second in mid summer, and this last one - in normal weather years at least - was pushing it pretty late. It was interesting to experience Ten Sleep across the range of its climbing season.

This is Part 1 of three posts summarizing my Ten Sleep trips this year.

May 17 to 22

Pre-Memorial Day is early for Ten Sleep Canyon. But I was dying to get out of town and found I had little trouble convincing Michael and our mutual friend Leslie, from Bozeman, to give it a try. Leslie had been the year before early in the season and had to wear gators and posthole through knee-deep drifts to the base of the routes. But after doing some checking, we learned there was no snow at all in the canyon this time. Though there's always a chance of the usual mountain Spring storms, the weather forecast looked pretty good.
Michael, I, and June-the-dog left Missoula Wednesday evening, the 16th, and drove to Leslie and her husband Chris's place in Bozeman where we stayed the night. The three of us then headed out at 7am Thursday morning, arriving in Ten Sleep by noon.

The old road that accesses the primitive camping is closed until June, so we stayed in the Fish Hatchery campground at the bottom of the canyon. The outhouses were open, but the water spigot still had its winter wrap, the campground host site was strewn with leaves, and last year's signage of fees and regulations hung faded on the bulletin board. The summer season was still well off.

Michael and Leslie making a plan.

Our goal for the trip was just to get in mileage and shake off the winter cobwebs. We found the perfect first climb that fit the bill, located in the lower canyon on the Hound Dog crag of the Dry Wall area, a 5.10c inside corner named Big Bear Memorial. This is an "American Flag" climb (5 stars for those unfamiliar with the Ten Sleep guidebook) well worth doing, with a 10 minute approach on a wall suited to cool days.

Leslie, Big Bear Memorial - 5.10c

We then upped the ante and climbed a short 11a to the left, and then upped it again to an awesome 11c with the unusually generic (for Ten Sleep) name of HDC 222. I managed to on-sight, Leslie flashed and Michael topped to complete the team sweep. This made for a perfect first afternoon and we headed back to camp.

The next day, with rain clouds gathering, we went up to the Mondo Beyondo and climbed the Ten Sleep classic Beer Bong. I'd never done this climb and found most of the route non-descript and not even much fun. But the upper stemming chimney makes it all worthwhile. Super unique and definitely a must-do. For a bit more warmup, we added in the neighboring Hooray for Boobies (watch the shadows on the wall from the highway about 1:30pm in summer to see the likely source of the name). A few rain drops started falling, so I played around in the dry shadow beneath the steep rock at the bottom of Happiness in Slavery, trying to decipher the opening few moves. Then it really started raining, and by mid afternoon we were back in camp stretching a tarp above the picnic table.

Another use for the amazing Superclip stick clip device.

We ate dinner as the rain intensified, and by 6pm were all in our tents. The rain fell hard throughout the night. But by the time we rose in the morning, it had stopped and the sky gave a hint of clearing.

Fortunately, Ten Sleep has an awesome hangout in the form of the 2nd Street Bakery. We took our soggy selves down there and hung out until noon.
By that point the sky had cleared and the day was warming. We drove back up into the canyon and found the sun shining on dry rock. We stayed in the lower canyon and did a short approach to the low end of the Dry Wall sector where we climbed a couple of short routes, then finished on the challenging Sweet Cheeses. This thing throws a lot at you from old-school thin slab to an overhanging 5.10d crack finish. It's likely to have you crying "Sweet Cheez'us!" more than once.

Leslie dry and warm at Dry Wall.

Ken on Sweet Cheeses

Sweet Cheeses looking up the canyon.
The rest of the trip was spent sampling climbs at other sectors and hanging with several groups of Montana climbers around the base of the Slavery Wall. This included Leslie's friend and former Bozeman climbing partner Kelsey and her boyfriend Jared.

Mondo Beyondo - Slavery sector.

Kelsey and Jared gave me the Slavery opening beta and I at last managed to get myself off the ground and reach the 2nd bolt. I logged it away for a future trip when I felt fresher and would have the time to settle in and project the route. As it was, the rain had thrown off our schedule and we hadn't taken any full rest days, instead whittling ourselves down a little more each of 5 days straight until we were all worked and it was time to pack up and head home.

Michael pocket-pulling.

I'd definitely go back to Ten Sleep this time of year. The conditions are less reliable, but there's also a high likelihood of perfect bluebird days. There were only a few other groups of climbers, and whether coincidence or normal for this time of year, they were nearly all from Montana. As the saying goes, "Ten Sleep. It's Montana's best crag."

June's new friend, pro climber dog and guidebook star (pg. 157) Jedi.