Sunday, October 18, 2009

Changes of Plans

Saturday, we drove out to Sweetwater Rocks to check out a couple areas off of the Ore Road that are described in the Lander Bouldering guide. The first area (the 45's) was fenced off, and near some "No Trespassing" signs, so we kept driving. We found "the Egg" which had some cool looking sport climbs on it, but it was in the wind. I drove just a bit further, and saw some nice looking boulders up on the hillside that were sheltered from the wind by a cliff. I ran up to them and saw that a few lines had already been cleaned, and I found a chalked hold. A fisherman was in the river just below the hill. The girls sat in a sheltered gully while I ran around looking for the best problems. Then my searching was interrupted by sirens. I saw a Fremont County sheriff parked beside our van. We hiked out to see what the problem was, and it turns out the area we were exploring was once state land, but it was bought by a uranium mining company. There isn't public access anymore, except for fishermen. They are allowed to follow the river into the property. Both of the Ore Road areas described in the guidebook are now closed to climbing. It's quite a bummer. There are some good boulders there.

We tried to salvage the session by going to the El Paso boulder, but it was in the wind and had some snow around it. We drove to some other boulders that I wanted to check out, but a large hunting party was camping right next to them. Maybe we should have kept driving out to the Hampi boulders, but we were no longer in the mood. The wind was picking up, hunter traffic kept passing us on the road, and we didn't have orange clothing. We decided to go home, get some work done, and try to get out for a session on Sunday.

Today we couldn't have a long session, so we returned to the Rubber Blanket boulder.

The mid-morning weather was perfect. The north side of the boulder was free of snow, so we had a few new problems to climb.

Ashley climbing the thuggy moderate "King of Birds."

Our main goal was to complete our traverse project from the session last week. It might be "Milton's Traverse," but it feels much harder than other V4s on the boulder. I think that "Milton's" probably uses higher crimps, and that our project is harder by a few grades.

The crimp match crux.

We made a little progress, but we'll need another session.

The short session was good enough to make me reassess some of my exploration goals. I love the potential of Sweetwater Rocks, the epic vastness of the scenery, and the feeling that there's probably a "Mushroom Boulder" hiding somewhere amongst the rock formations. But the drive, the wind, the strange access situations, and the popularity of the place with gun toting ATV drivers has dampened my enthusiasm to some extent. We're now planning to spend more time exploring the boulders close to Lander, and maybe make a trip up to Cody soon. I'm hoping that this weekend is the beginning of a beautiful Indian summer.

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