Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Spring Break Bouldering Trip to Cody, Wyoming

The Sphinx Boulders

We've been getting a lot of climbing in lately. Finishing off projects in Sinks during after school sessions, "Migration Traverse" for me and "Jeremy's Traverse" for Ashley, last week. Then four full day sessions on the boulders near Cody during Spring Break this week. Our trip got started on Easter Sunday at the Sphinx boulders. The bunny hid eggs around the boulders for the girls to find.

Ashley and I spent most of the day working on difficult lines like "The Plague."

Ashley could climb up to the point pictured, but couldn't do the move to the mail slot. I could get the mail slot, but couldn't climb the start. We would make a good bouldering tag team, if that were a sport.
Towards the end of the session I began chasing stars instead of numbers, and climbed some fun moderates like "Moon Shadow."

The "Sphinx Boulders" are in a beautiful area that catches sun, but isn't very sheltered from the wind. One hundred and fifty documented problems from V0-V10 on Tensleep sandstone ranging from frighteningly soft to Joe's Valley quality perfection.

Cedar Mountain Bouldering

We bouldered two days in a row, and I decided we should check out the Mid Mountain area on Cedar Mountain. The guide said it had some good moderates, and I felt like I needed some, still feeling sore from the day before. I noticed very healthy looking lichen on rocks while hiking in, and silently hoped that the boulders wouldn't be covered in it.

I rounded a corner, saw a vast field of boulders, and ran back down the trail to tell Ashley about it.
The lower half of the Maze.

Hundreds of boulders fill a gully and are scattered along a hillside for an incredible distance. Eight areas described in the guidebook from the Sheep Camp to the Highway Boulders are really separated only by their names. It's one huge boulder field with over three hundred documented boulder problems concentrated in one band down a hillside under a hundred foot tall sandstone cliff. The sandstone is more solid on Cedar Mountain, and incredibly varied. So varied that it's hard to define what Cody bouldering is like. Some boulders seem like Dakota sandstone transported from Horsetooth Reservoir, others from Joe's Valley, others feel like limestone, while a few are covered in lumpy features I've only seen at Cody. The holds are generally lichen free though intermediates are occasionally unbrushed. There was a little snow at Mid Mountain so we took a quick walk to the Maze where the boulders sat in the sun. We warmed up, and then flashed "Medusa."

We climbed "Hueco Simulator" which is good and a bit reminiscent of Hueco Tanks.

The girls were even inspired by the boulders. First they had their bunnies climb.

Then they started climbing on the rocks.
Autumn climbing.

The day had a couple highlights. I sent "Sugar Pie," which felt quite challenging to me.

And then we found the Bat Cave.
Ashley climbing "The Penguin" on the left edge of the cave.

The Bat Cave has a world class feel. The quality and quantity of Cedar Mountain really began to sink in. During the last fifteen years I've followed all the climbing media I could find about bouldering. I've seen a two page magazine spread about the Sphinx Boulders and a mention that Mark Wilford did a classic problem at Cody. As far as I know, no videos or magazine articles have been released about the hundreds of problems found on Cedar Mountain, but a guidebook has been out for years, and all Spring Break we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. Many areas of lesser quality, just as far off the beaten path, have received much more media attention. I guess I'm a bit conflicted about it. If I'd known about the quality of Cody bouldering I would have visited sooner, but I'm also glad that bouldering areas still exist that can surprise me.

Ashley picked out a bed and breakfast for us to stay in based on a quick web search. She booked our full week there. The owners were very hospitable, the breakfasts were fantastic, and the beds were so comfortable. But the owners were also incredibly opinionated, extremely religious, and on any issue one could have an opinion about, theirs was diametrically opposed to ours. I mentioned that I was a Science teacher and the next morning Creationist literature appeared, placed prominently on two tables in the main room.

I really felt like the man was trying to start an argument with me, but it was obvious from almost every decoration in their home, and almost every statement that they said, that they are fully committed to their belief system, and that no argument or evidence will ever convince them to doubt any part of it. The stay opened my eyes to a segment of the American public, and a way of thinking that I already knew existed, but never completely understood before. I hadn't realized how religious, anti-government, conspiracy based, and libertarian ideas can all reinforce each other to create a seamless world view that can never be broken. A personal reality that can remain constant, regardless of anything that one might witness in the world.

On our first rest day we drove east of town to see wild horses, and watched a whole herd for a while. Only a lone horse was close enough to the road for a picture.

For our third day of climbing we went back to the Bat Cave area. "Bat Man" starts over the pad on the right and tops out on another boulder over the pad on the left.

Thirty feet of really fun climbing with an exciting finish.

Not very difficult, but one of the most fun problems we've ever done. The end was a stretch for Ashley that she managed to do, but wouldn't try without a spot.

I was able to get pictures of her climbing the "Cheese Traverse."

"Ripper Point" was another fantastic problem that we didn't get photos of. On our hike out we ran into another boulderer, the only one all week, and it was Mike Snyder the area guidebook author. We talked for a bit, and I got to thank him for writing the guide.

On our second rest day we drove to the east entrance of Yellowstone where we saw many bighorn sheep.

We began our last day of the trip at the Africa Area.

Climbing "Ripple Mark."

Ashley read about the "No Cheating" traverse which is described in the guide as a heel-hooking nightmare. Ashley said "No such thing," and proceeded to actually rest on heal hooks across most of the traverse. She onsighted it!

I used the block below to do the much easier problem known as "Dirt Boss." I used the cheater block to cheat as much as possible, finding a two hands rest right before firing the end on my second attempt.

The area's bouldering, and our visit to it, was fantastic. We climbed about 30 problems each over the week. Even the three hour drive was enjoyable as we wove between and through Wyoming's mountain ranges.

Check it out if you ever get a chance.


Anonymous said...

nice trip report, bouldering looks great!

sock hands said...

very nice, dave and ash!

Ricky said...

"I hadn't realized how religious, anti-government, conspiracy based, and libertarian ideas can all reinforce each other to create a seamless world view that can never be broken. A personal reality that can remain constant, regardless of anything that one might witness in the world." Wonderfully said, David. Couldn't have put it better. Miss you guys, though my shoulder has kept me off the rock for a minute now. Hopefully we'll get a chance to pull together soon!

Davin said...

Great post! You guys are slowly finding the secrets of Wyoming. Your post is the best coverage of the Cody stuff for the public eye and well done. Keep up the the good work and thanks for sharing it!

Mike's blog "The Quest" is a good resource for those of you who need more Cody info.

Maciej Fijalkowski said...

Wow. I totally have to visit that b&b. What's the address/website?

Lloyd Family said...

Why Maciej why?! I'd rather not have my site show up if they google their business. There is a slight chance that we'd stay with them again if we can't find an alternative. E-mail me if you really want the answer.