Sunday, June 9, 2013

Geotourism, a Fun Alternative to Rock Climbing

There is more to life than just rock climbing.  It's so important to have a wide variety of interests, and rock climbing isn't the only thing that I do.  I'm not really as one dimensional as this blog makes me seem. Sometimes my skin and muscles are too worn out to climb, so I pursue other activities.  One of my favorite things to do outside of rock climbing is Geotourism.  It's a really fun way to spend the rest days!  My understanding of it is that geotourism has two important components.  The first thing is to travel to an area because it's geologically interesting, and the second thing is to take some time to focus on that area's abiotic factors... such as the cliffs and the boulders.

On our recent trip we toured Devils Gate.     
 And then we camped at Dome Rock near Casper.
Dome Rock is just like a Vedauwoo dome that got lost one hundred miles from its home.  And just like Vedauwoo it has a few mysterious boulders that are solid and featured,

 But the majority of the boulders lack features and are composed of sharp crystals.  The Dome itself has at least 138 trad routes with occasional bolts.  And it's a beautiful area to visit.

We also toured Fremont Canyon.  I haven't climbed there yet because it has always sounded like an intimidating place.  Rapping in, pulling ropes, and committing yourself to finishing a trad climb sounded, well, committing.  I imagined an open prairie cut by an unexpected chasm.  The area is also known as the site of a very tragic murder and, decade later, suicide story involving two men and two sisters.  So I expected the entire place to be desolate and unnerving.  I was quite surprised to get to the bridge and find a really fun and friendly looking crag instead.
 The area had a nice parking area with an outhouse, hand rails, and a NOLS climbing course in session.  My preconceptions were very wrong.  You don't need to rap, pull the ropes, and commit, if you don't want to.  You can just get lowered and climb out with a toprope from your belayer sitting above.  The bridge area looks like a perfect place to teach my daughters to trad climb, or to casually practice my crack climbing technique, or to project a difficult trad route for a rehearsed redpoint attempt.  Fun stuff!
 Of course there is more to geotourism than just looking at rocks.  The biotic factors should get some attention as well.  We focused on wildflowers and found some Indian Paintbrush that were bright yellow.
 And many Wild Irises.
 Our Geotourism activities also took us to Devils Tower.
 It looks impressive from every angle.
 You could boulder on some of the blocks beneath it.  But most of the problems would be short, the rock is slippery, the place is packed with tourists, and they don't allow dogs off of the parking lot.
 The tower climbs look like a lot more fun.  I've climbed the Durrance Route already, and it was amazing.  I'd like to try some of the others.
 On our second day of geotourism we toured Crazy Woman Canyon.  I was happy with what I saw there.
 A gorgeous canyon.
 With some amazing formations that are so beautiful, I'm glad there aren't any routes on them.
 The boulders already have some bolted routes to try.
 And some cliffs near the strange formations have potential for hard routes in the future.
 We also saw a classic looking gneiss highball boulder problem on our way out of the canyon.  If my pads hadn't been back at camp, my rest day would have been ruined.
 So if you need a rest day activity, or just want to broaden your horizons beyond rock climbing, try geotourism.  It includes everything you love about climbing.  Just without the climbing part.
Next post, Tensleep!

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