Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Devil's Kitchen Camping Trip

Conditions generally determine where I go bouldering.  I'm very aware of shade, sun, elevation, hourly temperature, cloud cover, and wind forecasts.  I'd rather do a circuit of boulders I've already climbed, or go sport climbing, than try new boulder problems in excessive heat or cold.  I know that not every climber shares my priorities.  

After a session in Devil's Kitchen with Brian earlier in the summer that was on the verge of too warm, I'd decided to avoid the Kitchen until fall conditions settled in.  So when Kerrek and Jesse F. both contacted me, and both were interested in a tour of Devil's Kitchen, I was somewhat conflicted.  I could only fit a couple bouldering days into my schedule before school started, and both available days looked too hot for a pleasant bouldering session in the canyon.  But I'd recently returned from a camping trip to Bear Valley, and realized that camping at the Kitchen would allow us to climb in cool evening and early morning temps.  Jesse, Kerrek, and Ina were camping in the park anyway, so I figured it would probably work for them.  Plans were made, and I picked everyone up at the park in the mid-afternoon.
A morning view, just before sunrise.     
 We made our way up the Seussian road, and I hoped the $1300 dollars I'd spent on the largest all terrain tires allowable on our Honda Ridgeline would pay off on the steep rocky two track we'd eventually turn on to.

Some of the road as seen from above.
I was pleased at how much better the drive felt than the last time I'd driven in.  We made it there just fine, and set up our tents.  A storm on the higher mountains cooled everything down dramatically, and I was excited that we'd be able to climb in perfect conditions.

 We warmed up on the Resurrection boulder.  Jesse F. did a new slab warmup, and Kerrek got the first ascent of the arete project.  It turned out to be a very high quality V5.  An instant classic that Kerrek hasn't named yet.  Jesse F. fired the second ascent, and after a few tries I got the third.

Kerrek's post send pose in his skater shoes and puffy.
Jesse and Kerrek both repeated "The Resurrection," discovered new beta, and think it's a V6.

Kerrek's main goal was to send "One Shot Antelope."  While he worked on that, I climbed this unnamed V3/4 problem put up by Tim L. It's a fun line in a very photogenic spot. 
 Jesse F. made a few attempts on "One Shot," explored a bit, and flashed "Live Streaming."

The next morning Kerrek came heartbreakingly close to sending "One Shot Antelope."  Afterwards he was worked. But he still sent my project "French Montana."
 Jesse spent most of the morning cleaning a proud arete below the Larry Bird boulder.  It's a long problem with a sit start between a couple boulders.
 Difficult moves lead to the arete which would be really high if it didn't have a boulder beneath it.

 The top was in the sun, temps were getting warm, and Jesse wasn't able to finish the line.  It's such a beautiful, difficult, and obvious line, I was surprised that no one had tried it yet.  Now it's cleaned up and ready for an ascent.  I'm not an expert on double digit ratings, but based on Jesse's ability and effort on the line, I'd estimate that it could be a V12.

On the drive out Jesse mentioned "Devil's Kitchen is not an inexpensive bouldering area.  People need to buy special vehicles just to be able to get in there."  He's right about that, but I'm starting to think that many of the "difficulties" that Wyoming bouldering areas present are actually attributes in disguise.  It's good to have high quality tires, and a vehicle that's stocked in case of emergency.  It's fun to carpool and take long hikes with other climbers.  An incredible opportunity to get to know people better.  It's amazing to have such spectacular, vast, and scenic areas all to ourselves.  We wouldn't if they were easy to get to.  And camping in these areas is much more memorable than heading out for a day trip.  I woke up in the night and was amazed at the brightness of the Milky Way.  I watched three shooting stars streak across the sky.  In the morning, the high peaks lit up beautifully as the sun came over the horizon.  The area feels even more vast in early morning light.  I'm glad that Kerrek, Ina, and Jesse gave me a reason to go camping up there.  It was a really good time, and a perfect way to wrap up my summer break.

Now school has started.  But with the guidebook finished I have a little more spare time this year.  Instead of typing into the night, I'm getting a lot of housework done, with the weekly goal of freeing up every friday evening for bouldering exploration and brushing.  I'm hoping to keep up this schedule until snow storms or short days shut it down.  Sierra went with me on a recent trip, and we found this nice block which will require some attention soon.
Yesterday, I cleaned a couple lines that I'm excited about in a different area.  Finding the time for everything requires as much focus as climbing does.  Another exercise in problem solving.

The best bouldering months of the year will soon be upon us!  And if you'd like to check out all the new bouldering near Lander, it's time to start making plans.  The guidebook is sold online at, Wild Iris Mountain Sports, Fixed Pin Publishing, and Wind River Gear.  Or you can pick up a copy from the Wild Iris shop when you get here.  Giddy Up

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