The Wind River Range

“Remote” backcountry place popular with climbers, backpackers, and fisherfolk.

I write “remote” in quotes because there were easily over 100 cars in the Big Sandy Trailhead parking lot when I arrived. A bit shocking after an hour spent driving in on “Am I in the right place?” kind of dirt roads.

The Trip: Drive (8 Hrs) > hike (5 Hrs) >camp (4 days) > climb 1,000+’ faces (x2) > hike out (4 hrs) > Drive home

On Distances

My climbing partner is a sponsored athlete for a smartwatch company. Her watch measured all kinds of cool metrics, from atmospheric pressure to total fitness recovery level. But she didn’t even turn it on to measure the GPS track in or out.

So I can’t offer you much except to say, both in & out, it felt pretty far.

Final pass.

In Quick

The purpose of our visit was to climb some peaks, so we packed in two ropes, a load of protection, shoes & harnesses in addition to all of our camping gear and food for five days. Water, luckily, is abundant in the range, so we filled up and used filtration at natural streams. Still, as you can see from the photo above, the packs were heavy and the trail was long.

We arrived right at sunset, just as the winds shifted and decided to bring us a thick blanket of wildfire smoke. Sadly, it seems this will be the new normal for the American West in summer. We dealt with it last year. We deal with it today. Our children, I fear, will know nothing else.

But in the near past

We camped, we climbed (perfect weather), we rested, and we climbed again. Under mutual agreement, tired & satisfied with our winnings, we left a day early.

Be Mindful Of The Story You Are Telling Yourself

I sit here now, trying to find the story of this trip. A thru-line; a gimmick. An angle to take. I could describe the climbs, certainly — but trip reports in the purest sense bore me to death. We rocked up; we climbed. At times it was scary. We wandered left-to-right across massive rock faces, almost totally lost. At times silly. I carried a loose rock from belay to belay. Often frustrating. We drank strong whisky to animate us for the last pitch. On the summit, a dram more.

Scenes my partner and I have both lived plenty of times.

But the truth may be there is no lesson in this trip. No epic story. No lightning-bright moment of profundity. Just some climbs, a beautiful place, and a good friend. Some golden moments spent in the present, without worry.

This makes for bad content, of course.

But perhaps a good life.

The dirt and plants growing out of the crack is a sure sign this isn’t often climbed. “I think we’re lost!”

Pingora Peak in the background (right)
Cowboy & horse at Big Sandy Lake

In Closing

When your biggest concern for the day is “which meal am I gonna eat?” life is pretty good.

Be well,

Dan

Castleton Tower — North Chimney

Rock climbing is going through some changes these days, with the explosive rise of indoor climbing gyms, joining the Olympics as a competition sport, and the popularity of bouldering. It’s easy to be confused when someone tells you they’re a ‘climber’ — this could entail any number of different activities.

At its most basic, climbing involves using gymnastic ability to reach places generally considered inaccessible by humans. And there is nothing that fits this definition better than a desert tower.

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The climb will not be televised!

I bought a GoPro last summer for a specific project. It has been rarely used since. Nothing against the GoPro – it’s a tremendous camera – but using it changes the context of things.

Climbing is one of a vanishing number of modern situations where you can feel free of cameras and expectations. Your buddy might bust out the phone for a quick photo at the belay, but in general the nature of the activity prevents obsessive documentation. All the really great climbing photos are taken by a third party, usually planned well in advance.

We brought the GoPro out on a recent outing in RMNP thinking we might capture some really badass mountaineering footage.

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2020 in Climbs

Normally I write a “year in places” post, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent much of this year at home, in Colorado and other states of the American West (WY, UT, CA). A look back on the year thus involves a bit less horizontal distance, and a lot more vertical!

Most of these climbs involve 5-10 miles of hiking in addition to the technical climbing. This isn’t Europe, and you can’t ride the telepherique to your objective. Here, you gotta walk.

These are the major climbs of the year.

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