Friday, October 30, 2015

Ten Sleep Tips

Ten Sleep Canyon is a popular summer climbing destination. This Wyoming cragging area sits at high elevation and provides reasonable climbing temperatures throughout July and August. After a three-week trip this summer, I thought I'd share a bit of information that we found helpful when visiting the area.

Accommodation: Free camping is available along the old unpaved highway, which runs parallel to the new highway but on the opposite side of the creek. The only catch is there's no water and there's only one porta-potty to service 10 miles of dispersed camping. This area is pretty, but for those who prefer more amenities a number of regulated (pay) campgrounds are close by. Leigh Creek Campground is at the bottom of the canyon, closest to the town of Ten Sleep, but it can be very hot midsummer. A number of other options are located above the canyon and these provide better nighttime temperatures due to their elevation. We stayed at Lake View Campground which had a (very clean) pit toilet, pumped water, picnic tables and tent pads, and was only a 10-minute drive from the upper canyon climbing areas. I'd recommend it.

Climbing Conditions: The majority of the popular climbing areas are sunny until 2:00 pm, which make late starts the general rule. Morning shade is available, but you have to work to get to it and combining morning and afternoon zones involves a lot of hot uphill hiking. We found Lake Point useful for morning climbing, though. The approach wasn't too far, the rock was very nice and the crag sat at high elevation so it stayed cool until midday. Circus Wall is worth a visit, too, but since it's down canyon it's much warmer. Finally, during summer hot spells watch the forecast since afternoon thunderstorms can certainly come into play. The crags of Ten Sleep are not steep enough to offer protection from moderate rain.

Rest Days: The towns of Buffalo and Worland have plenty of amenities to offer the visiting climber. Buffalo has a small, historic downtown and the Occidental Hotel with it's funky saloon is well worth a visit, as is the outdoor pool which is free and provides hot showers. Thermopolis, about half an hour south of Worland, has a free hot spring pool and is the northern gateway to Wind River Canyon, an impressively deep gorge of sculpted limestone. The Big Horn Mountains, just north of Ten Sleep Canyon, provide plentiful hiking options, and our favourite was the trail to Misty Moon Lake, a seven-mile journey through open forest and alpine meadows. The town of Ten Sleep itself is rather limited for amenities, but does have a nice library with free Wi-fi. An ice cream stop at Dirty Sally's and a breakfast at the Crazy Woman Cafe are both must-dos when you're passing through.

Cell Reception: While climbing in the main canyon cell reception is mostly non-existent. It seems that you pretty much need to get up high and get a line of sight toward the plains of Buffalo to get a signal. The camp host at Meadowlark Lake told us that if you follow dirt roads to the top of the ski area you can get a signal, and he was right. The only other spot we got a reliable signal was the southern portion of the Lake Point climbing zone.

The Guidebook: The new guidebooks is very controversial since it costs $100 USD (over $130 CDN with tax)! Was it worth it? This unique book looks and feels like a bible, and the binding and cover are burly, but the lack of overview maps and detailed directions for finding the crags is frustrating. For such a high price, you'd think the book would be chock full of helpful beta, but it's actually quite lacking in that regard. Also, I found the 3-D action pictures gimmicky and didn't think they added value to the product. I commend the author on his unique style and unorthodox approach, but the book is way too expensive for the information it provides, in my option.

Would we go back to Ten Sleep? The answer is a most definite "yes". It was a pleasant change from other popular summer cragging areas, such as Maple and Rifle, which feature steep, endurance-oriented climbing. The wildlife in Wyoming really impressed us as did the friendly locals, and we were blown away by the amount of undeveloped rock.

Put Ten Sleep on your list of potential summer climbing destinations. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Marc Bourdon - Squamish, BC

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