Category Archives: Climbing Log


Log Entry 22 – Ten Sleep

By | Climbing Log, Ten Sleep | One Comment


I was climbing with Mark, Abby, Ellen, Earl, and Glenna again today. We are forming a sizable climbing party. I tried a pumpy 11a that I might be able to get if I projected it. But it was only a warm up for everyone else. Abby’s project has been The Great White Behemoth, one of the more famous routes at Ten Sleep. And for good reason too; it is very impressive. After a couple days of working out the moves, she finally got a redpoint! It was very inspiring to watch the progression of going from bolt-to-bolt, to getting a clean send. Once she sent that, Mark went over to the route he was working on and sent that too! They say that often when one of the sends, the other gets so excited that they send too.


With Mark working on his next project, I went climbing with Dan (another dirt bagger) for a bit. We did another Ten Sleep classic that has seen perhaps too much traffic. The beginning holds were very worn down and felt a little glassy. Dan then went to do an impressive 11 that pulled through a tough roof. As we were packing up our gear, I found out that Dan just graduated from studying geology. An impromptu geo lesson later, and I had learned about the formation of the rock we were climbing on. Learning new stuff is always so fun.


Thursday: Mandatory and unplanned rest day today. Last night as I was driving to camp, I got a flat tire. No big deal, just jack it up, take off the old one and put on the spare. Except it was a big deal. The old tire had rusted onto the hub. I worked at it for an hour and half (and bent my tire iron) and decided that it was beyond my skill. It just so happened that I was on a rough dirt road in the middle of a canyon without cell signal. So getting help meant walking. Fortunately there was a camp not too far up the road. They gave me a lift up to Abby/Mark/Ellen/Glenna/Earl’s campsite and we discussed how to get it off. But any action would need to wait for daylight.


In the morning we went down to my car and got out the blowtorch. After a bit of heat and a big smash of a rock, the tire came loose. (Using fire and a big rock felt very caveman-ish) I drove to the “city” (Worland has a population of 5k) to get my tire patched up. While I was in town I did some work and grocery shopping. No climbing today.


Log Entry 20 – Ten Sleep

By | Climbing Log, Ten Sleep | No Comments


Matt and Kathy took off this morning. Matt’s next stop is Yellowstone and Kathy is going to Vedauwoo. She mentioned that she will be in Squamish in July, so perhaps we will meet up there. Before she drove off, she connected me with Mark and Abby so I would have climbing partners for the day.


Mark and Abby project at 5.12+ and were warming up on stuff that is beyond my onsight. Following on hard routes is a great way to learn. The next day when I was climbing with them again, they were starting out on a 10b that I tried on lead and sent it! A very fun route. I then lead up a 10d but didn’t get a clean send. It appeared to be vertical, but it was actually overhanging a bit at portions. Even though Mark and Abby climb much harder than I do, they were extremely patient and encouraging with me. It is always cool to have your belayer invested in your climb.

We met up with Ellen, a friend of Mark and Abby. Everything about her was very impressive. She was a bit short, but very strong, has sent some 5.14 projects, and is the most analytical climber I have seen. Watching her climb was amazing.


The chain of friends continued when Ellen introduced me to Earl and Glenna, friends of hers that teach outdoor courses like wilderness first aid, whitewater kayaking, and mountain sports. Glenna climbed just a bit above my grade, but Earl was a solid 12 climber.

Hanging with advanced climbers is very interested. I got to see gear that is not on the market yet (they were using prototype versions), study their technique, receive lessons on the art of belay, and hear their tips and tricks. I might not be getting in a whole lot of sends, but the education is awesome.



Log Entry 19 – Ten Sleep

By | Climbing Log, Ten Sleep | No Comments

Today we went to the Word Domination Wall where Matt and Kathy were warming up on an 11b. I followed and actually made it pretty far. The roof killed me though. I am terrible at overhangs. After a rest, I pulled through and made it to the top. The pump was strong on that route.

Mark on "Weight of the World"

Mark on “Weight of the World”

We met up with Abby and Mark, two of Kathy’s friends from Colorado. They were climbing a sweet looking 12a while Matt and Kathy were doing another 12a close by. I lead a 5.10b route called Thor and lead it onsight! I nearly did not go for it until Kathy urged me to at least give it a try. Climbing with more experienced climbers is great because they push you farther.

Photo Credit: Kathy Karlo

Photo Credit: Kathy Karlo

Our little group went over to the 12a Abby and Mark were doing and roped up. The more experienced climbers onsighted it and did a beautiful job. I wasn’t even going to try but Kathy once again gave me the little push I needed. Following on toprope I made it three fourths of the way up the route until I fell. At the overhang of course. I am really really bad at those. Even though I didn’t send the route, I still had a blast. This is a climb I want to come back for when I am a better climber.

Dan on "The Great White Behemoth"

Dan on “The Great White Behemoth”


Log Entry 18 – Ten Sleep

By | Climbing Log, Ten Sleep | No Comments

I arrived in Ten Sleep Wyoming this morning. I didn’t have any climbing partners lined up yet, so I was a little unsure about what to do. I headed down to one of the climber hubs in town and there was only one couple there. It turns out they were on their honeymoon, so they were not a climbing partner option. I started to drive down The Old Road (another climber hub) and there sitting on the side of the road was Matt from France!


Matt was climbing with Kathy (from and they were just about to meet up with two of her friends, Thomas and Karis. So we headed off to the Supererratic Wall. I was a little nervous because everyone I was with was a much better climber than myself. One week ago the best I had followed was a 5.9. These people were warming up on hard 11s. But they were all very welcoming and patient with me. I mostly followed (or tried to follow) the routes they did. Though I did have a chance to lead a really nice 5.8 called Macaroni. Matt and Kathy were ending the day on a 5.12d.



Log Entry 16 – Spearfish with Corry

By | Climbing Log, Interesting People, Rushmore | No Comments

I climbed with Corry today. He had a day off from guiding at Devil’s Tower and wanted to get some climbing time in. Since it was a rest day for him, we didn’t get started till after one.

As we were roping up, he suddenly stopped and looked over at me. “You know how to clean anchors, right?” I said that I did. “Good. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t guiding today.”


Guiding and climbing is actually fairly new to Corry. He had been working in a coal mine for years and started to climb in his 40s. He quickly became good at it and one day asked Frank (yes, the Frank Sanders of Devil’s Tower fame) if guiding could be an option soon. Frank said that he was ready right then. After getting his certification, he quite the coal mine and is now guiding full time at Devil’s Tower.

When he wasn’t showing me how to set a third easy anchor point on bolts (or many other helpful tips), we talked a bit about this experience as a guide. “It is a hard job, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.” He said that the hardest part is not the rock climbing, but the mental challenge. As a guide, you always need to be 10 steps ahead of the game. What are you going to do if your climber gets stuck at a point? What if the weather goes foul? Normally rock climbing requires all of your focus. To climb with someone who doesn’t know what to think about requires a whole other level of thought.


He also said that people from every walk of life want to climb and each want to get something different out of the experience. It is not just about the climbing and keeping them safe, but identifying their goals and helping them accomplish it.

Even though he wasn’t guiding me, I accomplished things I wouldn’t have thought of. I followed him clean on a 10b. Next he went over to an 11a. “This one is pumpy,” he said with a grin. I tried it on top rope and got up there, though I did need to rest a couple of times. Even though I didn’t not officially “send” it, I was glad to have followed Corry to the top.



Log Entry 15 – Back in the Black Hills

By | Climbing Log, Rushmore | No Comments

I left from Devil’s Tower early Monday morning to meet up with Dan in Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota. We were climbing at the Skeletal Remains wall which has the worst rock in the canyon, but a short approach and a good number of moderate climbs in close proximity. It was originally bolted to be a winter climbing area because of the southern exposure. We were not there in the winter. It was rather hot. But we did get about 10 pitches climbed. It was great to be able to get that many climbs in a day.


Tuesday was a much needed rest day for me. My toes were sore from the crack climbing at Devil’s Tower, the tendons in my elbow and shoulder were hurting badly, and the skin on my fingers was disappearing. So I wrote, edited pictures, and made a silver necklace for Renee. She and her husband, Dave, have been so kind to me. I am very grateful for them. Dave thought what I needed to finish my rest day was mountain biking. I have never done anything like that before, but I must say that it is far more scary than rock climbing.


Wednesday: Today I was going to take Renee to Spearfish Canyon. She had never been there but it was on her ticklist. It looked like rain was coming in around lunch time, so we hurried to beat the rain. We didn’t. The Sunshine wall was rather wet. So we went into town, got some guidebooks and talked to other climbers. Renee and Dave are going to Denver, so they were trying to figure out where to climb. We happened on some Colorado climbers and they had great beta. I guess the rain had a reason. While we were out we decided to check Skeletal Remains since it was at the opposite side of the canyon as Sunshine. The rock was remarkably dry, so we got a bit of climbing in.



Log Entry 14 – Devil’s Tower

By | Climbing Log | 4 Comments

Today I went with my hosts to church. They said they are looking for a new church, but each one they visit is having a special service. Today was no exception. It was the new building dedication and baptismal service.


I left directly from church towards Wyoming to climb Devil’s Tower. As my climbing partner, Steve, were making our way up the talus to the start of the climb, I almost had a severe accident. A rock from above was knocked loose and started to tumble down directly towards me. I was in a precarious position, so I waited to see what it was going to do. Was it going for my right leg? Left leg? Was it going to hit a bump and go airborne at head height? Left leg it was. I managed to hop over the 60 pound stone and land safely back on the slab. That was rather close.


We reached out first pitch and roped up. I have almost no experience crack climbing, so this was very new to me. The second pitch was a little harder, but the route eased up a bit after that. Standing on a 3 foot belay ledge hundreds of feet above the ground was an amazing experience. Occasionally I would hear a sharp whoosh as a falcon flew close by. Often you could only see a dark streak zip past.

There were also pigeons nesting in the rocks and once I almost grabbed one by accident. I was sticking my hand in a crack to hold on, and out flies a pigeon nearly knocking me off the rock. The falcons are slacking on the job.


We reach the summit and I am surprised by several things. One, the top of Devil’s Tower isn’t all that flat. Two, there is a sweet smelling herb that grows up there. Walking around the top provided an amazing view. I wonder how many miles out you can see from there. One of the things we did not want to see was a rain cloud heading out way. So we started on our rappel.


Part of the way down, our rope got stuck. So Steve climbed back up a bit to get it undone. The storm picked up a bit and it started to thunder. Being 1000 feet higher than everything else is not a good idea when there is lightening. With our rope ready for the next rap, Steve descended first and wound up 10 feet above the next rappel station. To our lower left a guide was rapping down too. So I got part way down the rope and swung over to the column he was on. He had a twin 70 meter rope which works far better than my single 60 meter. He rapped down to Steve and got him on line. Then we all descended safely to the base. I was only with the guide for about 10 minutes, but I learned so much from him in that time. If you ever get a chance to climb with Corry, do it.


I camped at Frank’s place, the official Devil’s Tower climbing hub. After I set up camp, I heard a familiar French accent. There was Matt! It was so good to see a friend and a familiar face.


Log Entry 13 – Mt Rushmore

By | Climbing Log, Rushmore | No Comments

Today I woke up to a pancake breakfast being prepared for climbers in the Wrinkled Rock parking lot. Not having a climbing partner for today, I figured this would be a good chance to make some connections. After helping flip flapjacks, I head off with the Reeds to climb Dirty Ernie.


For them, this is a family event. Matt and his wife climb with their three daughters. Leading up the route, I set a toprope. All of them tried it, but Matt was the only one to send. It started to rain, so I climbed up to clean the anchors. As I was at the top of the spire, the lightning was getting quite close. Just incentive to work faster.


Not expecting the rain, I had left my car windows open, so I was wet along with almost everything I had. The couple that had organized the breakfast graciously invited me to dry out at their house. The kindness of people I have met has amazed me. I am so thankful for a chance to take a real shower, wash my clothes in something other than a stream or bucket, and sleep in a warm bed.


Log Entry 12 – Mt Rushmore

By | Climbing Log, Rushmore | No Comments

Today Matt pedaled off on his bike. Devil’s Tower was his next destination. Without another lead climber, Nicole and I couldn’t do any sport routes. So it was a good time to teach more about the gear and techniques used to climb safely.


We climbed to the top of Wrinkled Rock and set up a rap station. I always consider rappelling the scariest part of climbing, but Nicole descended without problem. We also rapped off an overhang to a fun free-hanging descent. We then went over toprope belaying. I took a couple of deliberate falls, and she did a great job of catching me.

After lunch, it was time for them to move on. Since they don’t live too far from me, we discussed maybe climbing together again sometime. Now alone for the first time in days, it is time to “clean house.” Really this means just organizing the car, doing dishes, and realizing that I need to clean myself.


I head to Horsethief Lake in hopes to bathe. Unfortunately there are signs that say no swimming. So I hike up a trail that follows the creek feeding into the lake. Finding a nice little pool and waterfall, I wash up a bit. The cold water provides a sharp contrast to the warm air.


Log Entry 9 – Mt Rushmore

By | Climbing Log, Rushmore | No Comments

Today as Matt and I were getting ready to climb, we started to talk with a father camping with his daughter. We found out that Nicole had always wanted to climb, so we invited her to come with us. Chris, her father, is not fond of heights, but told her she could climb if she promised to be careful.


After watching a couple climbs, Nicole was ready to go for her first climb. Dirty Ernie was the routes name. It was a 5.7 that followed a flake crack. Wearing Matt’s shoes and my harness, she worked her way up to the top. For this being her first climb, I was very impressed.


The weather looked like it could turn foul at any time, but we continued to climb. Doing routes 5.6-5.8 Matt or I would lead, Nicole would follow on toprope, and one of us would climb to clean the anchors. Not wanting to waste any of the climbable weather, we didn’t stop for lunch until two. Chris faithfully kept us supplied with snacks and orange juice and prepared lunch once we were ready. Even though climbing wasn’t his interest, he cared about it because it mattered to one he loved.


Even though Matt was a far better climber than Nicole or myself, he patiently did routes below his level. He did end up doing one route that was particularly challenging though: a 90 foot 5.11+ called Xenophenia. Falling a number of times at the cruxy last two bolts, Matt stayed determined and found the path to the top. Neither Nicole or myself were interested in attempting this challenge.

We ended the day on a short 5.6 that followed an arete. To reach the start, a short class 4 scramble was needed and the first bolt was about half way up the route. To the right was a deep and narrow crevasse that would not be fun to fall into. Even though the route was well below my limit, I was glad to reach that first bolt. Nicole followed and Matt came through last. We reached the end of our climbing day at eight o’clock.



Log Entry 8 – Mt Rushmore

By | Climbing Log | 3 Comments

Last night as I was falling asleep, it started to rain and the wind picked up. One corner of my rain fly came undone. I replaced the stake and put a log on it to hold it down. The wind took it up a notch and I couldn’t even hold the tarp with my hands. Now completely soaked, I tried to find my way to the car. It was only a couple hundred feet, but the rain was so intense I couldn’t see anything. Eventually I found the car and finished the night cold and wet.

Last night was a rough and today was nothing like expected. But today was awesome nonetheless.

I was getting ready to go climbing with Margery (since we only got lost yesterday), but received a text that she threw out her back. So no climbing partner for today. At first I was discouraged and thought about just chilling in the hammock. Instead I went to Custer State Park and drove down the Needle Highway.


Beautiful sights continued to appear around each bend. I scrambled some rocks and took some pictures. It is no wonder the Native Americans said the Black Hills were the birthplace of humanity. As the needles and spires fade into lower lands, I stopped to make lunch and take in the view.


Once back at camp, I started working on editing photos and writing (this blog doesn’t write itself). A Frenchman came up to my car and asked if I wanted to go climbing. After cooking dinner together, we set off into the South Seas climbing area. We of course got lost. But after going around in circles a couple times, Matt spotted the rock formation we were going for. As we were climbing, another man and his dog came by to watch. He also was a climber.

He told us about a couple of his favorite routes in the area and led us to them. After a nice 5.8, he led us to an 10+/11-. Matt being the better climber took the lead. He took a couple of falls, but sent the route. I tried to follow on toprope, but the grade was significantly harder than what I climb. Matt and Tim were very patient and extremely helpful in giving tips and teaching me technique. Eventually I made it to the top.


With the night approaching, we had time to do one more route. Matt lead up a nice looking route, but the lack of light made it fairly difficult. Tim scrambled up the back side to shine the light from his cell phone down the route. With night completely descended, the route was sent.


Log Entry 7 – Mt Rushmore

By | Climbing Log, Rushmore | 2 Comments

Still had a little ways to go today. The further west I get, the more interesting the land becomes. It is also interesting to see the name Gutzon Borglum everywhere. (If your name is going to go down in history, I suggest picking a different name. Also, don’t be a terrible person) I almost become giddy looking at all of the beautiful rocks in the Black Hills. I arrive at Wrinkled Rock (The official rock climber campground) and relax a bit waiting for my climbing partner to arrive.


Once Margery gets here, we go over the guidebook to pick out routes we want to do. Manga Carta area is selected for its plentiful sport routes. Our first route we want to do is Gossamer, a classic that goes up a needle with a hole at the top. I say “want to do” because we never made it to that needle. Instead we became hopelessly lost. For hours. We wandered into an area called South Seas. (Kinda fitting to be lost at sea) Trying to back track into Manga Carta got us even more lost. I did start to wonder if I was going to be spending the night out. Margery’s 12 year old dog was faithfully plodding on behind, but he was getting very tired. He wasn’t the only one. I am very much not used to this western terrain.


After a while we were back in the South Seas. We found a bolted route and thought it looked in our grade, so we geared up. No sooner than we finish putting our harnesses on, it starts to rain and thunder. Not a good idea to be on a spire when the lightning starts to fly. We hastily pack our gear and get back to the car. Back at Wrinkled Rock, we hide under an overhanging boulder from the thunder that has been joined by hail.


The storm clears up a bit and Margery goes to her friends place she is staying at. I cook up some stir fry and set up camp. Thankfully there are trees in this part of South Dakota to hang a hammock.


Log Entry 6 – South Dakota

By | Climbing Log | One Comment

Last night I stayed in Wonewoc WI. I highly suggest the campground at Legion Park. At first it surprised me how much “in town” it was. (Not that there is a whole lot of town in a little place like Wonewoc) As I pulled in, there was a lady walking around the park that welcomed me helped me out with some info. Very friendly. She said the police would probably pull in through the night to make sure everything is ok.

Doing Laundry

After setting up camp and cooking supper, I figured it was time to do some laundry. By the time that was finished it was getting dark and I went to bed. I slept well until about 2 am. I woke up with a very cold back. It had dipped into the thirties and I didn’t have an under quilt for my hammock. Tensing and relaxing my muscles for a bit help get the blood flowing. Though I had to do this several times through the night.

Monday: Long day of driving. Eastern Minnesota has some nice sandstone hills, but the western part is very flat and dull. Crossing into South Dakota is more flat and dull. It really felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. There were a couple of times I wondered when the next gas station would be. It is a good thing I have some gas stored in my cargo bin. Even better that I didn’t need it.


As I crossed the Missouri River, the landscape became more interesting. It was about quitting time, but this area doesn’t have many trees to sling a hammock from. Planning error on my part. I got to Fort Pierre National Grasslands and found a nice spot on top of a hill. (I love free places to camp). Since I didn’t have trees, I was just going to sleep on the ground with my rain tarp. But the cow pies changed that plan. The piles themselves were not too bad. It was all of the bugs in the poop that I wanted to avoid. Sleeping in the car tonight.



Log Entry 5 – Rest Days

By | Climbing Log | No Comments

Forecast of rain today, so Nathan headed home and I went west. There was some work I needed to get done, so I found some wifi in La Crosse and spent the rest of the day there. No great views for tonight: my bedroom is The Hop parked in a Walmart parking lot. Looking forward to getting further west.

Saturday: Trying to find my next climbing partners. There is a chance of one back in Devil’s Lake and nothing yet from South Dakota. Another rest day so I cross the Mississippi River into Minnesota to find a camping spot in the Richard Dorer State Forest. (Gotta love free camping in the forest). A short drive and packing up, it is off to find a spot to set up camp.

I ended up a good bit off trail (across a very steep ravine), and found a nice area of maple trees. With my hammock and fly all set, I go back to a nice rocky outcrop to relax and make dinner.

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

The Dinning Room

The Dinning Room

The Living Room

The Living Room

Sunday: Packed up camp and hiked back to the car. Little fact about me: I am an amateur silversmith. I brought my tools with me on this trip, so I set up in the middle of the state forest to try making something. What little wind was around wrecked total havoc on keeping a controlled flame on my torch. So I guess there goes my plans for making jewelry while traveling.

I traveled back to Devil’s Lake to climb some more. Unfortunately my partner was not able to make it, but I did meet some of his friends. They had really great info they shared with me.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day of driving to get to South Dakota.


Log Entry 4 – Devil’s Lake

By | Climbing Log, Devil's Lake | No Comments

Since we tackled some of the East Ramparts yesterday, today we go for the West. Our goal was Cleopatra’s Needle. On the way there, we climbed a variation of King’s Throne. With that down, I set up a rappel anchor to get down to Cleo. It was a good chance to practice a ghost rap.

Anchors Going Off King's Throne

Anchors Going Off King’s Throne

Like the Leaning Tower we did yesterday, I had to trad climb up the lone spire. I ended up taking the worst route possible up the needle. I after each gear placement, I had to go left to get to the next one. So I wound up doing a spiral around the tower. This caused ridiculous rope drag and made the last mantel to the top incredible difficult. So very much worth it though.


There were others that wanted to climb the Cleo’s Needle, since my rope was already on it, we switched with them and used their rope already set up on Queen’s Throne. If you ever go to Devil’s Lake, climb Queen’s Throne. It is a blast. Probably my favorite route yet.

Queen's Throne

Queen’s Throne

After a late lunch and a quick rest, we headed back to the East Ramparts to go for Brinton’s Crack: probably Devil’s Lake most famous climb and ultra-classic. I took a slightly different route (traversed a little earlier), and made it to the top. Nathan followed, but wanted to try Brinton’s Direct, a harder route at 5.9+. After an incredible ascent, Nathan said, “That was crazy. Don’t let me do something that stupid again.” Lesson learned: Doing stupid stuff can make awesome stuff happen. (Just make sure you are safely stupid.)



Log Entry 3 – Devil’s Lake

By | Climbing Log, Devil's Lake | No Comments

If I had to describe Devil’s Lake in one word, it would be “hard”. A 5.6 feels like a 5.8+, the rock is slick, and you need to hike up and down steep stairs through the talus to access the climbs. If I had to describe Devil’s Lake in two words, it would be “beautifully hard”. The Red Quartzite contrasts with the green lichen growing everywhere, it is a joy to place protection in the rock hard as steel, hiking through the talus brings you to incredible view points, and the difficult grades bring humility and a focus on not worrying about the grades; just enjoy the experience.


I was going to have two climbing partners, but Anthony had his car break down. So it was just Nathan and me. I woke up in the morning to rain, but thankfully I was dry in my hammock. Once the weather cleared up a bit, Nathan and I took a little hike to try to find which rocks were the least wet. Red Quartzite is slippery enough in even dry conditions. I was very surprised at how dry the rock was despite the rain. We talked to a few other climbers and picked out where we wanted to climb, and then decided to take a look at Devil’s Door while we were so close.


After lunch and packing up our gear, we headed to Pedestal Buttress. We figured that a 5.8 would be a good start and Birch Tree Crack was a highly suggested route. And this is where we learned about the steep grading in Devil’s Lake. I have never crack climbed before, and this was like getting thrown into the deep end. After getting stuck at the crux (or at least as far as I could go), I went over to a series of fun little edges. Face climbing is definitely more of my thing.


Next we headed over to Leaning Tower. Though I am not sure I would describe it as a “tower”. Since it is free standing, we couldn’t top rope it until we had gotten to the top. So I practiced my trad on an easy face. The pro almost jumped into the rock. Devil’s Lake is a great place to learn trad. At the top, I set up a top rope and we did a somewhat technical feeling climb through a bit of overhang. Slopers, slick rock, water and moss, not to mention the overhang made this an interesting challenge. It took me a couple tries, but I am very glad to have surmounted it.