Wyoming Or Bust
Wyoming Road Trip
My brother Scott recently got into backpacking………. and by “got into”, I mean he is now officially obsessed. After spending about 80 hours shopping at REI and other outdoor retailers, Scott decided that it was time to bump up his backpacking experience and attempt the Teton Crest Trail in the Tetons of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is considered one of the most scenic and breathtaking backpacking excursions in the US. We loaded up our AdventureTow trailers and made our way up to this majestic mountain range nestled just south of Yellowstone. I am a rock climber, and my knees start giving out after about 10 miles of hiking, so I recruited a climbing buddy for some alpine cragging, while my brother recruited and old friend from college to drag along on his new backpacking obsession. Like all trips, the more you plan, the more you become set on the outcome of how that trip should turn out. We both envisioned sunny skies, epic climbing and hiking with huge spires of rock and cool cascading rivers to cool off in when it got uncomfortably hot. What we got instead was hail, thunderstorms and completely unpredictable mountain weather. We dropped my brother and his friend off at the Tram, where they would start their 4-day journey, ascending comfortably into the eye of the storm. My friend and I took the boat across Jenny Lake to see if we could catch a window of good weather for some rock climbing. We wanted to climb a 5.10 on the Guides Wall in Cascade Canyon, but by the time we got to the base of the climb a river of water was flowing down the granite walls, flushing away any hopes of climbing that day. Luckily the hike in and the boat ride across the lake was absolutely gorgeous.
We both looked back guiltily into the storm choked mountains knowing that my brother and his friend were almost certainly getting hammered with freezing rain. Not exactly the trip that Scott had been diligently planning for the last 2 months. While we got organized in our Adventure Tow trailer, cooked up a hot meal, and changed into dry clothes, Scott and Trey were probably in their first stages of hypothermia cuddling each other for body heat in a dripping cold tent. We stopped by the American Alpine Club’s Grand Teton Climbers Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming to pay for hot showers and meet with some friends. This is one of the best deals and greatest locations to stage your climbing trip in the Tetons, or get a hot shower after a big adventure. Grand Teton Climbers Ranch
After a good nights sleep in the trailer, we made one last attempt at climbing in the Tetons. I had been wanting to do “The Snaz” ever since I worked in Yellowstone 20 years ago. This was the first time I’ve been back since, so this climb was looming heavily in my mind. We woke up as the sun was just rising, and hiked with an ever growing sense of urgency up the Death Canyon trail to reach The Snaz We were literally hiking inside a cloud so dense that we could only see 20 feet ahead of us on the trail, but to our surprise, just as we reached the top of the switchbacks before Cathedral Buttress, we popped out of the clouds and into what can only be described as climbers paradise. Blue skies, cascading river, perfect granite towers and no one but us around. We scrambled to the base, threw on our harnesses, and racked up. Finally, it was time to climb some rock. The idyllic climbing weather soon faded away, and we found ourselves racing against the clock to get into the good pitches of granite crack climbing higher up. We chose to do the 5.10 finger to hand crack variation called the “Snazette”, because it just looked to good to pass by. I reached up, jammed my finger into the crack, and………………it was gushing with water from all the storms. But, a little moisture wasn’t going to stop us this time. We pesevered and eventually the crack widened up and dried out, turning into one of the best alpine granite crack pitches I’ve ever done. When we reached the top, the mist and threat of another thunderstorm was upon us, so we bailed for the safety and comfort of our trailer, where warm clothes and cold beer awaited us.
We said bon voyage to the Tetons and moved our little campsite on wheels to Lander, WY where we found ourselves climbing in 70 degree and sunny temps at Wild Iris. We were supposed to pick up my brother and Trey after their backpacking trip, but we knew they’d find a nice cowboy to pick them up on the side of the road to take them back into town.
My climbing buddy Forrest and I pulled on limestone pockets at Wild Iris until our arms, elbows and tendons could handle no more. The camping is free, and is situated in a high elevation (9,000 feet) aspen forest surrounded by limestone rock outcroppings. It was just the change in scenery that we needed.
Our final stop on our grand tour of Wyoming was to Vedauwoo in the Medicine Bow National Forest outside of Laramie, Wyoming. This was another climbing area I have been wanting to visit. It reminded me of a mini Joshua Tree National Park, and the climbing was as good, if not better. The camping is either dispersed and free, or you can pay for a site and be closer to the climbing and facilities. Vedauwoo Camping We pulled the AdventureTow trailer into a free site, and took in the views of this amazing jumble of rocks, pines and sage. We woke up early and climbed Captain Nemo for breakfast. This climb satisfied my hunger and concluded our climbing, camping and hiking tour of Wyoming. I’m already looking forward to the next Adventure Tow experience!