In mid June we carried our summer tour of climbing in the USA north to Wyoming. We had our sights set on Ten Sleep Canyon, a destination characterized by super technical crimps and pockets on near-vertical limestone walls.
We first caught wind of Ten Sleep a couple years ago and it sounded irresistible. A small Western town, with less than 300 permanent residents and its own brewery, tucked away at the base of a winding canyon road that leads into the Bighorn Mountains. Single pitch limestone walls rise up either side of the canyon which is cut down the middle by the Ten Sleep creek, gushing ice cold water that is perfect for a rest day dip.
We both instantly loved the climbing in Ten Sleep – and it played to our strengths. We immediately set some big goals and then jumped (or more accurately, “carefully techniqued”) our way after them.
On our second day in the Canyon I tried Galactic Emperor (5.14a). This beautiful line is an extension to Sky Pilot (5.13d), one of the first hard routes in Ten Sleep. On my first try I could not do any of the hardest moves in the opening boulder problem. Instead, I took on the strategy of trying to momentarily “hold” the tiny sloping crimp and shallow mono in the middle. The route was so fingery that I could only try it once per session on the first five days we were there.
Graham also tried Galactic Emperor at the start of our trip, in addition to several other five-star 5.14s. He began to plug away at F’ed in the A (5.14a), F**kin’ Spinuxus (5.14a), and Porcelain (5.14b), and was quickly making progress on all of them.
Two weeks after starting my quest for Galactic Emperor I had my best climbing day ever…. After flashing the classic route Esplanada (5.12d), I went on to send Galactic – achieving my lifelong goal of climbing 5.14! It was such an incredible feeling. Our friends Shelma, Tammy, and Tucker had arrived that day and stayed to cheer me on, and the energy and excitement were palpable. Plus we had celebratory whiskey. Yes.
Graham went on to send all three 5.14a’s he was working. After climbing at the 5.13+ level for many many years, he had set a determined goal in January to break through this plateau. Well, he has certainly broken through with some force!! By the time we had wrapped up our visit in Ten Sleep, Graham had redpointed TEN 5.14s in just six months.
As we worked towards these successes in Ten Sleep, Graham and I set another goal for each other during our visit: To climb at least one route at every grade from 5.9 to 5.14a. We both met this goal.
We experienced as much of the Ten Sleep culture as we could. We regularly frequented Dirty Sally’s General Store, where they served amazing ice cream, offered up free wifi, sold local produce, and frequently spoke of how much they loved climbers.
The Ten Sleep Brewery is a great hang, where you can get $12 pitchers of beer and play horseshoes in the yard. The Brewery also hosted the Ten Sleep Climber’s Fest on July 1. We went to the 4th of July Parade and the evening street dance. We hung out a lot at the Ten Sleep Rock Ranch, and celebrated Graham’s 30th birthday there.
The crew in Ten Sleep this summer was AMAZING, and the climbing here definitely wouldn’t have been the same without them. We headed to Ten Sleep with Ashley & Hal, and spent our first week getting acquainted with the rock together. Through Hal & Ash we met Jake & Leor, another couple of crushers from the Red. We worked routes and waited out the rain with Andy & Lyndsey from Chattanooga. It was great to catch up and hang out with Georgie & Tanner, Ten Sleep veterans who know so much about the heart of this canyon. Our Bishop reunion began when Shelma, Tammy & Tucker came up in late June, followed shortly by Chris & Kimmy and Tyler & Mallory, who we hadn’t seen in years. We hung out and sport climbed with boulderers, Teal & Josh. We got to know crushers Tyler, Ciara, and Katy who are all awesome. Pang joined us JUST in time for Graham’s birthday, and we got to hang out for the next 10 days. We met Sarah, a woman on a solo journey with a heart of gold. Kat showed us all what real try-hard is. Julie arrived and crushed as well! It was also great to meet Alex & Sanni, and Jonathan, Shaina, and crusher Bob. So many others still made this trip amazing and memorable.
As with any great climbing destination, we left some things unfinished, and moved on before we could experience even a moderate slice of the canyon. There are entire areas we have simply saved for next time, and we can’t wait to come back.
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@kimstagraham.mcg making moves on Porcelain 5.14b at FCR, Ten Sleep, WY. Graham has been on a tear this year, having sent at least ten 5.14's during his and Kim's extended road trip through the US and Mexico. They head back to Canada in a few days and will be sorely missed! #sportclimbing #tensleep #aacgram #friendlycanadians #climbmoja #liveclimbrepeat
To wrap up and inspire…. some beautiful words by a very talented woman:
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It takes ten sleeps of sleeping in Ten Sleep to enter into the dream, the Ten Sleep dream. The Ten Sleep dream is where you learn to feed yourself with moonbeams and marvel at the way steam rises from your coffee. You respect the way light chooses to balance itself on river rocks. You feel yourself from six years ago. Six years ago, it took ten sleeps to get yourself to Ten Sleep and enter the dream. The dream was different then. You just wanted him to love you. But now, after ten sleeps, you look to the steep canyon walls, jutting up from the hillside like smiling teeth, you’re in the dream, Ten Sleep dream, and you hold your past self like a baby in your own arms. It’s going to be okay, you tell her. You know it’s going to be okay because look at you now, you’ve got the same light gleaming through your eyes that shatters through the trees in the morning, Ten Sleep dream, same light that drenches the canyon walls with summertime, all Van Morrison and 4th of July, big sky, big like you can fly, no more lying to yourself about what really happened back then. You were so strong. Still are, all day long, and Ten Sleep dream is forgiveness as big as this sky. Look around honey, sunflowers douse the hillside where the fire happened last year. Six years, been six years since you first entered the dream, your rage blooming in the sun, the Ten Sleep dream, but that flower has lived and died dust now, dirt now, over now. Ten Sleep dream, took ten sleeps to fall asleep and while you were sleeping the canyon swallowed you whole.