ARGH! I've injured the A4 tendon on my left ring finger. The timing could be worse, but I'm very disappointed. I was just starting to get familiar with the climbing style here at Tensleep Canyon, and was starting to try some really hard moves. Before I get into those details, we've got some catching up to do with our super heroes.
When we last left Gabe and Taylor, they were fighting the heat in Kentucky. We gave the climbing there one last try on Sunday morning, and even catching the best temps, holding on was work not pleasure. Too hot, too humid, not to mention lots of bugs. We did have a great time in Kentucky hanging out with Ashtray and Wood Hippie. Ashtray recommended we go directly to Tensleep. He warned us against Maple Canyon as it would be the shedding season for the cobbles there, and he convinced us that Tensleep was the place to be - good camping, great rock, cool temps.
So after our final climbing session in the hot and humid south, we headed back to camp, broke it, packed, and took a shower with a bag shower device - this was quite nice!. Fresh dressed and ready to hit the road, we set out on our 25+ hour road trip.
The drive from Kentucky to Tensleep was predicted by Google to take 25 hours. The route goes through Indiana, Southern Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota, before hitting Wyoming. We decided to attempt it in a straight shot. I think I drove the first 5 or so hours, getting us most of the way through Indiana. Taylor then took over and brought us a lot of the way through Iowa. I took over for one more shift. At this point it was late at night, and the shifts were getting shorter and more difficult. I drove for two or three more hours through South Dakota before we stopped at a random unmanned gas pump and caught about 3 hours of z's. Taylor at this point had had a good amount of sleep, and rallied to take us to Wyoming. I took us the home stretch for the final 3 hours. At this point, a 3 hour drive feels like a piece of cake! We traveled for a total of 28 hours, including stops for food and one nap.
We finally drove into Tensleep Canyon with enough light remaining to reveal the beauty and immensity of this place. The canyon is massive, and beautiful, and as we later learned, there are developed walls all up and down it. The drive in reminded me of the drive into Yosemite from the southern entrance, driving past huge granite domes. Tensleep Canyon is like an Endless Wall of limestone - if Endless Wall were 10 miles long and was on both side of the canyon. Taylor and I jested that there may be potential for a million routes here, and I'm not sure we are far off.
There is free camping in Tensleep, and we found a free site that was OK on our first night. Further exploration granted a much improved site two nights later. We are in the prairie between canyon walls, next to Tensleep Creek, with a really nice campsite.
The next day we went into town and hit Dirty Sally's Ice Cream Shop - purveyor of the local climbing guide. I love the Tensleep guidebook. The author, Aaron Huey, has been described as "weird" by more than one person who we've run into. The guidebook is hilarious, containing an overall theme of communist propaganda, and including tons of random diagrams and images - loosely related to war or communism, usually.
The guide uses an icon system to describe routes - a kitty = 3 stars, porn or sexy ladies = 4 stars, american flag, machine gun, grenade = 5 stars. There are numerous other icons to describe other traits of routes - run out, long, sharp, etc.
A wall that looked like it had some good projects for us, as well as a 5 star warmup was the Slavery Wall at the Mondo Beyondo area. The hike from the road at the base of the canyon to the cliff lines at the top are quite severe, but are over soon enough. The views at the walls are breathtaking, usually there are good stances. The routes are bolted in a contemporary style - early and often, and the anchors on trade routes are sport anchors - no draws required. The climbing style is totally modern, in regards to the physical movement and the way the crag is developed. After a couple of days climbing here, one can get very comfortable taking falls on the clean walls.
It was fortunate that we ended up at the Slavery Wall on our first day, as it rained, but the routes we were climbing stayed dry. Not too much stuff stays dry here in the rain, but it doesn't rain that much! We both sent a short/bouldery 12a. We both failed on a pumpy 11c, and Taylor started a love affair with some insane 5.14 project - I'll let him spray about that...
Day two we had a leisurely morning and headed to the Slavery Wall in the afternoon. We warmed up on a five star 5.10 - Bong Water. This route goes up through a huge water runnel and the final 3 bolts involve pure stem moves! This was very cool and very airy. Taylor gave a burn on the project, and I onsighted an 11b to warm up a bit more.
I then turned my attention to a 12a on the Rusty Cage that follows a variety of two finger pockets for about 35 or 40 feet. The onsight attempt fizzled out at the 2nd bolt - the movement is sequential, and the sequence was slightly cryptic. I pulled past the crux on the first burn and continued with the rest of the route - hanging two or three more times to reach the chains. I was lowered down then, bit by bit to link sections together. I got my sequence for the top and middle, and then started working the crux. I found a new hold for the left hand - a small two finger pocket, which I could only get about half a pad into. This caused me to want to crimp the hold, and to make a powerful move off of it to a high right hand. As soon as I loaded my body to make the move, there was a loud pop! My finger! I did the move, but my day was done, and I won't be crimping with my left hand for several months!
Oh also - Tensleep is remote! I have no mobile phone signal in the canyon or even in town! Taylor has to drive into town to get a weak signal. We drove to the next town over - Worland to catch some Internet access at the Rams Horn Cafe. The pie here is good, and so is the coffee. So in the end I do think I've injured the A4 relatively badly. I'm going to attempt to climb, as long as I don't have to crimp, I should be OK, and after the trip I promise I'll take three months off! Please just let me climb for one more week!
I'm going back to do that 12a that got me - I'll just have to use my index and middle fingers for my two finger team, BRING IT.