How I flew from the nest, or using a hammer to start a microbus...

  • It all started for me on a sunny spring day when the corn skiing was just too wet. Simon told me, “Hey, my dad used to rock climb, let’s take his rope and stuff and go climbing!” Perfect I thought, my mom had taken me climbing a few times when I was little and remembered it was FUN. Even than the off-width.
    Little Jason.jpg
    So off we went with a decades old goldline, a few steel biners and some pointy metal things. We had seen pictures of harnesses and made swamis with some tie down straps (!). We slogged away with a horrid top rope setup (a carabiner on a fixed pin for an anchor) and a trusty body belay. We were getting ready to roe sham bo for the first go when, thankfully, a couple of crusty old farts grabbed us by the short hairs and stopped the non-sense before it progressed any further. We had a chat (or lecture depending on the perspective) and walked away with a short list of required gear and the promise of a lesson should we proceed. Using our lunch money we slowly acquired the requisite harness, shoes, a used but “real” rope, we even splurged on a locking carabiner each. Sure enough, the crusty old farts (who turned out to be some of the local legends) did give us some lessons by way of teaching us how to belay, place gear (by this time we had a couple of nuts and some hexes) and generally not kill ourselves. Over the next couple of years we traveled to as much stone and choss in SW Montana that we could afford.
    A third amigo, Derek, was added whose appetite for climbing was as ravenous as ours. We added to the community rack, one biner, one nut at a time.
    Finally, high school graduation came and our trip of a lifetime was ready to commence. We packed up the 1968 VW microbus with all of our climbing gear[1], a mountain bike, a reggae tape collection to die for, and about a thousand bucks in unmarked miscellaneous bills. We had a ripped out old climbing guides from Climbing and Rock and Ice and had a tentative itinerary. Hammer down, Wyoming here we come.

    [1] The rack:
    • About 1.5 “sets” of miscellaneous stoppers
    • A set of hexes
    • 4 tri cams
    • BD cams, specifically a #1 and #2 that Derek got for graduation.
    • Rigid friends, #1-#3
    • A 0 TCU
    • Some slings and biners.
    • 11mm X 50m rope
    • A set of 9mm X 60m ropes
    • Did I mention the boom box with a pile of reggae?

    We drove to Fremont canyon for our first stop. Nice area, but I’m still not sure why we stopped here. I think it had to do with the rap first, climb out mentality. We spent a couple of days and it was good.
    ![0_1559171382629_climbing_1990_044.jpg](Uploading 85%)
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    That evening we drove to Vedauwoo. The next morning we got up and bouldered around until the looming rain came. We sat around the bus, listened to some reggae, and watched it rain. The forecast called for more rain for a few days, so we decided around midnight to pull up camp and head to Boulder, CO. Maybe we could meet some female climbers, as there certainly were none in WY. The next morning at about 5 am there was a knock on the van window by the man, informing us that camping was not allowed here. We then proceeded to the first flatiron, where we figured we would do the “Direct” route. After pitching out the first pitch, we reevaluated our plan for climbing with a party of three. We coiled the ropes and simul-soloed the rest. Derek and Simon were much stronger climbers than I was, but they offered the appropriate encouragement and offers of belay at the couple of “harder parts”. I made it, no worse for the wear, my head still intact. It was an absolutely beautiful experience.

    We had a Rock and Ice guide to the hottest new North American climbing area, Shelf Road, so that is where we went. We clipped bolts for a few days until we had to pull up camp to find more food.

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    This guy was super helpful with beta and was generally kind to us kids.

    We hit the store in Canon City on the way out and bopped over to Moab that night. Moab in June, what a great idea. We climbed that morning and evening on the sandy edges of Wall Street.


    Finally succumbing to the heat, we decided to push on to the Mecca. Yosemite. Driving through the night and into the next day we finally made it to the Valley. Wow. Wow. Wow. We took in the sights and watched the climbers on El Cap from the meadow. Unable to find free camping we left the park with plans to return first thing the next morning. As teenagers without alarm clocks we naturally slept in and finally found a parking spot near the base of Middle Cathedral and started the hike up about 10. No one on the route (East Buttress)! How damn lucky is that? We made it to the top of the second pitch, when the first party of two caught us. Sure you can pass, we’ll just look at El Cap some more. At the base of the 5.10 pitch another party caught us. Sure you can pass, we’ll just look at El Cap some more.

    This proved to be unfortunate later as they slowed down to a snail’s pace. Finally about dark we topped out. How does this descent go? You put a light in the pack right? No. Oops. Using our better judgment we parked ourselves under a tree and watched with envy the people on El Cap. I bet they have sleeping bags, and coats, and water. Bastards. We counted stars and sat as close together as possible, wobbly with our arms inside our t shirts. Ahh, morning light!! Down we went, back to the van. We drank all the water we had there, and finally felt semi human again. We chucked the parking ticket in the trash, I crawled under the van to hit the starter with the hammer and away we went in search of hot food.

    We found food, a hot shower and spent the rest of the day taking turns trials riding around the first and only pay camping site we would have the entire trip.

    We discussed plans and after talking with some others finally settled on heading up to Tuolumne to do the Direct NW of Lembert. What a fun climb and much less of a debacle than the previous days adventure. (I now really wish we would have paid the premium for another roll of film at the store, but…)

    We bumbled up out of the park and took two lanes north until darkness set in. Not having any guides or any real knowledge of northern CA (Why o’ why didn’t we go to the Leap?), we set our sights on Oregon, and Smith Rocks.
    A few more days of clipping bolts on this weird rock cured our sport fix.

    In need of a rest day, we pulled up stakes and headed east to the City of Rocks for some more fine crystalline rock fun. We decided that would probably have to be our last stop, as the hammer trick no longer worked to start the van, and it required a push every time now. Oh and we were almost out of dough. We stopped and used up the last of the money to buy food, with just enough in escrow to buy gas home. Once we were out of food, we would head home. We spent 10 days at the City. 10 wonderful and fanciful days.

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    At last we made it home to Bozeman, 6 weeks after we started. Our trip of a lifetime. I wasn’t even sad to find out my girlfriend had moved on. It was worth it.

    The only picture I have of the three of us:

  • LOL! You know it's a good trip when you don't care that your GF left you while you were away.

    Excellent TR and I really loved the photos. Thanks!

  • Freakin' awesome road trip! Thanks for sharing this. Very cool. 😎

  • Great TR. thanks

  • hey there, say, wyorockman... wow! now, THAT was really something... thanks for sharing... say, i have to finish reading it, later... need to go sleep now... (don't want to get a 'cold' and, i think one is starting to 'try me' ... ) 😮 ... have not had one, for years... oh my! great share, thanks so much!

  • Very nice....

  • Great story!


  • Quite the tour. TFPU!

  • @Roots 1990 on the nose! Shoes kind of give it away.

  • @WyoRockMan

    Finally, high school graduation came and our trip of a lifetime was ready to commence. We packed up the 1968 VW microbus with all of our climbing gear[1], a mountain bike, a reggae tape collection to die for, and about a thousand bucks in unmarked miscellaneous bills. We had a ripped out old climbing guides from Climbing and Rock and Ice and had a tentative itinerary. Hammer down, Wyoming here we come.

    And a camera 🙂

    I read the whole report

    Good job

  • C'est horrible that I led a few of those and had to pause to recall their names. Just Say No, Pigs on the Wing and Cairo?? Uncertain about the middle one. Total blank on the Smith Rocks stuff but my bet would be that I've climbed 'em. Maybe some names on those pics for us old timers? Maybe not. Let others discover the gold for themselves? Although I am sure these have been discussed exhaustively and well known. Have not been to "The City" in a while though and recollection fades. So many routes, so little brain matter... 😕

  • A wonderful trip report. Of course, photo captions are good, but I accept that "every photo tells a story." Thank you for taking the time to put this story together here. I'm curious?? What year?

  • @FritzRay Photo captions are a great idea, but honestly I don't remember the names of most of the routes, 1990 was a while ago. @toby got the CoR routes (well, 3 of 4 anyway), so thanks for that!

  • @WyoRockMan

    Heh, second photo down of the Smith shots: something in the Dihedrals? Don't recall the names but pretty sure recognize having climbed both the TR and one someone is fixing to lead. Likely a few of the others in that shot. Used to "live" there from a month at a crack as well, bitd when you only had to pony up $2/night to bivouac out in the "rough campsite" area. Good times.

  • @toby I did some looking. I think the one Smith shot is Derek TRing, Heinous Cling. Simon was climbing really well that day, he got Chain Reaction earlier in the day. I remember doing quite a bit of boulder traversing that day, as crimpy 12s have never been my jam. Kids....

  • What an amazing trip and story!

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