posted by dpm on 07/08/2012
The fourth of July weekend in Ten Sleep Canyon, Wyoming seems to get bigger and better each year. The word is out that Ten Sleep offers some of the coolest summer conditions and amazing rock climbing in the US. It's a fitting stop for summer climbers on their way to nearby Lander's International Climber's Festival that happens the following weekend.
Jonathan Siegrist getting into character before tackling Wyoming's hardest routes. Photo: Jonathan's blog
Jonathan Siegrist is one pro climber that has added Ten Sleep to his list of summer areas to visit. Fresh from a trip to France where he sent some hard routes on the blue limestone of Ceuse's Berlin Wall, he headed to America's pint-sized version of Berlin: the French Cattle Ranch. Last year, Siegrist ticked off Galactic Emperor (5.14a), onsighted Doomsday (5.14a) on this wall, and flashed F'd in the A (5.14a) at the Superratic. This year, he set his sights higher and attempted the unrepeated James Litz test-piece of Ten Sleep: General Litzenheimer (5.14c). The route climbs a beautiful blue/gray wall of perfectly smooth rock that is barely overhanging at the bottom and barely slabby at the top. The first 30 feet are the crux; tiny shallow one and two finger pockets pepper the wall in places that seem to be just a little too far apart. The footholds are nearly invisible making hard cranks mandatory.
After working out the moves a bit on his first day, Siegriest returned and finished hanging his draws and working the moves. He describes the send on his blog: "As a thunderstorm rolled in, striking lightning as I stepped foot off the ground, I made my way through the cruxy bottom to the mid-way jugs. It was POURING. Not at all a steep cliff and it was running with water… I've done some climbing in the rain, but this was straight up wet as hell climbing. Tick marks gone, I was soaking wet, shoes, chalkbag- everything. Thankfully the top is pretty mellow and I made it happen-- but I felt like I could blow off at any moment, even in the finishing 5.11 zone (seriously it felt like some of the harder climbing).
Despite the absolutely horrid conditions of the easy part at the top, Siegrist feels that it came together fairly quickly and might lie at the lower end of the 5.14c spectrum. But 'easy 5.14c' is an oxymoron right? The grades of the hard routes at Ten Sleep seem to be all over the place since Litz's visit in the summer of 2009. James went on a rampage, cleaning up nearly every hard project that had been bolted in the region. He came away with eight 5.14 first ascents in all, though some of have been upgraded and some have been downgraded. Routes like Goldmember and He Biggum were originally graded 5.14a but are now considered 5.13d and have seen many repeats. Conversely, Litz's Porcelein was also called 5.14a and is still unrepeated (now considered 5.14b). Could it be that when crimps feel like jugs in the hands of the Litzenheimer, grading can be quite difficult?
The French Cattle Ranch, showing the general location of General Litzenheimer (5.14c) and Galactic Emperor (5.14a). Photo: DPM
Just to the right of General Litzenheimer is Ten Sleep's most popular 5.14a. Galactic Emperor starts with a difficult boulder problem and then transitions to long pulls on small pockets to gain the good halfway point rest shared with General Litzenheimer. It continues with long pulls past the location of the old anchor which was called Sky Pilot (5.13d), adding another technical crux at the top of the cliff.
When the Hörst family rolled into Ten Sleep, up and coming 11-year-old climber Cameron set to work on the line. Despite the reachy nature of the route, Cameron was able to send on his fourth try. This past spring, Cameron sent his first 5.14 with God's Own Stone at the Red River Gorge, Kentucky. He noted on his 8a scorecard that Galactic Emperor was his "hardest route yet--harder than God's Own Stone."
Jonathan Hörst, the younger (age 9) of the Hörst boys, sent his second 5.13 with the classic Wyoming face climb Dances with Cows (5.13b). You'll recognize dad Eric Hörst's name as the author of many excellent training books like "How to Climb 5.12" and "Training for Climbing." Read Eric's training article "Kid Crushers: training for young climbers" on page 52 of our current issue of DPM.