“I’m in Ten Sleep.”
“Where?” My brother asks on my drive through Wyoming.
“Ten Sleep…like the number…and like, what you do when you’re tired.”
To climbers, mention the name Ten Sleep and there’s immediate recognition. It’s famous in our little world for its vertical limestone cliffs filled with tendon stretching pockets and skin-shredding crimps. Climbers come from all over the world to get their fill of finger fatigue.
Walking into The Saloon, the only real bar and restaurant in town, it’s easy to pick out the bull riders from the rock jocks. Spandex has never been a part of any cowboy’s wardrobe and the climbers just can’t pull off boots with their skinny legs. My friend Elizabeth and I look around at the taxidermy specimens and the right-winged politically incorrect bumper sticker on the wall and think- we’re not in Colorado anymore. Between the cowboy and the climber their could not be a bigger culture clash.
But the cool thing is, it’s less clash and more of a surprisingly good mix- like bourbon and bitters on a hot summer night.
The Fourth of July is a big day for the 260 people living in the town of Ten Sleep. In the morning there’s a parade with home-made floats, a rodeo in the afternoon, and an evening filled with fireworks, beer, and dancing in the street.
The cowboys enjoyed twirling the prAna-clad girls around and the climbers wore their kitschy T-shirts with howling wolves purchased at the nearest gas station with pride. We all enjoyed watching the rodeo- even though us climbers were pretty clueless as to what was really going on. I just liked looking at all the pretty horses- which was amazingly entertaining. And I loved observing the widespread chivalry among the cowboys that is not dead in this town. A hold of the door, a “yes ma’am”, and a tip of the hat is a daily occurrence in Ten Sleep.
I think it’s safe to say plain and simple- we were all in good company.
And then there’s the climbing. After projecting my heart out in Dream Canyon and failing repeatedly on the same climb over and over, it was so refreshing to just get out on new terrain. I had a few lucky successes for onsights, including my first 13b called Blue Light Special, which happened completely out of the blue (pun intended).
Elizabeth recommended the route to me. I looked up the blank blue streak and thought- ay, ay, ay…this looks horrendous. The holds looked terribly small and frankly nonexistent.
But I wanted a mini- project and so I started up with my light Ang Petzl draws and somehow battled through the first two bolts of barely-there crimps and thought, “that was unpleasant.” But I’d reached some decent holds and could rest, look up, and assess the next part of the climb. It’s all a big blue blur, but I somehow barely squeaked my way through the next crux, skipping a bolt on the way. I don’t remember much else (too much lactic acid in my brain) other than getting through another crux up high and thinking- no way! I can’t believe that just happened! This was definitely a special climbing highlight of the trip.
Climbing brings us to some of the most obscure places on Earth, and allows us to experience cultures as foreign to this Boulder-bound girl as the Wyoming cowboy- far out dude! Ten Sleep, that is. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Yet we somehow all come together- climbers from all over the world and cowboys from a town smaller than my high school class. Like bitters and bourbon- it’s a damn good mix.