New states and crags for this girl on the 2014 Spring roadie. I wanted to visit some family in Saskatchewan and check out a school in Saskatoon, so we decided to sample some of the quality stone in the Black Hills of South Dakota on our way to warmer pastures.
Tim McAllister and I packed up his truck and truck camper and headed south across the prairies in spring storms through the Dakotas to the wilderness of Spearfish and The Needles.
We ended up sampling many new crags on our trip as the weather pushed us around a bit.
Spearfish canyon hosts many limestone clip-ups. The rock and bolt quality is mostly good and the new guidebook by Mikel Cronin 2011 does a good job of leading you to the trailheads and crags. We were able to pick our crag based on aspect and star quality to find great climbs. There is a good range of quality climbs from 5.8 to 5.13 that are safely bolted. We were happy to have our stick clip more often than not.
One highlight was the Indian Wars wall at the Mohican area. We found fun projects on quality stone there.
We could camp for free as it was early season and we found ourselves headed into town every other day for groceries or a visit to one of the numerous coffee shops for wifi. The recreation centre was a great place to shower and also had wifi. The Crow Peak Brewery had cheap pizza and cold beer.
The long term weather forecast was rapidly deteriorating back to winter like conditions so we headed south in hopes of sampling the Mount Rushmore area before the snow.
This was my first time to see the old bastards carved out of stone and visit Rapid City which also has many a man carved out of stone on every street corner. I wondered if there were any women who roamed the planet during the time of the stone carvings. I fantasized about climbing out the eyelid of a president, but based on this drawing, I see I am not alone.
Rapid City had a couple outdoor shops and we learned about some local bouldering, but when we inquired into bad weather climbing zones, including indoor, we came up pretty empty handed. The YMCA had a dismal vertical only bouldering wall. We realized that we wouldn’t be trying to stick out any bad weather in the Black Hills.
I feel really lucky to have prioritized this trip to the Black Hills. I found the pine forests to be lovely and the rock quality amazing. The guidebook was rich with historical references to the first ascentionists. Many notable climbers in North American climbing cut their teeth on the granite of these pristine outcrops.
We used the 2012 guidebook called the Needles of Rushmore by Busse and Burr to navigate our way around this National Memorial. Most of the approaches are less than ten minutes. We sought out ultra classics from 5.6 to 5.12. We cheekily used our stick clip to negotiate the often very heady starts to these old school “sport climbs”. At no point did I feel like I was “sport climbing”. Most of the routes we did are serious. Not death but definitely wheelchair and guide crippling consequences to falling. These are mostly vertical and less than vertical face climbs with occasional crack features and crystals to get excited about. I most enjoyed the easier classics or the harder well-bolted test pieces. Many of the routes in-between felt serious which took away from my enjoyment.
I would like to return to project some head points and continue to do easier classics. We got chased away by bad weather after taking no rest days for over a week in anticipation of a rain day. We drove through a few of the local towns like Hills and Custer to try to get more beta on bad weather climbing. Finally we drove through The Needles which were very beautiful. We passed by a large family of mountain goats who were being chased by local wildlife students up a mountain. We barely fit through some tunnels and we enjoyed seeing Buffalo roaming wide open plateaus.
We went a little out of our way to a town called Hot Springs which actually doesn’t have any!
On our long drive to the Utah desert we witnessed hours of sky-filled lightning and rumbling thunder across the open ranges of Wyoming.
We spent a couple days in SLC working on our camper and our gym climbing in the new Momentum. What an amazing training facility. I decided to become a boulderer and so I invested in a new Organic bouldering pad that is real pretty with orange and purple. Mostly, I want to work on my weaknesses, gym climbing and bouldering included.
Based on the regional cold temperatures, we headed to Ibex in the no man’s land of SW Utah close to the Nevada border. A highlight of our trip was re-supplying in Delta which is an hour away from the climbing. Delta always seemed to provide despite being in the middle of NOWHERE. We got showers at the campground and wifi at the McD’s. We had three dollar stores to choose from as well as a couple good grocery stores.
We found a raw wilderness in Ibex. When we first arrived we were welcomed by a Pronghorn who timidly ran away in great speed. I suspect the Pronghorns are the namesake of Ibex first named by european residents.
We pulled in behind a large boulder called the red monster for our first night of high winds. We tried to boulder using only Mountain Project as our guide. The strong winds constantly took our bouldering pads and tossed them away from the base of our problems. This was an entertaining start to our trip.
Luckily, the next day the winds died down in the morning and so we tried out a few of the sport climbs. We really enjoyed the rock quality. Its called quartzite but its not exactly metamorphosed sandstone like at Lake Louise. Its more like a hard sandstone filled with small crystals. There are some cracks, but mostly face climbing on edges. I was weary of the old school routes for good reason- old bolts, pins, tat and very specific racks were required. We sought out more modern or retro-fitted routes. We did a couple multi pitches. A highlight was The Nose Shadow, which my friend Kim Csizmazia got the FFA on many moons ago with Kennan Harvey. The second pitch, a 40m 12a jug fest was one of the best sport pitches I have ever climbed in such an adventurous setting.
Over the next couple weeks we visited Ibex again and sampled both the boulders and the multi-pitch climbs. We really enjoyed the remote nature and quality rock.
We also enjoyed driving on the Hardpan. a smooth surface of mud that required very little of the driver. ie. Tim tried to get out of the drivers seat!
Once the weather warmed up a bit we visited the popular Joe’s Valley a handful of times. We met Anna and Obie there for a weekend of bouldering. We enjoyed more free camping and a recently published guidebook to enable our climbing addiction. I especially liked “New Joe’s” because I like hiking, getting away from the cars and the crowds. I like feeling like I am in the wilderness – even if the car is only five minutes away. We had to work the shady sides of the boulders often, but luckily there are many pebbles and many different styles of climbing here. I loved trying to find low balls with the cruxes even closer to the ground. Funny how I can be on the edge of a North face without thinking twice but challenging myself five feet off the deck is an unacceptable risk!
I can see how bouldering is a family friendly activity. Obie inspired us daily with his bravery and natural climbing ability.
Orangeville and Castledale are the outposts for Wifi and showers just 15-30 minutes from Joe’s. The Ranch provided groceries and wifi, but even better wifi was at the city park in Orangeville. The rec centre in Castledale provides cheap clean showers.
We needed some rest days so we headed to The Swell to check out future climbing opportunities, hike and get lost in the desert.
San Rafal Swell- radically different landscape
We didn’t actually climb in San Rafal Swell, but we really enjoyed dropping into its canyons and exploring a completely different landscape. I plan on returning to climb some one pitch classics and a few of the towers, but I intend to bring a hand drill with me to replace poor anchors that we read about on mountain project for many of the mulit-pitch classics.
To finish our trip up before a work stint, Tim and I headed into Indian Creek in the middle of a spring thunderstorm. We lucked out by getting to appreciate a brief respite of weather to hike to and from our climb. We inhaled the post rain smells of the desert and ascended one of the only cracks that stays dry when its wet out. Annuaki provided an enjoyable morning of pumped forearms and satisfying jams. We both reminisced about our days of crack climbing and planned to make a trip back in the near future.