Sweat, Blood, Pain and Bruises in Vedauwoo
I know I still owe a post about Tetons, but I hardly took any photos there, so here comes my post on climbing in Vedauwoo, Wyoming.
Vedauwoo, located in the Southeastern corner of Wyoming, is a crag known for its gritty granite and wide cracks, and supposedly sandbagged grades. The drive from Jackson to Laramie – a college town 20 minute away from Vedauwoo, is about 6 hours and encompasses an entirely different landscape from what typical tourists to Wyoming are accustomed to. The mountains of Teton and Wind River Ranges got replaced by cattle ranches and eventually by vast plains of oil and gas fields where you could see an occasional pronghorn antelope grazing. Closer to the more populated Southeast, wind farms popped up.
We arrived in Vedauwoo on Thursday night just in time for dinner. There we met up with Marat’s friend and climbing partner Paavo. Paavo, a former Gunkie who lives now in Boulder is a gourmand, so the rest of the weekend revolved around meals, wine and chocolate. Funny thing is that both men proved to be greater chocoholics than I.
On Friday, Marat went to town to run errands and Paavo and I went climbing at Nautilus – one of the crags named after Jules Verne’s book. To tell the truth, despite my ownership of a brand new #6 Camalot and a set of Big Bros, I was a bit nervous. I asked Paavo to lead a pitch so I could get a feel for the rock, so we went to climb Captain Nemo. Pitch 1 is an excellent 5.8 hand crack which is really pleasant. Pitch 2, however, was a hard 5.10d hand traverse on slopers – which I gave up on half-way and aided through.
After cruising through the handcrack pitch of Captain Nemo and flailing through the traverse, I felt encouraged enough to go lead Mother 1 – the intro test piece of Vedauwoo. Sort of like local Shockley’s Ceiling. Graded at 5.7+ it is a known sandbag. First 50 feet are terrifyingly wide and awkward – I thought I’d fall out on the first move even. I went in with my left side in and had my right foot on the face, couple of times tiny crystal holds broke under my right foot and I grabbed the rope in panic. Luckily, my body was safely tucked in the crack, so I wasn’t going anywhere. Finally, after the 50 feet the angle of the rock eases and the crack narrows to hands. To get to the rappel bolts, one of the options is to climb unprotected 5.2 face of Parabolic slab for 30 feet – way more pleasant climbing than the OW!
Next, Paavo led Finally (5.9) and I followed. At first I tried off-widthing it, but it was way too awkward, so I just laybacked and stemmed it. The dinner of linguine with scallops with wine was well deserved that night!
On Saturday, reunited with Marat, three of us went to the Central Wall area in hopes of meeting up with Paavo’s Boulder friends. We didn’t find the friends, but found Edward’s Crack (5.7) which Marat led (wide, but way easier than Mother 1). On the rappel we set a top rope on a 5.9+ top rope problem called Mantle. The climb has a stiff old school 5.9+ rating and the first 40 feet of it are unprotected (crux), hence it is only top ropped nowadays. Both Paavo and Marat thought it was at least 5.10, I thought it wasn’t that bad – I love slabby face climbing! Then it came Paavo’s turn to lead. I turned down the lead as a) I felt like I was thrown down the bus the day before; and b) Mother 1 stiff grade thoroughly spooked me. Paavo led Satterfield’s Crack (5.8), a two-pitch climb, the crux of which is entering the squeeze chimney from the face at the top of Pitch 2.
Paavo had to work on Sunday and Marat and I took a day off then – two days of harsh off-widthing was a bit too much for me! On Monday, thoroughly refreshed we decided to do Tour de Wide. I started on TTR (5.6 hard!), Marat then led TTL (5.8), then I led Upper Slot (5.7-?), we top ropped Deep Throat (5.10a chimney) and Marat led Baalbek (5.9). I thought Baalbek was the best 5.9 I’ve ever climbed! Long, sustained and very varied. It had everything – wide chimney, hard stemming, hand and finger cracks and an overhanging chockstone.
Needless to say, after Baalbek (5 pitches of wide) we were pretty trashed, plus dark clouds rolled in, so we decided to come back next day for Friday 13 (5.10a) and me leading P1 of Captain Nemo. Friday 13 Pitch 1 is this excellent long sustained finger/hand/fist crack, which I found quite tough! Marat led it in good style, which I couldn’t say about my cleaning. = After struggling through the first 20 feet of the crux, I gave up to get my hands taped. Second time was better, but I still fell at every 5 feet, but nevertheless finished the climb. The third time was much better, I was surprised that I even went for it. After trashing my hands on Friday 13, we went to Captain Nemo – I thought it was quite tough on lead, plus my right hand was about to explode from all that jamming!
Oh, and on the morning approach to the crag, Magda, one of Marat’s dogs went after a cow moose and her calf. In turn the cow went after us – I never was so scared in my life! It is not everyday you encounter an animal weighing probably a ton five feet from your face, furiously trying to defend her offspring.
By the way, Vedauwoo rock formations very much reminded me of ones at Terelj National Park in Mongolia (just outside of the capital). Check out these photos that were published last year in Rock & Ice, and say it isn’t so: http://pullphotography.blogspot.com/2010/09/mongolia-in-print.html