Trip Report
How I flew from the nest, or using a hammer to start a microbus...
Thursday September 13, 2012 9:00pm
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. Other than the off-width.

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 every available piece of stone and choss in SW Montana.

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.

Credit: WyoRockMan
Credit: WyoRockMan
Credit: WyoRockMan
Credit: WyoRockMan

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.

Credit: WyoRockMan
Credit: WyoRockMan
This guy was super helpful. I wish I remember his name.
This guy was super helpful. I wish I remember his name.
Credit: WyoRockMan
Credit: WyoRockMan

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.

Credit: WyoRockMan
Credit: WyoRockMan
Credit: WyoRockMan

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.

Credit: WyoRockMan

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.

Credit: WyoRockMan

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.

Credit: WyoRockMan
Credit: WyoRockMan

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.

Credit: WyoRockMan
Credit: WyoRockMan
Credit: WyoRockMan
Credit: WyoRockMan
Credit: WyoRockMan
Look at all the people!!!
Look at all the people!!!
Credit: WyoRockMan

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.
The only picture I have of the three of us.
Credit: WyoRockMan

  Trip Report Views: 2,697
About the Author
WyoRockMan is a trad climber from Flank of the Bighorns.

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Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Sep 13, 2012 - 10:28pm PT
That's what it's about! Thanks.

We did a similar trip in '75 in a '64 bus and the hammer trick never worked, it was push start every time. Started in California, made it as far east as the needles, climbed Deto, and got snowed off the east ridge of the Grand. Didn't hit as many spots as you guys, you had Moxie!

I hope enough other people are are having their own era appropriate adventures now!

A long way from where I started
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:19pm PT
Give me a two-pound hammer and a few feet of baling wire and I can fix anything!

Great story. It's the trip that everybody wishes they'd taken, but only a few of us ever did. No brains, no pains.

jamais, jamais pays
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:28pm PT
nicely done!

Social climber
  Sep 14, 2012 - 05:33pm PT
Great pics and story. Love the giant, colorful chalkbag in pic #3. JRat?

The "helpful" guy looks a bit like Jim Garber. Though he'd prolly never own up to it being him, given the shorts he was wearing in your photo!

Kinda fun trying to date the trip. A real expert could pin it down to the month, just from the gear and clothes.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 16, 2012 - 10:07am PT
Really good write up, thanks

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
  Sep 16, 2012 - 10:15am PT
Some dirt-bag climbing, par excellence!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Sep 16, 2012 - 02:25pm PT
Clothing appropriate music.
Total technical control of the classic dirtbag vehickle.
Excellent (underlined) climbing shots!!!
Classic East Buttress and Cathedral Spire pose.
"Wow."--Classic remark on first viewing the Valley.
And climbs. Don't forget the climbs.
This report is Da Kine, brough. It's a jewel set in a ring of travel memories.

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Sep 16, 2012 - 10:29pm PT
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  Sep 16, 2012 - 10:32pm PT
The Goods.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Sep 16, 2012 - 11:05pm PT
Parking ticket in the trash and hammer to the starter solenoid says it all. Awesome road trip and super attitude.

Boulder, CO
  Sep 16, 2012 - 11:16pm PT
I feel younger after reading this trip report.

thank you!

Grizzlyville, WY
Author's Reply  Sep 18, 2012 - 10:23am PT
Thanks all for the compliments.

Crunch- I don't think it was a JRat chalk bag. More likely a local made bag from one of the moonlighting entrepreneurs out of the Dana Design factory.

Mouse- "It's a jewel set in a ring of travel memories." It really was, a tattoo upon my soul that I will never forget.

Jaybro- As I was scanning these slides my wife asked, "Do you think parents let their kids galavant around the country for weeks at a time anymore? What would our reaction be to this idea?" I said, I don't think you can stop a determined bunch of vagrants, but I do think the days of travelling without cell phones and constant status updates is largely over. I too hope today's young'uns take the time to unplug and see the world with a sense of adventure and unpredictable outcomes.

Climb on, my internet friends!


  Sep 18, 2012 - 03:36pm PT
Such a treat!!

Trad climber
  Sep 20, 2012 - 03:50pm PT
Yeah man!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Sep 20, 2012 - 03:57pm PT
yeah, I feel that.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  Sep 20, 2012 - 04:07pm PT
yup - very, very nice

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
  May 23, 2017 - 07:17am PT
A great adventure! Thanks for taking the time to share it. I never did get around to a road trip quite as significant as yours.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  May 23, 2017 - 09:18am PT
Great tr! A fun time was had by all. I recognice Cairo in one of your City of Rocks photos.

Social climber
  May 23, 2017 - 04:15pm PT
That was totally inspirational

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
  May 23, 2017 - 04:58pm PT
Freat strory, great trip. Thanks for posting Jason.

Big Wall climber
  May 23, 2017 - 05:08pm PT
Cool trip, memories like that make it all worthwhile.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  May 23, 2017 - 05:47pm PT
A trip any of us would identify with!
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