Ten Sleep, Wyoming
Ten Sleep is a tiny dot on your map in north-central Wyoming and is quickly becoming home to one of this country’s premier climbing destinations. The town got its name because its location was used by Native Americans as a rest stop between major settlements at Fort Laramie, Yellowstone and Stillwater River. That’s right, it was ten days’ journey (or ten sleeps) from each. These days the small town of 304 people still sees cattle herded down Main Street and a community-wide party every Fourth of July. With an ice cream and curio shop called Dirty Sally’s what more could you ask for?
Oh, did I mention the climbing? Ten minutes out of town you enter Ten Sleep Canyon where miles and miles of quality pocketed limestone stretches out before you on both sides of the road. Thanks to a handful of dedicated bolters, Ten Sleep’s walls have seen summer after summer of major developments for more than a decade. The energy in this place is really something. It feels like the scene is about to absolutely explode.
The routes in the canyon range from 5.easy to 5.14 with steep routes, slab routes and everything in between. One of the best things about climbing in Ten Sleep is the real emphasis that the developers have put on creating a quality climbing experience for everyone. For evidence of this we need look no further than Charlie Kardaleff.
Charlie spends every summer in the canyon and works day and night with the goal of putting up unforgettable 5.10’s and 5.11’s. How refreshing for the focus of a place to be more than how hard the routes are! As a result of Charlie’s prolific bolting efforts there are so many classic moderate routes, the average climber could spend years combing these walls.
On top of the extensive and fantastic climbing, the climbing community in Ten Sleep is unmatched. Come anytime in the summer and you will find Huey, Kardaleff and their gang camped out in the woods, playing music, drinking beer and barbequing some tasty chicken. They are a truly welcoming community of people that are proud of what they have created.
Huey’s Mind-Blowing Guidebook
Aaron Huey’s guidebook is your essential resource to Ten Sleep. Lies and Propaganda from Ten Sleep Canyon is a guidebook like no other. Huey’s amazing photography (he is also a professional photographer) and entertaining style make this puppy one for the coffee table at home. You can buy the book at the link above, at the café in town and it is popping up in climbing shops and online retailers everywhere.
I’ll admit that at first flipping through the pages at the store, trying to figure out what Ten Sleep had to offer, I was a bit put off by the “complex symbology” that the book uses. But once I chilled out and started using the book I came to appreciate it. Plus, in what other climbing area will common crag talk include questions like “Hey, Frank, you want to try the sexy lady 11b or the kid with a bazooka 11c next?” (Sexy lady means four stars and kid with bazooka denotes five.)
The book will tell you all you need to know, but in short there is great free camping available all along the old highway (the dirt road that goes up the canyon on the other side of Ten Sleep Creek). The road is in pretty good shape and suitable for most any vehicle. There are a few major camping areas where you will likely find the locals (whom you are welcome to join) and enough space to spend every evening alone with the Wyoming stars if you choose.
There are no services so be prepared to bring in water and bring out everything else. As climbing in Ten Sleep has gotten more popular the density of camping has started to take its toll. Please keep the forest nice and store your food properly!
This last 4thof July saw a very curious black bear (who had raided a bunch of coolers that people had not stored – reportedly even getting some smoked salmon) visiting our campsite every night. Be responsible and don’t let this happen. A fed bear is a dead bear.
We chose to fill up our water at the gas station in town, but made sure to patronize it every time. Ten Sleep is a small town and your presence as a climber is very obvious. Please make sure that the locals see you as a positive influence and not a dirty climber who comes in to take water and split.
There is a pit toilet a mile or two up the road from the top end of the Old Road if you get tired of using the woods.
If you want vegetables you need to drive to Worland or Buffalo. Both are about an hour’s drive from the campsite, so plan accordingly.
Finally, wifi is available at the café in town.
Ten Sleep is by far one of my favorite climbing areas in the world. As soon as we left I started scheming about how we would return. The climbing season is pretty short—June through September—so I am hoping for another visit next summer. I keep telling myself that from San Francisco, Ten Sleep is only an 18 hour drive away!