Overview: Ten Sleep, Wyoming
Considered by many to have the best limestone in the country, Ten Sleep, Wyoming is a sport climber’s paradise. Beautiful gold and blue-streaked walls are home to over 1,000 sport routes, and new development happens every year. The sheer beauty of Ten Sleep is breathtaking in itself. In the summer, the canyon is lush, green, and lined with wildflowers.
The town of Ten Sleep is as western as it gets; you can expect rodeos on Friday nights and Fox News to be playing at the bar. The world-class climbing, the beautiful canyon, and the charming town of Ten Sleep makes this “little western town with a big western heart” a climbing experience not to be missed.
Specific description of climbing style
The walls of Ten Sleep are made of vertical to slightly-overhanging limestone. This makes for technical face climbing on pockets, crimps, and edges. Most of the routes require good technique, precise footwork, and creativity. Don’t expect to be able to burl your way through cruxes—Ten Sleep calls for finesse, balance, and subtle movement. With almost every route tightly bolted, this is a great destination for those of us who aren’t psyched about taking big whippers on vertical terrain.
Summer and fall are the only climbable times in Ten Sleep. In the winter, the canyon gets heavy snow that closes the road that enters Ten Sleep until spring. Summers can be hot, but the entire canyon goes into the shade around 1pm, providing good climbing conditions. Plan for lazy mornings spent playing cards, swimming in the river, and deciphering the wacky guidebook while you and your crew wait for the shade. In the fall the temps drop significantly and deliver the best conditions the canyon has to offer.
Climbing grade range
Ten Sleep hosts routes of all grades, from super mellow 5.8 jugs on slab to deceivingly steep 5.14s with barely-there holds. Many climbers consider the best quality routes to be those between the grades of 5.10 and 5.13.
Best local spots
Dirty Sally’s has the best chocolate cookie dough ice cream you’ll ever taste.
Ten Sleep Brewery has fast wifi, showers, $3 camping in a field, and food trucks and live music on weekends.
Ten Sleep Rock Ranch has $5 camping with individual sites and picnic tables, showers, a community fridge and microwave, and somewhat slow wifi.
The library has a nice DVD room with a large table where you can work and use the wifi. “Winter hours” for the library apply at the start of the school year, so the library stays open til 5:00 starting in late/mid-August.
Top climbs in area
- Beer Bong (5.10b) – If you come to Ten Sleep, you must do this route. This is by far the most famous route in the canyon. We won’t spoil it for you, but just remember this: if you don’t face outwards, you didn’t send it.
- Bikini Girls With Machine Guns (5.11a) – A juggy crack leads to two-finger pockets with a crux that’s over fast.
- Killer Karma (5.11d) – By far the steepest route in the canyon. All jugs, but on truly horizontal terrain.
- Wyoming Flower Child (5.11d) – A beautiful route that you’ll wish wouldn’t end. A great variety of edges, pockets, and crimps on a vertical wall.
- Cocaine Rodeo (5.12a) – This will leave you wondering: what the hell just happened to me? More like an acid trip than a rock climb, you’ll pull multiple interesting cruxes with good rests in between for over 80 feet.
- Happiness in Slavery (5.12b) – Classic Ten Sleep: lots of pockets, lots of pump.
- Great White Behemouth (5.12b) – Many consider this to be the best 5.12 sport pitch they’ve ever done. Beautiful rock and movement over pockets and edges. The guidebook author has this to say about GWB: “KREIKKEYS!!! HOLY SHIT!!! DO THIS ROUTE!!!”
- Esplananda (5.12d) – This fun route has tricky sequences that require a lot of creativity. One of Ten Sleep’s most popular routes.
- Hellion (5.13c) – Very thin, very technical, and deceptively steep. Make sure your tendons are ready for this one.
Best kept secret
The best-kept secret in Ten Sleep just may be the secret to rock climbing/life itself. The vibe here is laid back, and far from serious. Just one look at the guidebook and you’ll know that your high-strung ethics and Facebook spray is not really welcome here. Besides, you can’t really brag when the route you sent is called Aunt Jemima’s Bisquick Thunderdome.
Have fun deciphering the guidebook. If you’re getting frustrated with it, you’re taking things too seriously.
How stiff is the grading?
Some claim that Ten Sleep has soft grades, but don’t be surprised if you get spit off a warm-up or two. The limestone can be hard to read. What may look like a thank-god jug from below might be the worst hold on the entire route. Spend the first few days of your trip getting comfortable with the style and soon the climbing will become less cryptic.
Where to stay
There is free, primitive camping along most of the East side of the canyon. Please respect Leave No Trace principles while staying in these sensitive areas. Access has been threatened due to climber-related impact.
Not surprisingly, the small town of Ten Sleep does not have a grocery store. Your best option is to make the 45-minute drive to Worland to stock up on groceries. If you’re nice to the owner of the gas station in town, he will probably let you fill up water from his hose. Other than that, there is no water provided in the canyon.
Photos in this posts have been sourced from Flickr, with usage under Creative Commons.
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