14 January 2010

Saratoga Valley Bouldering

Many years ago, sitting at a summer desk job, a friend of mine called to tell me he had found "some boulders".
Joe Johnson was a fly fishing guide in the Saratoga valley and not being a boulderer had called me to check out his find in case it was "worth bouldering". I drove over the pass that is the Snowy Range and easily found the boulders by 2pm the same day Joe called. Instantly Bennett Peak became a favorite bouldering destination for me and several other climbers. I put up a few first ascents that first day and went back to Laramie to recruit help to develop the area. Bennett Peak became one of several very good bouldering areas in the Saratoga Valley. Needle Peak and Silver Spur gained popularity with the myself and the few I brouht over the pass to climb with, and have slowly become the core areas of the valley.
Initialy a few "guided" toures of the Bennett Peak are by some poeple besides myself had led to the idea that the bouldering was just not that good. the tour guides did not know the area, hence the limited tours that completely missed the mark. So, with the reputation on the Front Range that Saratoga Valley was not a place to go, I climbed mostly alone for several years there. Later,  I was able to motivate a small crew to develop the area alone with. A small, highly devoted group has put in the work. Bryan Vansickle, Ethan McMahan, more recently Guili Zavaschi all helped me realize that bouldering alone was slow work. Over several years we have put in hundreds of boulder problems of every possible angle and grade. Twenty foot warmups on jugs and V11 roof problems sit side by side. What Saratoga Valley holds is some of the very best bouldering I've put up or been on anywhere! It has consumed me and will always be my home. The Saratoga crew, beat down after a long day (sometimes 10 hours!) of bouldering often joke that we will be back in the autumns of our lives to run laps on the old favorites. I hope so.
So, after sneaking out of Laramie day after day, for years, a few people started to think that maybe we were onto something. Strangly, the call and question "can I have a tour of Saratoga Valley?" did not come from anyone in Laramie, but from Scott Blunk in Fort Collins, Co. After a freezing spring day in a snow storm that was sure to scare him away, he mentioned that Needle Peak might be the best bouldering in the northern Front Range. He came back with Steve Mallard and later the Lloyd Family. What I thought was the shot to start the races was infact a pop and fizz. Outside of Needle Peaks busiest weekend, last spring, that had a grand total of 9 people, no one has shown. Needle Peak has been the busy mountain, but several other places to boulder are out in the valley. They are very lonely, only hosting a few climbers a year.
With several hundred boulder problems on amazing gneiss and granite, often close to the road, it is a wonder how the place is so lonely. My only request if you go is to respect the place as if it were a spiritual center of great importance. For a few of us it is. A truelly legendary place!

 Ashley Lloyd on the Square Tower, Needle Peak, Wyoming.

 John Sherman coming down after a first ascent of a "boulder" problem (i.e. solo), The Axe Boulder, Needle Peak, Wyoming. The Lloyds working The Axe V7/8 below.

 Ethan McMahan heading for the top of Habit of Neglect V6/7, Needle Peak, Wyoming.

 Bryan Vansickle trying to link the New Cactus Project, Needle Peak, Wyoming.

 Bryan Vansickle on Plus Size Cobra Pinch V1, Needle Peak, Wyoming.

David Lloyd on the crux huck of Sweet Things To Do When You're Old V6, Needle Peak, Wyoming.

 Guili Zavaschi working for the second send of Claudius V10, Needle Peak, Wyoming.

Steve Mallard juicing Upside Down Foot V7 while Scott Blunk looks good, Needle Peak, Wyoming.

 Ethan McMahan on the first ascent of Royal Oats V5/6, Needle Peak, Wyoming.

Last sun of the day on the Bonanza Boulder and the Bunny Slope Boulder, Needle Peak, Wyoming.

Just beyond the mountain of Needle Peak is a horrible drive down a two track for a mile or two. At the end of the road is Silver Spur a rarely visited, smaller version of Needle Peak. It is home to a few very good problems and many things that have not been done. Perhaps the best V3 in the Valley is at Silver Spur. It is a 25 foot roof on jugs with a crux exit and is called Silver Spur.

 Myself on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly V9?, Silver Spur, Wyoming.

The White Spike Project at Silver Spur, Wyoming.
Bennett Peak is the original area in Saratoga Valley that Joe Johnson found so many years ago. It is still a favorite and the only place to go for camping in style. Bennett Peak is a mountain of granite  boulders cut by the North Platte River. It is an amazing place to be on cool spring mornings when the sun first cuts through the river mist and the birds start to fill the air. It is also the local for one of America's Blue Ribbon Trout areas. The fishing is world famous and the scenery likely the same.

 Discovery of Noon Rocks with Bevan Frost at Bennett Peak, Wyoming.

Bryan Vansickle on Red, White and Rock V7, Bennett Peak, Wyoming.

My wife Marla under a boulder she found hiding in the juniper, Bennett Peak, Wyoming.

 Bennett Peak, Wyoming in the early spring.

6 comments:

  1. Wow! Looks amazing, gonna have to try and get up there this spring. Is that the best season?

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  2. Spring is prime time to boulder here. Fall however is the finest time to boulder in the Saratoga Valley. would be happy to give a tour or directions whenever.

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  3. Great post Davin! I've been waiting for this one. Four star problems, fantastic rock, stunning setting. I'm surprised that no one showed up after I spread the word in Ft. Collins. Nice to still have it to ourselves though. Thanks for developing the area, and sharing it. I love Needle Peak, and will be coming back to Saratoga Valley as soon as I'm able. See you there in June, if not sooner.

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  4. Awesome post Davin. Happy New Year Brother.

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  5. Nice to see folks out exploring and developing, looks great too!

    Makes me want to get down there to check it out.

    Cheers!

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  6. Saratoga Valley is a small portion of what has been climbed around Wyoming in past years. Come check it out any time. Lots to do here!

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