22 January 2012

Revolcadero del Diablo: A Day In The Monster's Den

Saturday was looking good for the weather forecast and with an entire day free I couldn't resist a full day of exploration. It had been some time since I had gone out on my own in the middle of nowhere and I had been hoping for a solo day for a while. Without really planning on a specific day, I knew when I woke up it was the day to sneak away. Despite several calls from people looking for a productive Saturday, I turned the phone off, loaded the jeep with full gear and extra gas, the dog and maps, then hit the road. My goal was to visit a number of possibly good areas that I had discovered while working as a geologist last winter. From a long list of possibles I chose a back country route through many miles of interlocking dirt roads that would bring me past as many boulders as possible. In all, I drove around 230 miles of dirt and another 140 miles of highway.
Far more snow than expected kept me from all but a few of the boulder fields. I was able to drive within a mile or less of a few to know enough that I need to return as soon as the melt happens. Really good looking boulder fields came and went down the snowy roads, but all were at the end of overly drifted two tracks. Being alone a hundred miles into the depths of Wyoming, with a winter storm moving in the same evening and clearly visible on the sky line, kept me from "punching through" the drifts or walking too far from the vehicle. I can say that I'm really impressed with the amount of rock I drove past. Hopefully it's as good at is it is suggested to be from the geological maps and satellite images.
Toward the end of my long drive, sometime in the early afternoon, I finally drove out of the snowy mountains and into the basin. My goal was a large area of boulders I had identified as a similar sandstone to the Dakota. In Wyoming it's known as the Cloverly, is as well put together as the Dakota, but is a little different in appearance. It's fine grain and loaded with pebbles (think Castlewood Canyon, but more pebbles), but can have a saving grace of compact sections that yield great boulders. Obviously my hope was a section of the compact stuff. Miles of boulders cover the hillsides and as it turns out the vast majority is of the pebbled rock. I stopped at the end of several two tracks, each one a valley of rock, and always returning to the jeep ready to move on. Finally I drove further to the final stop of the day. A place where the hill side of boulders had fallen into a disaster of stone and earth.

The place was named Revolcadero del Diablo by some hunters who had posted pictures on the web. In their pictures some of the boulders looked like the good stuff, and the place looked like a jumble. As it turned out the boulders are massive. Most being way too large to boulder and are made of the pebbled sandstone. It is really solid stone, but maybe too bizarre to climb. Of all places I've explored in Wyoming and neighboring places this is the strangest and most bizarre by far. The overcast day with random rain and snow maybe helped the mood of the strange labyrinth, but did not help my mood. I continually looked over my shoulder as I wandered the random hills and corridors, always feeling as if I were an unwanted visitor in a giant's land. It looked and felt like monsters had hurried to cover themselves with the stones as I approached. Holes were in random places under my feet. For hundreds of feet the earth was solid and normal and without warning I would suddenly be stepping around gaps, then jumping 40 foot pits. To complete the bizarre arrangement, the majority of boulders are far more pebbly than any I've seen. The pebbles are like marbles. Like billions of marbles in a completely solid cement.
40 foot boulders of glued marbles
Somehow a tree grows on the overhanging tip of a 40 foot tower
The forms of the boulders provide really amazing features that should be fantastic to climb, but I'm not sure with the strange marble grips if it's even possible. There area does have around 10% of the better stone, but completely and randomly mixed up in the jumble. Some of the lines are good enough for a return trip, but only in the winter when all else is snow covered and out for the season. It is an intriguing place to boulder with the uniqueness of the place and I would like to return. I keep running the possibility and question through my head, are the marbled walls climbable? The grips would always be strange pinches and the feet would be infinite. Even if it's a bust, the few compact boulders are worthwhile for a winter bouldering area.
The Marbled Rock
The Good Sandstone

The place does have some really nice looking features, as sandstone usually does. If even a few lines come
out of the marble type walls, I'll be happy with the experience. It is a completely unique place to boulder. Even a visit without climbing is recommended.  A visit not in any season but winter or possibly late fall. The holes and gaps and cracks and thousands of fissures must hold snakes like no place other than a monsters den. I noticed no pack rat crap anywhere, no rabbit droppings, and almost no sign of birds. It would be impressive in spring to see the snake dens come to life, but I won't be there.
A great crescent feature.
A good roof on good stone
The good sandstone with marbled stuff to start on


  1. wuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut?

  2. The Monster's Den sounds bizarre! I like the name, and you did a great job with this post of expressing the committed, sometimes spooky, feeling that you can get while looking for boulders alone in the great vastness of Wyoming.

  3. Nice post! Conglomerate choss marble boulders are climbed on all the times in the Gunks, so why not at this Monster's Den?

  4. Well, a good question. Between the miles of gneiss an hour closer and well, not really any other reason, so maybe that's it. We'll get back there soon I hope to try our hand at some "Gunks" marbles.