Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Double Dose of Neverland

It has been bizarrely warm in Southeastern Wyoming for the past two weeks, which has seemingly marked the opening of the spring climbing season.  Naturally, the entirety of both of my weekends were spent bouldering at the hidden climbing paradise of Neverland.  

The first weekend, Shane Williams and I drove out to explore mostly new territory near the Snowflake and Old Neverland sectors. It had been a while since we had last been able to access the crags, and I was rightfully worried about getting in and out with my lovely Toyota Sienna, but we made it with only a few dings and nicks.  We started off near the Snowflake sector, walking the entire length of the small mountain that overshadows it.  In the first rocky outcropping, we stumbled upon a fairly disturbing and ominous "shrine" of sorts, consisting of decorative paper, a feather, and a deer bone.  It was rather unnerving, yet we decided to press on in hopes that it would not be a sign of horrible things to come.

The Shrine

After hours of walking around, we didn't find much high quality rock.  We ended up near a place already explored, called the Chunks due to the rock's abundance of large feldspar crystals.  Its pretty wild looking.

 Shane Checking out a line in the Chunks

Having not gotten much done, we decided to drive to Old Neverland to try to find some good lines.  We arrived around 5:00 pm, so we spent most of the evening walking around the established areas and scrambling up the cliffs, saving the climbing for the next day.  
  Panorama of Old Neverland
Feeling refreshed after a night of somewhat ghetto fire-side conversation and car camping, we arose and hit the boulders. The goal was to put up some new lines, so we went past the developed stuff in search of some good boulders.  Highlights included a V1 highball by Shane called Big Baby and a short, strenuous problem by me called Wild Turkey (V5), which featured nice slopers and some good ol' boulder humping.

Wrestling the Wild Turkey
Our best find of the day was a boulder high up in the trees on the far right side of Old Neverland.  We dubbed it the 99 Problems boulder, due to the gentle roof that holds dozens of lines on it, the best ones being super fun V1 jug hauls.  We did 5 different climbs on that section before turning to the rest of it.  The far side of the boulder yielded two more moderates, A Bitch (V4) and Girl Problems (V2).
Shane trying to sort out his problems
The 99 Problems boulder in its entirety

We left feeling pretty good about ourselves and a little sunburned.  A good weekend.  The subsequent week remained pleasant, and I went to get my crack on at Vedauwoo with Mr. Josh Fog, a former trip leader from the UW Outdoor Program, on a particularly windy Monday afternoon.  When I say particularly windy, bear in mind that I live in Wyoming. 
 We had ourselves a bit of an epic trying to reach the routes we wanted, and the wind was admittedly mentally taxing.  I backed out of the lead on Captain Nemo (5.8) opting to second Josh up it, and was still a little freaked out by the 45 mph winds that blasted us.  It had been a while since I plugged gear on the sharp end too, so I only ended up leading a generic 5.6 line later on.  Regardless, I was happy with that and committed myself to leading every worthwhile 5.6 in the area, followed by every 5.7, and so forth...I have a good sized tick list so it'll be easy to keep track of.
The next weekend soon arrived, and it was another two days at Neverland.  The first day, Jamie Emerson, Brian Capps, Justin Jaeger, and Collin Horvat all came up from various parts of Northern Colorado to check out the area.  Because of a seemingly universal rough Friday night, Davin and I were the only ones to make it out from Laramie, however, Bryan Vansickle did manage to get out of work in Douglas to come down for the weekend.  It was a great crew, and unfortunately I forgot my camera that day...but Jamie   and Davin   didn't, and both have great blogs (and photography skills).   
All of the Colorado guys were really psyched to get on some of the harder problems, particularly Crazy in the Ocean (V10) in Old Neverland and the brand new Power of Contentment (V9), on the huge roadside roof mentioned a couple of posts ago.  Crazy in the Ocean saw 3 more ascents that day, bringing the total to 6, and The Power of Contentment  saw its second ascent and the first ascent of a new variation.  Being the one younger and weaker climber in a group of 7 guys that climb double digit boulder problems was pretty interesting- discouraging and motivating at the same time.  Luckily, like most other truly good climbers, they're all super good people who are just stoked on doing what they do.  Feeling strong from the energy and encouragement of the group, I managed to send my first V6, called Maybe Baby.  This was a big step for me since V6 was my goal for the entire spring season, and yet another taste of the fact that anything is possible if you want it enough.

  The remainder of the daylight was consumed by racing against dusk to show off some of the other Neverland sectors, the most pleasant of which was a stop by the Frontiers wall.  The Frontiers wall is a rocky outcropping that boasts outstanding rock and scenery, which in the low light of the sunset and jovial atmosphere of the group, really captured the essence of what the whole Neverland area is all about: long quiet days on world-class rock with good people.  Later on, everyone departed, and plans were set for the next day.
Just like my first day there, it was the good old crew consisting of Davin, Bryan, and myself.  Without much hesitation, we decided to check out a completely new mountain which had already been known to hold some excellent rock. What we found was much more than expected.  Within no more than 200 meters from the car, we found steep boulder after steep boulder, with many features reminiscent of Hueco Tanks.  Problems and projects started going up fast.
 Taking a breather on a new 5.12a traverse
 Working out the beta on a potential cave problem

I only put up one new line that day, but I was super happy with it.  Hailed as "the best climb of any of the new kids,"  Negative Jugs (V4/5) has a little bit of everything, from crimps to basketball-sized slopers.  Its also quite an aesthetically pleasing line, with interesting features and brightly colored lichens.  Maybe one day, it will be a local classic.
Negative Jugs- can you see them?

After tiring ourselves out, we walked back to the car in a manner that allowed us to see some boulders that we hadn't seen earlier.  We were excited by what we were seeing, especially since we hadn't even really gotten onto mountain itself at all that day.  Just before leaving the area, I caught a glimpse of a large roof in the distance, and casually said "Hey, did you guys see that?"  What ensued was a barrage of "Oh my gods!" and "What the fucks!?" worthy of an Alien stomach-explosion moment.  It appeared as though we had discovered one of the largest roofs in the country, nay, the world!
 A true gem hidden amongst the pines

 What a kid in a candy store looks like

And yes, it has been deemed climbable, and its going down.  This gave us even more insight into what this new area holds.  The sector we worked on today, now called the Aspen Grove, is only a tiny part of what the rest of the mountain has to offer.  Its overwhelming just to think about.  Even if we developed every line on this one peak, there are still dozens of others that are just the same- completely unexplored.  At the end of the day, no matter how much we've accomplished, there will always be far more left undone.
 A parting shot of the Aspen Grove


  1. Well written! I've got to find some time to visit soon. The stone looks so good!

  2. Negative Jugs is already an area classic and the direct exit, once clean, will be remarkable. The other "new kids" around here will have to play catch up for some time to come. Well done!