“I’m willing to bet that the drive and the walk will take more time than the climbing will, even with three of us.” Above us lay 200 feet of granite slab and crack climbing, behind us, a twenty minute drive and forty-five minute hike. “That doesn’t even include the walk or drive back either” I continue.
We are on a bit of a tighter schedule, despite the loveliness of the evening, the handful of other wonderful climbs to choose from, and the aforementioned fact. Des is riding a re-ration in the morning and that means a five AM (or earlier) start. An early evening will set her up for much more success in that endeavor.
There are relatively few places in the Wind River Range that offer easy access granite crack climbing. The Granite Buttress at the top of Sinks Canyon is one. Scab Creek Buttress, a quick drive above Three Peaks Ranch, on the other side of the range, is another. Despite having spent most of my summer at Three Peaks in 2018, I never managed to make the journey. This summer though, I have been feeling a pull toward the mountains, one that needed an outlet, even if only two hundred feet of one. So as I packed for a quick trip to Three Peaks to facilitate a briefing, I threw a rack and rope into my bag with the hopes I could convince Des to go up for a quick rock climb.
In the cookhouse, I posed the idea and Andy, sitting there too, jumped on board with the idea and a plan was made for a Friday afternoon excursion up into the foothills. Dry Fly, a 200 foot, two pitch, mostly 5.5 crack climb was to be the objective. The guidebook author called it the most popular route at the buttress and it earned two stars from him. Mountain Project also cast a favorable light on it, so around three on Friday I started to track down Andy and Des and make some sort of plan.
Climbing has long been a constant in my life, the outdoors even longer. The introduction of home ownership, combined with my development as a horsepacker, and the taking of an office job has led to a decrease in these constants. Earlier in the week I had failed at finding a partner for a day trip adventure to do Lander’s local mountain multi-pitch, The Giant’s Bite, up in Leg Lake Cirque. Sport climbing at various locations around Lander has been rewarding this summer, but as always, it is not the same as crack climbing and being in the mountains. The Scab Creek sojourn was take two. This small route on the edge of the wilderness hardly qualifies either, but is a step in the right direction.
Andy led the first pitch, with Des and I following. A moderately steep hand crack and a slab traverse which led to a fun low angle flake crack. Before long we are all standing at a lovely, two bolt anchor, belay stance. On the hill to the west a NOLS course is camped and their words of encouragement occasionally float over.
I continue up the beautiful stone of the 5.5 second pitch. A discontinuous crack offers enough protection, and solid, textured rock makes for good friction and handholds. Slab and crack moves lead up to a slanting ledge, an anchor, and a belay. I pull in the rope, put Des on belay, and enjoy the view out across the Green River Valley toward the Wyoming Range, thankful for the overcast sky and the shade it is providing us on this south facing buttress.
We again group up, untie, thread the ropes, and get set to rappel. One 190-foot rappel has me back on the ground quickly. We pulled and coiled the ropes and retraced our steps to the car. The mosquitos and horseflies chase us unceremoniously down the hill to the Coors waiting in the car.
Turns out I am right; the approach took much longer than the climbing. Heck that didn’t even include the deproach. And I can’t help but feel that I want more, but I feel happy. Two new climbing partners and a new route at a might-as-well-be-new-to-me climbing venue will do that. I may have been left wanting more, but once again, the mountains, the climbing, provided.
Featured Image: The Southern Wind River Range, July 5, 2019 from the Muddy Speedway.