(gentle music) - We're here at the mouth of the Clarks Fork Canyon just in the Northern edge of Wyoming.
We've been spending the last couple years on this wall over here and putting up some wonderful routes.
So we're on our third route here and the longest, most continuous route.
It's October and the weather is a little bit iffy, but this is probably the last chance we're gonna get to get up on this wall.
So we're gonna give it a go, see how high we can get, maybe get to the summit.
(upbeat music) (gentle guitar music) - So we're in Park County, north of Cody about 25 miles, along the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone.
And Clarks Fork Canyon is an interesting spot geologically, because it's where the Yellowstone Plateau lifted up, so the limestone that was on top of the plateau before it lifted has been tilted and it's left these big, beautiful slabs of rock that are about 2,000 feet long.
- It's a long route.
I mean, we're pushing 2,000-plus feet of continuous climbing, which is awesome.
The exposure's fantastic, the scenery's fantastic.
It's a beautiful space.
It's remote, and yet right off the highway, which is awesome.
Great for us 50-year-olds.
It's been dumping rain for a couple of days, but it's breaking up today.
I think tomorrow's gonna be good but by Monday, Tuesday, we're looking at snow.
I mean, winter is moving in fast here in Northern Wyoming so we need to get this done, we need to get on it and get it done fast.
- We do what is called a team free ascent and that just means one person climbs every individual section, and then the rest of us, we get there by whatever means we need to use.
We're hauling lots of gear and heavy backpacks so we'll ascend the rope that that first person has put up for us, just to make our progress go much quicker because, it's a lot of work.
- The plan is we're gonna climb roughly two thirds of the route today, sleep in a cave that's high on the mountain and then, hopefully with weather coming through the way we want it to, we'll continue on to the summit tomorrow.
(mellow music) - [Climber] Got it?
(Sam whoops) - We just finished the hardest pitch.
This pitch is about a 900, maybe 1,000 feet up.
And we know that unless we run into something we're really not expecting up real high (Sam shouts) we've probably got it so that we have climbed this the way we want it done.
(metal clinking) (climbers chattering) - It's time to switch to whiskey, we've been climbing rocks all day.
Well, we are in our small cave camp.
We climbed 13 pitches to get here.
(upbeat rock music) So, Mike taught me how to climb in 1989, and Sam and I have been climbing together since the early 90s.
And, a few years ago, honestly, I had really gotten out of the sport with having a child.
And Sam suggested that we, once a year, just get together and go do something.
In the first year we went and did something in the north of Dubois.
And then, we had a four-year project in the Wind River Range.
And after we got that done, we were just looking for something else and had a good friend of ours, Bobby Model, suggest that we come up and explore beautiful limestone walls that we had driven by for years.
We finally got on it last year and man, it's been fun.
Well, this will be our fourth route that we've established.
We're not having to really look around for lines, they're pretty natural features.
They lend themselves to saying, hey, look, climb me here.
And I think another thing is they're just gonna be some of the longer routes that are available, you know, really in the country.
- You have a lot of walls in the Alps that are like this.
And limestone in the United States is usually a fractured, broken up rock.
And it's also usually pretty short.
Now, we've got a lot of it in Wyoming, but mostly it's in small segments.
And by small, I mean, you know, 80, 90, 100 feet high.
This, because of the geology of the Yellowstone Plateau tilting up the very bedrock, has made for 2,000-foot slabs of it, which is the kind of thing you find in the Alps.
But this is one of the only places in North America you've got it.
- [Shep] The features are amazing, it's bolted.
It's set up for people to come out and just have a great day.
Some of the routes you can climb with a handful of gear and a 70-meter rope.
And, it's not a big commitment issue because at any point when you decide that you're done for the day, you just can repel back down.
We've set it up that way.
- It's been a lot of effort, weeks and weeks of effort.
This is sort of, the culmination of that effort.
I mean, we're now finally putting it together and putting it in one push, from here bottom to the top.
(intense rock music) Well, here we are on the summit of Buffalo Horn Spire.
Just climbed a 21-pitch free route that we named M11, in honor of our good friend, Bobby Model.
Good day, all the way around.
- Great day.
- It's about 2:00 in the afternoon, 2:30, and time to start heading down.
- It's kind of weird.
My wife doesn't really understand it.
- All right, 2,100 feet to go down.
We enjoy the hard work, we enjoy the climbing, but it's the comradery, I think, that really is why we're here.