Back to Tim's Home Page    Tim's 1992 Roadtrip

A 3 month rockclimbing tour of the USA

"100 Days of Climbing, Camping, Hiking, Fishing, and HotSprings"

Ricky was getting tired of receiving my postcards from all over the country every summer, and he decided to take a roadtrip of his own.  He bought an old van, customized it a bit, and asked me if I wanted to come along.  Being an opportunist, and being a consultant (read; bum) where I set my own work schedule, he didn't have to ask me a second time!

We were both big into mountaineering and rockclimbing at the time, so that was the focus of the trip. We climbed for week after week at all of the great climbing areas around the USA and Canada. We did some awesome climbs up in the Tetons as well as the Bugaboos and everywhere else. We spent a couple weeks in one of the all time coolest climb spots anywhere; "City of Rocks" near Oakley, Idaho. We took daily soaks in the local hotsprings whenever we could. In Idaho and Montana there were hotsprings everywhere, and we would drive hours visit them, camp nearby, climb during the day, and soak every morning and evening.

We met so many cool folks on this trip. We met "Mary and the Juggler" at a hotspring that we slept in one night. The next morning, their van was still up by the roadside. They gave us some much needed coffee to start the day; it was fifty percent expresso, and the other half was Jack Daniels. I think we ended up back in the hotspring till noon, but I'm not real clear on the rest of that day.  I do know that sometimes we climbed for seven days straight, and were trying to take occasional days off for recovery and R&R. (Yeah right; the whole three month roadtrip was R&R!!!)

Rick's girlfriend Ann came out to join us for three weeks in Montana, and the hikes we all took together are some of my best memories of the whole voyage. We'd backpack into alpine lakes up at 12,000 feet for some fly fishing, and find that they were still half iced over, even in August! The cutthroat trout up there were so wild. Ricky caught a bunch, but I only caught one. By hand! I trapped him against a rock! Anne and Ricky married soon after, and hopefully one day little Erik will go back there with Mom and Dad.

Backpacking in Montana; Ricky fishing for Cutthroat Trout at 11,000 feet
   Ricky flyfishing for native trout at 11,000 feet!

Living together in a van for three months,,,,  climbing, hiking, eating, drinking, camping, etc. together, can wear on your nerves. I'd head off for a week or so to give us a break from each other. One morning I hitch-hiked over to Idaho, about 400 miles and seven rides away. (Man, Idaho was wierd! By some strange coincidence, Ricky and I were at Ruby Ridge the day that Randy Weaver surrendered after a 10 day standoff with the F.B.I., but that is a whole nother story!) While solo in Idaho, I spent a couple days at Jigger Johnson Hot Springs, and met some wonderful folks there. One old guy, who owned the Grubsteak restaurant up on top of a mountain an hour away, offered me a ride back to town. I spent the next three days at his place, riding horses with him during the day, working at the restaurant at night. That was one heck of a special place and time. He was in his sixties, and getting to sell the whole shebang to his wife and go travel for a few years.

Devil's Tower, Wyoming!  This was one of those sacred climbs that I was really looking forward to. We we not really sure if it was "do-able" by climbers like us, but we set up camp right next to the Tower and spent the evening scouting out a good route. Several climbers we met coming in for the evening assured us that we had the gear, experience and time to complete some of the easier routes. Finding the rappel station on the summit to exit before nightfall would be critical. We decided 'four thumbs up', we'd give it a shot in the morning. We hiked the circular trail around the tower around sunset, and the colors from the alpenglow are one of those memories that will be with me forever!  The next morning was cool and perfect for climbing.  As we ate our Wheaties and milk (see photo below) , and watched the fog burn off, Rick realized that we had to meet Ann at the airport over in Montana that evening. I think he knew then that he might marry her some day, so we blew off the climb in favor of not leaving Ann stranded at the airport. Bummer. Luckily we still had 10 weeks of climbing ahead of us.  (Knowing what I know now, and being older and one day closer to death, next time I'd send a limo to the airport with a note saying "honey, thanks for understanding, have the limo driver bring ya home, tip him well, and I'll see ya around midnight if all goes well!")

Breakfast at Devil's Tower; Ricky trying to decide between climbing or picking up his girlfriend at the airport!

Heading to the Tetons, and having extra time, we stopped at the local cowboy bar in Cody. They had an old dusty unopened bottle of scotch (Johnny Walker Black) on the top shelf; much too expensive for the locals to drink. We convinced the bartender that it was just regular cheap stuff, so he opened it and poured us shots for $1.25.   Smoooooth!    But he said no one else had or would ever touch the stuff, so he wanted our assurance that we would be in town long enough to finish off the bottle. Heck, we tried, to no avail, but we did promise him that we would be back "soon" to work on it some more.

Tim and Ricky scouting a route up South Teton

 [photo of  Ricky and Tim at about 11,000 feet in an alpine meadow (note the alpine flowers) scouting a new route (it has yet to see a second successful attempt) up South Teton (not in photo, but Grand (left) and Middle in background) We did Middle the previous day.]

The peaks in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming were awesome.  We had near perfect weather, and did four days up high. Had permits for Grand, Middle and South Teton, and summitted two of the three. When we woke up to attempt the Grand Teton at 4 a.m., we were in the middle of an incredible thunderstorm. All the other parties except two blew it off and slept in; one party bailed half way up, the other summitted. Sure enough, it cleared nicely by late morning (too late to climb) and we spent the day chatting with Nancy Feagen and other cool alpinists. We did some ridge scrambles and had a great day. Our climbs up Middle and South were spectacular! At the end of it all, we exited west, just south of the Grand, down a new route; the "Driskell-Johnson Death Gully".  It only sees about one attempt a year, and for good reason. It is steeper than you-know-what, and all scree, ledge, and tricky down-climbing. But interspersed between the drops are the most beautiful alpine meadows that I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot! These meadows seemed so sacred, and appeared to have never seen any other visitors. Except bear; lots of bear sign. While downclimbing a small cliff, Ricky got to a slot that was too tight to downclimb with his backpack on. We had five days of stuff, plus climb gear, so the packs were big and heavy. So he took his pack off, and carefully dropped it down to the next ledge. Well, you can guess what happened, but it was all in slow motion to us. The pack bounced, and started to roll, but very slowly at first. The gully continued for another two thousand feet down to the valley, and the pack was rolling and bouncing near terminal velocity when luckily it smacked into a huge boulder and blew into pieces. Rick was able to recover most of his stuff, though half of it was trashed.  We both laugh till it hurts every time we remember that day. Needless to say, we had the most awesome bivouac that night down on some ledges near a river. Sleep never felt as good as it did that night.

"Roaches in the Ashtray...."  We heard that over the portable radios of the Canadian customs officers one evening....

  They were searching our van, pretty much had it all torn apart, about six guys in military uniforms! They all had guns!  They were getting real frustrated 'cause they couldn't find anything illegal (we had Nothing illegal, except maybe just slightly more than the legal maximum allowable alcohol in the fuel bottles for our alpine stoves!), and we were just laughing at them and having fun with it all. They were sure they could find something. They had all our gear spread out on the ground, all kinda ransacked and opened, and they were getting very frustrated with us, when their radios crackled from one of the other customs inspectors; "Red Nissan, roaches in the ashtray...!"  They all said "Yee-haw" and took off running towards the Red Nissan! The last guy said to us ".... hey, you guys are free to go, have a nice day!"  We said to the guy, "what about all our stuff?"  He just smiled, and took off to search the Nissan.    So we said "yahoo, let's go party".

The Bugaboos in Canada were one of the coolest places we visited. The place is a huge iceflow, with massive granite monoliths everywhere. We hooked up with Jan from New Mexico, and climbed Bugaboo Spire. That was one wild week! We spent almost a week up at the Conrad Kain Hut, and did some excellent classic alpine routes.

Rick on Bugaboo Spire, pinned to the beautiful granite rock.
Ricky and Jan roping up on Bugaboo Spire in the Canadian Rockies


Camped for a week at "City of Rocks" National Recreation Area, climbing 10 hours a day, day after day... awesome!

Backpacking in the Tetons

Tim near the summit of one of a dozen alpine climbs

I took this shot about 800 feet up a 1500' climb, looking down at Ricky.... our van is parked down on the road



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Page created by Tim D; August, 1999 (updated 10/99)