Ice climbing: The other type of climbing in Ten Sleep Canyon
Locals started ice climbing in Ten Sleep Canyon long before any bolted routes were established in what is now a world famous sport climbing area. Ten Sleep’s classic ice climbs offer relatively easy access, dependable winter conditions, and aesthetic lines for a wide range of climbing abilities. And if you’re up for it, the sunny walls on the north side of Ten Sleep Canyon make for a great multi-sport day of climbing both rock and ice.
Classic ice climbing routes in Ten Sleep Canyon and surrounding areas:
- Leigh Creek Falls (WI3-4)
Leigh Creek Falls (WI3-4, 45m, 2 pitches) is Ten Sleep Canyon’s most dependable and easily accessible ice climb. A classic two pitch climb in a beautiful location on the shady side of the canyon.
Season: Leigh Creek Falls consistently sets up by mid November and stays in through mid March.
Approach: Park past the old fish hatchery near the old Highway 16 gate. Walk up the closed road for a mile, taking care not to ruin the nordic ski tracks. Once you see the falls, follow a climbers’ trail on the west side of the small creek below the falls.
- Pitch 1 (WI3-): Enjoyable climbing follows the runnel up and right of the curtain above to 2 bolt anchors. 60m rope will get you down.
- Pitch 2 (WI4): Best linked with pitch 1. 15m steep curtain leads to a bulge and a tree anchor. Double rope rappel.
Access issues: DO NOT DRY TOOL on the bolted climbs to the right of the falls. These are classic moderate sport climbs known for their beautiful rock, please don’t scratch them up!
- Ten Sleep Falls (WI4)
Ten Sleep Falls (WI 4, 60m, 2 pitches) is the most aesthetic yet ephemeral climb in Ten Sleep Canyon. The climb tends to set up in extended periods of cold and cloudy conditions due to its south facing aspect.
Season: January – February
Approach: Park at the turnoff for the old highway, walk up the road 1/4 mile past the Forest Service sign, then hike up the steep slope toward the climb. Microspikes and crampons recommended for the approach.
- Pitch 1 (WI4): The money pitch! 20m of perfect WI4 to slightly easier terrain and rolling steps. Belay off juniper. Gets full sun – climb in early morning or late afternoon.
- Pitch 2 (WI4): Short but fun pillar. Two double rope rappels to the base of the climb.
- Tapout (WI6)
Tapout (WI6 25m) is the most challenging ice climb in the Bighorn Mountains to date. Can be tricky to get in right conditions – be careful on this one.
FA: Aaron Mulkey 2014
Season: January – March
Approach: Park at the Canyon Creek BLM trailhead off Rome Hill Rd. Follow trail through BLM easement into the canyon, then cross Canyon Creek on makeshift bridge, and follow climbers’ trail up the hillside, crossing over into the side canyon.
Route: Climb a free-standing pillar atop a large limestone cave with wild exposure over cliffs below. Tree anchor above.
Access issues: Dubious development tactics went into creating the many sport routes you’ll see on the steep caves across from the ice climb. Don’t put our access to climbing in Ten Sleep at risk by manufacturing (drilling, chipping, glueing etc.) rock climbs!
Ice climbing courses available in Ten Sleep:
Resources for planning your ice climbing trip to Ten Sleep:
- Nearby accommodations: Ten Sleep RV Park, Meadowlark Lodge
- Food and drink: Sleepy Coyote Bar and Cafe, Ten Sleep Brewing Company, Ten Sleep Saloon and Restaurant
- Groceries, coffee, and supplies: Dirty Sally’s General Store
- Gas: The Pony Express
- Rest day attractions: Castle Gardens Scenic Area, Medicine Lodge State Park and Archaeological Site, Washakie Museum
Interested in ice climbing with us in Ten Sleep Canyon? Send us an email with your name, email address, and brief description of what you’re looking for.