The First Road Trip

Gripped - - EDITORIAL - Bran­don Pullan

When I was 20, I took my first road trip through the U.S. in hopes of climb­ing at as many places as I could. I pur­chased a blue Chevy S- 10 pickup truck for the jour­ney for a few hun­dred dol­lars. My climb­ing part­ner, Noel Gin­grich, had never been on such a trip, we had no idea what we were in for. From On­tario, we drove to the Mount Rush­more area and climbed short routes to the top of small spires; it was dif­fer­ent than any­thing we had climbed in Canada. We spent the nights al­ter­nat­ing be­tween sleep­ing in the back of the truck and sleep­ing on the ground next to the truck. It was mid-July with no rain in the fore­cast.

Next, we vis­ited Spearfish Canyon in South Dakota, which is a place ev­ery­one should ex­pe­ri­ence at least once. From there, we drove to Devil’s Tower and climbed a num­ber of routes up the steep basalt col­umns. The clas­sic El Mata­dor ru­ined our had­n­ever-stemmed-like-that legs and while we did not send the route on our first try, we also couldn’t walk for a cou­ple of days. Then we drove to the Te­tons, where the rain started. That is when we dis­cov­ered the cap on my truck-box had holes. We left Wy­oming for sun­nier skies and to dry our soaked sleep­ing gear. The sunny skies re­turned in Utah, where we vis­ited Mill Creek, the Cot­ton­wood Canyons and St. Ge­orge. The far­ther we headed, the hot­ter it got. Af­ter vis­it­ing more small crags, we drove to Tuolumne and Yosemite. Labour Day week­end, as we dis­cov­ered, was a busy time to visit the na­tional park. We avoided the val­ley and climbed big routes on domes in the mead­ows.

Af­ter climb­ing for nearly a month, we took a break for some down­hill moun­tain bik­ing at Mam­moth Lakes and Ta­hoe. We then drove to ucla, where we watched the Red Hot Chilli Pep­pers per­form a free con­cert. From there, we took the wind­ing high­way up the coast to Ore­gon and Smith Rocks. It didn’t take long for us to re­al­ize the ru­mours of Smith Rocks’ sport climb­ing were true. The spacey bolts and volcanic tuff were un­like any­thing we had climbed on the road. Our last stops in the U.S. were Trout Creek and In­dex in Wash­ing­ton. We fin­ished the trip by climb­ing in Squamish un­til mid-Septem­ber. It was our first visit and af­ter weeks on the road, we felt strong. We put our time on the rock to the test and climbed a num­ber of hard big routes we wouldn’t have been able to be­fore the trip.

By the time we re­turned home, we were two weeks late for univer­sity, but I wouldn’t trade that trip for any­thing. We vis­ited dozens of crags, climbed world-class routes and had the time of our lives. You only get to make a trip like that for the first time once, so you have to make it count. Happy road tripping sea­son this 2016.

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