The First Road Trip
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.