Driving west out of Cody, Wyoming, into the gaping Shoshone Canyon that leads to Yellowstone, it’s easy to wind right by the hundreds of climbing routes hidden down below, tucked away to the side, and yawning up above the road, without ever knowing they are there.

But they are there – waiting to be climbed.  

And of those 330 climbing routes in the canyon, there are six brand new ones that span the spectrum of climbing difficulty: From fun and easy to what could possibly be the hardest route in Cody.

Here, the new routes, all bolted in the past six months, listed from least to most challenging:
1. In with the New, 5.8

It’s an awesome climb. It’s cool that it’s at the Island, which makes it really accessible … Destined to be a classic,” said Mike Snyder, who has put up nearly 200 routes in both the Cody and Ten Sleep areas in the past 20 years.

Bolted by – Mike Snyder

Location – The Island.  

MikeClimbing2. Life’s a Beach, 5.10b

“Trending leftward, this route follows a unique pathway of holds on some of the best stone in the canyon,” said Cody native John Morrison, 19, who has bolted seven routes in the Cody area.

Bolted by: Mike Snyder

Location – North side of the Lower Canyon on the NWCC Wall.

3. Dark Side of the Moon, 5.12d

Mike describes this as a “hard, short boulder route.” John said, “We’re still debating whether it’s a 5.12d or a 5.13a.”

Bolted by – John Morrison

Location – North side of the Lower Canyon on the Highland Ridge. 

4. Dalwhinnie, 5.10c

“A technical and fun dihedral that welcomes the creative climber – very different from its neighbors on the Single Malt Wall,” said John.

Bolted by: John Morrison

Location – North side of the Lower Canyon on the Single Malt Wall.

5. Macallan, 5.12c

“One of my favorite scotches, and the route just happened to turn out to be a real stunner,” said Mike.

Bolted by: Mike Snyder

Location – North side of the Lower Canyon on the Highland Ridge. 

6. Amazeballs, 5.13b

“Probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever climbed; I actually wanted to give it an even harder grade,” said Mike.

Bolted by: Mike Snyder

Location – North side of the Lower Canyon on the Riverside Wall.

 

One does not have to be familiar with Cody’s Shoshone Canyon or to go with a local climber to access these new routes. There is a new mobile application called Rakkup now available for purchase, which provides maps, locations, descriptions, tips, gear necessities and more for every named route in the Cody area (and any climbing area in the country). Search these routes by their name, or by their broader location or wall. 

0503_Blackwall_BenTo a climber just coming into the sport, most of these routes might seem to fall into a difficult class. Cody’s rock landscape offers itself to the arduous. 

“We get this broad range, but the canyon lends itself to harder grades,” said Cody native and seasoned climber Jason Litton, who has put up around 25 routes in the Shoshone Canyon. “We’ll look at a line, and want to put it up, and not be sure what it’s going to be – it tends to be at least a 5.11 or up. It’s just the way the rock is; it bends itself to more difficult routes.”

 Much of the difficulty comes from the characteristics of Cody’s main rock variety: Granite.

“Granite, especially this lower canyon granite, is very different from the limestone climbing in Ten Sleep or Lander – that climbing can be more straightforward and easier to read,” said Jason. “Granite is challenging in that it can be very difficult to read, and it requires you to use all your tricks in the book: Hand jamming in a crack, stemming, crimps, pockets, slopers … It throws the full gamut at you as far as climbing technique goes, which really challenges people, especially if you don’t climb a lot. There are many times you might look up at the wall saying, ‘I don’t know what to do.’” 

Climbers have been figuring out what they need to do to scale the steep granite cliffs of the Shoshone Canyon for more than a century.

“Climbing started in this canyon when they were building the [Buffalo Bill] Dam –the workers who were building it were down there 100 years ago in their spare time for that five or six years it took to build. I’m told those were some of the first climbers to explore the lower canyon,” said Mike. “There have been waves since then, of pioneers and developers. Every couple generations we have a group that gets psyched about rock climbing.”

 And with seasoned developers like Mike and Jason passing their passion on to route setters like John, we are amidst a generation that is indeed very psyched about developing climbing in our area.

“We’re in a gold rush of route development fever,” said Jason. “More and more people are saying, ‘Oh, this canyon has a lot to offer. I want to get in on this and be part of it and be part of the development process. I’ve seen three new people in the last year who have started developing routes.”

For those climbers who dedicate themselves to knowing (and perhaps conquering) all the routes in an area, their natural next step might be seeing what they would add.   

0503_Balls_John

“I think it’s the natural progression of most climbers that they will go around and do others’ routes, and eventually they’ll be inspired by something and ask themselves where they fit into the whole process,” said John. “I grew up climbing kind of on and off in Cody, and I didn’t really start figuring out what’s there until a couple of years ago. After a couple of years of solid climbing, I started asking myself that question: What do I have to contribute? And I just found it. I had a really amazing resource – Mike, who was willing to teach me how to do this. I felt I needed to make a contribution to the community, and it’s awesome. It’s fun. I love doing it.” 

With more routes, more climbers, and more route setters to ensure climbing opportunities in Cody continue to progress, the future is looking up.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve only scratched the surface, but there is so much potential in Cody – it has a huge climbing potential over the next 10 – 20 years,” said Cody native Bryant Hall, who has been climbing for the past decade. “I think it will continue to become more of a regional pull than it already is. It’s grown, and right now it’s on the heels of mountain biking. In the coming years, Cody is going to turn into more and more of an outdoor destination.”

 Despite growing attention to Cody’s jaw-dropping climbing prospects, it has not yet begun to draw crowds the likes of some of its regional neighbors (Colorado, Utah), and climbers can still hang on its cliffs as though they have the top of the world all to themselves.  

 “The rock is amazing, and for me the best thing about it is there’s nobody on it – You get out there and have the cliff to yourself half the time,” said longtime Cody climber Yvette Whitaker. “That solitude – you don’t get that in other climbing areas, where you have people on both sides of you waiting for their turn at the route. Here, you still have real solitude.”

The rock in Cody’s lower canyon is waiting, calling: Will you take the climb?

“When I walk down that canyon, I see the rock like it’s been waiting for climbers all along,” said John. “It’s such an amazing position. It’s kind of hard to believe you can drive 10 minutes out of town and be on super high-quality stuff. I see it as being this kind of playground for climbers where people can come, visit, and really know about it because it’s quite an amazing resource of rock we have here in Cody – not just compared to the rest of Wyoming, but compared to anywhere.”

 By Virginia Schmidt