SHERIDAN — Until four years ago, Justin Case had never rock climbed in his life. Now he can’t get enough of it.
The sport is a perfect blend of the outdoors and athleticism. It allows Case to wander deep into remote areas and test his physical aptitude. So what does rock climbing entail? How does one get started? What kinds of climbs do the Bighorn Mountains have?
The Sheridan Press sat down with Case — who works at Bighorn Summit — a seasoned climber who ventures up in the mountains multiple times a week to quench his climbing thirst.
The Sheridan Press: How did you start out rock climbing?
Case: I didn’t know anything about climbing until a guy that I worked with moved here because of Ten Sleep Canyon. I was always into the outdoors and nature and also athletics, so it was a good combination. I was hooked right away.
TSP: What kind of equipment does one need?
Case: I sport climb. For that you need a rope, harness, shoes, chalk bag, quickdraws and carbiners.
TSP: How many climbs have you done?
Case: Maybe around 100 climbs. The guide book we have now has around 750 routes for the eastern Bighorn Mountains.
TSP: When you say 750 routes, what does that mean?
Case: A route has pre-placed bolts. People go up and drill a 3-inch hole and put a big bolt in about every 10 feet, so climbers can clip in as they move up.
TSP: Have you developed any routes and what prompted you to do so?
Case: I’ve developed two routes and both are in Piney Creek Canyon. I don’t know why I developed them exactly. Just when you see a piece of rock and it looks inspiring, you want to climb it.
TSP: What’s your favorite climb?
Case: There’s one up in Piney Creek at the Shipyard called the Kraken, which is this beautiful blue streak which is pretty unique for the limestone that’s here. Also, the White Knight in Tongue River Canyon is really classic.
TSP: How long does a typical climb take?
Case: It varies, for sure, but usually 5-6 minutes. It’s not that long of a climb, anywhere between 70-100 feet, so it’s not super tall spots. Usually I’m trying to push myself on difficulty and do difficult moves.
TSP: What’s the most difficult climb you’ve done?
Case: The White Knight in Tongue River Canyon is the most difficult. It’s ranked as a 5.11D.
TSP: What’s the most difficult hike in the Bighorns?
Case: There’s a Mike Williams route up at Steamboat Point that’s a 14B.
TSP: What muscles do you use in a climb?
Case: Well, it depends on the climb. You should be using a lot of core, especially steep climbing. You have to hold your feet up in front of you. But it’s mostly in your forearms. And a lot of it is not in muscles you’re trying to develop but the strength in your tendons and fingers. You pull down on your fingertips really hard. It is more about endurance and not pure strength. But again, it depends on the climb.
The Bighorn Mountains are an outdoorsmen’s paradise. There are countless things to do, and sport climbing is one of the many activities one can do.
Case, who had always been an outdoor enthusiast, found sport climbing a few years back and had been passionate about it ever since.