Trip Report: Fremont Canyon

Wyoming is one of the last holdouts of the wild west. Few regulations and a sparse population keep the cowboy state fun, wild, and free. Some of our favorite places to climb in Wyoming are Vedauwoo, the Wind River Range, and Fremont Canyon.

Vedauwoo has 1.43 billion-year-old Precambrian hornblende biotite granite rich with large feldspar crystals and many endlessly flaring cracks.

The Wind Rivers have countless alpine peaks between 11,000 ft (3350 m) and over 13,000 ft (3960 m), pristine alpine meadows, and numerous first ascents waiting for climbers determined enough to hike over 20 miles in search of the unknown.

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Fremont Canyon is a veritable off the beaten track paradise. Photo Erin DeMarco

Although you have probably heard of the latter two, you may not know about Fremont Canyon. Fremont Canyon is a granite gorge found about an hour’s drive southwest of Casper, Wyoming. It contains Precambrian granite similar to that at Vedauwoo, but much finer-grained.

The granite here is mainly quite smooth, and characterized by both flared and crisp cracks as well as featured faces. The flared cracks are reminiscent of Yosemite and the crisp cracks might well have been imported from the Winds, Long’s Peak, or the Sierras.

Many of the canyon classics were established in the 80s by Steve Petro, Arno Ilgner, Pat Parmenter, Mark Wilford, and a few other prolific climbers.

Two of the most iconic routes in the canyon at a grade accessible to mortals are Steve Petro and Arno Ilgner’s Wine and Roses (1981-82) and Dillingham Blues. (1980-81) Steve Petro was raised climbing in Fremont Canyon, along with Arno Ilgner, Pat Parmenter, and a few other  climbers. A Google search for “Fremont Canyon Wyoming” will return numerous images of Wine and Roses, with a few other routes thrown in. Steve informed me that he has soloed Dillingham Blues (burly 10c) on numerous occasions and even soloed All Time Loser (very burly 11 roof crack) once, and once was enough.

In 1986, Steve Petro put up one of the hardest routes in the world at the time, Fiddler on The Roof (5.13+). The crux of this route is thin fingers through a roof, followed by a dyno to an edge at the lip. The route was unrepeated for 20 years until Peewee (Jean-Pierre Ouellet) nabbed the second ascent, followed by Alex Honnold, Justin Etl, and a few others, albeit with different beta. Steve used a larger finger lock further from the lip, requiring a bigger move. All repeats have used a smaller lock further out the roof, which brings the difficulty down a bit. Regardless of the beta, this is truly an impressive line and something to aspire to. For those of you who don’t already know, Steve Petro was way ahead of his time.

When I first climbed in Fremont Canyon, the summer of 2014, Wine and Roses was the second 10+/11- gear lead I had ever attempted. When I got on it, I hardly even knew how to hand jam! My onsight attempt ended early as my foot slipped near the beginning, leading to a fall right above the belay onto a small nut. Not discouraged, I got back on route and proceeded to charge for the anchors. I got quite a few good pieces of gear in the splitter crack until the climbing got more difficult and, pumped out of my gourd, I punched it into the crux with a hand-sized piece 15 feet below. I was hoping for a hand jam, but instead found a flared, bottoming crack. I tried to pull the thin crux anyway, which resulted in the biggest whipper of my life: a 45 footer which placed me much closer to my belayer than expected. It was big, it was fun, and it was very soft. I then climbed back up the route, placed a piece up higher, and finished the route.

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Tight hands early on Wine and Roses. Photo Gabriel Kiritz


This year, I repeated the route for a redpoint attempt. I found a stemming sequence at the start that really brought down the difficulty.

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Perfect arching hands. Photo Erin DeMarco

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More hands after the arch. Photo Gabriel Kiritz

Most of the route is #1 and #2 Camalots, which is tight hands and perfect hands, respectively. Although the crack arches significantly, there is an abundance of footholds to edge and smear on to take the weight off. I had no problem cruising up the route. A little technique and a lot of experience go a long way.

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Pulling into the thin crux at the top. Photo Gabriel Kiritz

Thin karate chop jams at the crux. Photo Gabriel Kiritz

Thin karate chop jams at the crux. Photo Gabriel Kiritz

Climber and photographer Gabriel Kiritz was around to take some quality photos of the ascent.

I enjoyed the route so much that after my partner followed, I ran 3 more laps on toprope without rest to get a solid pump.

Tony Yaniro after running 7 laps on Equinox (5.12c) in Joshua Tree. Photo by Randy Leavitt

A very pumped Tony Yaniro. Photo Randy Leavitt

As Tony Yaniro once said, “Never pass up the opportunity to get pumped.”

I followed up my ascent of Wine and Roses by climbing Dillingham Blues and attempting Superman, one of the hardest 5.11d routes I have ever tried. I climbed the token sport route, Steve Petro’s Gleaming the Cube (12a), and toproped a number of quality routes, including the phenomenal stemming corner Greystroke (10d), the ultra burly and super high quality Morning Sickness (11+), the insecure Flare to Meddling (11), and a new face climb to the right of these routes. I also followed my lady friend up Cashew Corner (hard 9). For those of you who don’t know, Fremont Canyon might well be the best place to toprope or toprope solo, with virtually no approach to most routes and bomber anchors available almost everywhere.

If you visit Fremont Canyon, spring and fall are the best times to go since the rock can get quite warm in the sun. Be a good steward, pick up your trash, and set a good example for others to follow. The locals from Casper are friendly. Be sure to talk to them and answer their questions.

2 Replies to “Trip Report: Fremont Canyon”

  1. Hello Michel, Nice trip report. Glad you enjoyed Fremont. Miss that place. Wilford did a little climbing there, but wasn’t a local. Pat Parmenter was one of the main developers early on. Also, Wine and Roses and Dillingham Blues were both Petro routes. Pat did Wine and Roses first on aid; Kelly did Dillingham first on aid. But it was Steve and me who freed them. Wanted to share that.

    • Arno, thanks for sharing with us. It’s an honor to have you contribute to our site. I will correct the post to reflect the first free ascencionists. I had read about Pat’s exploits in the canyon but couldn’t recall his last name when I wrote the post.

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