Weather so good, it’s spooky

Davin Ray Lybbert rock climbs a basalt cliff west of American Falls looking suspiciously like a lion on Saturday. (Courtesy of Davin Ray Lybbert)

This past weekend was a bonanza of outdoor fun across the region.

Friends told me they enjoyed long hikes in the national parks, elk hunting, road cycling, mountain biking, rock climbing, backpacking, camping, fishing, trail running and backcountry skiing. Don’t you just love nice fall days?

On Saturday, I found myself belaying an African lion rock climbing in the basalt cliffs west of American Falls. I think he let out a roar when he reached the top of the route. Strange goings on around Halloween.

It reminds me of the funny story once reported in Climbing magazine about the rebuilding of a gorilla enclosure at the Boston Zoo some years ago.

The plan was to build a more realistic, open air enclosure moving the animals out of a caged display. A steep wall with textured cement was built around the gorilla enclosure. To test the security of the wall, rock climbers were invited to see if it was possible to climb over the tall wall. The idea was that if human climbers could climb the wall, so could gorillas.

The expert rock climbers spent a few days climbing the textured cement and eventually unlocked a way over the wall. Zoo keepers who watched the progress of the climbers decided that since it took the climbers so long to climb the wall, gorillas wouldn’t be able to scale it. But while the climbers were working out the sequences and moves to finally climb over the wall, the gorillas were sitting nearby and watching. After the cage was removed, the gorillas walked to the wall and quickly followed the same sequence they saw their human brothers perform and escaped. The gorillas were hustled back into their cage and construction crews were brought in to remove the texture of the cement wall.

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The Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center at Moose in the Grand Teton National Park has closed for the season.

All visitor centers and campgrounds in the park have also closed for the winter. Visitors can still obtain backcountry camping permits at the Park Headquarters Building during business hours (closed from noon to 1 p.m.) Monday through Friday. On Weekends, contact park dispatch at 307- 739-3301 for backcountry camping permits.

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Fred Beckey, a famous mountaineer and climber who pioneered hundreds of new routes throughout North America, died this week. He was 94.

Wherever you went in the high country, you could assume Beckey had been there first and had already climbed the hardest routes.

His guidebooks have become classics on Western mountaineering. Beckey pioneered climbs in the Tetons and across Idaho. If you ever thought you were the first to climb a peak, you needed to check with Beckey first. He continued his impressive string of climbing even into his 70s and 80s.

I met Beckey several years ago when he made a presentation at Idaho State University in Pocatello. He was in his early 80s and still talking about trying new routes in various mountain ranges across the West. He has inspired and impressed several generations of climbers and alpinists.

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