French Tickler (11c) and Petit Crapon (5.8+)
Although not considered a part of Central Vedauwoo, Poland Hill might be the first major crag one sees after exiting the interstate to make the short drive into Central Vedauwoo and the Vedauwoo Recreation Area.
Poland Hill consists of two main crags, the more distinctive of which is today called the Rat Brain. On the Rat Brain are a couple area trad classics, Kim and Fantasia.
In the mid-1800s, this area was called Skull Rocks. Later, people called it the Sentinel.
In spite of being so easily seen from the road, Poland Hill has a "wilderness" feel that the crags of Central Vedauwoo largely lack. The latter crags often involve approaches of just a few minutes' time, but getting to Poland Hill requires driving a somewhat-rough dirt road and then hiking nearly a mile. No, that's not exactly a remote destination, but it feels that way in comparison to the most popular spots at Vedauwoo
Heel and Toe
by Rob Kelman and Skip Harper has a lot of great information, including photos and diagrams, on Poland Hill. The Mountain Project page
has good route information but isn't organized all that well. Your best online resource is probably the Vedauwoo.org Poland Hill page
, which divides the crag into four sections and then has pictures, diagrams, and descriptions of the routes. While I find the organization style a little confusing (some routes are shown on more than one page, and the page subdivisions seem more about what one sees from certain directions than they are about distinct sections), it works.
Also, try the Forest Service site
. Though it's not good for climbing information, it's decent for general information.
Even if you aren't a climber, Poland Hill is worth a visit just to get away from the crowds and hike and scramble around on the beautiful rock there.
Poland Hill, with the Rat Brain, at Dawn
From I-80 between Laramie and Cheyenne, leave the highway at Exit 329, marked for Vedauwoo. This is about 16 miles from Laramie. Take Vedauwoo Road east. After crossing a cattle guard, turn left onto a dirt road and drive (2 miles at most) to its end.
The road can be rough. High clearance is helpful.
Vedauwoo Road is usually clear of snow by May and sometimes as early as April.
After parking, follow a use trail downhill toward a stream and beaver ponds. Unless the water is unusually high, it should be easy to cross and keep your feet dry. Then follow the trail to the crag. It takes about 15 minutes to get there.
Approaching the Rat Brain
Poland Hill has a number of trad, sport, and toprope routes ranging from 5.4 to 5.12b. There are bouldering problems from V2 to V12. This page will not simply copy what is already on the linked sources; please go to them for more information. Instead, this page will recommend on a few classics and comment on some other routes I have gotten on.
From what I have gleaned from other sources, there are at least three area classics:
- Kim (5.6)-- This is the diagonal crack on the Rat Brain easily seen from the road. Often, you can see a climber on it as well. On Mountain Project, there are many commenters raving about this climb. It's a nice climb, though short (maybe 40'), to bolted anchors, but I don't get all the fuss. Maybe it's because the crack eats pro and it's not an off-width. I led this with a set of stoppers, a set of Master Cams, and the #7 and 8 Power Cams.
- Fantasia (5.9)-- Once rated 5.10 but since downgraded. This is the off-width to the right of Kim, even more easily seen from the road. I haven't climbed it, and online comments suggest this one is a real grunt (and bleedfest).
- Skull (5.10a)-- Hand crack on the SE side of Poland Hill.
Poland Hill and Skull (10a)
Fantasia (5.9) and Cool Jet (5.11)
In addition to Kim, I got on these as well:
- Southwest Friction, 5.4-- This is a slab climb immediately left of Kim. There are two bolts. If you fall before the bolted anchors, there is a good chance you will deck. So have two quickdraws or alpine slings, maybe three just in case you drop one, and then use the bolted anchors above Kim for belay and rappel.
- Little Old Crack (AKA Boulder Hop), 5.5-- From Kim, scramble down and west a bit, and then back up, to get to this crack climb. I started up this climb, placed a few pieces, and then went back down because it was cold and windy and I didn't feel like grunting up such a short route. Plus, my belayer was pretty miserable in those conditions. Note: put a piece in at the very start; below the start is an alcove, and that "ground piece" will keep you from falling into it.
Little Old Crack (aka Boulder Hop), 5.5
When to Climb
May through October typically.
There is a 28-site campground in the recreation area. It is first-come, first-served and fills quickly on weekends in good weather. Vault toilets and drinking water are available, though in July 2014 the water wasn't flowing or I was just at the wrong pump. The camping fee was $10 per night in July 2014. Closed during the winter, the campground is usually open by the beginning of June.
However, you can camp free of charge at the end of the dirt road that approaches Poland Hill. Also, you could backpack in and camp right at the base, though that really only saves 15-20 minutes each way and means hauling more gear.