Wyoming’s Department of Transportatioi is helping rock climbers stay safe. The agency is not protecting them while they climb.
The $200,000 project will help keep them from getting hit by cars on the way to their climb.
It’s what people call “The Island”. It is canyon of rock walls hundreds of feet high, which draws climbers to Cody, from around the world.
Jackson Hole Mountain Guide Kenny Gasch gives lessons here.
He pointed out, “Northwest College uses it. The Boy Scouts use it. It’s becoming a really, really popular area. And, I see a lot of Montana climbers coming down, Colorado people.”
WYDOT spokesman Cody Beers said, “This has been an area that has drawn hundreds, if not thousands of rock climbers back to the seventies, sixties, eighties.”
But, the only way to get to the popular climbing area is to walk through a dark tunnel, with traffic coming toward you. Gasch carries a red flag, and warns his clients.
He said, “And I tell them this is going to be the most dangerous thing you are going to do all day, is getting to the craig and back.”
The speed limit in the tunnels is 35, but people often drive much faster here.
Gasch nodded, “Yes. And, they’ll come through, and they’ll try and scare you and they’ll beep their horns.”
So, WYDOT is reopening a parking area in the canyon that will allow climbers to drive to the Island.
Beers explained, “People will be able to drive from Cody, through the first two tunnels, and make a right hand turn into the parking area. It will have space for six to eight vehicles.”
Beers said climbers can only turn right to get out of the Island parking lot.
He explained, “You’re in between tunnels. The line of sight is less than we would normally have. You do have a reduced speed limit in this area. But, not everybody drives at that reduced speed limit.”
Beers said the project will start in April. For fourteen days, there will be ten minute waits on either end of the tunnels, while traffic flows one lane at a time.
Gasch smiled, “And we’re really excited that we don’t have to walk through those tunnels anymore.”
The climbing area is on Bureau of Reclamation land that is open to the public.