Listening for rattlers at a new climbing area

He was about 30 feet up a vertical rock wall Saturday when rock climbing friend Tanner Pursley suddenly yelped and said, “TAKE!” It was unexpected because he was climbing a relatively easy route.

“TAKE, TAKE, TAKE, TAKE!” he repeated again to his belayer. The rope went taut and he hung there obviously excited. At first, I thought he was anxious about a loose rock on the wall. “I have a little friend up here in the crack,” he said, pointing to a spot where his hand had just been holding on. “A baby rattlesnake.”

After a minute to relax, a few photos and an Instagram video, he climbed around the reptile and finished the route. No one else seemed interested in doing the climb.

Saturday we were visiting a new climbing area — at least new to me — called Teddy Bear Cove. It’s a series of basalt rock walls surrounding a vast sandy area west of American Falls and north of Massacre Rocks. The area gets its name because it is roughly shaped like a teddy bear when seen on Google Earth. A few Pocatello climbers have been busy developing the area in the past year.

One of the area’s developers, Mike Engle, sent me a preliminary guide to the area with directions, route listings and ratings. Most of the crags are on Idaho state land. Two walls are on BLM land. Route developers have been busy lately — more than 100 routes were put up in 2016. The area is extremely popular with motorcyclists and ATVers. They love the giant sandlot to zoom around on. What that means is you’ll have to have a certain tolerance for noise if you climb at these crags.

At one point, dirt bikers stopped to watch me as I topped out on a route, the sound of their revving motors told me I had an audience.

Perhaps the best part about the Teddy Bear Cove crags is its ease of access. Compared to driving to Massacre Rocks, it’s a cake walk.

With a high-clearance vehicle, such as a Subaru, you can drive to the rim of the canyon and hike down to the base of some of several of the…

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