Steamboat residents to hit the road for climbing adventure |

Steamboat residents to hit the road for climbing adventure

Shannon Bender, left, and Katy Nelson plan to embark on a nine-month, cross-country rock climbing journey. The two friends began climbing in college and have been saving money for several months to fund their trip.
Brian Ray

— What began as a far-fetched dream nearly four years ago is now a reality for two Steamboat Springs residents. Beginning in April, friends Katy Nelson and Shannon Bender will take to the road and follow a mutual passion unusual for two Nebraska natives – rock climbing.

Nelson and Bender met in the University of Nebraska’s indoor climbing facility when both were first-time climbers. During their years at school, the pair climbed all week at the indoor wall, then packed their car with gear and headed west to Colorado for a weekend of outdoor climbing, driving almost 10 hours through the night to ensure a full day on the rocks.

During these car trips, talk often turned to the ultimate adventure: a nine-month, cross-country road trip with stops at famous climbing sites.

“We just kept building onto each other’s ideas for the trip about where we wanted to go,” Nelson said. “The more we talked, the more we decided we had to do it.”

Using recommendations from other climbers and guidebooks, Nelson and Bender plan to stop at more than 20 climbing spots around the country starting next month. The two women will begin driving south, stopping first in Texas to visit the Enchanted Rocks climbing site, among other locations. Traveling northeast through Arkansas and Tennessee, the girls plan to go as far as Maine before returning west. Looping north to South Dakota and Wyoming, then through California, the two plan to end their journey in Arizona sometime next winter.

“We’ve been dreaming of this trip for four years,” Bender said Friday. “It’s a dream come true.”

The two plan to camp or sleep in the back of Bender’s jeep for the majority of the journey to save money. Other than two weddings in the Midwest this summer, Nelson and Bender have no real itinerary to follow other than the best weather for specific regions of the U.S.

“This is the trip of a lifetime,” Bender said. “Now that it’s happening we can’t stop smiling.”

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