Coordinates: 42°49’52.5″N 108°43’26.0″W
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate to Hard
There are 1230 miles between Chicago, Illinois and Lander, Wyoming according to Google; an estimated 18-hour drive going west. Thankfully I had 4 of my best friends along with all of our climbing and camping gear. This sounds like the job for an oversized SUV or a rental van, but we used my Subaru Outback to make the trip more intimate. I would probably expand on the unpleasant reality of such a road trip if it hadn’t concluded with the most amazing five-hour view of a sunrise-covered eastern Wyoming on our way into town.
The International Climber Festival happens every summer in Lander, running from Wednesday to Sunday. We had hoped to drive through the night to arrive just in time for the 8 am clinics on Friday. Sacrificing gas mileage allowed us to roll in promptly at 7:50 am Mountain Time, but stuffing our faces at The Middle Fork was the only thing we were going to do that morning. After some mimosas to celebrate our arrival, we made our way to Lander City Park to set up camp along with other festival-goers and the plethora of outdoor companies and sponsors for the trade show.
The trade show features gear suppliers, clothing companies, and climbing journalists — all giving away a ton of free stuff. In addition to the vendors, they were several contests: rope coiling, hangboards, races, crate stacking, and the dyno competition. While dyno comps are met with disinterest and disgust from sport and trad climbing purists, I had a blast participating, punctuated by a third-place finish!
Spenser Tang-Smith and Carlo Traversi finished one-two, but conceded the first-prize boulder pad to me for my efforts! Both guys were a blast to talk to during and after the competition, and I can’t thank them enough for the boulder pad. It’s my favorite memento from our first year at the International Climber Festival!
As the sunlight on the trade show faded Friday night, activities continued in “downtown” Lander, but the free beer from the trade show and the previous night’s marathon drive stole our group’s energy, and we fell victim to an early bedtime.
Saturday morning brought about some chaos in the City Park, as everyone made their way out to Wild Iris for the second day of clinics. My friend Lucas and I headed to The Rock Shop to boulder with our new friend Carlo Traversi, while Jamie spent some really good time trying to overcome a fear of falling and learning tons of valuable information about leading.
Climbing in Lander
The Rock Shop is a newer climbing area which features a variety of bouldering styles and grades. Our group there that morning spent most of our energy working an overhanging V4 whose name I may never know. The roof just beyond the start featured a half-dyno and blind scrambling top-out that got more comfortable with the mutual encouragement from below. Seeing as most of my previous trips have been to sports climb, this was one of my first outdoor boulders, and I couldn’t have been more excited about it.
After our morning clinics, we reunited at Wild Iris to climb a few routes before the keynote speeches back in town. Our shot hands did little work on the sharp faces of Wild Iris, and we left just in time to make the presentations. Hans Florine, Carlo, and Ethan Pringle all spoke of some their recent endeavors on the rock, but I found Alex Johnson’s heartbreaking story about her failure and ability to deal with it on her long-time projects most captivating.
Our last day in Lander was our only chance to visit the Sinks. Barely ten minutes from town, the Sinks offered completely different features than Wild Iris the day before. Upon overcoming the 800-foot elevation gain, met with an incredible cave feature flanked by sixty plus foot sheer walls on both sides. The Sinks are still one of the coolest climbing locations I’ve been too.
We focused on some volume climbing instead of pushing our hands on any project level routes but had the enjoyment of seeing another of our new friends send his first 5.13 on our way out. Nice work, Cole!
I can’t wait to return to the festival next summer with even more friends than this year, but that drive is going to have to change. I think a stop or two in the Dakotas to see the Black Hills will be in order to deliver a more relaxed group of climbers next year.
TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT:
- Bring water and food
- Have a good a geographical dictionary (map) such as a Gazetteer by Delorme
- weather appropriate clothing suggested
- Leave no trace: Please carry out anything you brought with you and please leave the environment as you found it.
- Sunrise and Sunset times
WHO CAN GO: Good for a family trip
Time Duration: Take your time my friend