The first day of fall brought distinct change to Lander, as if God Himself chose the 22nd of September to flip some sort of seasonal ‘switch’. The past few days have found me marveling at the changing colors of the trees, enjoying crisp mornings exploring coffee shops and the local farmer’s market, and breathing the refreshing smell of desert rain. Only four days have passed since my last post, yet it feels like an entirely different season.
Apart from my leisure mornings I spent the past few days familiarizing myself with the Wild Iris. The Iris features short walls of approximately 35 to 50 feet and provides a host of short, powerful sport climbs. The term ‘bouldering on a rope’ has been thrown around more times than I can count, and sums up the style pretty well. The 5.12’s of the Iris have climbers cranking off mono’s and desperately throwing between two-finger-pockets. The style is quite fun, but definitely causes me to stop and think about the longevity of my climbing career. I have backed down from at least one climb simply because the risk of injury was so high.
Saturday I got out with Sophia and her friend Robbie and warmed up on one of the best 5.10’s I have ever done, The Devil Wears Spurs 5.10d, before tackling a fun, bouldery little route called Limestone Cowboy 5.12a. After finding success on my second effort I moved a few lines over and tried a popular 5.12b called Two Kinds of Justice. The route was a blast, but I soon felt that I was gambling with the health of my fingers and decided to walk away. It definitely scares me to try hard on some of this stuff. You never know when it might be too much.
I had difficulty finding a partner for Sunday, but at last connected with a very genial guy named Graham: a friend a Kyle Duba who was visiting from the Vegas area. We met up at the Aspen Glades parking area and were soon chatting and hiking along with professional climbers Daniel Woods, Jamie Emerson, and Dave Graham. I had bumped into Jamie and Daniel a couple times the previous week while Daniel was trying BJ’s latest test-piece, Moonshine 5.14d, and had the chance to congratulate him on his success. Graham and I were soon exchanging faces that read something like, “well this is weird”, as the trio compared our trail to the approach in Ceuse (south of France: possibly the most historic sport-crag in the world) as casually as we might compare two $5-foot-longs at Subway.
We soon parted ways, wishing the Coloradans luck on some ridiculously hard sport-route they planned to try, and climbed the up-hill path towards the Main Wall. We warmed up and then spent the day on a historic little wall called the Rodeo Wave. The short and steep wall consists of four or five lines with several additional link-ups, and hosts some of the most difficult climbing of the Wild Iris. I managed to do the easiest thing on the wall, Bob Marley 5.12b, while Graham made some progress on the neighboring .12c, Bobcat Logic. The routes are essentially 30-foot boulder problems and had me eager to close this sport climbing chapter and make my way to Joe’s Valley. That feeling has since faded. The Wild Iris has a very unique beauty, and I am glad to have a few more days here to continue taking it all in.
Yesterday I met back up with Marc and Lindsay to explore the Aspen Glades area. The weather was quite temperamental, and we spent the day alternating between hunkering under roofs and climbing in the sun. After watching Marc give an assiduous onsight effort, eventually thwarted by a discrete sequence at the last bolt, I was able to flash Spurs Equal Velocity, a goofy .12a featuring two awkward bulges separated by a 5.10 slab. I wasn’t very excited about it, and was glad Lindsay was willing to belay me for back-to-back burns on the area’s much better .12a, Butch Pocket and the Sundance Pump. Once finished we packed up and returned to the Main Wall to meet up with Tim, and were soon contemplating the wisdom of continued climbing as ominous rain clouds loomed near. Marc and Tim were gung-ho as could be as they threw themselves at Full Circle 5.13a and Copenhagen Angel 5.13b, and I was soon geared up to try another .12a called Wind and Rattlesnakes. I fell at the crux and had about 30 seconds to suss out the sequence before a downpour began. ‘Crap. Too high to bail without leavin’ gear so… I guess I’ll keep going!’ Streams of water were pouring over my hands and soaking my shoes as I climbed through the last two bolts to the chains. Adventure climbing! ‘Alpine climbers do this all the time right?’
With that we packed up again and made the long retreat to the car and the promise of shelter. I had hoped to get a full day of climbing before my rest day, and with Marc for company made my way to Elemental for a couple more hours climbing on plastic. It is an impressive facility for such a small town, and it was fun to spend the evening there without thinking about ‘training’.
Today is another rest day, perhaps my last in Lander, and has me comfortably cooped up in the library editing photos, charging the batteries, and catching up on life outside this small bubble. The weather remains grey and questionable, and fall continues to declare its arrival. Lander is beautiful. Fall is here.
Note: Stay tuned for a new dirtbag tip on cooking coming later today or tomorrow.