Today was my final day in Lander, and a perfect bookend to the Wyoming chapter of the trip. Great food, fun climbing, more beautiful scenery, and stories and laughs shared with new friends. I am awed and humbled by the generosity and welcome shown to me by the folks I have met here. I never thought two weeks was enough time in a place to feel at home. I guess I was wrong. Nice one Lander.
On Wednesday I made plans to climb with Sylvia back at Sinks Canyon. We were soon joined by Steve Bechtel, and spent the afternoon scaling rocks and laughing a LOT. Steve brings a lighthearted attitude to the crag, and provides a perfect balance of humor and focus. He makes you smile while doing what he can to help you succeed. I have a ton of respect for the guy and have very much enjoyed climbing and talking with him, as well as learning everything I can from him. Steve seems to be a strong foundation within the Lander climbing community.
A while back Sylvia had offered me a place to stay, but I initially declined having all my needs met at City Park. I appreciated the offer but was afraid of becoming a mooch and wanted to remain self-sufficient. On our trip back from the canyon on Wednesday she reminded me that her loft was still open, and after returning to my tent in the park and finding a note that read, “3-day limit! -Park Service”, I decided to take her up on it. I couldn’t be more grateful. For the last four days I have been sleeping with a roof over my head, showering at my leisure, and cooking/sharing meals with Sylvia, her boyfriend Andy, and roommate Courtney. Herman (the gangster cat) hangs out a fair bit when he isn’t hunting or tormenting neighbor kittens.
Thursday brought a refreshing change of pace. Up till this point I had exclusively sport-climbed in Wyoming, and feeling satisfied for the moment decided to accept an invite to check out some of the bouldering in the Lander area. I met up with Marc in the early morning and joined local Jesse Brown for a tour of an area he’s developing called the Roaring Fork. Jesse works as a bartender at the Lander Bar, and spends as many weekends as possible scrubbin’ rock, workin’ hard, and putting up new lines on bomber granite. The Roaring Fork is a smaller area with only a handful of problems, but boasts a surprising amount of potential. I became borderline giddy as I walked around in a wooded setting reminiscent of Leavenworth, sampling Jesse’s hard work and exploring new boulders.
We began our day hiking a short distance through the trees before warming up on a goofy little V5 right off the trail. Jesse named it You’re Welcome because he wasn’t inspired by it at all and only put in the work because there was a chance that somebody might enjoy it. I figured it out in a few tries and was surprised to hear that it was only the second assent it had seen. Marc soon nabbed the third assent and we went on our merry way to some higher quality stuff up the hill. Next stop was an amazing line, French Kissed V5, reminiscent of Heuco with powerful moves between good holds. I flashed it and spent the next twenty minutes encouraging and poking fun at an excessively frustrated Marc. He eventually got it, but not without bitching quite a bit. Meanwhile Jesse had moved on and was vigorously scrubbing a nearby boulder, hoping to add a couple new lines to the sector. I joined up with him and, after helping him move a fallen tree out of the way, became very interested in the potential line he was preparing. He soon finished cleaning and set to work chalking holds and feeling out moves. He admitted he had no attachment to the route and invited me to try to figure it out with him. The line features small crimps with an incredible amount of body tension and twisting, and has the potential to spit you into an adjacent rock lurking nearby. I managed to climb the problem from a contrived stand-start at roughly V6, but wasn’t satisfied with the end product. The line really needed to start low, matched on the small half-moon crimp I’d been using for my left hand, with a powerful and shoulder-tearing first move into the stand-start position. This was obvious, but overwhelmingly difficult. Jesse bailed, wanting to save energy for another project he was excited about, and encouraged me to go for it. I was amped. I poured every ounce of focus and energy into that thing, and after another half-hour of effort I did it on what I’d declared would be my last go. I couldn’t believe it, and couldn’t be more grateful to Jesse. I hadn’t even planned on bouldering during my stay in Lander, and suddenly I was handed the opportunity to contribute a new problem to the community and leave my mark here. I named the problem Shoulder Funk to reflect the state I was in after trying that damn move so many times. Gnar!
We soon packed up and moved on, and started the process over again scrubbing and prepping a boulder down next to the river. This was one that Jesse had scoped out in the past and turned out to be a really fun moderate on steep terrain, and a great addition to the area. Marc left us having to get back for work, and we made our way up to a boulder that Jesse had put a significant amount of work into: probably the gem of the entire area. I was blown away by the features and holds on the block, very atypical of granite, and set to work trying to repeat Jesse’s Slip and Slide V8. I got close but lacked the energy to put it together, and left very impressed by his vision and dedication. I caught a ride with Jesse back to town feeling physically wrecked, elated, and more eager than ever to get to Joe’s Valley for more bouldering.
I woke up Friday feeling like I’d been hit by a truck, having just bouldered for the first time in months, but decided to get out climbing anyway to work out the aches and pains. I returned to the Aspen Glades sector of the Wild Iris with Sylvia and her friend Jan, and had another amazing day breathing the fresh air and climbing fun, pocketed sport-routes. After warming up very thoroughly and doing a tricky .12a called Don’t Pain Your Wagon, I became inspired by the incredibly aesthetic line, American Beauty 5.12b. The line follows technical vertical and slabby terrain for 8 to 9 bolts before tackling two bulges stacked one on top of the other. I typically dislike bulges, finding them awkward and gropey, but these had the flowing movement of a gym route. I epic-ed on the thing, barely sticking the glory-jug finishing hold on my third attempt. The top featured old, sticky sport anchors barely within reach from the jug, and because of a typo in the guidebook I was out of draws to clip them with. I ended up having to hang on the rope for a second just to get enough back to clip the chains, but lowered to the ground feeling pretty satisfied and victorious. I’ll have to return to that one on my next visit for a legitimate repeat.
With a seven-hour drive ahead of me tomorrow, I decided to go four days on and finish my stay with one last day of climbing at the Iris. After a delicious breakfast of French toast and fresh peaches, Courtney and I headed up to the Wild Iris Main Wall. Courtney had a project she’d been working on, and I was eager to enjoy one last day of amazing views and ‘bouldering on a rope’. After warming up I tackled a fun 5.11d called Hot Tamale Baby before heading to a route that Courtney was interested in trying. We had a fun and full day, and I was stoked to finish Wind and Rattlesnakes 5.12a: a stout little bugger and one that stands out as a favorite here in Lander. Delicious breakfast, fun climbing, one last Iris sunset, and an incredible dinner waiting for us at home courtesy of Sylvia. Man, am I really skipping town tomorrow?
I’ve said it already but I am completely blown away by the generosity, the gifts, and the blessings I have received these past two weeks. From crag tours and friendly advice, home cooked meals, showers, a cozy loft to sleep in, to a freshly scrubbed boulder waiting for a first ascent; I have received more than I can ever hope to repay. A thought has stayed with me through it all: you will never be able to pay it all back, so pay it forward. Someday I will be the one with the house to offer up to travelers, the kitchen to prepare meals in, and the fresh boulders to scrub. I look forward to meeting the recipients.