I’ve never been to Lander, Wy but I’ve heard good things about the climbing there. Having friends who live there or nearby made this an anticipatory trip. I arrived eager to meet up and explore the local rocks. I had only one commitment, which was to teach a clinic on that Saturday. This left me plenty of time to work, climb and socialize.
Lander is a reasonably sized town of about 7500 people. It’s surrounded by pastures, canyons, and ranches with vast expanses. This land of extremes impressed me –not for all of that beauty and contrast — but more for the condition of the roads and the town. Everything was very well kept up, roads looked pristine and the new High School gave the town a very clean and modern, somewhat urban feel. Despite that observation, it was still clear that this town was still a cowboy’s town. Huge tractors took up the freeway from time to time and horses, boots and cowboy hats were seen on numerous occasions as the locals went about their daily business.
When I asked a local business owner and climber what people do in this town for work, other than ranching, she noted that many come to town already with money in-hand. These people tend to open businesses to service the tourists that come through. I really had no idea Lander was a such a tourist spot but looking at the landscape and the multitude of outdoors options, it kind of started to make sense to me. The lack of a larger hub (like a real airport) did not appear to affect travelers.
For logistics, everyone camps in the city park, which is really spacious and close to many events. Nothing is really too far in town so carpooling to crags and walking to events is not out of reason. I highly recommend stopping in the Wild Iris Mountain Sports store. They were super helpful to me the entire trip. I even made a new friend there, hi Lindsey! 🙂 If camping doesn’t suit your needs, there are very nice hotels reasonably priced. Again, everything is pretty close to everything so you really can’t go wrong on a selection.
The festival had an array of common events: film series, speaker series, games, demos, races and clinics. This year, I learned, was the first attended by a large number of high profile climbers, one of which was Tommy Caldwell who was signed up to speak. He is, without a doubt, one of my all-time climbing heroes. It’s not just that he’s talented, bold, brave and relentless that has me looking up to him. Rather, it is his humble stature and good naturedness. This combination makes him easy to admire, and after his speech, reflecting on his time in Kyrgyzstan (for the first time, on stage, in public) he instantly became my hero.
It takes an event like this to bring people together. Otherwise, we are all pocketed in some
region, climbing and occasionally crossing paths. I always look forward to these ‘mini-reunions.’ Meeting old friends, making new friends, teaching climbing skills and being in the outdoors up 9k feet bouldering on a rope…well, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather have done these past few days.
If you want this experience, look for an event in your region, sign up and show up. It’s nothing but a good time and you won’t regret it. Even the crowded cliffs made for more social engagements and good times. Despite the commute, this is one event I may attend again next year!
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