"Not all those who wander are lost"

A Windy Western Climbing Town

These fleeting charms of earth
Farewell, your springs of joy are dry
My soul now seeks another home
A brighter world on high

-Wailing Jennys

 

My second attempt to live in Lander for the summer was a success on at least two counts.  I made it to Lander without breaking down and I got a job.  I arrived in town just in time to start work at Sego; a new, fancy dinner restaurant.  I had my summer plan worked out: I would live in my van in city park, work at the restaurant, and have a membership at the gym with 24 hour access to shower and, for the first time in my life, actually train for climbing.

I had a cold welcome in Lander.  Literally.  I went from sunny and warm in St George, to freezing cold and raging winds in Lander.  Soon after arriving in Lander we got ~6” of heavy wet snow while I was camped in Sinks Canyon.  My bald tired, 2 wheel drive, 18 year old mini-van barely made it out of the campsite.  The beauty of Lander is that even after that snow; I hiked up with some new friends and climbed that day in a T-shirt.

Life in Lander settled into a rhythm.  Work never started before 3pm so my climbing was only ever limited by finding partners.  I worked a bit, climbed a bunch, and spent many restless days training in the gym.  I started climbing with Chris, who was a cook at Sego, a bunch.  It was easy to make plans for the next day while work was slow and being one of the most psyched guys I’ve met meant he was almost always keen to grab some rocks.

The Wild Iris classic When I Was a Young Girl, I Had Me A Cowboy was high on my list of things I wanted to do.  It’s classic Iris style, a short steep route with powerful moves on small pockets.  I put it some time figuring it out, but eventually I found a sequence that worked for me.

Wolf Point was also a new a great experience for me.  The only way I can really give you a feel for this place is by saying that if you get passed the hour hike (1500 ft down, then 1000 ft back up), don’t get bit by a rattlesnake, and don’t encounter a grizzly than it will be the most fun you’ve ever had on choss.  It’s not all choss, but pockets are often dirty and rocks break as with any other low traffic area.  The climbing and the position are great though.  Steep lines, with several climbs over 30m and into the 40+m range in a huge cave make, make most of the climbs in the 13/14 range.  Unfortunately, since you have to cross the mountain and it’s in the sun in the summer, the season can be quite short.  I managed to send just one project there, Full Moon Rising, before the heat ended the season there.

I spent the summer climbing whenever I could find a partner, bolting when I could borrow a drill, and training when I couldn’t.  With a pretty consistent training schedule I was really excited when I noticed improvements in my climbing.  I even sent my first 13c…if you can really call Hellion a 13c.

Several friends came through town throughout the summer as well.  It was great to catch up,  hang out, and climb with Travis, Lindsey, Weston, and Vian while they were in town.  Having some friends without a schedule enabled me to venture up to Ten Sleep for a couple long weekends too.  On the first weekend I set to work on Hellion, but didn’t finish it off until the return visit.  Of course, I got it on the first day that trip and picked up a new project on the second day; Supermama.

As the summer went on I found it increasingly difficult to find climbing partners.  While welcoming to outsiders, I found it hard to actually become a part of the local Lander community.  Saddened by feeling like my favorite climbing town had rejected me, by August I was ready to move on.  I had four un-sent projects which I wanted to finish and nobody I could get to go with me.  As work finished up at the end of the month a friend, Vian, came through town and I climbed with a fury as I tried to finish my projects before time ran out.  I managed to send three of the four.

First was a line I bolted at Fossil Hill next to the amazing, but fairly unknown Milkbone, which I called Burley but Sensitive (12c).  It took me a surprising number of attempts between forgetting beta, breaking a foothold after the crux, and the reachy balance move which kept spitting me off.

Next I roped Vian into heading up to the Strawberry Road area.  It doesn’t even have a definitive name for the crag, but it’s along the Little Popo Agie River, about a mile upstream of Wolf Point.  There I had bolted a couple lines in a beautiful blue streak reminiscent of Euro pockets.  Blue Diamond and Criminal Mind (yes, I named these routes after Blue Streak, the awesome and cheesy 90’s movie with Martin Lawrence) both went down fairly quickly and I was on to my finally and hardest project.

The route is in your face the moment you pull onto the rock and stays in your face for 4 bolts of climbing.  After working out the moves and trying my hardest, I made it through the crux only to have a foot slip going for a jug. On my last day I pushed again only for the same heartbreaking foot slip.  I pushed on with my headlamp, but after the amount of try-hard I had expended in the previous days, I just couldn’t pull the moves anymore.  Aguish.  I was so close to sending it, but I could feel myself losing power and energy.

One of the things that had interested me in the line is that I knew it would be a challenge.  At first I hadn’t been able to do most of the moves at the bottom, but I worked them out, found new holds, and continued trying.  Based on the fact that I was in the best climbing shape I have ever been in and it was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever been close to trying, I think it would be 13a at least, if not b, but that will be determined another day.

My mixed emotions about my last days and about Lander itself made for an awkward ending, so I just packed up and left as quickly as I could.  After all, I still had Supermama waiting for me in Ten Sleep.

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