Scorchio. The outlook for Lander, Wyoming is scorchio. In Spain, the word describes broiling days in the Iberian Peninsula, but this weekend it could be applied to the high desert of southern Wyoming. It’s been several years since I was last in Lander and I had forgotten the heated frenzy of climbers that hit the small town and the nearby rock. The International Climbers’ Festival (ICF) started its motor in Lander with hot temps, sizzling climbing, and a high number of participants. Not bad for a Thursday in mid-July.
At 9 a.m. the Access Fund and the Popo Agie Anglers held a trail-building session at Wild Iris. The soaring temps did not deter volunteers who sweated over the dusty trails in order to keep things in working order at the high-altitude limestone crag. They were rewarded with a beautiful path and a delicious lunch.
Master trainer Arno Ilgner gave a slide show on his Rock Warrior’s Way. Throughout the weekend Ilgner will be giving clinics on how to beef up mental skills while climbing. His clinics range from training specifically for bouldering to everyday mental preparedness on the rock.
My partner for the weekend, BJ Sbarra, and I had to time to climb at Sinks Canyon before the evening events, and the climbing was nothing but delightful straightforward limestone. We managed to find a 14-clip 5.10a that was one of the most memorable lines I have done in recent years for its sustained engagement and friendly holds. Unfortunately there was a climbing accident at the Sinks. The Fremont County EMTs were so fast that the climber who called in the accident hadn’t even made it to the bottom of the trail before they were on the scene. The climber who was injured fell 60 feet from the anchors, but was coherent, talking, and had no head injuries. He was extremely lucky to only have a broken leg, wrist, and fractures in his feet.
The ICF evening parties are well-known events, and I remembered the Gannett Grill from previous visits, as it is the venue for the official Kick-off party. We entered the outdoor patio and were astounded to see over 300 climbers enjoying pub food and beer from the Snake River Brewery. The event was also a unique fundraiser; all donation proceeds went to the Jim Ratz Memorial Scholarship. Ratz, who passed away recently, was an influential Lander climber and co-owner of Jackson Hole Mountain Guides. The recipients of the eventual college fund, Ratz’s two children, summited the Grand Teton yesterday at about 11a.m, as a gesture toward their father and the support from climbing community. The kind gesture was taken well and many beers were consumed as festivalgoers enjoyed the legendary contest to crown the king or queen of the International Climbers’ Festival. The crazy contest included naming the location of various climbing areas, doing the splits, and drinking a gallon of water. This was all before Peter Mallamo’s slide show on the Karakoram and the Pakistani porters relying on mountaineering for their livelihood.
Overall the climbers were out in force, and the weekend promises only more climbing on fantastic rock, scorchio temps, and a city park full of happy dirtbags.