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Category Archives: Wild Iris

Wyoming Adventure Part 1: Around Lander

Caleb checking out the moves on Poker Face Alice.

Caleb checking out the moves on Poker Face Alice.

If you’ve been regularly following this blog, you may have noticed that it’s been pretty quiet of late.  That’s because our family spent 10 days frolicking around in the wilds of Wyoming.  And then recovering from said frolicking.  And now finally getting around to writing about said frolicking.  Since summing up the whole trip in one blog post would probably make my head explode, I’ve decided to break it down by area, starting with our first stop in Lander.

Day 1:  Wild Iris and Popo Agie Falls 

With so much climbing looming before us, we’d intended this day to be somewhat of a “warm-up”…but it ended up being one of the longest, most action-packed days of the entire trip!  We climbed at the OK Corral area, which had a nice short approach, and a great selection of routes from 5.easy to 5.hard to choose from.  Since our time here was short, we were pretty picky about sticking to the heavily-starred routes in the guidebook.

Red Ryder 10a – Good intro to Wild Iris limestone.  Cool holds and cool moves.
Winchester Pump 11b – We were all feeling the pump by the top of this one, but all sent 1st go.
Rooster Cogburn 12a – This one looked pretty doable, so I intentionally didn’t look when everyone else was climbing, in order to preserve my onsight chance.  (Non-climber note: An “onsight” means to send a route with no falls or rests on the rope on your first try, without any prior knowledge about the route.)  There were a couple of cruxes, but with good rests in between, linking the moves wasn’t all that hard.  Onsighting a 5.12 had been one of my goals for the trip, so it felt really good to get that out of the way on Day 1!

Steve on Rooster Cogburn 12a

Steve on Rooster Cogburn 12a

Tribal Wars 5.11b – After proclaiming all the previous routes as soft for the grade (I think our actual words were, “If that 12 were at the New, it would only get 11c!”), we had to eat our words on this one!  Probably the best route we did at the Iris, Tribal Wars featured a tricky technical crux on the face before some steep, pumpy climbing to the chains.  The technical crux gave me no trouble, but the overhang had me breathing pretty hard – the moves were longer than I was expecting, on holds that weren’t quite as good as I’d wanted (although some locals told me I missed a few jugs hidden in the sea of pockets.)  By the time I got to the chains I was pretty desperate, but managed to hold out for the onsight.

Me shaking out before the overhang on Tribal Wars 11b

Me shaking out before the overhang on Tribal Wars 11b

Not wanting to blow our forearms out on the first day, we decided to call it quits (especially since by now the whole crag was in full sun and it was pretty hot.)  However when we got back into town, it was a little too early for dinner.  Being amped for exploring our new environs, we opted to head to Sinks Canyon to hike to the infamous Popo Agie Falls water slide.

In hindsight, this endeavor was far too involved to be attempting with two hungry kiddos that were still on Eastern time…but all’s well that ends well, and it was definitely worth the late bedtimes!  Even if you aren’t interested in taking the plunge, the hike is still a must-do in the area.  The distance to the best viewpoint of the falls is 1.5 miles (with gorgeous scenery the whole way), with another half mile to the slide.  The slide itself is about 15 feet long to a drop of about 10 feet into a deep pool that has redefined my understanding of the word “cold.”  A far cry from the bathwater temps we southerners are accustomed to in August.

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Crag-Daddy and I had gone back and forth about whether or not to bring Big C’s PFD (for the sole purpose of this water slide)  It was bulky to pack, and we even sure he’d want to do the slide.  He can swim, but not good enough to trust him in a situation like that with so many unknowns.  But boy am I glad we brought it, because he didn’t hesitate one bit!  When he bobbed back up his eyes looked pretty terrified, but by the time we got to shore, he was grinning from ear to ear, and that’s all we heard about for the next several days!

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Day 2 – Wild Iris Main Wall

We did the trek to the Main Wall on our second day, which although beautiful, we all felt was grossly underestimated in the guidebook (30 minutes?!?…although it could have been the elevation talking.)  Out of the whole trip, this is the one day that could have had better planning.  We did a lot of moving around, with not a lot of climbing to show for it.  We warmed up on Take Your Hat Off (5.10b), which was an excellent, engaging route.  Then we hopped on Arizona Cowgirl (5.11c), which felt a lot easier than either of the 11’s we’d done the previous day.  Our next stop was Hot Tamale Baby (5.12a),  an interesting route with a bouldery crux that Crag-Daddy put up just before a random hailstorm (?!?) rolled through.  With the weather being a little sketch, and not knowing if the upper sections of the route would be wet, Caleb and I both decided to toprope this route.  Afterwards, we kept moving up the cliff, but didn’t see anything we liked, and ended up hiking back to the parking lot.  In hindsight, we all wished we would have stayed and tried to send Hot Tamale.  Or stopped further down the trail earlier that morning to try Wind and Rattlesnakes (5.12a).  There were just SO many routes, and backtracking with the kiddos would have been a pain, especially since we were committed to end at a reasonable hour this time.

On the hike out, with Main Wall in the background.

On the hike out, with Main Wall in the background.

Our main goal for Wild Iris was to get acclimated to the elevation as well as reacquainted with limestone on our way to Ten Sleep.  I had hoped to send a 12 there, and having it go down as an onsight was icing on the cake.  The water slide was amazing, a memory that I hope my son will be old enough to remember, but if he doesn’t, we at least have tons of photo evidence!  On Day 3, we did the tourist-y thing at the Sinks Canyon Visitor Center, stocked up on food, and headed east to our main objective of the trip, in the sleepy little town of Ten Sleep (so stay tuned…)

Steve fighting through the crux on Hot Tamale Baby 12a

Steve exiting the crux on Hot Tamale Baby 12a…dont let the skies fool you, the hailstorm came 15 minutes after this picture was taken!

Huddled up to wait out the storm!

Huddled up to wait out the storm!

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Lander Days – New Post on RCTM.com!

Check out Mike’s new post on “Lander Days” over at RockClimbersTrainingManual.com:

“The family and I just got back from a great week in Lander. If you’ve never been, Lander is a throw-back; it’s a small community at the foot of the Wind River mountain range in Wyoming, so the pace of life is a little slower, and life is a bit simpler. When we’re in Lander, for whatever reason, there is no TV watching or any of those distractions. Instead, we’re outside a lot, and we spend time with great friends. On this trip we were fortunate to stay with Steve and Ellen Bechtel, and BJ and Emily Tilden. Thanks for the hospitality!  When we first arrived, I was in the midst of my Power phase, so I sought out powerful routes to supplement my training. That’s a big reason we were in Lander in the first place, to climb at the Wild Iris…..”  Continue Reading

Lander Days

Typical June weather at Wild Iris, but it's always temporary.

Typical June weather at Wild Iris, but it’s always temporary.

The family and I just got back from a great week in Lander. If you’ve never been, Lander is a throw-back; it’s a small community at the foot of the Wind River mountain range in Wyoming, so the pace of life is a little slower, and life is a bit simpler. When we’re in Lander, for whatever reason, there is no TV watching or any of those distractions. Instead, we’re outside a lot, and we spend time with great friends. On this trip we were fortunate to stay with Steve and Ellen Bechtel, and BJ and Emily Tilden. Thanks for the hospitality!

Lucas's favorite time of the day...heading home!

Lucas’s favorite time of the day…heading home!

When we first arrived, I was in the midst of my Power phase, so I sought out powerful routes to supplement my training. That’s a big reason we were in Lander in the first place, to climb at the Wild Iris. I think there are only a few crags in the US that are suitable for honest-to-goodness training on rock, and Wild Iris is one of them, when it comes to Power (The Red is great for endurance training). Also, early in your season, it’s a great idea to get some easier (for you) routes under your belt to get the rust off, and build confidence going into more difficult projects. To that end, I picked out a couple 13+ routes to try to tick off quickly. The first was Adi-Goddang-Yos, a short, powerful 13c at Rising from the Planes wall, made famous in Eric Perlman’s epic film, Masters of Stone. A hold had broken since the filming, but the route had been re-climbed at least twice since then, at a slightly harder grade. It now requires a pull off a small crimp (my specialty 🙂 ), followed by a very powerful undercling move. I was fortunate to send on my second burn, and was able to play around on some harder routes for the future.

I was lucky to be the first person in the Western Hemisphere to try the super hot Tenaya Terifa, an aggressive high performance shoe that will excel on steep terrain. It has a chiseled toe that is great for pockets. I also like that it is a lace up because I can get on a tighter fitting shoe and still get it on over my grotesquely oversized heels.

I was lucky to be the first person in the Western Hemisphere to try the super hot Tenaya Tarifa, an aggressive high performance shoe that will excel on steep terrain. It has a chiseled toe that is great for pockets. I also like that it is a lace up because I can get on a tighter fitting shoe and still get it on over my grotesquely oversized heels.

My next climbing day, I targeted White Buffalo, a short crimping test-piece on a 30 foot boulder in the campground. You probably remember Mark’s account of this route from last fall: Roped Bouldering in Cowboy Country

I had been intrigued by this line for years (as I’m sure everyone who’s ever camped at the Iris is too), and finally had the opportunity to try it with the right fitness and good weather. We got an 0500 start in Lander to ensure good conditions, and an opportunity to get a couple burns before the sun warmed the face too much (it gets morning sun).

The day before I had just watched BJ Tilden trying his latest sick project at Wolf Point (see below). It was incredibly inspiring. He hasn’t sent yet, but on that attempt you could tell he was really going for it 100% on every move, even though the moves were really risky, low-percentage dynos to small one and two-finger pockets. There were probably five separate occasions when the crowd was sure he was falling, but he hung on and kept moving! It was quite an example.

BJ Tilden on his super-sick Wolf Point project. This think might be 9a+!

I think we all aspire to “climb like Sharma”, really going for it on every move, no matter how desparate.  Sometimes we pull this off in the gym, but for whatever reason many of us seem to hold back when we’re on rock.  Perhaps its the sharpness of the rock, fear of incurring a skin injury (or a real injury), or just fear of falling or failing.  Further complicating this is that certain types of climbing, like long enduro routes or technical on sights, punish over-gripping, and so foster a “don’t try too hard” mentality that can be difficult to overcome when we switch climbing styles.  While the RCTM advocates a “Smarter, not Harder” approach, we all need to remember that often the great climbers are great because they really do try harder than everyone else.  Just trying hard in the moment of the redpoint will not make the difference between climbing 13d and 14d, but all the opportunities along the way, over many, many years, of trying just a little bit harder in the gym, on the campus board, every time you’re on the rock, can eventually add up to that difference.  While Mark and I are not always brawlers on the rock, we are in the gym, and we try extremely hard in training, day-in, day-out, which is one of the reasons we’ve had success with our training.  And though we aren’t at BJ’s level, when the moment is right, we are able to whip out some pretty concerted efforts on a rope every now and then (just yesterday I belayed Mark on the send of his newest Clear Creak 5.14, and it was pretty cool to see him dynoing five times in a row, between insecure holds, eight feet above the last bolt, especially since I was around in the early days when he was much more timid).

So, when I got to White Buffalo, which has some painful and powerful crimp moves, I channeled my inner-BJ…I wasn’t going to pace myself, just give 100% effort on every move, ignore the pain, or thoughts of failure and just try like hell! It worked, and I sent on my second go. It’s the first 13d-in-a-day I’ve done, and my first 2nd try. I’ve done a few in 3 tries, so this was a minor break through. More importantly, I had some confidence to head into some harder projects.

I’ll let my photos do most of the rest of the talking….

America's latest Super-Crag, Wolf Point.  This was my spring goal, that I had been dreaming of and training for for months.  Finally made it!

America’s latest Super-Crag, Wolf Point. This was my spring goal, that I had been dreaming of and training for for months. Finally made it!

I decided to try a beautiful 14a that BJ had put up called King Thing. It’s a commanding line, on a flawless sweep of limestone up the center of the cave. The moves are outstanding, without a stopper crux, but no opportunity to shake in the first 50 feet or so. You can watch BJ climbing it at about the 48 min point of this film, Wind and Rattlesnakes.

 

Steve Bechtel climbing on Remus, 13b.

Steve Bechtel climbing on Remus, 13b.

One of the best parts of the trip was making a couple new friends. First was Rob Jensen, shown below. It turns out, I grew up about 45 minutes from him (he’s from Springfield, Oregon), and we lived in Colorado at similar times, yet I’d never met him. He is also another proud owner of an Ascent Rock mechanized climbing wall, so we had much to talk about. He is a pillar of the Las Vegas climbing community, and hosts numerous climbers in his “garage” for epic training sessions.

Las Vegas climber, and all-around awesome dude, Rob Jensen climbing "Dominant Species" 5.11d.  That's Red Canyon in the background.

Las Vegas climber, and all-around awesome dude, Rob Jensen climbing “Dominant Species” 5.11d. That’s Red Canyon in the background.

I also met and climbed with Kyle Vassilopous. He moved to Lander last year from Bozeman, MT, and he is super-psyched to put up new routes. He was a pleasure to climb with because he is extremely psyched, and didn’t balk at my desire to start early for good temps!

Recent Lander transplant Kyle Vassilopolous warming up at Wolf Point.

Recent Lander transplant Kyle Vassilopolous warming up at Wolf Point.

Dr Tom Rangitsch has been the driving force behind new route development in Lander the last few years. He’s hiked more cliffline than anyone in town and discovered lots of new crags. He put up many of the best routes at Wolf Point, including this new addition, Full Moon, 5.13b, a 40 meter pitch that overhangs about 6 meters over the length. It started as a 30 meter 12c called Bark at the Moon, and this is an extension to that route. The first anchor is at the first draw visible in the photo. In this picture, he’s at the crux of the extension which is a really cool sequence on small crimps. I was lucky to get to belay him on the FA, then he belayed me a couple days later when I tried it. I wanted to go for an on-sight, and Tom did a great job of biting his lip as I flubbed the beta…luckily I was able to recover, and made the first on-sight of the route. It’s a great route Tom, thanks for the hard work!!!

Dr. Tom Rangitsch going for the FA of Full Moon, 5.13b.

Dr. Tom Rangitsch going for the FA of Full Moon, 5.13b.

Thanks everyone for the hospitality, we’ll be back soon to finish off our projects!

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