As a life-long lover of rocks, it surprises me that it took me so long to start climbing them. I first got into climbing in grad school in Baltimore, where daily sessions at the indoor climbing gym kept me fit and sane in the midst of too much concrete. Six years later, I have yet to find a climbing partner as reliable as my friend Sarah, who traded belays with me almost everyday in those months I spent in the city. Sarah and I bonded on an absurd descent of a big volcano in Ecuador and we still meet up for adventures, despite living on opposite sides of the country.
On the road, finding trustworthy climbing partners can be tricky. When you climb with somebody, you’re literally putting your life in their hands and taking theirs in yours. It’s not an exchange to be taken lightly. Fortunately, it takes at least two to climb (unless you’re a free soloist like Alex Honnold) and climbers tend to be friendly folk, open to making new connections. This summer I’ve had a few fantastic climbing days, thanks to the generosity of complete strangers who invited me onto their ropes. Every time I climb, I want more; it’s addicting. After a fantastic session at Idaho’s legendary granite crag City of Rocks, I decided to head back east to the International Climbing Festival in Lander, Wyoming, in hopes of getting a thorough vertical fix.
The Wild Iris crag near Lander is an ancient coral reef riddled with zillions of pockets for hands, fingers and toes, making for some of the most diverse and most challenging climbing routes in the world. I’m a pretty good climber, but Lander attracts some of the best. At the 4-day festival, I met a lot of fantastic people – including some of my climbing heroes like Lynn Hill, Alex Honnnold and Conrad Anker – and made it up quite a few routes, but the highlight was definitely watching these two brothers, Cameron and Jonathan Hörst, ages 13 and 11, who are climbing at the very top levels of the sport. They also happen to be from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, not far from where I grew up in Strasburg.
Kids these days! 🙂 Now back to Idaho and then on to Oregon!