On Belay? Belay On. Climbing! Climb On! Getting Vertical at the International Climbers’ Festival!

Try. Hard.

Try. Hard.

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.

Two-fingered pull up

Two-fingered one-armed pull up

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.

Me on the wall at Wild Iris

Me on the wall at Wild Iris

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.

These boys have been nicknamed the Send Brothers for their incredible abilities to "send" i.e. climb almost any rock face.

These boys have been nicknamed the Send Brothers for their incredible abilities to “send” i.e. climb almost any rock face. They are both sponsored athletes and spend the summers on the road with their parents, traveling to world-class climbing crags.

Cameron ties in

Cameron ties in. Raised by two climbing parents, these boys have been climbing since they could walk.

Boots on

Rock shoes on

Cameron chalks up.

Cameron chalks up. Chalk helps improve fingertip grip on the rock.

And shakes out

And shakes out. The tattoo on his arm is a temporary tattoo that served as our “ticket” to the festival events. Much better than wearing a wrist band!

And starts up the rock with his dad belaying

Starting up the rock with his dad belaying. This is a 5.14 route, an insanely hard grade.

The holds are so tiny that he's all but levitating up this rock face

The holds are so tiny that he’s all but levitating up this rock face

Clipping into the the first bolt

Clipping into the a bolt while holding on with two fingers and just the tips of his toes.

Jonathan discussing the route with his dad

Father & Son. Jonathan discussing the route with his dad

Jonathan gets ready

Jonathan getting ready

Jonathan on "Young Rider" a 5.13a route at Wild Iris

Jonathan on “Young Rider” a 5.13a route at Wild Iris

Pulling a move only an 11 year old with an insane strength to weight ratio could make

Pulling a move only an 11 year old with a superhuman strength-to-weight ratio could make

Fingertips

Two fingertips on the coral reef. Nothing like climbing at the bottom of the ocean on top of a mountain!

Kids these days! 🙂 Now back to Idaho and then on to Oregon!

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in Big Sky, Montana. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Photography, Road tripping!, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to On Belay? Belay On. Climbing! Climb On! Getting Vertical at the International Climbers’ Festival!

  1. Oh so envious. I rock climb in controlled environments: with A/C and padded gym floors. LOL. You said this well / my favorite quote: “Pulling a move only an 11 year old with an amazing strength-to-weight ratio could make.”

  2. swo8 says:

    Looks like quite the sport.
    Leslie

  3. Barneysday says:

    I got chills just looking at the pictures. I think I’ll stay on the ground and appreciate the view. Thanks for sharing these

  4. hobopals says:

    You were blessed early in your life to know the life you wanted to lead; the path you wanted to follow. How wonderful for the “send brothers” to live a healthy and happy lifestyle in their younger years. Smart parents.

    Though I wouldn’t trade many things in my long life (my husband and children), a part of me wishes I had found your path. Too bad we can’t live two lives. Thanks for sharing your experiences. You are an inspiration to young people–I hope many are reading.

  5. hobopals says:

    I went back to watch the video of the “Send Brothers”. AMAZING! What a family.

  6. Linda P. says:

    What amazing young men! Thanks for the pictures.

  7. I used to climb the Allegheny Mountains when I was young. The view is spectacular. The River is also beautiful. We have a rock climbing place in Kalamazoo, MI I went to once with my sister. You’re right you have to depend on each other to carry each other. Not as dramatic as your experience but rock climbing is fun. I hope not everyone is like Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang Theory where he just passes out!

    Read about my experience with the Alleghenies and even the Pittsburgh area at: http://www.muddywritersblock.com

  8. Pingback: With A Name Like Death Canyon… | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

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