Alli Rainey is a sport climber through and through. Claiming to have a “one dimensional passion,” Alli loves climbing even in the heart of a cold Wyoming winter. Below, she shares a little bit about her climbing passion and the benefits of climbing close to home – even if it is a little chilly.
Packing up for our first foray into winter sport climbing in Wyoming this season, I had to laugh to myself. We’re willing to go through so much in order to get our outdoor climbing fix, especially when compared to how easy sport climbing is in the more reasonable seasons. Tons of extra layers of clothing go into the pack for winter climbing, along with more food and hot tea. But the greatest addition to my winter climbing gear this year is undoubtedly my Scarpa Charmoz boots, which I so desperately needed. Lightweight and comfortable, they took much of the terror out of the snowy, slippery approach to our winter climbing area by providing me with the stability and traction I need to make it (literally!) over the river and through the woods, and then up the ice-covered rocks via the fixed lines, and then through the slick, ice-covered north-facing cave to the sun-splashed south-facing cave we call the Octagon.
It’s always an incredible revelation to me, no matter how many times it happens, to arrive in this gorgeous location and discover that the temps are perfect for climbing, after slogging through a cold, snowy, icy approach. I’ll be hiking along thinking, “Is this for real? Or are we just hiking up here to freeze our butts off and go home?” The latter does happen regularly, too, but when a climbing area’s only a few minutes from your house, even with the big hike, it’s never that big a deal to call it a day and go home should the wind pick up or the clouds roll in, making the place into an uninviting icebox.
However, on the days when the sun shines and the wind stays away, the reward of sport climbing outside in Wyoming in January seems unreal.I’m grateful for it every day it happens, knowing that the plug could get pulled on these endeavors in a heartbeat with the arrival of a winter snowstorm or even just days of cloud cover. Yes, the climbing’s as chossy as it comes (this is not your world-class climbing area), but hey, I’ll take it – it’s about as fun as winter sport climbing gets, if you enjoy swinging around on jugs on severely overhanging terrain and don’t mind emptying crumbly bits of crag out of your sport bra after every pitch.