The unassuming town of Lander, Wyoming has not so quietly been a bastion for climbers of all disciplines for more than two decades. And this coming July 10-14th, the International Climbers’ Festival will kick off its 20th anniversary with five days of climbing, trail running, clinics, and a communal vibe. Started by the seminal climber Todd Skinner, the Fest is the longest-running climbing event of its kind in the world.
From the sport route proving grounds of Sinks Canyon and Wild Iris to the vast granite walls of the Wind River Range, Lander is home to some of the best all-round climbing and climbers in North America. And the Climbers’ Festival is the proof. “It’s a really great time for the community,” says Wild Iris Climbing IT guy, Jeremy Rowan. “There’s a lot of camaraderie.”
Over the course of the week, climbers descend on the Wyoming town park turning it into a tent city, the Lander Bar becomes the backdrop to the annual pull up contest, and the nighttime sky echoes the sonic thumping of live music. Because of the 20th anniversary, the festival is bumping its three keynote speakers to six, with storied Henry Barber among them. There’s also a trade fair at the city park on Friday the 12th with venders of all sorts displaying their latest and greatest tools of the trade. SCARPA will be on hand as well, and participants are welcome to demo shoes to the crag, or the trail.
“One other major addition to this year’s festival is the cinematic debut of ‘Wind and Rattlesnakes’,” says event organizer Brian Fabel, “A documentary about the history of Lander climbing.” With a year and a half of production, the feature film illustrates not only the history of climbing, but also the people who’ve made the pilgrimage to Lander to climb and made it their home. “It became a place for many people to put down roots,” says Fabel.
By day climbers flock to the hills, learning secrets, tricks and tips—bolstered by a collective stock of putting hand on rock. Featured clinics range from entry level climbing to lessons on escaping the belay, footwork and technique, headstrong climbing, and higher end clinics on redpointing and rigging for climbing photography. “There is something for all kinds of climbers,” says Jeremy Rowan. SCARPA’s Alli Rainey and Kevin Wilkinson will host a “Fall Safely” clinic, teaching climbers how to mitigate their falls and minimize the risk of possible injuries.
Piggy backing the climbers’ fest is the Wild Iris Mountain Run. Sponsored by SCARPA, The 5, 10, and 21 K race departs the Wild Iris parking area at Limestone Mountain on the morning of Saturday the 13th, where climbers and non-climbers test their cardio in the rugged Wyoming backcountry and finish up at the Wild Iris Mountain Sports’ annual pancake breakfast with the rest of the festival goers.
Todd Skinner’s love of climbing led him to create Lander’s International Climbing Festival twenty years ago, and the community has carried on his vision. Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and proceeds from the festival provide funding for the Jim Ratz Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship takes local teens on guided trips up the Grand Teton where they foster problem-solving skills and team building through climbing and mountaineering. The festival also supports the non-profit Todd Skinner Foundation with the purpose of funding expedition grants that focus around international cultural and educational, film and publication, and safety and awareness.