Last weekend was the annual International Climber’s Festival in Lander, Wyoming. I ran into a lot of old friends and made some new ones, and generally had a fantastic time chillin’ with the Trango crew. One of the highlights of the trip was when my good friend Steve Bechtel introduced me to one of my early climbing heroes, Steve “Nitro” Petro.
Among other things, Steve did the first ascent of “Fiddler on the Roof”, a ridiculous 5.13d finger crack featured in the original Masters of Stone. Steve also starred in the training video Fingers of Steel with Tony Yaniro and Steve’s wife Lisa (nee Gnade). This video has been somewhat overlooked in recent years but the principles discussed still hold up today. Not to mention that the guys had a great sense of humor and a lot of fun putting it together. After Performance Rock Climbing, FoS was the next greatest influence on my training. Steve & I talked about his thoughts on training, the value of agression in climbing and our mutual admiration for the late great Todd Skinner.
The first big event was the Trade Fair in City Park on Friday evening. I was a little anxious about the 3pm-11pm timeslot on the schedule, wondering how I would make it through 8 hours. In the end it turned out to be 8 hours of non-stop entertainment, partying and general tom-foolery thanks to the many colorful characters of the local Lander climbing scene.
The Festival had a non-stop lineup of friendly contests and stupid human tricks that kept everyone thoroughly entertained. During the lulls we met a lot of great folks while repping all of the latest Trango gear. There was a ton of interest in the highly-anticipated Tenaya climbing shoes that Trango will begin distributing in August (expect a full-review in the next few weeks). Considering how little info is available in the US about these it was amazing to see the buzz surrounding the Spanish brand.
The first big event was the Tug O’ War, dominated by the local squad, anchored by a couple of my friends Colby Frontiero and (the legendary) Steve Bechtel. Needless to say the team of roughnecks and Bronc busters simply destroyed the competition. The next event was the Crate Stacking Competition. I had never seen this in person before so I was really psyched to check it out and try to gleen the technique. If you’ve never seen it before its worth checking out. The best way I can think of to describe it is slacklining for engineers. The game is simple, stack empty milk crates as high as you can. Simple enough until you get into the double-digit range.
Hands down the highlight of the night was the Dyno Comp, put on by the boys from 307 Bouldering. It featured great competition and some ridiculous V-Double Digit problems. The competitors were psyched and so was the crowd which lead to a great finish.
The big event for me on Saturday was the Tenaya shoe demo and the “Try Hard” Clinic that I taught with my new friend & Trango team-mate Chris Barlow. Chris is a great guy and I had heard a lot about him through Mountain Project and some mutual friends, so it was great to finally meet him and do some climbing together. Neither of us had ever taught a clinic before so we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a really fun time for everyone involved. I love the unbridled enthusiasm and joy that you find with folks just discovering the sport of climbing. It really takes me back to the simple things that first inspired me to step out into the unknown and seek out the mountain tops. Three of the guys in our group had driven 14 hours from North Dakota just for the festival. That kind of motivation is hard to beat.
Just about everyone in our group was in their first year of climbing, so we discussed some basic concepts, including Chris Barlow’s Axioms for Trying Hard (TM), and then asked each of the students what they hoped to get out of the clinic. In my experience the best way to help someone improve is to simply watch them climb (or train) and provide direct feedback, so we jumped right into climbing. It seemed to me that everyone in our group made significant improvment over the course of the day and I hope they can continue to benefit from whatever they took away from the clinic.
With the clinic wrapped up Chris & I drove the long way around to Sinks Canyon to meet the rest of the Trango crew (Adam and Brendon) for some cool-down laps in the Killer Cave. Chris & I each took a run on the incomparable “Bush Doctor”, then set up for a quick photo shoot on “Busload of Faith”, complete with a healthy amount of “You’re a monkey Derek” and other classic Zoolander lines.
Unfortunately the wardrobe department failed to deliver any bright t-shirts to the crag, as we were all clothed in our official Team Trango shirts. Don’t get me wrong; the shirts are sweet, but the speckled-black color is not “right” for quality photos. After some “not it” back and forth and some good-natured heckling, Chris graciously offered to run back to the car to grab an E-Grips shirt that was the perfect color. Probably not what Chris expected when he joined the team, but we tried our best to convince him it would be great training for his upcoming Bugaboos trip. He made the round trip in just about 10 minutes; a super human effort–Thanks Chris!
Once the photos were in the can I headed home for a climbing appointment in Denver the next day. It was a great festival and I had a blast; really looking forward to next year.