Training for the Lander International Climbers’ Festival

The International Climbers’ Festival has been a Lander, Wyoming, summer highlight since it began in 1993. Each July, hundreds of climbers from around the world come to Lander to climb limestone pockets at Wild Iris, slide down natural rock waterslides after exploring the sport and trad routes in Sinks Canyon, camp for free in City Park, and end each day with a loaded burger and refreshing brew from the Lander Bar. A temporary tattoo gives festivalgoers free breakfasts, a t-shirt, entry into the annual dyno comp, and access to climbing clinics with Sasha Digiulian, Hayden Kennedy, and Ethan Pringle, among other professional climbers.

This year’s Lander Crew (left to right): Simon, Ben, Steve, Kalous, me, Tom Rachel. Photo: Ben Yardley

Now, you may be wondering: “Beyond buying my ticket, what can I do to prepare for this once-a-year chance to impress Sasha Didiulian and Ethan Pringle? Should I train only two-finger pockets and monos from March till July 4th? Should I purchase a white tracksuit for dancing at the bar? Should I get a hotel room with a shower to stand out from everyone camping in the park?”

No, no and no. If you’re not sending 5.15, you probably won’t impress Sasha with your technique. And be realistic, you’ll spend enough in gas and sustenance at the Lander Bar to lighten your bank account without paying for a Holiday Inn as well. And a thrift-store tracksuit might make a statement, but you’ll be so dehydrated from sweating that you’ll have to leave the dance floor every 10 minutes for water.


Forget about pockets: Only train dynos. The dyno comp is the highlight of the Friday evening trade show, and the best way to impress the crowd is to out-dyno Carlo Traversi, Ethan Pringle, and Alex Johnson.

Play a lot of volleyball. If you’re not the best at dynoing, or don’t feel like watching people jump from one set of plastic holds to another, then volleyball is the trade show activity for you. There is a sand court next to the pavilion in City Park, and there’s a good chance that you’ll be playing alongside—or against—a professional athlete or two. I did not train this year and was shown up by Hayden Kennedy, who also didn’t train and was shown up by pretty much everyone else.

Get your cardio up for dancing in the Lander Bar. Thursday night is the warm-up, with a live band and swing dancing outside. You can dip in and out of the crowd, but don’t tire your legs out too much. Friday is hours of live music inside, and anyone who is anyone—I danced next to Sasha, Carlo, and Hayden—is boogieing on the dance floor for hours. Saturday is the same, though typically with a DJ instead.
Dancing is also the number one way to impress Sasha D. Simon only climbed one pitch the entire weekend—a 5.10d, which Sasha may or may not have seen—however, his moves caught her attention and resulted their enjoying several songs worth of college-esque dancing. He didn’t even wear his tracksuit—which he brought.

Get comfortable with a marathon drinking pace, or be comfortable with your sober self enough to spend three nights in a row closing out the Lander Bar. Not getting blackout drunk the first night is highly recommended, especially if you plan to climb in a clinic the next morning.

In my experience, the International Climbers’ Festival is a blast. It did involve a little less time at Wild Iris and a lot more time at the Lander Bar than I expected, but if I’m in Wyoming next July, you’ll be certain to find me boogieing on the Lander Bar dance floor and pulling on some Wild Iris pockets.

Originally published August 3, 2015, on 

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