Bouldering is my way of life and a way I’m unsure I could ever actually survive without. It is such a constant and a balancer of living I wonder if I could be anything else? I wrote an essay for the Wind River Bouldering Guide (Lander Bouldering) after a bit of self-discovery in reviewing the past years in Wyoming mountains “Those are the places I continually visited during the period of life attempting to become something that I would grow up to be. Working at growing up to become something is tiring. Respite came for me in wild places, in immense boulder fields hidden by desert brown and verdant alpine, in deep gorges of shade, and on single erratic stones perched unbelievably in all that space. Then, too old to be growing up any more, I found myself bouldering.”
The best bouldering in America is likely in Wyoming. It is the big unknown in bouldering, the frontier for American bouldering. With knowledge of geology in tow, I have been going to the best rock and finding immense amounts of the stuff. Every time new rock is found it has fueled me and requires me to conclude my purpose.
I’ve been working at becoming a geologist. Well, I’m actually a geologist now, but becoming more of one, a specialist with higher degrees and what is feeling like less time for bouldering. Being in graduate school certainly does not help my climbing. Or so I thought as I worked through the previous academic year. As the year of school work finally dwindled to a small pile I could finally see over, there it was out my window, mountains and boulders as far as I could see. Wyoming was out there and I knew so many new boulders too. For a few days I lived a bipolar life, attempting to balance both worlds while convincing myself all the while. Boulders called me. I thought of getting older without seeing the finest stone Wyoming has to offer, and I snapped. I loaded Amiee dog and my wife into the pickup. We went straight to the vast Wyoming boulder fields, the frontier of boulders.
Why is this series of events any different than the rest? It is because I have given myself a purpose many years ago, to find the best rock and best boulders in this whole place. The best bouldering in America is likely in Wyoming. It is the big unknown in bouldering, the frontier for American bouldering. With knowledge of geology in tow, I have been going to the best rock and finding immense amounts of the stuff. Every time new rock is found it has fueled me and requires me to conclude my purpose.
Where is this rock? Almost all of Wyoming! Some of it road side, some of it pushing the limits of “approach” for a day of bouldering.
Neverland is the gem of Southeast Wyoming. Mile after mile of high quality gneiss along a maze of roads. It sits in the vast openness of the Wyoming plain, exposed to wind and hold carving erosion. Long ago I lost count of the boulders there and days exploring, putting up new lines, and gazing across to one after another piles of perfect stone. There are more hard lines and big lines in Neverland than anywhere else I’ve been!
The Wind River Range covers a major portion of the state of Wyoming. It holds millions of boulders, but most are far into the wilderness. Most are of amazing rock, granites and gneiss’. After a decade of bouldering in the Winds, I’ve had a bit of an awaking in past seasons. To boulder the best in Wyoming, to really boulder in the Winds, one must hike with an alpine mentality. Few of us are willing to hike that much, but some of us do, and have jokingly assigned an approach grade to boulder fields of the Wind River Range. Like alpine we have Grade 1 through 7. The longest day trips so far have been Grade 3. The realization is that only a couple of hours are needed in a single day to boulder, summer days are long, so hiking can take up the rest of the day. This is not an advertisement, but my Fiveten Park Pad has been a major factor in developing deep into the mountains. Like alpine, light and fast is key!
There are several areas with established problems in the Winds. The Rock Shop (steep lines in a forest), Cirque of the Boulders (8 miles in to a several square mile boulder field), Devil’s Kitchen (a deep gorge of blocs, and home to Wyoming’s hardest, Never Cry Wolf 8B), Falcon’s Lair (super clean alpine granite), Torrey Valley (glacial erratics), Bomber Basin (source of Torrey Valley erratics), and so many others on all sides of the range, but Bear Valley is the biggest so far. It is the best rock I know of, probably anywhere.
Bear Valley holds a special place in the minds of those who develop new rock. It is a place of black and white gneiss spilled out for miles. It requires complete dedication from those who travel there. It is deep in the Wind River Range at the end of a long and incredibly poor road, followed by a hike, like a Grade 3 bouldering approach to largest field of blocs. There are also Grizzly Bears throughout. Fellow Five Ten athlete Jamie Emerson came with me on the past trip.
Along with Lander local and guide book author David Lloyd. We walked so many miles of talus I don’t remember it. And we found boulders that are so good I can’t stand it! It opened my eyes even wider. I pretty much only think of those boulders now, and the so many that are waiting in the depths of the Winds, likely to become the first boulderer to end his career from too much hiking. I have a panic in me too. How much can I see before the next winter sets in? Before the academic year takes holds again and my desk piles high so I can longer see out the window to all that rock.