Lander, WY

Posted on 16. Nov, 2013 by in News

In 1997 I was a junior at Michigan State University. I was hungry for adventure, particularly of the outdoor flavor, but I lacked any kind of cohesive vision for how that would happen. I tried hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, snowboarding, winter camping, running, trail running, just about anything that seemed interesting. Living in Michigan there is little opportunity to do these things to their utmost potential, leaving me feeling a bit scattered. One afternoon, I happened to read in the school paper that a professional climber named Todd Skinner was coming to present a slide show on climbing the 4 biggest walls in the world. It sounded fascinating and so I went with a couple of friends to check it out.

I had no idea who he was, and I had no clue what bouldering or rock climbing really was at all. But I was into the outdoors so I went to watch him speak. I sat there for an hour or so totally enthralled. His presentation, his enthusiasm and his photos shocked my young and pregnable mind. Todd was a force to be reckoned with. Vivid images of a “bouldering” area in Texas with a perfect blue sky where people tried so hard that their “tendons exploded” burned deeply in my skull. I couldn’t begin to imagine that there were athletes out there doing something with so much intensity and commitment. “This was a man I had to meet” I thought. Thoroughly impressed, I went up and shook his firm and powerful hand. He was very thoughtful and considerate, taking the time to answer several questions I had. I left the show with one single radically idealistic thought in my mind, “For the rest of my life, I am going to be a rock climber, like Todd Skinner.” That was 15 years ago and I haven’t looked back. I never saw Todd again, yet that one brief meeting left such an indelible mark on my life and he will always be tied to my climbing in that way.

In 2006 I drove through Lander, WY for the first time on my way to Squamish, just months before Todd’s passing. It’s impossible to think of Lander climbing without Todd and he was on my mind then. It seemed like a wonderful town but we were on our way to Squamish. “Too bad there’s no bouldering here”, I thought as we zoomed on past. Fast forward to 2011, 13 years later. I got a call from a good friend Collin Horvat who tells of a new bouldering area in Lander, discovered by local Jesse Brown with good rock and lots of FAs. I jumped at the opportunity. Over the next two years I spent countless weekends in Lander, visiting any number of amazing bouldering areas, establishing sick new problems, repeating classics, and simply falling in love with the fresh scenery, wild land, welcoming people and amazing rock.

Somehow in an almost ironic turn of events, Todd’s influence reached farther than I could have ever imagined. This special place that had so influenced him, motivating him to travel the world, give slide shows and share his love for the sport, which in turn motivated me, was now becoming special to me as a place of personal discovery. I feel honored to have had a hand in sharing the motivation for climbing here over the last few years. Lander is one of my favorite places in the world, and I look forward to spending many days to come in the stunning and wild landscape that surrounds the town. As always the people make the place. I’ve climbed with locals Jesse Brown, BJ Tilden, Tom Rangitsch, Chris Marley, Vance White, and David Lloyd among others. They are all individuals and they are as a group incredibly talented, inspiring, and motivated, and most importantly just down right good people. I’m sure Todd would’ve fit right in. While I never got to boulder with Mr. Skinner in the Devil’s Kitchen, he is there every day in spirit with our crew, and his motivation lives on in all of us who climb and develop in Lander.

I write all this because Kyle Duba has produced an excellent documentary on the history of Lander climbing that is well worth a watch. There is even a short clip of one of the very first days at the Kitchen. Awesome stuff!

Wind & Rattlesnakes from Kyle Duba on Vimeo.

5 Responses to “Lander, WY”

  1. Harry Robertson

    16. Nov, 2013

    What a great post. Thanks Jamie. I hope you’re well.

  2. vance white

    17. Nov, 2013

    It has been quite a ride. Always looked at climbing as a vehicle. The locals took me in and my eyes were opened. Greg Collins to Keith Leonard to Bechtel. My life has been bettered through rocks and I am eternally grateful.

  3. Michael Rathke

    17. Nov, 2013

    I remember a presentation Todd gave at the 2004 Climbers Festival. He talked about some of the info mentioned in this video.

  4. alexander

    17. Nov, 2013

    Great film. Very neat to hear your piece there Jamie.

  5. Michael Rathke

    18. Nov, 2013

    it was the 2003 international climbers festival that Todd Skinner spoke at.

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