Back when I worked at Climbing Magazine, I was fortunate to get to travel to many of the major climbing events across the country. To this day, one of my favorite was the International Climbers’ Festival in Lander, Wyoming, with its laid back vibe and a focus on fun that never took itself too seriously. I’ve never been back since that first visit, but every July I think about heading north to enjoy some of that beautiful Wyoming limestone, and hang out with the good people of Lander. Now in its nineteenth year, I recently caught up with Brian Fabel, the festival director, to find out more about this year’s event (July 11-15th).
What are some highlights of this year’s festival?
Highlights for the 19th International Climbers’ Festival include bringing in climbing legend Royal Robbins, the Telluride MountainFilm Festival at the Grand Theater and hosting a photo exhibition at the Lander Art Center of the late, acclaimed photographer Bobby Model. And, as always, hosting the trade fair and festival gala in the city park on Friday, July 13th (3-11pm).
Who are this year’s special guests?
Royal Robbins, Kevin Jorgeson, Kate Rutherford, Alli Rainey, Kevin Wilkinson, Jonathan Siegrist, the list goes on and on!
What are you most excited about?
I’m most excited about the celebration of climbing – the other aspects of climbing that are what make our culture unique. This year we are featuring an art exhibition of the late, great, adventure photographer Bobby Model. Kate Rutherford will also be presenting on how climbing influences her jewelry making. I think more and more we are understanding that there is more to climbing than just an activity, it’s a way of life that molds our culture.
Top five reasons for someone who’s never been to come check it out?
1. The climbing, from pocket pulling to access into the mountains!
2. Action-packed schedule with Free Food and Drink Specials every day!
3.Crate Stacking and the Trade Fair.
4. Telluride MountainFilm screening at the Grand Theater.
5. Pull-up comp at the Opening Party at the Gannett Grill. La Sportiva will be pouring beer in free La Sportiva pint glasses!
When I visited I remember being able to camp at the park right in town, is that still an option?
You bet, there is still free camping at beautiful City Park – the epicenter of the festival! It is first-come-first-serve, so you have to get in there early. Other lodging options exist all around town.
Tell us about the Jim Ratz Memorial Scholarship, how did that start and what is it all about?
The purpose of the Jim Ratz Youth Climbing Program is to provide young people with the opportunity to experience the power of personal achievement and the experience of problem-solving through climbing. Each year we partner with Jackson Hole Mountain Guides to sponsor two Fremont County teenagers on a guided climb of the Grand Teton each summer. It is a way of giving back and promoting youth programs that get adolescents outside.
Very cool. Are there any crags besides Wild Iris and Sinks that are worth checking out if you have some extra time before or after the event?
Well, Miners Delight is an area with a lot of potential and recent development, which is featured in the new addition of Lander Rock Climbs guidebook by Steve Bechtel. The shady side of Sinks Canyon is also another option for routes in the cool. The new area is a place called Wolf Point. Routes are going up here every week, so far just things in the 5.12-5.14+ range. Bigger than Killer Cave, it is likely to be the future of Lander climbing.
What about some good places to grab food in town?
Gannett Grill for a burger, Apple Valley for a well-valued lunch, Old Town for coffee, and the new Middle Fork for French influenced local foods from scratch.
Thanks Brian. Not sure yet if we’ll make this year’s festival, but it sure sounds like it’ll be a great time! For more information, or to buy tickets, visit the official website.