“This is a low key festival that was formed to share the genuine love of climbing.”
That’s how Mandy Pohja describes the International Climbers’ Festival in Lander, Wyoming. I got to speak with Pohja, the director for the festival, recently for a phone interview, and she had me ready to hop in my Subaru and head up north to Lander. But, alas, the festival is not until July, so for now, I’ve got my work schedule cleared, and I’m dreaming of limestone pockets, a fresh beer at the Lander Bar, and good ole fashioned climbing camaraderie.
[banner photo by Jared Steinman: arm wrestling competition]
Thinking of going as well? Here’s a Q and A with Mandy about America’s favorite climbing festival.
Climbing Zine (CZ): How did the International Climbers’ Festival start?
Mandy (MP): It was started by the visionary Todd Skinner in 1993. The idea was to celebrate climbing in its truest sense. The main focus was to encourage people to climb at Wild Iris. It started off with mostly local climbers, now climbers come from all over the world to experience it.
CZ: What does the festival look like these days?
MP: The focus is still on getting people out to the local crags, but there’s so many additional fun events. A ticket is only $55 which includes a t-shirt, select free food, discounts on drinks, and access to all the events on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Among the events are: clinics with professional climbers, a “Women In Climbing” roundtable, dyno and pull up competitions, trail runs, a trade fair, live music, and TED-style talks at the Keynote Presentations. There will be many notable climbers presenting including: Lynn Hill, John Long, Sasha DiGiulian, Alex Honnold, and Angie Payne. Of course the Lander Bar is a place many people will end up at for late night fun.
This year there’s a brand new Art Crawl, with scotch and beer tasting.
CZ: How would you describe Lander to someone who has never been there?
MP: It’s a small Western town of around 7,000 people. We have an active, alive, Main St, with a close-knit, welcoming community. One unique feature of our town is City Park, where people can camp for free. This basically turns into a “tent city” for the International Climbers’ Festival. We open climbers with open arms, whether your interests are clipping bolts, bouldering, or doing long routes in the mountains.
Lander gets excited when people come to town!
CZ: Most importantly, what is the climbing like?
MP: There are over a thousand routes in the Lander vicinity. We have all kinds of rock, with year round climbing opportunities. Sinks Canyon has mostly south facing rock, with sandstone, granite and limestone is one place! Wild Iris, which is limestone, is a great summer crag. The bouldering has been taking off in recent years, with some intense development. Alpine climbing in the Wind Rivers is world class. A new crag, Wolf Point, when completed could have the highest concentration of 5.13s and 5.14s in the country. We’re also 3-4 hours from Vedawoo, Devil’s Tower, and the Tetons.
CZ: Last question, what are a few of your favorite things about the festival?
MP: Well, I feel this event is really for everyone from kids to professional climbers. Everyone in town gets involved from the bar owner to the local climbers. It’s a collaborative, community event. We’re now starting youth climbing programs in town to get kids out into their own backyard, and still working with local land managers to maintain climbs and maintain access to climbing. Plus, the keynote presentations are awesome. It’s very engaging, and certainly not a “death by slideshow” experience.
Did we wet your whistle? Visit the International Climbers’ Festival’s website, and come on up for the party! We’ll be there.