‘Natural urge’ drives local climbing instructors to share with younger generations

A group of the Young Guns in Sinks Canyon. (Photo provided by Stacy Wells)

A group of the Young Guns in Sinks Canyon. (Photo provided by Stacy Wells)

By Joshua Scheer, reporter, County10.com

(Lander, Wyo.) – A small group of individuals are working to spread their love of climbing to local youth. With some help from the International Climber’s Festival, there’s hope that some of the programs will grow in the coming year.

Stacy Wells of Lander has been teaching climbing locally for 10 years. She works primarily through the Lander Parks and Recreation Department.

Her flagship program is Young Guns. Wells said the program takes small groups of high school kids out to the rocks after school when the weather’s good. Here she works with them to teach them lead climbing. Lead climbing is the process of setting up the ropes on a route before others take it on. One of Wells’s goals with the students is to teach them these skills so one day they can climb with their friends without needing additional supervision.

Over the years, Wells estimates about 30 students have participated in Young Guns. “A lot of them still climb,” she said.

Wells said climbing is a good sport for students who don’t always fit in to the team-sport mold. However, because you often climb while steadied by someone below it also teaches teamwork.

“I learned (to climb) when I was 17, and it changed my life,” Wells said.

Her Young Guns athletes help her in the summer with teaching younger kids how to climb. She leads classes with ages 5-7 and 8-13.

Currently, Wells also works to share her knowledge by teaching indoor classes through R-Recreation in Riverton and wellness programs at Central Wyoming College.

With some support from the Climber’s Festival this year, Wells is “hoping to add more kids to the program,” she said of Young Guns.

Climber’s Festival Director Brian Fabel said the organizers “just want people to be exposed” to the sport. Fabel said he’s hoping to be able to help add to a class to Wells’s summer efforts.

“We’re looking to increase climbing programs year-round,” he said.

One of the younger children's summer classes from last year. (Photo provided by Stacy Wells)

One of the younger children’s summer classes from last year. (Photo provided by Stacy Wells)

In addition to planning beginner’s climbing seminars for youngsters for this year’s 20th anniversary festival, Fabel said he’s also worked with local climber BJ Tilden and Elemental Fitness to start a class for teens this winter. The second session just began and is full, Tilden said. It is made up of 13- to 21-year-olds.

Tilden said many of the kids who grow up in Lander and Fremont County are unaware of the “tremendous resource” in their backyard. Wells called the climbing here is some of the best of in the world. Both of them came to town because of the climbing.

“It’s just a natural urge” to share climbing with others, Tilden said.

“I really want to focus on that instruction and give them tools to do it on their own,” he said.

Tilden said a common misconception of the sport is that its extreme and daring. Sure, he admitted, there are risks, but only if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Tilden is among some of the best climbers locally. Last summer he established a 5.14D route, the toughest existing designation, which he named “Moonshine.” “It’s something I’ve been trying for years and years,” he said of the Wild Iris climbing area route.

After attempts from 2002 on, Tilden completed it last August. It is currently deemed the toughest route in the state and one of the hardest in the country.

Since Tilden conquered it, world famous climbers Dave Graham and Daniel Woods have to come to Lander to try it, Fabel said. He recalls them both calling it an “excellent route.” Tilden said Woods confirmed the grade.

Tilden plans on continuing to work on sharing his knowledge of the sport with younger generations in the coming year.