From Boulder we drove to Lander, Wyoming. I was not familiar with Lander before we arrived, but I was excited about climbing peaks in the nearby Cirque of the Towers, hoping for routes similar to the one we had taken up Spearhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. However, after speaking with a guy at Lander’s climbing shop, we were convinced that due to the unusual amount of snow they had received this past winter the towers would be inaccessible without crampons and ice axes (which we don’t have with us).
But Lander turned out to be a sport climber’s paradise—within an hour from town there are said to be close to two thousand bolted climbs. We spent a day exploring the crags at an area called Wild Iris—it’s higher elevation provided a refuge from the particularly hot day below. We spent the next day at the Main Wall of Sinks Canyon. Matt I challenged himself on some 5.12b’s and Matt II on some 5.11’s. While I can cleanly climb routes of higher difficulty on top-rope, by leading mentality is not quite at the same level as my technical ability—I was quite happy with the 5.10c that I did (although I admit that I hung on the last quickdraw for a particularly long time while I contemplated the moves I would have to make on the more run-out jaunt to the anchor).
We easily could have entertained ourselves for quite awhile here, but we continued on in order to meet up with Nick in Alberta tomorrow.
After only a couple of hours of driving from Lander, the Tetons came into view, and I felt that tingle that comes with witnessing something beautiful. They looked more jagged than the rest of the Rockies; I thought they had a somewhat similar aesthetic to the peaks I had seen in Patagonia. As the peaks in Patagonia are the youngest in the Andes, the Tetons are the youngest in the Rockies—perhaps the similar looks comes from the fact that they have had similarly relatively less time to erode away.
After a night in Grand Teton National Park, we continued on to Yellowstone. We stopped to watch Old Faithful erupt and to observe the many bison that lazed along the road. In the afternoon we went on a hike and caught sight of a black bear. And the copious amount of snow that may have prevented my schemes of peak-bagging allowed for a particularly striking wildflower season this year.
I knew that Yellowstone was the first national park in the U.S., but I didn’t realize exactly how important it was for the precedent of species preservation. Even after it was established as a national park, poachers were allowed to nearly wipe out its bison population, and did wipe out its wolf population. It wasn’t until bison were fully protected in Yellowstone that a population had the opportunity to thrive on a small sliver of land—Yellowstone was the only place that North American bison were never fully exterminated.
The wolf population was rehabilitated after Canadian relatives of Yellowstone’s original population were introduced to the park in 1995. It’s amazing that in such a short while Yellowstone is now considered one of the best places to be able to see wolves in the wild.