Every climber in Lander knew it was there. Even in the early 90s, they could see the spectacularly steep and tall wall in the distance. But no one knew exactly how good it was until Lander climber Steve Bechtel bushwhacked his way there in the summer of 2004, crossing a river, grunting up a hill, navigating loose rocks and avoiding the many rattlesnakes in the area.
“It was more incredible than I hoped it would be,” he said.
While many of the limestone walls near Lander rise 40 to 80 feet high, Wolf Point is 150 feet tall. Bechtel saw the potential, but few were willing to give it try. It took more than two hours to navigate the terrain to the base. For years there were only three or four routes established in the area. Then in 2011, local climbers B.J. Tilden and Tom Rangitsch started climbing there at Bechtel’s urging. Others followed.
Wolf Point now has the highest concentration in America of 5.14s — one of the hardest ratings on the system to grade rock climbs — with 10 in just the main cave area, Bechtel said. To put that in perspective there are only about 25 5.14-rated climbs in the entire Lander area.
Wolf Point is featured for the first time in a new edition of a guide book to rock climbing near Lander. The newest edition of Lander Rock Climbs published in May. It features about 1,300 routes at 18 crags, with six new climbing areas, including Wolf Point. It covers climbing from South Pass to the Wind River Indian Reservation boundary.
Bechtel wrote the first version of the Lander guidebook in 2001. He updated it in 2007 and again in 2011. That version featured about 1,000 routes.
The 345-page book, designed by Ben Sears, is the first version printed in full color. It features dozens of photographs of local climbers taken by Lander resident Kyle Duba.
“It gives a flavor of the area and inspires people to visit new areas,” Bechtel said. “I’ve known for years this is one of the most spectacular places in the world to climb, but how do you communicate that?”
The key was color photos.
Unlike Bechtel’s other guidebooks on climbing in Lander, Laramie and the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Mountains, this serves not just as a route reference guide, but as an almanac of local climbing. It features profiles of some of the town’s most prolific climbers.
It is vastly different than the first book Bechtel wrote when he was a teenager.
Bechtel discovered climbing as a young, bored teen in Casper. He and a friend planned to go to the mall one afternoon, but it sounded too lame. Instead they went caving on Casper Mountain. While exploring one cave they realized they needed a rope, so they went to a local outdoor gear store. The guy working there refused to sell them gear because they didn’t know what they were doing. The store clerk and some other climbers showed Bechtel and his friend how to use the equipment. The boys soon forgot about navigating the cave and turned their attention to climbing above ground.
There wasn’t a climbing gym in town and Bechtel didn’t have a car, so he practiced climbing the sides of buildings and overpasses. “If there were bricks sticking out of a corner of a building, we’d climb it,” Bechtel said.
He wrote his first guide book in high school on climbing the buildings of his hometown. It was 12 pages and he printed 20 copies. In college he started climbing near Laramie and became friends with climbers Todd and Amy Skinner. Bechtel spent the summers working in their shop, Wild Iris, in Lander, where he eventually moved after college in 1996.
Lander offered a rarity — year-round climbing on a variety of types of rock, from granite to sandstone to limestone. Even with all the options, when Bechtel moved to Lander people were primarily climbing in two places: Wild Iris and Sinks Canyon.
“Now there are so many different areas you can go a whole season and not run into your friends who are also out climbing every weekend,” he said.
That steady development led Bechtel to regularly update his first guidebook.
While Wolf Point and other new developments are part of what inspired Bechtel to update the guide, the book also features the classic areas and routes of Sinks Canyon and Wild Iris. It also offers an index of graded routes and includes options perfect for beginners.
Even with so many routes included, certain areas were left out. Bechtel, Duba and Sears are already thinking about the next addition. For instance, the Jeffrey City area and Sweetwater Rocks offer another 2,000 routes, which they couldn’t fit into this edition, but will likely make the next edition.
Because new routes change Lander climbing faster than new guidebooks are published, a PDF document featuring updates and corrections will be available online. For the next several years those who own the book will be able to print updated information.
Lander Rock Climbs 2015 edition is available on Amazon, and also will be sold at most local outdoor shops across the state, including Wild Iris in Lander, Teton Mountaineering in Jackson and Mountain Sports in Casper.