“Wyoming ain’t nothing but wind and rattlesnakes.”
That’s how the famous saying goes, but it’s forgetting about the gorgeous views, small pockets, big moves and high quality stone of the Wild Iris.
The Wild Iris is a legendary climbing area. Starting in the early 90s, the bone-white dolomite of the Iris was the stomping ground of climbing pioneers like Todd Skinner, Paul Piana, Amy Skinner and Heidi Badaracco as they tried to bring European-style sport climbing to the US. Yielding routes like Throwin’ the Houlihan, The Atomic Stetson, Rode Hard and Put Up Wet and When I Was a Young Girl I had Me a Cowboy, the short steep cliffs of the Wild Iris proved to be the perfect canvas.
The fever pitch of development on the main walls of the Wild Iris has moved to other crags in the Lander area over the years, but the quality routes haven’t gone anywhere. Despite being home to old school test pieces, new school challenges up to 9a and classics at every grade, the Wild Iris doesn’t seem to be on the mainstream summer sport climbing circuit with areas like Rifle and Ten Sleep—though it definitely should be. I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not. There are a lot of adjectives that describe the climbing at the Wild Iris; high quality, burly, powerful, steep, dynamic, classic. Pleasant, however, isn’t one of them.
The routes at the Iris aren’t soaring endurance pitches that leave you so pumped you need a friend to open your post-climbing beer for you. Instead, the Iris’ short, steep test pieces feature big pulls off of often tiny one and two finger pockets. The climbing can be painful at times and the beta is often “grit your teeth and bear it.”
Despite that, I hope these photos showcase just how good the climbing at the Wild Iris is and inspire you to come test yourself on these historic classics. All you need to climb one of them yourself is a little belief and some cowboy grit. Brutally strong fingers don’t hurt either…
climber - writer - photographer - coach - Wyoming