May 14, 2024

Written by Mandy Fabel / Photos by Sam Lightner Jr.

Person Climbing

Todd Skinner was quietly emerging as one of the best climbers in the world when he settled in the small city of Lander, Wyoming in 1990. Skinner went on to develop hundreds of climbing routes at Wild Iris (located 30 miles south of Lander), so many people assume that climbing area was the draw. And it was—at least in part. Wild Iris is known for its short, but savage climbs that require tremendous finger strength and power.

What many people don’t know is that the proximity of Sinks Canyon was also a big part of Skinner settling in Lander. This crag (just 10 miles east of Lander) was being developed by Greg Collins. Skinner knew this south-facing cliff ban would provide a perfect training ground during the cold, but sunny days of winter (of which there are many).

Over the last 30+ years, the opportunities to climb under different styles and on different types of rock have continued to grow. People choose the entire valley of the Wind River Mountains as home so they can access these great climbing areas.

If you are visiting Dubois, Lander or Riverton, here are a few recommendations for climbing like a local.

Sinks Canyon

People Climbing at Sinks

Sinks is perfectly south facing, which makes it great for a winter outing or in the early mornings or evenings in the summer.

Sandstone Buttress: This sandstone cliff is situated right at the mouth of Sinks Canyon and is primarily an area for traditional climbing. You’ll want to try the two-pitch classic Gunky with either the option to rappel on rings or go all the way to the top and walk off.

Main Wall: A great introduction to the area can be found at the Scud Wall, with climbs ranging from 5.6 to 5.10+. To access this crag, walk up the main climbing trail to the Killer Cave and veer right. Or check out the cave proper to test your limits with climbs like Cartoon Graveyard (5.12), Killer (5.12c) or Busload of Faith (5.14a).

Granite Buttress: At the top of Sinks Canyon are several granite features that offer tiered single pitch climbing. While these aren’t the finest routes to be found on granite in Wyoming, they can be fun to mix up the style or routes on a trip. Grades range from 5.6 to 5.13.

Wild Iris

Person Climbing - Close Up

Wild Iris is best climbed during the summer and fall months, thanks to its elevation of 9,000 feet. Along with bulletproof limestone, there is free dispersed camping and amazing views of the Wind River Range. South facing rock can get pretty toasty mid-summer, so you might plan your day with the ability to chase shade.

Ok Corral: This area is closest to the main parking lot and boasts many moderate climbs. A couple of top suggestions are Red Rider (5.10a) and Tribal War (5.11b).
Main Wall: Explore this beautiful rock band and boulderly climbs like The Devil Wears Spurs (5.10d) and Cowboy Poetry (5.12b).

Rock Shop Bouldering

A newer development to the area, check out the boulders located on South Pass near the Rock Shop Inn. The bouldering is a little spread out, but there are treasures to be found in the range of V1 to V8. Lord of the Flys (V5) and Burly (V6) are two local favorites.

Wind River Mountains

mountain and lake

If you aren’t satisfied with single-pitch climbing, you’ll want to check out the Wind River Range for its glorious alpine climbing access. You might want to summit Gannett Peak, the tallest peak in Wyoming. If you do this, be prepared for a long hike in and likely some snow most times of the year. More common is a trip into the Cirque of the Towers. If you want to take the scenic route with less driving, consider a hike in from Bruce’s Bridge up Sinks Canyon (26 miles) or via Dickinson Park (15 miles). Or you can always drive to Big Sandy Trailhead and then hike (eight miles).

Once in the Cirque of the Towers, you can find two of the famous 50 Classic Climbs of North America in Wolfs Head (rated 5.6, but be prepared for some tricky route finding) and the Northeast Face of Pingora (5.9, Grade IV). Check out my own wedding video in this gorgeous spot: Tying the Knot.

Elemental Climbing Gym

For those very infrequent days outside the range of comfortable climbing weather, there is a small climbing gym located at Elemental Gym and Fitness in Lander. Here you will run into some of the world’s best climbers and climbing coaches.

If you are looking for a local business to buy climbing gear (or just a cool place to visit), check out Wild Iris Mountain Sports in Lander. This business was founded by Todd Skinner and his wife Amy and continues to provide Wind River Country with great outdoor gear and climbing equipment.

Author Bio: Mandy Fabel is an avid outdoor adventurer and enjoys spending time climbing, snowmobiling and mountain biking in the Wind River Mountains. She lives in Lander with her husband and two year old son. 

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