Ed's Note: Click the camera icon above right of the video box to view the photos.
The Exum Ridge, the Black Ice, the Direct South Buttress: The Tetons are well-known for their classic alpine objectives. Despite the fact that modern American bouldering began at the base of the Tetons, though, the Jackson Hole area is less known for its climbing closer to home.
That may soon change.
On Saturday, July 7, The Outerlocal Summer Games will be held at Snow King Mountain in downtown Jackson. An adventure festival for mountain athletes, the Games will serve double duty as the Grand Opening of The Teton Boulder Park, the three-year effort by Teton climbers to build an interactive tribute to their climbing heritage.
At 10 a.m., Jackson Mayor Mark Barron will officially open the Teton Boulder Park. The Games’ first leg—mountain biking—will start at 10:30 a.m. Two hours later, it’ll be on to Leg #2: bouldering, with the Boulder Park as its venue.
The Teton Boulder Park contains three immense boulders that climbers have enjoyed for the past two years. In addition, the Historical Wall, which bookends the back of the park, details the significant ascents in Teton climbing history. The Enclosure, a circle of 21 giant stone slabs, commemorates climbers who have been lost to the mountains. All of this lies only minutes from Jackson’s town square.
To help coordinate the bouldering leg at the Park, organizers reached out to a Wyoming native with a long history at the forefront of the state’s bouldering scene. Micah Rush, a Casper, Wyoming, resident, described by Climbing Magazine as “the caretaker of Fremont Canyon,” is also the co-founder of 307Bouldering, one of the only state-wide bouldering circuits in the country.
Rush is excited about the prospect of putting on The Teton Boulder Park’s first comp.
“It’s a great venue,” Rush said of the park. “And the boulders are great, too. They’re well-constructed, with really good angles. We’ll be able to set great problems on them.”
The competition format for the bouldering leg will follow the template Rush developed at 307bouldering.
All competitors will climb at the same time. They will be allowed to observe other climbers prior to their attempts.
Competitors may also discuss the problems amongst each other. Competitors must start the problem from the start holds (competitors may not work on a problem from the middle of the problem).
Competitors witness each other climb. When a competitor completes a problem, s/he must have two witnesses initial his/her scorecard.
Competitors choose which and how many of the problems they will attempt, and they get as many attempts as time permits. They will be marked off for each fall up to 10 falls. If they complete two or more problems in the category above the one they’re in they will be “bumped” up to that category.
Although competitors can climb as many problems as they want, only their top five problems will be scored.
“My goal for the comp is to make it fun for everybody,” said Rush. “From the person who has only climbed a couple of times to the expert boulderers, I want everyone to have a really good time. We’ll set really good problems, have good music and establish a great environment for the comp. It’s going to be lots of fun.”
Organizers are working with Red Bull to get DJs spinning on top of the Boxcar Boulder all day, while Inversion Yoga will provide yoga sessions to help stretch specific muscle groups after each leg. Local slackliners will hold slacklining clinics during the day as well.
The Boulder Park will showcase a number of clinics and demos throughout the day, too.
Jackson Hole Mountain Guides will put on a clinic that teaches climbers how to manage anchor transitions safely and efficiently. The Kid’s Boulder has two sets of anchors and crack systems that were built to accommodate precisely this purpose.
Exum Mountain Guides will host an introductory clinic to self-rescue.
“In order to climb safely in the mountains, self-rescue skills are a necessity,” said Exum President Nat Patridge. “We’re happy to offer them to the community during this event.”
Representatives from the shoe company Five Ten will be on hand to demo approach and climbing shoes as well as shoes from their mountain-biking line.
For their rock shoe demos, “we’ll target versatility,” said Five Ten representative Kevin Newell. “I’ll have high-end shoes for serious sport climbers and boulderers, women’s-specific shoes, all-day shoes, and shoes for those who are brand-new to the sport.”
Newell noted that Five Ten reps will also be able to “expertly fit people and answer questions they might have about rock shoes in general.”
Outerlocal Summer Games organizer Christian Beckwith is excited about the bouldering leg of the Games for a number of reasons.
The mountain biking and running legs will move right past the Boulder Park, on the pathway just above the Historical Wall, offering great spectating. But, said Beckwith, “no other leg will have the same intense spectator focus” as the bouldering leg. “People will be able to watch the competitors from right up close.”
As the coordinator of the Teton Boulder Project, Beckwith also spent a long time thinking about bouldering and its relationship to the Tetons. An inscription on the Park’s historical wall notes that American bouldering began not far from where the Teton Boulder Park now resides:
The Jenny Lake Boulders, which include Red Cross Rock, Falling Ant Slab and Cutfinger Rock, lie near the eastern shore of Jenny Lake. Alpinists trained on them as early as the 1940s, but it was the gymnast, mathematician and father of American bouldering John Gill who left the greatest mark. His 1959 ascent of Red Cross Rock [V9] represented America’s first significant dynamic boulder problem, and his introduction of chalk, purchased from a local apothecary [the now-defunct Jackson Drug], marked the first time the substance had been used for climbing in the U.S.
As The Teton Boulder Park was being built, “we’d watch runners, mountain bikers and paragliders using Snow King,” said Beckwith. “We knew that when the Boulder Park was finished, climbers would use it too.”
Now that it’s done, Beckwith is excited to celebrate the conclusion of the Teton Boulder Project in a way that all the athletes of the Tetons can enjoy.
“We can’t wait,” he said. “The Boulder Park and the bouldering leg will be at the heart of the Games. It’s going to be awesome.”
Participants can register for the Pro, Rec, or Masters category, and as individuals, part of a team or for one or more legs, by going to the Summer Games registration page. Organizers are keeping registration costs unusually low—$25 for one or more legs, and $50 for teams—to encourage participation.
Individuals who wish to join teams will be able to do so on The Outerlocal Summer Games’ Facebook page.
More information about the Games may be found here.