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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of July 6, 2001

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This week, facts about the International Climbers’ Festival, where thousands gather to swap climbing tales at the foot of the Wind River Mountains, near Lander, Wyoming.

Transcript

CURWOOD: This month, hundreds of rock climbers will descend on, and then maybe ascend, the Wind River Mountains, near Lander, Wyoming. They're congregating for the Eighth Annual International Climbers Festival. The area first started attracting world-class climbers 11 years ago, when a goal prospector discovered a set of climbworthy limestone cliffs. Participants range in age from 1 to 71 and hail from throughout the U.S. and countries including Mexico, Germany, South Africa, and South Korea. They gather, not to compete, but to celebrate their up and coming sport.

Early modern climbers drove wooden pegs into natural crevices. Nowadays, climbers encountering an impossibly smooth rock face may drill a bolt right into the cliff, to get a leg, or a hand, up. The practice has raised controversy about possible environmental damage. Changing technology has also accelerated the speed of the sport. Back in 1958, one climb, in Yosemite National Park, took 40 days. Now, an expert can summit it about four and a half hours. But, back at the festival in Wyoming no one's racing to the top. Participants swap stories, build trails, and team up for a Jell-o tug-of-war. The climbers who yank the most adversaries into a pit of Jell-o win appropriate prizes: ropes, to use on future climbs. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

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