We recently noticed that Will Mayo, one of the finest and strongest climbers in the world, was posting some exquisite climbing shots on his Facebook page. Intrigued, we requested him to write an op-ed for our magazine and tell us more about where he was climbing and share a little bit about his feelings about the location. We were most pleased when he said he would do it, because we knew that not only will he inspire the readers and his fans with the images he sent us, but also with the beauty and fluidity of his impeccable writing style. What more could an Editor ask for?
Op-Ed by Will Mayo
"Vedauwoo (pronounced: vi də vu:), an anglicized phonetic rendering of the Arapahoe word “biito’o’wu” (meaning earthborn), is a jumble of granite domes and hoodoos perched on a plateau beneath the gradual slopes of the Laramie uplift in southeast Wyoming. The stone, known as Sherman Granite, is estimated to have formed 1.4 billion years ago, is remarkably dense and coarse with huge crystals of quartz and feldspar. The unique nature of this granite is immediately evident by picking up a piece of it on the trail—it seems to weigh twice as much as a comparably-sized piece of ordinary granite. The smooth erosion of the formations of this rugged stone is a fine testament to the indefatigability of the incessant Wyoming wind.
As a young climber living on the east coast, I drove past Vedauwoo many times, heading west on climbing road trips. I never stopped. Vedauwoo is often maligned by climbers, and I had always been discouraged with remarks like: it’s all off-widths, the stone is so coarse and sharp you’ll need skin grafts, all the routes are short, etc. But, once I moved to Colorado, I began to visit the Voo (as Vedauwoo is known to the locals). At first, it was hard to get oriented. The formations are chaotic, defying description, rendering the guidebooks somewhat useless. The classics on the main formations were easy to find, but searching for other routes often became wild goose chases.
After a few frustrating trips, I resigned myself to the easy access of Rifle Mountain Park. After all, that’s where all of my friends went every weekend. But, over the years, after gaining invaluable fitness sport climbing and training on plastic, I longed to return to my traditional climbing roots. Vedauwoo became my go-to trad destination. Being an avid winter climber, I found that I essentially missed most of the Colorado Front Range trad climbing season—it’s too hot during the summer in most places around Denver. Vedauwoo is high, at approximately 8,000’ above sea level, so summer is the prime time to climb there. The chaotic configurations of the formations allow for seemingly limitless opportunities to choose aspects to find comfortable climbing conditions in virtually any weather. And, after paying my dues, I didn’t get lost any more.
My good friend and mentor, Jean-Pierre Ouellet, is one of the most accomplished crack climbers in the world. His crack climbing acumen is paralleled by his modesty. “Crack climbing is a weak person’s sport.” He says, “It’s all about angles.” While there is truth to this, jamming is far more complex than merely filling voids with appendages, PeeWee (as Jean-Pierre is known) trains like a comp climber, and is far from weak. I found, much to my surprise, that I was a much better traditional climber now, since I had delved into sport climbing and gym climbing. The contact strength and explosive power garnered payed huge dividends on the cracks, and I found myself able to project some of the finest cracks in the Voo, finally understanding how PeeWee became such an ace.
I love all types of climbing, but there is something more satisfying to me about climbing cracks. I can’t really define what it is that makes climbing cracks such a different experience for me, is it the natural line, the additional element of placing ones own protection. Perhaps it’s simply because when I first became captivated by climbing it was through traditional climbing. I don’t know. I can say, however, that this season of crack climbing in Vedauwoo has been some of the most rewarding and memorable rock climbing experiences of my life. Yes, the routes are short, but what they lack in stature they compensate for with intensity and quality. The rock is sharp and coarse, yes, but these crystals allow for remarkably effective rock shoes. And, yes, there are lots of off-widths, which is not a negative! And, there are scores of finger and hand cracks too, contrary to popular belief.
We are so fortunate to have easy access to this remarkable landscape by virtue of the Medicine Bow National Forest. Let’s keep the good relations that climbers have with the Rangers, pay our day passes, obey the rules, and help keep this wild place clean of trash. Enjoy!"
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On the Cover:
An Op-Ed by Will Mayo
The Hoodoos of Vedauwoo
Cover Date: August 3rd, 2015