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Colby Frontiero grew up a scrawny kid. He didn't have the body for typical high school sports like football. Then at 15, he found rock climbing, a pursuit that emphasizes technique over size and brute strength.

Beyond the events, the festival provides ample chances for attendees to catch up with other climbing enthusiasts. That's what Rush enjoys most.

The festival attracts some of the biggest names in climbing, but Frontiero was struck by how accepting people there were to newcomers.

To an outsider, Lander might seem like an unusual gathering place, given its out of the way location. But the surrounding area offers some of the best rock climbing in the United States, Pohja said.

"It's great for people who are just intrigued by the climbing community to come and interact with different climbers," she said. "Climbing is rarely a spectator sport. This is one opportunity for people to learn about what climbing is all about."

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The world's longest running climbing festival began 21 years ago. Renowned climber Todd Skinner had settled in Lander and he, along with some peers, decided to create an event to celebrate the climbing community.

The rock around Lander is made from dolomite limestone, which is both pocketed and incredibly strong, she explained. Those pockets offer plenty of hand and footholds for climbers.

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It's billed as a festival by climbers, for climbers, Pohja said.

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Unique rock

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"You can compare it to Europe," he said. "There is a lifetime of climbing [there]."

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A trade fair is set for Friday at City Park in Lander. Along with more than 40 different companies, there will be music, beer and contests. On a climbing wall at the park, Rush will host a "dyno competition," where climbers jump from hold to hold.

A year later, Frontiero made his first visit to the International Climbers' Festival in Lander. The annual event draws climbers from all over the world, who gather to celebrate their sport, learn new skills and connect with old friends.

weekend events include a trail run, clinics at Wild Iris and presentations by keynote speakers including Honnold and DiGiulian.

"You are mixing with people who have never seen the sport and people who have done it for 50 years," he said. "It's a great mix."We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will Nike Air Force 1 Ultra Flyknit Mid Dark Grey Black monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters.

for a long time or something," Frontiero recalled.

"A couple of dudes invited me out climbing like I'd known them Nike Air Force 1 Blue High

Unlike many climbing events, the International Climbers' Festival isn't run by large retailers. Instead, it's organized by a nonprofit with the mission of helping people learn about, and excel in, rock climbing.

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Nike Air Force 1 Ultra Flyknit Mid Dark Grey Black

Nike Air Force 1 Ultra Flyknit Mid Dark Grey Black

"Whether people have been climbing or not, there is probably something at the festival that they would really enjoy," she said.

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Nike Air Force 1 Ultra Flyknit Mid Dark Grey Black

This year's event began Wednesday and runs through the weekend. It will be attended by some of the sport's top athletes, including Alex Honnold and Sasha DiGiulian. But the festival has plenty to offer for novices or the simply curious, said festival director Mandy Pohja.

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"I don't know if it was by default or allure," said Frontiero, now a 32 year old English teacher who lives in Casper. "I suppose I started because I felt I could be good at it."

By and for climbers

Lander is one of the few places in the United States where climbers can find similar rock, said Micah Rush, a Casper firefighter who's been participating in the sport for 20 years.

´╗┐Lander draws worldwide participants to climbing festival

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