Disclaimer: The following programming contains nudity.
The hub and I had gone to Wyoming for the weekend to escape the heat here. But rolling into Lander, it was only marginally cool. We were worried it would still be steamy at the crag, Wild Iris -- especially since most of it faces south.
Don't worry, said our friends. It's at 9,000 feet. It'll be cooler there.
But on this July weekend, it was sweltering. We sought shade where we could, but the afternoon sun burned white hot on our backs. Our sweaty fingers greased out of pockets in Iris' bright limestone. And if you stood still for a moment, like for a belay, the bugs swept in.
No-see-ums drowned in the sweat on my arms that day.
Miserable and melty, we debated what to do. I was psyched about the short, sporty pitches on the funky pockets at Iris. But the conditions weren't fun.
"Should we bail?" he asked.
A breeze finally kicked, rushing through Iris's aspens from the nearby Wind River Range. It blew away the bugs and graced me with a brilliant idea.
"I know how we're going to salvage this day," I said.
"We're going to climb naked."
OK, public nudity is already a bad idea. And climbing naked is worse. Rock can cut and scrape even clothed skin. But every naked climbing story I've heard is accompanied by lighthearted laughter.
Like the friend who sent a 5.13 naked on a hot day in Boulder Canyon. Or another who eased the tension during a crag-side fight with his girlfriend by stripping down to pull a challenging roof route in the nude; she laughed, the fight ended.
Sometimes it begs to be done.
I became slightly obsessed with finding someone who has climbed the Eldorado classic the Naked Edge (four pitches, 5.11b) in the buff. I mean, it's in the name. After asking around, I learned that Charley Bentley and Phil Benningfield did it in the late 1990s.
"We went up to the dihedral and stripped down, climbed, I don't know, four or five pitches," said Phil, who now lives in Salida.
"The first pitch, your legs are spread-eagled," he said. "Charley was leading that, and I chose not to look up."
"It was certainly done just for the laugh factor more than anything," Phil added.
Phil said he knew another party did it shortly thereafter but upped the ante, stripping at the base (and thus was naked for the descent, too).
I'm sure others have done it, too. They're just too smart to write about it. (My mother is horrified right now.)
At Wild Iris, I eyed the climb we'd done as a warm up. I knew I wouldn't fall, and that the only body parts that needed to touch the rock were my hands and feet. So I threw the rope beneath this climb, looked up and down the crag, and seeing no one, stripped.
I put on my harness, chalk bag and shoes. That's it.
The breeze was still blowing off the Winds. The heat faded and I giggled in joy. Clipping the anchors 45 feet later, I paused to look beyond the trees and appreciate the freedom I felt.
The hub followed suit. The day was salvaged. And I'm sure I'll do it again.