Climbing in God's Country

By EricHorst on June 19, 2023

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Eric-HorstChasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains. ~ Jeffrey Rasley

  High up on a white Wyoming cliff, I hang by the tips of two fingers with my feet barely sticking onto ripples of limestone no thicker than the edge of a credit card. My heart pounds as I advance farther and farther above a protection bolt that arrested falls during my previous attempts of this route. Blocking thoughts of past failures, I progress with an upward focus aimed like a laser beam on the next hand hold to grab. Although it feels like mere seconds, a few more minutes of climbing delivers me to the top of the cliff, thus completing a successful ascent. Body jittering from adrenaline and spirit awash with joy, I take in a spectacular panorama of the Wild River mountain range. Wow! What a transcendent moment…only possible here in god’s country. While many families enjoy relaxing summer vacations at the beach, the Hörst family spends each summer in the Rocky mountains. Living at elevation for a month clears the mind and calms the soul. As climbers, we spend much of the day pushing our physical boundaries—and occasionally getting scared—on the side of a rock face. Yes, we call this “fun”, and we honestly can’t imagine spending our summer vacation in any other way!


This summer we split our time between two incredible Wyoming climbing destinations: Ten Sleep Canyon (in the Big Horn mountains) and Wild Iris (in the Wild River Range). Camping and climbing around 9,000 feet is delightful with cool, crisp mornings in the 40s and mild afternoons with high temperatures in the 70s. Isolated thunderstorms occasionally compel a mid-afternoon break from climbing, but most days are dry and near perfection for high-end climbing.


My wife and I are both veteran climbers with decades of experience, but our 13- and 15-year-old sons have become the climbing stars of the family. Cameron (15) and Jonathan (13) are both world-class youth climbers, and this year they have climbed multiple 5.14 routes—a lofty grade achieved by only a handful of pro climbers. Mom and Dad also enjoy getting on the sharp end of the rope, and most days we too get pumped pushing our personal limits on the rock. But it’s not just about the climbing—our summer trips to the mountains afford us quality time together as a family. Getting off the grid for a few weeks, with scant Internet and cell phone coverage, gifts us with a much-needed break from the frenzy of everyday life at home in Pennsylvania. I’ve come to treasure our summer trips — camping, climbing, and relaxing by the camp fire — as an invaluable opportunity to connect with my kids in a much deeper way than seems possible at home. I wish more families had the chance to escape to the mountains each summer, as we do, in order to recreate (and re-create!) in god’s country. This time together makes our family stronger, and it forges priceless memories that we’ll each carry for the rest of our lives.


Eric J. Hörst is an internationally renowned author, researcher, climbing coach, and accomplished climber of more than 30 years. A self-professed “climber for life,” Eric remains active at the cliffs, traveling widely with his wife, Lisa, and sons, Cameron and Jonathan. Driven by his passion for adventure and challenge, he has established over 400 first ascents, primarily on his home cliffs in the Eastern United States. Still pushing his personal climbing limits at age 50, Eric’s focus is now on R & D of new training techniques, traveling and sharing his knowledge with new climbers, and coaching the next generation of elite climbers. The third edition of Eric’s best-selling book, Training For Climbing, was just released in July 2016.



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