Name: Nicholas C. Flores
Where you work:
Public school educator, Bighorn Mountain Guides (owner), Foot of the Bighorns shoe salesman
What you do:
I work on individualized interventions (SPED) with kindergarten through second-grade students at Sagebrush Elementary. I started a rock climbing guide service in Sheridan for the summer months. I also help out at Foot of the Bighorns in my spare time.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up on the Canadian border of Minnesota in a small town called Baudette on Lake of the Woods. My hometown is located along the Rainy River, which separates Minnesota from Canada. I graduated from Lake of the Woods High School and then went to college for education in Moorhead, Minnesota. After that I started moving out west. I spent two years in Williston, North Dakota, teaching before moving to lovely Sheridan.
If you attended college, where and what did you study?
I went to Minnesota State University Moorhead for my undergraduate degree. I received a bachelor’s degree in special education. After that I obtained two master’s degrees at Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota. I have a master’s degree in developmental disabilities/autism and a degree in early childhood special education. I have also obtained a Single Pitch Instructor certification through the American Mountain Guides Association, which allows me to guide people on rock climbing trips.
How did you learn to climb? What was the hardest/easiest aspect?
During college my best friends and I would always talk about rock climbing and climbing mountains. We didn’t have many options for climbing where we lived, so we took a trip out west during one of our summer breaks. That trip changed my life for the better. During that trip we saw people rock climbing and climbing big mountains like Mount Rainier. After that trip we decided we had to get into the outdoor scene and learn to climb. So we both purchased the book “Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills.” This book literally has everything you need to know about mountains, rock climbing, knots, Leave No Trace ethics, outdoor-clothing and much more. After we memorized the rock-climbing portion of the book we decided to buy the basic gear needed for climbing. We then started making our way out to real rock venues. We really didn’t know what we were doing at the time and the only mentor we had was our book.
Luckily we had read the rock climbing sections from “Freedom of the Hills” enough that nothing major ever went wrong. After our first couple of outings we knew we had to find a true mentor to help us learn more and grow. Our mentor helped us grow a lot as climbers. He always made sure we were implementing safety first in everything we did. He taught us better ways for climbing organization with ropes, how to properly set up anchor systems, how to properly place gear, and much more.
I understand you’re getting a youth climbing program started. What have been the challenges with that so far? What have been the triumphs?
Climbing is a new thing for most people in Sheridan and that has been the challenge with starting a climbing youth program here. People in this community aren’t used to the idea of rock climbing. However, with the start of a new climbing gym (Bighorn Summit) and collaboration with the Sheridan Recreation District we are on our way to building the climbing community for the youth. I fully expect the community to grow with climbing once everyone gets used to the idea that climbing is safe when you have someone showing you the best practices in climbing, which promotes safety.
The triumph of starting youth climbing programs is seeing excited children. Kids love to climb. It is one of the first gross motor skills that indicate a normal gross motor development for a baby. Kids typically get yelled at for climbing trees or to the top of things, but with rock climbing they are encouraged.
What has been the most rewarding climb you’ve done to date? Why was it great?
I would say one of my most rewarding climbs would be one of my very first climbs. It was the summer 2011 and my climbing partner and I were feeling too confident. We had climbed a total of five times by ourselves and we thought we could do Devils Tower. We had researched the climb nonstop and planned a trip out west. At that time I was still living in Minnesota. We drove all night and showed up to Devils Tower in the dark. We could see the silhouette of the Tower as we drove into the park. We instantly started freaking out! We knew it was tall, but we had never seen the Tower in real life so we didn’t really understand how massive it was.
We probably didn’t get to the park until 1 a.m. and didn’t go to bed until 1:30 a.m. We were up by 5:30 a.m. to beat the heat and the traffic up the most popular route (for beginners), The Durrance Route. We didn’t say much as we walked to the base of the Tower. We were both scared and excited. After a few minutes of trying to talk each other out of climbing this massive rock we decided we better give the first pitch a try before bailing. We cruised up the first pitch and thought, “Hey, we can really do this! Let’s keep going.” We were very slow and our rope management was not up to par, but we made our way up the Tower. We ran out of water half way up and the high that day was 93 degrees. It took us four hours longer than we expected, but we got to the top of the tower. The views had us hooked! At that moment we knew that we would be back to climb the Tower and do it way better. It took us 10 hours to get up and down the Tower that day. We were sore, sunburnt and completely worked.
My climbing buddy and I have been back to the Tower countless times since our first ascent. We can now get up and down the Tower in around 3 hours, our rope management is way better, our climbing is more graceful, and we learned to avoid the sun in July! However, every time we climb the Tower together we can’t help but to reminisce about our first ascent. We discuss how that climbed shaped our lives for the better and how much we have improved since then! At that time I didn’t live in Wyoming, but after that climb I knew I needed to move closer to the state or to the great state of Wyoming.
Why do you think it’s important to spend time outside?
I think spending time outside really allows a person to relax and clear their mind. We spend too much time indoors and it is easy to get comfortable with that lifestyle. In my experience people seem happier outside. Typically when you are outside you are moving and being active, which promotes a healthier lifestyle. I moved to Wyoming because of the outdoor recreation opportunities. All of my spare time is spent outside trail running, rock climbing, hiking and much more. I have noticed a few things when I am spending time outdoors: the time goes by too quickly, I meet really cool people, I always have a great time, and I sleep better.
My goal is to help the community and the youth to get outside more. I constantly hear kids saying, “There is nothing to do here!” and it makes me very upset. We have so many opportunities for outdoor recreation in our backyard. People can go hiking, biking or running on their own; however, that’s not the case with all outdoor sports. Rock climbing is new to most folks in the Sheridan community and they don’t know how to get started with the sport. My goal is to show the community another great outdoor opportunity that we can all do in the Bighorn Mountains. My guide service is working with a few youth programs to get kids outside and climbing! I have taken several families out climbing and everyone has had a blast! With the help of the new climbing gym, Bighorn Summit, we should see a great rock climbing community in a few years.