After a little bit of digging I can say with certainty that I first met Cameron September 2015, almost exactly a year ago.
Ken spoke often of his new climbing partner, "Stebbins" over that summer. What the hell kind of name is Stebbins?, I always thought to myself, but never voiced, knowing that this was the same group that had a character named "Slim" in it. Then Ken would talk about Cameron, and I would have no idea who that was either.
It took me a while to reconcile the fact that these two new climbing partners were actually one man: the Cameron Stebbins.
Anyways. In the fall of 2015, Ken took me to the Penis Corridor knowing that Slim and Stebbins were there already. Jumping from rock to rock, I called, with an obnoxious uptick in my voice:
Yes, that's blood on his cheek. Vedauwoo, man.
He had no idea who I was. That's okay though.
We didn't see each other again until my first foray into the land of the gypses in Fremont Canyon.
Stebbins on B25, Fremont Canyon
After I moved to Laramie we started to see more and more of each other.
A Stebbins at Vedauwoo
On a day I just wanted to climb something easy and enjoy myself, Cameron suggested Mother and, after living in and around Laramie for seven years, I rapped the potato chip for the first time in my life.
On an early summer day my dad and I found Cameron and Ken already a pitch up Beefeater.
As we walked out from the Holdout that afternoon, Cameron subtly brought up the disparity in my father and my's heights.
"Enlow, how come you're so tall?"
Yes, Dad was there to hear that. But don't worry. He and the milkman are on great terms.
A month earlier Ken, Cameron, Cat and I tried to sneak in some climbing between spring storms. For a long time, Raised On Robbery (10a) was the hardest route I had photos of Stebbins climbing.
How Hard is a Stebbins?
SMS from Stebbins, September 12th, 2016
You make it sound like I climbed 10a all summer long.... Raised on Robbery and Beefeater are 10b. You belayed me on a few 11's when I sent haha
But Cameron, that's just the problem! If I'm belaying you, there's no photos of it.
If there's no photos of it, did you really even send?
Cameron belayed me on my project (which there are no photos of - did I even really send?) on the day I blew the crux along with the janky .3 I had protecting it.
That was a good long fall towards the ledge.
Stebbins at the base of Max Factor
Another climb we sent together was Boardwalk (11b), a prominent crack up the Coke Bottle formation at Turtle Rock. Cameron told me it was a "guaranteed send", as the crux of the second pitch was the first few moves (he did the first pitch). After desperately pulling on a bush to get to his belay station (ohgodohgodohgod), I racked up and proceeded to whip all over his gear. When I finally made it through the crux start I had stitched it so badly that I had no pieces for the next twenty or so feet of climbing. Shakey with fear and nerves, I had no choice but to rally and nowhere to go but up. But hey, I sent? That counts right?
Blurry Gypses look for a moose, or some meese.
I belayed Cameron the evening he spent half an hour bootying a brand new #3 out of Hesitation Blues, a pretty great 11b. I also got to be there when he topped out Beer Crack, but we all know that bouldering isn't really climbing.
Still, all of this (Beer Crack aside) was old news to Stebbins. His first real project I got to be there for was BG Crack (Bat Guano). I belayed for BG - so there are no photos - and had the time of my life top-roping it, which is a weird thing. I have no other recollections of TR being so good.
Fourth of July, 5.12
His other project was Fourth of July Crack. Cameron had been working it off-and-on all summer, and early in September it seemed things were coming around.
Fourth of July was, for a short time, perhaps the hardest climb in Wyoming. It was established by local heroes (who made it to the big times) Todd Skinner and Paul Piana back in the late seventies. As the first 5.12 in Wyoming, I can't imagine a cooler first twelve for a Vedauwoo native to send.
Cameron was sitting on the curb outside his house when I pulled into the cul-de-sac Friday afternoon. He tossed his bag up onto the seat, where I took it and moved it into the back, and then he followed it up into the car.
I - per usual when I climb with Cameron - took my time getting things together in the parking lot of the gazebo at Turtle Rock. Gri-gri, ascender, lockers, slings, static, ATC, camera, lens cloth, lens pen, water, apple, ...
We tied ropes to our harnesses - he his lead line, me my static - and soloed up to the second anchor of Walt's Wall. A bit of tomfoolery from there got us up to the anchors of Fourth of July Crack. Cameron rigged a TR to warmup on, and I started playing with camera angles on the static. Haley and Slim showed up and we all waited for the sun to move off the rock, letting it cool enough for Cameron to do his redpoint burn.
I had watched Cameron and Slim take two toprope laps apiece and so had a good feel for the sections of the route. But then, I still didn't know it nearly as well as Haley. She seemingly knew it better than even Cameron. She coached him through the movements, reminded him to rest, to slow his breathing, stay calm. Haley was Cameron's coach, and his belayer for every single lead he made on the route.
I watched Cameron on his latest attempt as he slotted the fingerlock and moved his feet out of the crack, nursing a stemming rest before launching into the overhung thin hands. Eight feet above him a huge dab of chalk blotted the left side of the crack. It was a bullseye, a target goading him on and taunting him. It was like Fourth of July's flag of surrender - if he could just get to it and take it.
At that point the crux would be over and Cameron would get his first real rest, his hand smashed all the way up to his wrist between the sharp crystals of the crack.
If he made it.
He was going to make it.
Cameron hit the hand jam and threw a golden number two in his mouth. Its lobes bobbed on the stem as he rethought his placement and climbed another two moves before placing it. From there he quickly reached a final stance before the last section of the climb - a wide off-width crack.
The hardest climbing behind him, standing nearly at the top of one of the longest routes in Vedauwoo, Cameron couldn't hold back any longer - victory was nearly at hand.
Haley, Slim, and I backed his cries. The Nautilus and Holdout bounced back our echoes along with the golden rays of a setting sun.
He entered the OW right-side-in, trusty #4 hanging off his left.
There was more cheering as he worked around my rigging to the anchors and as he was lowered back to the ground.
The knucks of victory
At long last, Cameron can quit rock climbing.
Good thing too, 'cause I hear he's going to be pretty busy come spring...
If I may flash back one last time to the Penis Corridor where Cameron and I met, one thing that impressed me about this unknown man was discovering that it was his anchor I was trusting my life to at the top of Climb and Punishment.
(I trusted my life to them again not so long ago to get even more photos of Cameron on yet another 5.9)
I trusted his gear again when we climbed Mother in July, rapping off of the potato chip. In fact, his gear's all over the place at Vedauwoo. If you've climbed there in recent years, chances are good you've rapped his (or Shane's) anchors somewhere out there.
So when I tired of the lack of hardware at the top of Straight Edge (wide hands and fists, burrowing into the crack up to your shoulder) after my sixth ascent that summer, Cameron was who I went to to show me the way.
With bolts donated by Cross Country Connection - my pretend workplace - we hiked and scrambled a few hundred feet to the top of Old Easy. As we worked our way up, the sun worked its way down...
At the top of Vedauwoo we watched C-130s from the nearby Airforce base do maneuvers, planes over Wyoming plains.
Then Cameron taught me how to drill an anchor.
Step 1. Find your spot...
Step 2. Smash it flat
Step 3. Drill it out
Step 4. Holy shit that sunset
Step 5. Clean it out
Step 6. Screw it
Thanks Cameron. I'll gyps with you any time.