School in Laramie?


Original Post
Christopher Smaling · · Bloomington, IN · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 10

I'm considering going to school at UW laramie and was wondering if people could tell me a bit about the town, the school, and the climbing "scene" there. I've heard mixed reviews from my friends out west ("Laramie is a podunk little shithole near some stupid flared cracks"), but it sounds like it could be cool.

I'm currently an undergrad at Indiana University Bloomington. I moved back to Indiana after spending a few years working out west (Yosemite, Boulder, Squamish), and the four hour each way weekend haul to the Red is killing me... I miss big stone, and while the Woo isn't big stone, it is way nearer to it than I am.

John Lombardi · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 173

I live in Cheyenne, WY. You'll need some sort of hobby for the winter. Jan-Feb is cold and snowy but March-April is when it snows and blizzards. But the weather here is really nice from May - October. I mean it is sunny almost every day, temperature isn't too extreme, it hardly ever rains - just quick storms. There were some bad fires along the CO/WY border this summer but the smoke was never that bad for multiple days in a row.

There's a climbing gym in UW and there's a good climbing community in Laramie. If you're going for a PhD you might get bored of Laramie but a masters program (2-3 yrs) is the right amount of time to enjoy the area. There's decent skiing in the snowy range which is 30-45 mins from Laramie. Cost of living is really cheap.

The town itself is small, and western, but has fun stuff going on (I think year round). If you get bored of Laramie you can go to Colorado; fort collins is about 1 hour away on 287. If you hunt (I don't) then Wyoming is a really good place to be.

Oh and the climbing in Vedauwoo is great. You will be 15 mins (1-way) away from Vedauwoo. A lot of crags get busy, which is a relative term, during the weekend. So the after work weekday climbing or the weekday climbing if you can schedule it is the best.

There's a couple people from Laramie who post regularly on MP so hopefully they will chime in.

Christopher Smaling · · Bloomington, IN · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 10

Thanks for the reply! How cold are we talking in the winter? I grew up in Michigan, and -10 or so doesn't really make me bat an eye, but how many days are 25+? Aka, how many climbing days might I get in in the winter?

Dave Hug · · Carbondale, Illinois · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 6,955

Hey Christopher,

I went to school there for two years. John did a pretty good job at summing it up. There is a brand new climbing facility on campus and I think there is also a climbing gym in town. As for real stone near Laramie well there is the obvious Vedauwoo with its hard mans granite, but less known is the limestone and sandstone close by. 9 miles north of town is rogers canyon, it holds several bolted routes and has some bouldering. next is the school yard (pretty much connected to vedauwoo) and it has a bunch of fun sandstone bouldering. All in all Laramie was fun and its proximity to colorado is great. Hope this helps

Rob Kepley · · Westminster,CO · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,010

I lived in Laramie for six years. Winter just drags on.. The summers, although short are great. The wind will drive you insane..

John Lombardi · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 173
Christopher Smaling wrote:Thanks for the reply! How cold are we talking in the winter? I grew up in Michigan, and -10 or so doesn't really make me bat an eye, but how many days are 25+? Aka, how many climbing days might I get in in the winter?
Well honestly you can get a lot of days climbing in winter. February was pretty nice (I came from Syracuse, NY). March and April it DUMPS in Vedauwoo. Jan and Feb it snows but we had a really nice Feb last year with a couple 40 deg days. Vedauwoo is up on a hill and typically has the worst wind - so if it's really windy in Cheyenne/Laramie it will be heinous up in Vedauwoo. The wind dies down in the summers/late spring. There are some days when the wind will drive you insane, as Rob mentioned.

You will get climbing days in but if it's 25 and sunny w/ 10 mph winds you'll be fine. But if its 25 and sunny w/ 30 mph winds then it will not be fun. I-80 closes regularly up east of Laramie. I think it closes often West of Laramie as well. But you can get some sunny climbing days out at Sinks Canyon in Lander.

I think I got 2 weekends of climbing in Vedauwoo in February this past winter but 0 days March + April. Maybe a couple weekdays in Feb/early march.
highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35

I grew up in Cheyenne and did a few years school at UW. At those young ages I think it was excellent for me as a developing climber. As a grown up with my tastes, I'm happy to only climb at vedauwoo once every few years now.

The wind is awful. I've been in less stressful hurricanes.

Tom Rangitsch · · Lander, WY · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 1,491

I went to college in Laramie in the early 90s and learned to climb at Vedauwoo. It was a great place to start back then. I learned how to place gear, jam in flared cracks, and was introduced to a very staunch trad ethic. Most routes had no anchor and you had to build one, belay up your second, and walk off. We even lowered to the ground after every fall. There were very few gyms anywhere back then, and I was introduced to the sport through mentors who were kind enough to let me learn through "on the job" training.

I left Laramie and continued to climb in many different places. I have become mostly a sport climber/boulderer. My wife did a post doc in Laramie for 2 years about 6 years ago, and I found myself back in Laramie. It was not everything that I remembered. The climbing is really spread out, and it is hard to climb many pitches in one day. The style is thuggish and not intuitive, and I don't get as much out of flared cracks as I used to. There has been a lot of bouldering development in the last 20 years, but it is mostly sub par as far as quality of routes. The ethics have evolved somewhat, but it is still a bit of a backwater in terms of modern climbing. All in all, I did not enjoy my time there the second go around. The gym on campus is okay, but not a stellar training facility. The weather does suck, except in the summer.

Sorry for the rambling response, but I just wanted to give you my experience. If you are really psyched on trad climbing and off widths, it is a pretty neat place. It is not too far from Estes and Eldo, and Lander and Ten Sleep are good weekend options when it gets too cold. But I for one would not go back.

Tradgic Yogurt · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 55

I'll comment from the perspective of a hard science ABD.

In comparison to topic and advisor, location is basically irrelevant, because you are going to spend a long, long time working on whatever your advisor has funding for. So you might get to pick from these three universities that you applied to because they are doing topic A and someone has funding for a student, or you might pick one of three other schools because someone is topic B and has funding.

For a masters you might be able to pick where to live, you just need to come up with tuition and living expenses. However, the terminal degree in science is a PhD, so often there is no funding for the booby prize. Your top priorities by far would be:
1) research area you will be fascinated with for a long, long time; and
2) an advisor you are wiling to work under for a long, long time.

For the field I was in, "long, long time" is 5 years if you're extremely lucky but more like 8 years on average. To quote a prof, "when I was at Caltech, in the 60s, they were already lying to people telling them they could be out in 5 years".

Alexander Blum · · Charlotte, NC · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 143

I've got to agree with Tradgic. I'm. One year into my PhD. I don't always love living where I do, but I'd much rather be 2-3 hours from good climbing with an interesting research problem then being much closer and working on something boring, or with an advisor I didn't click with.

Speaking of that, it is my opinion that your relationship with your advisor is much more important than your specific research topic. Something that seems boring on the surface might become fascinating as you dig deeper into it, but a bad boss is just a bad boss.

Arlo F Niederer · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 385

I'm a Wyoming Native and a graduate of UW with a degree in Geology/Geophysics.

I just read an article a few weeks ago about the best colleges for outdoor enthusiasts - and UW was ranked #6 as I remember. It's often in the top 20 or even the top 10 of these rankings.

Perhaps more important, an article rated UW number one in the nation for supporting the students. This is especially true for high school graduates from Wyoming entering the university. Sometimes out of state tuition is more reasonable than in state for many states.

The most important decision is how good is the program in your particular major, as well as are you going for a bachelor or an advanced degree. If going for an advanced degree, the quality and reputation of the department of your major becomes more important. So you need to check on the quality of the department. (Are you here for a degree or to climb?)

When I went to school, the geology department had an excellent reputation, and many companies came there to recruit. The program was so good, many companies would hire people with just a bachelor's degree. There were other programs highly ranked - you'll have to do a little investigation to find out which ones are best today.

Others have covered some of the climbing here, so I'll just add a few things.

A small sport area was developed at Vedauwoo, and a recent guidebook came out about other areas in the Laramie range north of Vedauwoo. Hard men used to climb in the Snowy Range about 30 miles west of Laramie on slick metamorphic rocks.

Rocky Mountain National Park is a couple of hours away, where you can get longer routes, but can be inaccessible in the winter. Lumpy ridge has long routes on many formations, with Sundance having the longest ones. And of course, the Diamond on Long's Peak.

Boulder is a couple of hours away - you know what it has to offer.

Shelf road is about 3 1/2 hours away, and you can climb there year round (I've run into UW geology majors climbing there over the winter months).

Yes, the winters are long and the wind blows - it is Wyoming, after all. California is in the process of covering Wyoming with wind farms - there is a proposal to build a huge one to the west of the Snowy Range about 60 miles from Laramie! Laramie is at 7,100 feet so it is going to be colder AND windier.

I didn't think the party scene in Laramie was too wild, but then I tried to be a reasonably diligent student. Many friends would go to Fort Collins (60 miles away) where CSU is located, with many more students and cute girls. Old Town is a fun place there and has small clubs which bring in various bands. Many excellent breweries and brew pubs here. Close enough for an occasional visit but far enough away to not ruin your GPA or drain your bank account.

I've heard people say that Wyoming residents are friendly and helpful (I have to recuse myself!). Bruce Willis recently had this to say about the residents of Laramie (I can't get the link from the Baldwin Post to work so I will copy it):

"We were just leaving the city limits of Laramie, Wyoming when I noticed that we had a flat tire so I pulled over to the side of the road and we were about to call the car company but then just a minute or two later there were two, maybe three cars that pulled over behind us and offered to put the spare tire on. So I let them. I mean, I was just so impressed that people could be that friendly to pull over so quickly and offer help to a complete stranger. You have to understand that this is something that would've never happened in L.A.!"

"And they had no idea who I was before they pulled over. So yeah, that's my story about Laramie. It's nice to know that there are still places like this in America."

Christopher Smaling · · Bloomington, IN · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 10

Thanks for the feedback guys!

So most of your responses seem to be geared towards graduate students, and like I said, I'm going to be an undergraduate. I'm a chemistry major at IU right now, and it looks to me like UW has a pretty weak chemistry program, but I can't really find much information about it, so I was wondering if anyone knows/has experience with the chemistry program?

I'll be visiting Laramie this december, hopefully I'll dig the campus!

Tradgic Yogurt · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 55

Ah, well good luck. Can't hurt to ask if you can get out-of-state tuition waivers then, my undergrad you could waiver a lot o things by asking and generally being a decent human and actually caring about the people you were talking with.

JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940

The particularly notable schools at UW are:

-petroleum engineering
-geology (because this knowledge is needed for resource extraction)
-law, as it pertains to oil and gas leasing/land acquisition, etc (because you need to be able to get the "rights" to extract the resources)

The funding, and therefore the culture of the institution, reflects this. If this is you, jump in. Otherwise, I would look into other options.

ton · · Salt Lake City · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 0

As a chemistry undergrad, UW is a massive step down in prestige and quality from Indiana. Absent a good reason to do it, i'd suggest you stay at Indiana, or if you must transfer... Colorado State, Colorado, and even U of Utah have vastly superior chemistry programs to Wyoming.

I grew up in Michigan, too. Laramie gets more sun all winter, but the winds... oh, my, the winds. Just totally different.

Arlo F Niederer · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 385

In State Tuition University of Indiana:
$10,388

Total Costs for in state University of Indiana:
$24,808

OUT OF STATE COSTS
Tuition College
$14,486 U.Wyo
$28,346 CSU
$35,079 CU
$25,057 U.Utah

Total Cost
$28,921 U.Wyo
$42,630 CSU
$52,736 CU
$39,959 U.Utah

As I mentioned above, Wyoming was ranked number 1 in financial support of students. Colorado was ranked 50th! I don't remember where Utah was ranked for support of students.

The 2015 ranking of U.W. Chemistry:
University of Wyoming chemistry program ranks #154 (out of 1384; top 15%) in USA and The Best in Wyoming.

The 2015 ranking of CSU Chemistry:
Colorado State University Fort Collins is pretty expensive: depending on the program, tuition cost varies around $26,000 a year.
The Second Best Chemistry School in Colorado
Ranked #14 Chemistry School in The West
Ranked #62 Chemistry School in USA

The 2015 ranking of CU Chemistry:
University of Colorado Boulder is expensive: depending on the program, tuition is around $34,000 a year.
University of Colorado Boulder chemistry program ranks in Top 25 in the United States and The Best in Colorado.
The Best Chemistry School in Colorado
Ranked #7 Chemistry School in The West
Ranked #23 Chemistry School in USA

The 2015 ranking of U. Utah Chemistry:
University of Utah is pretty expensive: depending on the program, tuition price varies around $24,000 per year.
University of Utah chemistry program ranks in Top 100 in USA and The Second Best in Utah.
The Second Best Chemistry School in Utah
Ranked #15 Chemistry School in The West
Ranked #67 Chemistry School in USA

And for Comparison:
Indiana University Bloomington - Chemistry Ranking 2015
The Third Best Chemistry School in Indiana
Ranked #19 Chemistry School in The Midwest
Ranked #78 Chemistry School in USA

And the link where I copied this information from:
http://chemistry-schools.com/

Now you have that difficult assessment of value for money...

JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940
Arlo F Niederer wrote: As I mentioned above, Wyoming was ranked number 1 in financial support of students.
Yes, the petroleum industry does in fact have plenty of money to fund it's chosen students, and UW is certainly a school at which they recruit. They seek people capable of doing the job independently of a thorough and holistic understanding of how it fits into the world. If you are interested in a future in the petroleum industry, UW is the place for you :)
Arlo F Niederer · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 385
JNE wrote: Yes, the petroleum industry does in fact have plenty of money to fund it's chosen students, and UW is certainly a school at which they recruit. They seek people capable of doing the job independently of a thorough and holistic understanding of how it fits into the world. If you are interested in a future in the petroleum industry, UW is the place for you :)
Actually, it's the state legislature which provides the most support. One of the benefits they provide is called a Hathaway scholarship. A graduate of a Wyoming high school with a GPA greater than 3.6 gets free tuition. Students with progessively lower GPAs get smaller, but still generous portions of their tuition paid. This is regardless of what major they choose.

Wyoming out of state tuition is significantly lower than many other states because the state legislature still contributes significant funds to the University, unlike here in Colorado where the legislature has consistently decreased funding to the colleges. Consequently, tuitions have risen and colleges look to private industry for funding, with increasing influence on tbe colleges - which perhaps you were implying about the UW geology department.
Petsfed · · Laramie, WY · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 925

Considering the budget triggered implosion currently happening at the University of Wyoming (the philosophy department is dead, for instance), I would not depend on good funding and support from the state any time soon.

I love Laramie. I moved back, and took a big pay cut to do it. But I like the isolation. I like the brutality of the winters. I even like how windy it gets.

But make no mistake: those winters are BRUTAL. The wind can and will drive you insane. The culture that comes with the university is insular, and infuriating. The night life centers on drinking. If you don't like crack climbing (and not gear-protected, layback-if-you-must, face climbing, but sustained jam-or-fail CRACK climbing), the climbing here is not great. The routes are short, and sharp.

Wyoming is a lot like Alaska: everybody loves to visit when it's nice, but you have to put up with a lot of bullshit from the weather, the economy, and the locals to live here for very long at all.

PRRose · · Boulder · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 0
Arlo F Niederer wrote:The 2015 ranking of U.W. Chemistry: University of Wyoming chemistry program ranks #154 (out of 1384; top 15%) in USA and The Best in Wyoming.
More like Only in Wyoming, since the only other 4-year college in Wyoming doesn't offer a chemistry degree.
AW13 · · Laramie, WY · Joined May 2012 · Points: 0

I would also urge caution in your consideration of attending UW at this time, due to the "budget triggered implosion" Brian Scoggins mentioned. I am a former UW professor. While I enjoyed my time teaching at UW, I left just in time to dodge massive budget cuts.

Millions of dollars in budget cuts have been implemented. These have resulted in a hiring freeze and the elimination of 102 vacant positions; reduction of part-time adjunct positions; and elimination of 16 academic programs.

http://www.uwyo.edu/uw/news/2016/10/uw-proposes-plan-for-second-year-of-budget-reductions.html

While it's true the petroleum engineering department is probably the least-affected program, I can't imagine that overall, these cuts translate into a positive learning environment for students. My former colleagues report they are over-worked and stressed. Morale is considerably low. Anecdotally, I know one PhD student who was warned a few months ago he would lose his funding (thankfully, this glitch has been resolved - but what an awful situation for a grad student).

Good luck on your quest!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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