Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Lander Bouldering Migration

The last month demonstrates, in a concise way, what has become our standard spring bouldering migration from area to area.  If you live in the Lander area, or are considering a trip, this post could help you know how our areas come into season, or where to look next if the weather changes in either direction.

May began with a bunch of snow in Sinks Canyon.  
 But it didn't last long on the north side of Sinks Canyon.  And that's where the bouldering migration begins most years.   I spent one after school session at the "Don King Dyno" V6, and unlocked the problem by using a razor sharp hold, and a dead point, instead of a dyno. 
  As the weather warms, and the winds calm down, bouldering activity moves out to Sweetwater.  We're drawn by endless rock with new things to climb, and roads that stay relatively dry.  Sierra, Dave, and I spent a perfect day out there.

Dave repeated many of the lines we put up last December, such as "Vast and Still" V2.
 I got distracted by an undone short dyno up the hill, "Small and Violent" V3.

Then I used all of my skin and determination to nab the first ascent of "Mr. Klaw" V5.  Good thing too, because Sierra sent it on her next try.
 We ended the day on a line that called to Dave, a surprisingly exciting finger crack up a slab.  It was Dave's first, first ascent.  He hasn't told me a name yet.  Until he does, I'm calling it "Starting at Zero" V0.
 In the second half of May, heavy rains caused extensive flooding in Lander.  Waterfalls fell off the cliffs in Sinks Canyon in places I've never seen them before, and the hills had some small landslides.  While checking out the new radar feature on weather.com, I noticed that Torrey Valley didn't get much rain, and the sun was supposed to come out that afternoon.  I still had some boulders to check out from a topo Davin gave me.  We packed quickly, drove up there, and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon at Beck's Boulders while the rain continued in Lander.

Sierra climbing "Vladimir's Puttin" V4 at Beck's Boulders.  We added two V5 variations that follow holds left, and further left, from Vladimir.
 Before things heated up, I still had some projects I wanted to try out at Sweetwater.  Dave and Cole joined us for a day out there.  My projects didn't get sent, but I made some progress.  Cole and Dave got the second and third ascents of "Just Being Crazy" V3.

Dave committing to the crazy move.
 We hiked up to the Ocean Boulder at the end of the day.

Cole sending "Dynomite" V3.

When the weather gets too warm at Sweetwater, we often find ourselves spending a couple weeks at City Walls.  There are still great lines to be done out there, and it's consistently warmer and dryer than the Rock Shop, just a few miles away.  We spent our first climbing day of summer vacation out there with Brandon.  Brandon and Amanda were two of our climbing friends back in Ft. Collins, and now they're moving to Lander!

A cold wind sent us to a corridor where we hadn't climbed before.  Conditions were surprisingly nice there.  We found a perfect warm up and called it the "Wanderer Traverse" V1.  Here's a shot of Brandon climbing the line, with solid stone, large features, and a few pumpy slopers right at the end.

I also cleaned and climbed a line going up the wall that follows perfect features to a ledge, and then tops out to the right.  "Watery Wanderer" V3.

Sierra trying it from the sit start.

Some snow squalls came through from time to time.  But we were already warmed up, so we just climbed through them.  

Sierra getting an ascent of "Golden Gate" V4 as some snow came in.
 Just up the hill I cleaned up a traverse, and we got to work.  Towards the end of the session I thought I finished the traverse, but then Ashley unlocked a fun and logical compression sit start further right on the wall.
We returned a couple days later, and Ashley grabbed the first ascent from the best start.

 "Mom's Birth Day" V5
 We went to the Hawaii Boulder at City Walls for an evening session.  The "Tiki Power" project now goes from a low stand at V6/7, but the full sit start is still undone.
Temperatures rose in the last week, and now it's Rock Shop season again.  We got off to a good start up there.  Chris Marley's been getting up there for a while already, and has put up some fantastic new lines.  One of them is "SunDance Kid."  It's a bit tricky to rate.  The crux hold is small, sharp, and it feels ridiculously committing to dead point off of it.  But once you fully commit, the move doesn't feel that bad.  The next move is jug to jug, but it's a big move high off the deck.  When I came down and switched my shoes, my legs kept shaking.  Physically I'd call it V6.  But it ranks right up there with "Nexus" and Germ Free Adolescence" as one of the most exciting boulder problems I've done. 
Later in the day, Ashley added a ten foot traverse into "Giddyup" V4

called "Hold Your Horses" V5/6
Later in the summer, we'll continue our migration up to Deer Park, Roaring Fork, the Falcon's Lair, and possibly further into the Winds as temperatures rise.  That's our spring to summer migration.  Every area has its season.  We appreciate it while it's there, try hard on our projects because time is limited, and then get excited for the next area that's just about to open.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Long Rush for Timelessness

"I confess I do not believe in time... And the highest enjoyment of timelessness ... is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants.  This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain.  It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone."  Vladimir Nabokov 

That's what boulderers are looking for!  That sense of oneness with sun and stone.  Most of the year, I can find it, but it often gets difficult in spring.  Weather and circumstances force a sense that time is limited.  Spare moments, before heading to work, are spent studying weather websites, making plans, and then having them fall apart as new spring storms appear.  Probabilities need to be assessed, and I end up settling for sessions that can only last a couple hours, before the sun sets or the snow starts to fall. What I want is a full day of bouldering outside each week.  Long enough for that sense of timelessness to set in.  But I settle for minutes, or even moments, when that's all that I can get.  Here are some of the best bouldering moments I've managed to find this spring.

Climbing the second ascent of Ashley's problem "Lioness" V7 at the Beach in Sinks Canyon.
A fun left to right traverse, that felt like V5, along the Warm Up boulder at the Beach, Sinks Canyon.
We lucked out with a perfect weekend day at OZ.
We put up a couple new warm ups.
And I tried as hard as I could on "Wild Thing Stand" V8.
We made our way to Gateway, CO for spring break.
And I finally feel like we've devised a really good car camping system.
We sampled new stone.
And got to experience spring before it made it to Lander.
I really enjoyed "Blacking Out the Friction" and "Blood on the Tracks" which both felt V4 to me.  But both lines were too reachy for Ashley and Sierra. They've decided that Wingate Sandstone is not a fair rock type for short people.  It doesn't have many extra holds. And between holds, the stone is totally blank.   It's pretty though!
"Rail Slide" was once a V4/5 but Christian Prellwitz (the guidebook author) told me that a hold broke on it, and it's harder now.  I'm not sure how much harder it is, but we couldn't hit the top out.
Ashley was disappointed by the Wingate, so she had us make a stop the next day for the Dakota Sandstone of Unaweep Canyon.  She was so happy to have multiple traverses to climb, with plenty of small features!


We had some rain over the break, and while giving the sandstone plenty of time to dry, we climbed at the gym in Grand Junction and took a look at Colorado National Monument.

We also checked out some interesting rock art panels on our way back home.
During recent spring weekends the Falls Trail was the only place we could find bouldering out of the wind.  We put up some new moderates.  This is the shortest one, but it has the most photogenic backdrop.
I sent a project on the Blind Eye boulder.  "Foot in the Eye" V6 starts on a good hold low and left, then traverses the sloping lip to end at the top of "Blind Eye."  Ashley got the second ascent.
Then I got to work on a line in the talus field.  I was already tired, and it felt slick in the sun.  So I didn't send it that weekend.  And that bothered me all week.
So I came back with Sierra on Friday after school, and climbed it.  It's called "Freaky Friday" V4.

Then it was my turn to spot Sierra on "Silver Spoon" V5.  She did all the moves, and would have put it together, but then it started to snow.
The snow didn't stop.  The weekend was so cold we didn't get an outdoor bouldering session.  We hiked up to Bomber Basin instead, and I scouted a few boulders there.

Since that weekend, we've managed to get a couple after school sessions.
A highlight was climbing this fun V5 on the Balanced boulder above the Beer Time Boulder last Friday.
Last weekend we got rained out, and the weather this upcoming weekend is also looking poor.  I need some time, some good weather, some sense of oneness with sun and stone.  Without it, life just rushes by.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Sunshine, Snow, Helpful Ranchers, and Reflection

Despite cold temperature forecasts, the sun has been out, the wind has been still, and we've been getting out for a nice bouldering session each weekend.  We even got out the day after competing in the Wyoming Bouldering Series Comp held at the Elemental Gym here in Lander.  It was just too sunny to stay inside.
 But we were too worked from the comp that day to climb anything new.

Yesterday I was well rested and excited for a day at Sweetwater.  We pulled off the highway, and began to hit some snow.  So I put on my new chains, and we started driving down the two track. It didn't look bad at all.  But before I could even pick up speed, my tires fell through a crust on top of the snow and we went slower and slower until came to a stop while going slightly downhill.  We couldn't go forwards or back!  Our tires were just spinning in pits of snow that only got deeper the more we tried to get ourselves out.  The snow wasn't even that deep, but once the tires dug to the bottom of the snow they hit soft sand underneath, and just kept digging deeper.   After forty minutes of trying various things I decided that I wasn't going to be able to get myself out, and I walked the little ways back to the highway.  We had no cell phone service.  My plan was to flag someone down, and ask them to stop at the Split Rock Cafe in Jeffrey City to call in a tow truck.  It took five minutes of waiting before a single car came past.  I saw a college age girl in the driver seat.  I waved my arms, but she pulled into the opposite lane and seemed to accelerate as she passed me.  I couldn't be sure if she was too scared to stop, or just indifferent.  A few more minutes passed and I saw an old truck coming slowly down the highway with two guys in it.  It pulled up, and I thought I recognized the old rancher who lives near the boulders.  It was the same guy. Turns out the pair were there to pull out a horse trailer that had gotten stuck a little further down the two track.  They backed down the road, hooked up a rope to my truck, and yanked us right out of our stressful predicament.  We thanked them profusely, and gave them the small amount of cash that we happened to have with us.  I parked safely by the highway and we started hiking into the boulders.  It took us about twenty minutes. We watched the ranchers continue driving through deepening snow, pull the horse trailer out of a drift, and tow it past the boulders to the ranch.  A little while later they drove back out with a horse in the trailer.  I don't really understand how their old truck was able to go anywhere, even through deep snow, while pulling a loaded horse trailer. Meanwhile my truck got stuck almost as soon as we pulled off the highway.

We started warming up in cold but climbable conditions.
Then the wispy clouds drifted east, the sun came out in full strength, and suddenly it was T-shirt weather! I got to work on an old project, we'd already put a few sessions into, that I'd been calling "The Common Core Project."
And just before it was time to start hiking out, I managed to put it all together. But it didn't feel right to call it "Common Core"  anymore.  I never would have climbed the line yesterday if the ranchers didn't get our truck out of the snow.  So I named it "Rescue Ranchers" in appreciation of the help we received. Here's the uncut footage.


In other news, I turned 40 last week.  An age that forced me to reflect on how I've spent my life so far, my motivations, and my future.  And after thinking through all the aspects of my life with a critical eye, I'm still feeling good about things. Very relieved that I don't see a midlife crisis on the horizon. 

So as far as bouldering goes, I'll be sticking with my current path.  To keep climbing as much as my body will let me, keep training as little as possible, and keep exploring as much as I can without letting hiking cut into my climbing time.  That's how I want to spend the time I have.  Because every project is a question, my bouldering maps still have promising blank spaces, and I'm as curious as ever.       

Thursday, January 21, 2016

So Many Projects...

Is that Hueco? No, it's Lander in January!
Let's just jump right in. What are the projects I'm talking about?

Well I spent a day at "The New World" with Jesse and Chris.  After a day of hiking, a few years ago, I'd written the area off as too featured.  But Chris showed us some worthy boulders he found.  Quite a few classic lines need to be done out there.

It's the perfect spot if you're looking for solitude.
But we're also trying projects close to home.  It's our third season at the Beach, and we're still working on some of the best lines up there.  I used a ladder to clean up this one.
 I've spent one day trying to climb it so far.
 Dynamic methods haven't worked.
 But to do it statically, I'll need to commit to a heel toe cam. And I won't try that without a strong spotter.

Ashley recently finished one of her projects at the Beach.  She got the second ascent of "Triple S" V6.
 We're also working on a traverse of the Rolling Dune.  It starts high and then moves down to follow the seam feature.  I'd already hiked up all our pads up for the "Ladder Project" so I thought we might as well put them all to use.

We spent a cold, but beautiful, session up at Torrey Valley.

 I tried to do the full sit start to Wild Berry power.  But I'm not sure I'll be able to finish it.  It's probably V10 and painfully crimpy.  Someone should do it though.
 We've also got new things to finish at Sweetwater.  I put up a nice V2 called "Vast and Still."  Sierra flashed it.
 Further down the wall I did a SDS V4 called "Stillness."  A V6-8 traverse into it from the left is still a project.

And then there is the land of new projects, The Frontside, at Oz.  I already knew Oz was really good, but I hadn't seen the south side of the mountain.  And I never would have guessed that it was accessible in winter.  Chris and Jeremy made it out there at the end of 2015, and that started a winter bouldering resurgence in Lander.  Groups of boulderers have been getting out there a couple times a week ever since.  My first trip was a day of climbing and exploration with Jesse and Chris.
I was impressed with the amazing stone, the huge junipers, and the expansive view.
Jesse and I watched Chris get the first ascent of "Wild Thing" V11.


And we looked at a lot of lines that could become classics.
I was so psyched, I bought some chains so I could get out there with my vehicle.
And I made it back with my family last weekend to join Chris, Freddy, Jesse, Tom, Devlin, and Ana at the Wild Thing boulder.
Here's Ana on her project "Heart Sing" V7.
She came very close, and I'm sure she'll get it on her next trip.

As you can see, the list of things to do is growing really quickly.  And as long as we keep getting sunny weekends, and weeks without much snow, it's a great time to get things done.