Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Rock Shop Mega-Post, with directions to a dozen new problems.

The Rock Shop is in the midst of its busiest season yet, but it's still very peaceful up there.  Recounting the numerous sessions so far this season would be overly time consuming for me, and for you, so here's some of what's been going on based on photos I've taken so far this season, and a few of the new lines you might be able to find.

This year was the first time that bouldering at the Rock Shop was officially part of the International Climbers' Festival.  Angie and I lead a clinic for a wonderful group of climbers.  We had participants from both coasts, the midwest, the Colorado Front range, and a family of five all the way from France.

Everyone under the UFO.
Everyone appeared to like the bouldering, and even Angie (a pro climber who has climbed on the best granite in the world) was impressed by the rock quality up there.

In midsummer, it always takes some effort to get good conditions.  But it really isn't that hard to get good conditions.  We camped at the Rock Shop for a couple nights which allowed us to take full advantage of cool evening and early morning temps.  I used a lantern one evening and finally managed to climb "Pork Chop" which is a Bryan V. problem that I worked on for three days last season.
But after trying it, we decided that evening climbing wasn't ideal.  Lantern light doesn't reach all the holds, and the mosquitoes get bad after dark.  So our new strategy is to set our alarm clock for five A.M. so we can get to the Rock Shop before seven.  It hurts a little when the alarm goes off.  But it's worth it; for three hours of great weather and a couple more climbable hours to round out the workout.  We've had plenty to keep us busy.  In addition to working on our own projects, we've been repeating lines established by Tony, Chris, Calen, Jesse B., Jesse F., and Bryan V.  I'm excited that so many boulderers help to develop the area!

Here are directions and descriptions for some new lines to check out:

If you go to "Lord of the Flies" and then turn around.  You'll see a small boulder with a couple good V2s.  I'm not sure if they're named, but I think Tony and Chris put them up.
About forty feet left of these new warm ups is a built landing with a trail leading to it.  Starting matched in the chest high hueco and moving up and slightly left is a superior problem established by Tony called "Foul Mouth."  V4 moves, with a tall top out with amazingly good finger jams.  And the built landing is an incredible work of craftsmanship!
Up on the ridge above "Foul Mouth" is the Swan boulder.  Three interesting, fun lines, established by Chris, ascend it's shady north face.

Ashley climbing the easiest line on the Swan.
Southwest of the Swan at ground level is a great V5/6 SDS that follows cracks without using the top of the boulder until the apex is reached.  Another difficult low SDS also climbs straight up.  It has cool movement with heel hooks, but is somewhat dabby at the start.  Chris has been climbing so many lines, he hasn't even gotten around to naming these two yet.
If you pull into the Main Parking a small formation is on your left.  On the back of that formation is a little corridor with two lines.  On the left is the surprisingly difficult and dynamic V3 "Darth" which was put up by Bryan V.  On the right arete is a low SDS V5 that Elliot and I finished cleaning.

"Millenium Falcon"
Elliot made a nice video of the first ascent if you'd like to see how it goes.

My best new problem at the Rock Shop this season is a powerful sit start on crimps that I added to "Stone Country."  It can be found by following the gully uphill east from Sleepy Hollow to the top of the formation where the gully ends.

"Stone Country SDS" V7
I put together a video if you want to see how it goes.

Crawl under "Stone Country" and in the gully behind it is another new V5 I did called 
"Gaston Gaston"
A final new line to share.  I'm not sure who cleaned this originally, but the line to the right of Font Simulator goes at around V3.
To wrap this up this post here are a few new photos.

Zach on "Gem Thief"
Alex climbing on the Storm Boulder.  One of the best blocks at the Rock Shop.  Chris found this block and recently shared directions with me.
Ashley taking advantage of the tree shade on "My Mind's Eye Traverse"
A lizard taking advantage of the pad shade.
The bird that nested in the jugs on "Piggy."
And my favorite bird species seen at the Rock Shop, Western Tanager.
We've been enjoying our time up at the Rock Shop, and still have things that we hope to finish soon. Summer won't last forever.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Finding Giants at Rapid Lake

Jesse B. wanted to check out a boulderfield near Rapid Lake that he'd noticed while alpine climbing in the Winds.  He asked if I wanted to make the trip?  Of course I wanted to check it out.  I'd never been to the southwestern Winds.  On Google Earth the blocks looked a bit round and small.  I wasn't even sure that we'd find good bouldering, but at the very least I'd see some new scenery, and test whether two day bouldering expeditions into the Winds could be a good way to climb lines deep in the mountains.  Experience has taught me that Google Earth is no substitute for hiking.  To know what an area truly offers you've got to make the trip.

This is some of what we found.
To get there we hiked about 8 miles.  The first five are relatively flat easy miles to Big Sandy Lake.  Then came two miles of stream crossings, narrow trails, and steep hiking.  The last mile was across flat pleasant meadows.

Jesse at the first water crossing at Big Sandy Lake.
On my back was a large Organic Pad with a tent, sleeping bag, a long sleeve wool shirt, a small backpack filled with various granola and candy bars, a block of cheese, a half box of triscuits, one water bottle, iodine tablets, climbing shoes, chalk bag, two small steel brushes, matches, a compass, athletic tape, a tiny first aid kit, insect repellant, sunscreen, and a small toiletry kit all stuffed into the pad.  In one hand I carried my stick brush, around my neck was my camera bag where I also stored my Ipod, and I had bear spray in my pocket.  The pad felt heavy.  But I hiked as fast as I could.  We left Lander at 6 A.M and were to the boulders at noon.  We dropped our things and looked around for a while.  I saw some beautiful tall boulders up in the talus field.  Some had snow landings, some had talus.  Both types made me nervous.  With only two pads, no cell service, eight miles in, and maybe a mile from the nearest popular trail, I was very aware that getting injured up there could create a very unpleasant experience.  So I started looking at blocks in smaller fields to the south and in the meadows below.  I put up a nice slab V1 warm up on the back of the split double boulder below.  And then did a sit start from the left side of the large rail that goes straight up and tops out.

"Safety First" V4  
Jesse found a cool V5 compression line just up the hill.  This whole sector has good stone.

I'm not sure what he's naming it.  If you find Jesse's problem, a V2 I did called "Shenanigans" is just behind you.  It follows a feature out of a pit and through a gap on its way to the top of the boulder out left.

After that, both of us felt a bit tired and off.  The big hike, alpine sun, and altitude were having their effects.  We set up camp, and rested while waiting for boulders to go into the shade.  In the late afternoon we felt quite a bit better, and hiked up into the big field to a line Jesse found with a relatively nice, flat stone landing.  We worked on it until it began getting a little dark.  It's got long undercling moves to a very difficult slab top out.  I took a scary fall while working on the top out and got a bloody scrape on my leg on the way down.  Also I couldn't figure out a way to get past one long move below the top out.  Jesse worked it all out though, and came close to doing the line from the stand start.  I'd estimate the stand start to be V8 and a lower start might make it V9/10.  I have a feeling that even if this was the only line up there, Jesse might make the hike all over again, just to finish this amazing project.

Jesse's Rapid Lake Project.
We got back to camp and watched the sun leave the high peaks.
With my pad for a bed, tent keeping the hordes of mosquitoes away, and listening to an album I'd downloaded for the trip the Glow pt. 2 by the Microphones, I had a pleasant evening, and a great night's sleep.  The music fit the landscape quite well. 

The next morning, the sun came up and hit the boulders surprisingly quickly.  Only minutes after this photo was taken.
So many mosquitoes surrounded my tent and were trying to find their way in.  Jesse didn't bring a tent, and I wondered if he'd been completely drained of blood during the night.  I hadn't heard him stir since I'd woken up, had breakfast, and applied generous amounts of sunscreen and bug repellent to myself.

Their persistance would be admirable if they weren't so evil.
Finally, Jesse stirred.  Turns out it was only 7 A.M., and he claims the mosquitoes only attacked when the sun came up.  I'd still recommend bringing a tent if you visit the Winds this time of year.

Right below camp was a large aesthetic block of stone.  Thirty feet tall on every side, I wondered if we could put any problems on it?
We tried to climb the lowest angled arete to the top.  We made it up about 23 feet, but knowing that we'd have to down climb the same line kept us from committing and reaching the top.  So I doubt anyone has ever been on the top of the boulder.

On a satellite boulder just north I put up another short problem named after the terribly high mosquito population in the vicinity.

"The Gathering Hordes" V4 SDS
Jesse's project was already in the sun, so we explored the upper boulder field.  Walking talus is slow with a pad and large camera, so I put down my things and walked all over the place.  We found a strange mix of bad rock, good rock, and amazing rock.  Everything from crumbling crystals to features that seemed like Neverland gneiss.  I've never seen such a wide variety of granite quality in a single talus field.  But it's such a vast field, we ended up finding quite a few amazing boulders.  You'll just have to trust me on that, because I didn't have my camera with me.  We got excited and hiked a lot more talus, and then we noticed the sun was high and it was a bit hot, we felt really tired from the hiking and projecting the day before, and we knew we still needed to hike out of the talus and eight more miles out before the day was finished.  So we decided to leave all the amazing lines for another day.

The view as we made our way out of the main field.  
It was a very good exploratory trip!  There are so many huge boulders up there!  It seems like 90% of the best lines up there are king lines.  So climbing most of the good lines up there will require making a trip with a crew, maybe five or six pads, and someone bringing a rope, harness, and anchor gear so the cleaning can be done on rappel.  With the right group, gear, and planning Rapid Lake could yield some amazing bouldering in a knock out setting.  Maybe this post will help that happen sometime.

On the hike out, I noticed mushrooms that managed to melt snow, and found it oddly inspiring.
That mere fungi can fight through elemental adversity like that.  So tough, full of life, and humble at the same time.  I thought "Why can't we be more like that?"  Maybe the altitude and exhaustion were starting to get to me.

So I'm tired and sore, and need to get some sleep now. But thanks to Jesse for inviting me along for this adventure!  It was great to spend a bit of time in the mountains before a busy week, the International Climber's Festival starts tomorrow!  See you there.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Photos from a Trip Northwest

We spent a couple weeks on the road, visiting family, and bouldering in Washington.  On the way out, rain was forecast for Montana, so we took the southern route through Idaho.  Based on a recommendation from Bouldering USA by Alli Rainey we visited Dierkes Lake near Twin Falls, ID.  The cold front that brought rain to Montana, gave us a sunny 60 degree day in Idaho.  As perfect as a day in June could be out there.  I don't know any problem names, but the rock is basalt with huecos.

 Some of the huecos are so big you can get inside the rock!
 This was my favorite line.  We started it sitting to the left and traversed into this top out.
 Dierkes Lake isn't extensive, but it could keep most traveling boulderers occupied for a couple days, and it's the best basalt bouldering I've ever visited.  While there, make sure to take a look at Shoshone Falls, it's "the Niagara Falls of the West."
 We enjoyed our bouldering days in Washington.  Conditions were warm and humid, so it was hard to get psyched on the harder lines.  We chased stars and climbed 10-15 lines per session mostly in the V3-V6 range.

We spent our first day at Forestland.  Here are a couple photos.

"The Real Thing" V4.
 "Feel the Pinch" V4
 Our second climbing day was spent at the Beach, forest area.
 "U2" V3
 Our third climbing day was spent at Gold Bar.
 We weren't able to find the Five Star Boulder.  So we hiked up the closed road, which is rapidly being absorbed by the forest, to visit the Sanctuary, Clearcut, and Forest areas.  It's really all one boulderfield.

"Water" V5, yeah I'm downgrading this one.  It's definitely a classic though!
 "Midnight Lichen" V4.
The beauty and rock quality of Washington's bouldering areas are impressive!  Gold Bar reminded me of Squamish, but with better friction!  So it surprises me that moss is returning to many of the problems at Gold Bar due to a lack of traffic.  Either the hike is keeping people away, or it's the possibility of vehicular break-ins.  A car parked just down the road from ours had it's passenger side window bashed in while we were up the hill bouldering.  Our truck wasn't touched, but it felt like we'd dodged a bullet. The guidebook mentions that this was a problem in the area, but it's disappointing that it's still a problem seven years after the book was written.  Seems like the culprits should have been caught by now!

It was fun to visit some new boulders, see some new scenery, and enjoy the ambiance of northwestern forests!  But it's also nice to be back home.  We've been busy bouldering around Lander since our return, so I'll probably be writing another post soon...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

One Avocation, Many Ways to Contribute

The wildflowers this year at the Cabin Boulders.
I'm so fond of summer, and time off.  Time to feel un-rushed.  And to pursue the more time consuming aspects of bouldering development.  Last week after work, Justin gave me a tour of boulders he's been developing up canyon from the Cabin Boulders.  Calen arrived that day from Las Vegas for an extended Wyoming trip, and joined us at the fresh blocks.  We warmed up, tried a very difficult project, and then went up to "Ocean Man."  "Ocean Man" is a great V5 Justin put up that moves up progressively smaller crimps.  You can crank off a tiny crimp to the top, or dyno up from lower holds.

Justin also got the first ascent of the V4 SDS arete just to the right of "Ocean Man" that evening.
The Upper Canyons still have a lot of lines to do.  So we cleaned up the boulder below.  Often bouldering developers spread out, find their own line, and clean it alone.  But on this night, all three of us brushed up this block at the same time.  I climbed the left line first try, despite the fact that it was still a little dirty, and called it "Scrub a Dub Dub" V3.  Calen did a line from the same start moving right called "Three Men in a Tub" V1.

Calen climbing "Scrub a Dub Dub."
It got dark, and was time to go.  But I was impressed by the bouldering Justin developed in this set of boulders.  I'd already hiked through this area years ago, and had dismissed the blocks as being too dirty and lichen covered to be worth developing.  Justin had a different vision.  He's developed boulders at Lolo in Montana that were just as moss and lichen covered when they were found, so he knew that good bouldering might be found underneath.  The area has so much lichen and moss because the blocks are very shaded and very near to the river.  Those two factors improve the venue once the lichen and moss are removed.  The Upper Cabins still have work to be done, but it's already a good area and will only get better.  A great contribution to Lander bouldering!

The next day Calen and I hiked way up into the Roaring Fork and found a new sector of blocks.  It's a good sector and it will be developed, but I didn't take my camera, and we were too tired to hike back to it again the next day.  So we went to the Rock Shop instead.  Every time I go up there I'm reminded that we have very high quality rock to develop that you barely need to hike for.  I know I've gotten a little stronger, because I climbed two lines that I couldn't quite finish last Fall, "Escape From Reality" and "If, Then, Because."

Calen is off the couch from a finger injury.  So he's brushing easier lines than when he visited last fall, but he hasn't lost his eye for good lines.  On the "Chocolate Thunder" boulder he added two great looking problems.  Both begin underclinging the hueco.  Going up the arete is "Big Fudge" and going up the crack is "Skid Marks."  I haven't climbed them yet, but plan to soon.  
The day after that, we drove to Neverland for a three day trip.  It was just as gorgeous as I remembered.
Conditions were amazingly crisp for June!  On our first morning the dog bowl was covered in ice, and frost covered our truck.
Clear fall-like skies, cool air, low humidity, and everything was green!
Davin had taken advantage of the recent cool weather to do his V10 crimp project.  He climbed up to the high jug, mantled onto it, and then down climbed a little and dropped off.  Nothing wrong with that. When a V10 line leads to an obvious jug, and can only be topped out with a free solo,  I think it's better to leave the line as a drop off problem.  Bouldering is about hard climbing, not risking your life.
Davin drove up back up to Neverland to meet us, gave us a tour of blocks further down the hill, cleaned some lines, and almost got sucked into starting on another spring project up there.

On Tuesday, Calen and I hiked east from camp to a ridge that looked good from a distance.  We found some good lines, but nothing like the blocks Davin showed us on the tours.  All of Neverland is good rock, but the outstanding lines aren't everywhere.  That's why we drive miles of two tracks past dozens of gneiss formations to camp at an area with many outstanding lines.  From the initial discovery of Old Neverland by Bryan V., to Davin's exploration of at least 20 other sectors, the driving and hiking required to get to know this entire vast area is staggering.  And it's really paid off!  The best of Neverland is world class, and finding the best spots took a lot of work.  Thanks again Bryan and Davin!

Off the couch, Calen lacked the power endurance needed for "Wilford's Reserve."  Turns out that I still lack the power endurance for "Wilford's Reserve," but I didn't realize that until the end of the trip. Calen was able to make impressive progress on "Wilford's Reserve Right"  
Warming up on Monday, I added a new line that starts on "Aging Moose" moves left past an amazing jug, and past a nice crimp rail, to a top out right of "Bullwinkle."  Great climbing on amazing stone!

"Rocky" V3
We spent the afternoon in the Black Boulder sector.  Calen went up the formation where he cleaned and climbed two new lines.  "Surf Wyoming" V4 uses big moves between big holds using both sides of a large feature up the roof.  His other line goes up the crack to the right, (seen above Roo) moves to another crack out right, and then hits the top.  You rock over your feet to the left and top out.  It's called "Toes on the Nose"V2.
In addition to exploring the new ridge that was somewhat disappointing, we spent Tuesday exploring the main sector too.  I'm excited about, and a little scared of, lines on Wilford's Boulder.  (Not to be confused with Wilford's Reserve)  All the lines look amazing enough to pull me in, but are also quite tall.
Tuesday evening, it was time to decide what I wanted to climb on Wednesday.  One line on the Black Boulder had gotten my attention.  I liked the fact that no one had been working on it yet.  The stone on it was amazing.  It was a long problem, but not too long, and the top out looked doable, but difficult.  It would need some cleaning, but I'd brought the gear.  I set up an anchor using 4 cams, and rapped down to brush off the top.  An hour later it was ready to go.  I got back to camp just in time to watch the sunset from a formation above camp.  We hoped to hear and maybe see the coyotes that sing most nights as the sun goes down.  It was windy, and we didn't hear any howls, but quite a few nighthawks flew right past us in the fading light.  I was reminded that I really like nighthawks.  During my childhood in Iowa I carved and threw cross stick boomerangs.  At sunset the nighthawks would swoop at them.

Roo in the breeze at sunset.
On Wednesday, I only gave myself two attempts on "Wilford's Reserve" because I wanted to save some juice for the new line.  I'm glad that I did because the project took all the juice that I had.  The end is really hard to do after hanging on through the start.  No single move is that hard so I'm calling it V6.  But in total it's really difficult, and I don't suspect anyone will want to downrate it.  Without Calen's spot I probably wouldn't have finished it.  Thanks Calen!

"Nighthawk" V6
It's my favorite first ascent ever.  I think it's a world class line, and I hope others will enjoy it as much as I do.

Back in Lander, I took Ashley on a tour of the Upper Cabins.  We were greeted by this marmot on the hike in.
Ashley and I did a few of Justin's established lines like "The Mollusk," "Bananas and Blow" and "Ocean Man."  Then we ended the day by cleaning and climbing a new traverse.  It's a V4/5 that Ashley did first.  It's named "Blow It or Blow It."  If you don't blow any dirt off of the holds before you're attempt you'll probably fall off.
Today was Fathers Day, and we spent it at the Source.  I didn't send anything new, but I figured out beta on the new "Southern Smoke."  A crimp broke last Fall, and I think it's a V8 now.  I also figured out my moves for "The Caterpillar Arete Traverse."  You can't send everyday.  But if you brush something, explore someplace new, pick up some litter, or just share a few inspiring photos, I think you've contributed to this avocation we call bouldering.