Wednesday, November 4, 2015

New Projects, New Problems, New Perspectives

I've been really motivated towards bouldering lately.  We've been getting out a lot, and Sierra's been helping me explore.

One afternoon after school we found this new wall in the mountains near Worthen reservoir.  We did three new up problems (V2, V3, and V5) on it, and Ashley added a long traverse.
And this great project is right below it.
The next day we got to work.  We figured out that all the moves go, but we weren't able to finish it.  Now it's at the top of my list for next Summer.

The next weekend, I put up really nice new line at City Walls called "The Good Life" V5
During a three day weekend, after parent/teacher conferences, I spent Friday with Sierra exploring Lone Mountain.  We found some nice looking routes out there, and some bouldering potential.  But the boulders I found on Lone Mountain weren't quite good enough to justify the long drive out there.
But I did see more that I want to explore in the distance.

I spent two sessions that weekend on a line that I think will be a classic V8 for Sweetwater.  Another problem that I need to finish!
Sierra put up the first problem on the boulder and named it "Just Being Difficult" V2.
We followed her theme, and Ashley put up "Just Being Cool" V3.

And at the end of the day I committed fully on a move that appeared quite improbable.  But as soon as I really went for it, it didn't feel so difficult.
"Just Being Crazy" V3
If I finish the ~V8 project, I'll call it "Just Being."

In many ways I'm just following what's become my bouldering routine.  But I'm also aware that the routine is leading to some growth.  I'm working on harder first ascents.  I'm exploring further from the roads.  And I've grown comfortable with, and very fond of, landscapes that once intimidated me.  The sagebrush felt like a vast ocean when I first moved to Wyoming, and I had some fear of getting lost in that sea.  But now I seek out the sage.  The sagebrush has become an equal alternative to the forests, deserts, and alpine tundra that I've always experienced as beautiful.
 And I've been thinking about new things.  Including the topic of bouldering as a moral activity.  Bouldering was a part of my move away from the community and values of my upbringing.  By doing my own thing, I began to think more independently as well.  But I've found that there are strong values associated with bouldering and boulderers?  It's a pursuit of purity, mastery, transcendence, and a certain oneness with things.  It shares many aims with religions.  More overlap with eastern religious practices than western ones.  But if it's aiming at many of the same things that some religions do, should it really be classified as a sport?  For many it occupies a middle ground, like martial arts or yoga often do.   The activity, natural settings, and other worldliness of many bouldering areas often leads to a sense of the sacred.  One day I might put together a complete post on the topic, but it would be a difficult one to write.  It would take a lot of time to do it right.

But I've been really motivated towards bouldering lately, there are so many good lines to do, and time is the limiting factor. Philosophy can wait.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Magic Days

Some days stand out.  The bouldering feels even better than normal. The colors are brighter. And the forests, moon, and the even the empty space in between, all feel right.  Tangibly right, like you could measure the rightness, or hold onto it, or even become a part of it. Maybe that's just how Fall is.  Or maybe it's an effect caused by the stark contrast between a day in the sun, and the full week spent under fluorescent lights at school.  Whatever it is, we've had some amazing bouldering sessions during the last month.

On the first day that felt like Fall, Charlie used the good conditions to get the first ascent of "Always on Time" V5 at the Rock Shop.
 I got the second ascent, and this is the photo of it :)  It's so much fun to catch this move!
 Ashley and I also climbed Charlie's line "Drop It Like It's Hot" V6 just to the left.  Really good, and surprisingly difficult.  It's a stand out problem!
 After that we spent two wonderful days on the Elemental Wall at Torrey Valley.
Under the lichen it's a wall of amazing pink and black streaked gneiss.
 We did a couple different traverses on the left half of the wall, and on the first day I did this line from a stand start at V3.  The next weekend we added a new SDS to it that makes the problem much better, and more difficult.  "The Final Blow" V6.
 Torrey Valley is beautiful.

 And then we got back to Neverland.  We hoped to see the eclipse, and we lucked out.
 My photography skills weren't up to the task of documenting the pale orange moon or the incredible milky way that came out.  But my daughters finally get the fact that they live on a planet floating in a ridiculous amount of space.

We also wanted to catch the leaves before they were gone.
 And do some great bouldering.  This line was our second warm up.  It felt a bit harder than I expected, maybe V3?
 The bouldering highlight of the trip was our sends of "Hair of the Dog."  A line Davin put up that is all of V6 for short climbers.
 I added a new line called "Mr. Smiley" V4, and a line near the summit of this formation called "Dry Fire" V4 that had always had a pool under it on previous trips.  Both short, but very high quality climbs.
 The next morning we woke up to quite a sight.  We were above the clouds.
 With mountains emerging like islands.
 This is the type of thing I love being able to show my daughters!
 It was just the trip we were looking for.
 And that brings us up to yesterday. It was rainy in Lander, but the clouds opened up at Sweetwater.
 We warmed up with four fun new slab problems.
 And a couple laps on Jesse's "Cherry Bomb" V2/3
 I repeated "Skin in the Game" V6 from a lower start, with both hands matched on the undercling crimp, and Ashley repeated it too.  Later I caught "the move" on my project three times.  Turns out the next move is really hard too, but I'm now confident that I can complete this line.  It's right at the edge of possible for me, so it feels perfect, even if it is a bit sharp.
And that catches us up with all of our notable ascents for the last month.

I hope that you're getting magic bouldering days too, and that we all have many more of them before the snow hits!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

City Walls and the Rock Shop: Photos and Captions

My F.A. of "Hummingbirds and Eagles" V4/5, at City Walls
 We've been climbing a lot since the Mt. Lester trip, and I'll probably be climbing a lot over this upcoming long weekend.  It's getting late, and I need to catch up.  So I'll just be writing short captions this week.

Hiking out to City Walls.

The second ascent of Ashley's problem "Technicolor" V7, at City Walls.
 Ashley on the first ascent of "Back to School" V3, City Walls.
 Ashley on the F.A. of "New Curriculum" V4, City Walls.
 Ashley on the F.A. of the "Scrunchy Traverse" V5, City Walls.
 Ashley climbing Kian's "Moon Rocks" V3, at The Rock Shop.
 Ashley climbing one variation on a warm up wall we finished cleaning just below "Zef."
 Charlie climbing the "Get High and Fly Stand Start" V6.
 Ashley in front of the "Sacks" boulder, with  "Awakenings" V1 and the "On the Move Traverse" V4.
 Ashley climbing "Raise the Roof" V1.
 Spenser working on "Get High and Fly" V9 at the Rock Shop.
 Another shot of Spenser working "Get High and Fly" V9 at the Rock Shop.
 Stephen's highball called "Money Train" V2 at the Rock Shop.
One of the main purposes of posting all these shots is so I can update my Scribble Maps.  A Scribble Map of City Walls will be posted soon.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Searching the Winds: Possibility #3

All I wanted was some time to explore, converse, and connect with it all.  To get back into the mountains while I still had the chance, before the school year began.  And I also hoped to get a group of boulderers to come along.  More pads, more brushes, more opportunities.  I'd started planning the trip, and inviting people, before I even had a specific destination picked out.  I hoped to find a place that was even better than the Cirque of the Boulders.  Moss lake wasn't going to work, and Midsummer Valley wasn't quite what I was searching for either.  But I still had one place that I needed to check out.  Davin had mentioned an area with boulders sitting out in alpine meadows, while we were camping at Bear Valley two years ago, and the image had stuck with me.

 Mt. Lester

Dan volunteered to join me on an exploratory hike.  Our goal was to hike eleven miles in, check out the boulders, and hike back out by 4 pm.  We left the trailhead at 6:30 am, and got to Photographer's Point while the sun was still low in the sky.  We were making good time.
Mt. Lester came into view, and I knew I wanted to spend some time here.  It might look like an average mountain to an average hiker.  But as a boulderer, I noticed the nicely sized blocks and many possibilities in the trees.  A wonderland of boulders.
We hiked around the lake and up to the flanks of Mt. Lester.  The first boulder we hiked to looked pretty good.

The second one looked even better!  

The photo doesn't do this face justice.  It's about fourteen feet tall, the lower five feet are obscured by willows in this shot.
The entire area was filled with wildflowers.
The last boulder looked amazing as well, but we didn't have any more time to look at boulders.  We were already running short on time, and ended up getting back to our ride twenty minutes late.

I went on the family trip to Telluride, and two days later I was hiking into the Winds with the crew of boulderers I had recruited.

Including Jesse F.
and my sister Diane. Who actually isn't into bouldering.
It was a much smaller crew than I had anticipated.  Six other boulderers, who seemed interested in coming along earlier in the summer, had backed out due to the OR show in Salt Lake, weddings, or family trips.  And one was too busy helping National Geographic dig up ice age mammal bones from a giant pit cave in the Bighorns.  Sometimes you gotta wonder about peoples' priorities.

We hiked in on a nice, cool, cloudy day and set up camp.
We hung our food from a boulder because we couldn't find any trees that were tall enough.  It wasn't an ideal situation.  Whether a bear could have gotten to them is debatable, but we didn't see any sign of bears during the trip.  To get them back down I'd shoe up and climb a tall slab I named "Breakfast of Champions." This shot is from the sunny second evening.

We awoke to our first climbing day in the Winds, and it was gorgeous, with very few mosquitoes.

Jesse warming up on the Lester Arete V0.
We put up about eight good problems that morning, and five were on the boulder shown below.  We called it the Vonnegut boulder, and the best line traverses from the black circle on the lower left side to a top out just right of Jesse in this photo.  Jesse got the first ascent and called it "Time Quake."  I'd estimate it at V7, but the crux is reach dependent so it could be a V6 for taller climbers.  It's a stand out problem, with great movement, and incredible stone.
Then we got distracted by some boulders up the hill, and went scouting for a couple hours.

Jesse couldn't resist doing a nice approach shoe problem.
We saw some boulders that I'd be willing to hike back up from camp for.
This erratic looked amazing in the distance, but didn't have any good problems on it.
This might clean up nice.
And the boulder I'm sitting under had some lines on it.  Just average problems, but check out the view!
It's hard to communicate just how many flowers there were, and the way they seemed arranged into perfect little gardens.  The beauty of everything was somewhat overwhelming at times, and I ended up stepping from rock to rock quite a bit because I didn't want to crush flowers.
Every direction was gorgeous, and gorgeous at every scale, from the rocks, streams and flowers at our feet, to the mountains, lakes and trees in the distance.
We got back to camp in time for another bouldering session.  Jesse did two more lines on the Vonnegut boulder.  Sierra found this line, did the first ascent, and called it "Little Lake."  The sit start, and the top out are both somewhat difficult.  I'd call it V2.
I started cleaning and chalking up holds on the face obscured by willows shown in a photo earlier in this post.  The line looked great so I called Jesse down.  He climbed "Surrender" V5/6 from a stand start, and I repeated it.  But it was the SDS that really stood out.  We estimated it to be about V10.  Jesse was getting close, but it seemed wise to save it for another day.  It started to get dark, we were hungry. I didn't take the time to get any photos of the line, but I wish that I had.

A shot of our campfire that night.
It's not a good idea for me to climb two days in a row, so I'd planned to take a rest day all along.  Of course we still hiked around to look at some boulders.

We found some together.
And then we split up to cover more ground.  Jesse found a lot of blocks that he was excited about.

And I saw some blocks that looked fun too.

But I also wanted to check out Titcomb Basin with my sister and Sierra.  So most of the day was spent hiking there and back.
That afternoon we got a lot of rain, and we could only hope that the next day would be clear for climbing.  We made a few plans.  I'd warm up and make three good attempts on "Time Quake" then we'd hike to the boulders that Jesse had found.
The next morning we had some sprinkles hitting the tent.  It stopped raining, and the rock dried enough for me to retrieve our food bags.  The sun peaked through, I warmed up, and I tried "Time Quake" three times.  But I didn't quite send it.
Then it started to pour rain, then hail, and then came some thunder snow.  Jesse and I talked and drank coffee under the boulder, while the Sierra and Diane took naps in the tents.  An inch of snow covered the ground, with colorful flowers sticking out everywhere, but I couldn't get a photo without the risk of my camera getting wet.
The weather started to clear, but just as we thought we might be able to get some more bouldering in, another big rain storm came in.  It became completely obvious that we weren't going to get any more bouldering done that day.  So we had a choice to make.  Hang out in the rain, and hike out the next day like we had planned, or take down the tents and get out as soon as we could.  The second rain storm stopped for a bit, and we decided to bail on the trip.  On our hike out we got hit by more storms.  Jesse's pad would absorb water like a sponge.  So he hiked out as quickly as he could.

My last photo was of some ducks near camp.  I didn't get out the camera again, because I didn't want it to get wet.  

Different people are looking for different things, and Mt. Lester doesn't have everything.  The large boulders are quite spread out, and there isn't a ton of dramatically overhung rock.  The area does have a lot of potential in the ten to fourteen foot tall range, on vertical to slightly overhanging rock.  Most boulders there are outside of talus fields with meadow landings.  The rock quality ranges from good to amazing.  V0-V7 problems seem to be the most common, with harder lines appearing occasionally.  And it's one of the few alpine areas where you don't feel like a lot of people or pads are necessary to get the best lines done.  The ambiance of the place draws me as much as anything else. 

In conclusion, I definitely got the chance to explore, converse, and connect with it all.  We didn't boulder nearly as much as we wanted to, but I learned enough to have an even better bouldering trip next time.  Thanks to Jesse, Diane and Sierra for all of your efforts, and helping to make it a great trip!  
It was good. It was memorable.  And I'm hoping to get my whole family up there next summer...