Monday, January 6, 2020

A Swell Photo Post

 I've been spending a lot of days in the San Rafael Swell.

The area has views,


rock art,

 and relics.
 It has bridges,

 and weirdness.

 It has canyons,

 and caves.
 And it has boulders
 with projects,

 and problems.
But I'm most excited about the lines in the canyons.
 Like "There Are Five Huecos."
 "Landmark Cracks"
 and "Darkness."
 There are walls that top out.
 And stream washed free standing blocks.

 So I'm looking forward to spring.
 And Swell days to come.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Old School Bouldering Topos Explained

It's been a while.  I've got a lot to catch up on, and some explaining to do.  Here's the first of a few posts that will catch this blog up to 2020.

Last summer, I decided to start mapping some undocumented areas in Wyoming.  I started with City Walls, and quickly realized that I wasn't quite sure exactly where a few of the problems were on the map.  Luckily, I was planning to visit Wyoming soon.  I took my map with me, found the problems again, and made sure that my topos were right.

Revisiting City Walls reminded me of just how much I enjoyed climbing in these areas, and how worthy they were of documentation.

I started by mapping all the places where I spent my time bouldering in Wyoming.  

Areas such as Deer Park.

I used a combo of traditional topos, and some drawings that resemble guidebook photos when I felt they were necessary.  I mapped problems at the Tombstone Area, Roaring Fork, The White Stripes, City Walls, North Country, the Ocean Boulder, and Weapons of Mass Destruction sectors at Sweetwater Rocks, Oz North, and The Beach.

Once the Wyoming areas were finished, I mapped a few undocumented places that I've been climbing at since moving to the west slope of Colorado, like Sphinx Canyon, two seldom visited areas across the Colorado River near Moab, and a couple good blocks near Green River, UT.

Autumn climbing "Entrance Exam" V1 at Sphinx Canyon.

I wanted other people to be able to see these places, and enjoy these problems.  But I also wanted to preserve the areas and the experience of solitude I was able to find at them.  Simply publishing topos with just one photo of a classic problem from each area on the back of each map seemed like a good way to accomplish both.  It would create a usable guide that would still require enough effort to keep the unadventurous away.  The single photo would act as a guidepost to find every other problem on the map.  I chose a photo for each map and made a key to identify them.

Then I wrote an instruction sheet/justification/disclaimer.

The last thing I did for the project was create a cover.
I didn't include written out directions, but I did include enough geographic information to find each area with a google search.  If you're interested in visiting these places and problems you can get the topos collected into a book right here Old School Bouldering Topos for just seven dollars.

I've been drawing more topos since I put the book together.  It's one of the reasons that I've fallen behind on my blogging.  Here's one that I made of Big Bend.  It amazes me how much information can be conveyed through a single topo, especially at a concentrated sector such as Big Bend.

Now that you know what the Old School Topos document, and how, you can make a better decision of whether you'd like to buy a copy or not.  If you do, I hope that you will use them!  These areas are some of my favorites! Feel free to get in touch if you can't figure something out.

A New Year is just around the corner!  Let's do all that we can to make it a good one.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Exploration Notes

The way I see it, climbing is all exploration.  Exploring what we can do and where we can go.  Every place I visit helps me know the world a bit better, and I've been visiting a lot of places over the winter.

Today was supposed to be a climbing day.  But the rain came in this morning so we couldn't climb at Unaweep, and then it rained enough that even hiking to the new zones I'm exploring would be too muddy and unpleasant.  So I used this afternoon to update my blog instead.  It's been a while and I've been busy.  Last year I thought that I'd be focused on the projects in the zones I'd already found by now.  But new discoveries and bad weather kept me exploring for another winter.  Here are my notes.

Over Christmas break, we spent a couple days in Joshua Tree.  The area is unique, scenic, aesthetically amazing with some classic lines.  Definitely worth a visit!  But don't expect amazing bouldering.  The granite is just too weathered and the patina too rare in the majority of the park.  It's an old school bouldering zone with occasional stand out lines, but very low problem concentration and few featured overhangs.  The Underground Sector looks cool in the guide, but the hike up to it looks stout and we weren't able to get up there on this trip.  I do recommend the following problems at Joshua Tree.

Climbing "The Chube" V2
Ashley climbing "Gunsmoke" V3
 "Sloper Safari" V4
While visiting Palm Springs I saw some amazing blocks that no one is allowed to climb on.

Though these are off limits they make me suspect that there could be other amazing blocks on public lands in the Palm Springs area.  Some of the best granite/gneiss I've seen and much better than anything I came across in J-Tree.

On the way to California, we checked out Moe's Valley and we made a second trip more recently.  The climbing at Moe's Valley impressed us all.  For years we just kept driving past St. George because the photos of Red Rocks bouldering looked better to me, but Moe's Valley bouldering is incredibly fun!

Autumn climbing "Sentinel" V2

Sending "Pink Lady" V6

Autumn climbing "Habitat For Humanity" V6

Squeezing through "Jabberwocky" V4

As fun as it is, we found it to be very busy on weekends and dirtbike and dune buggy traffic significantly detract from the ambiance of the area.

After Christmas Break snow hit Moab, but not much hit Gateway.  I found a south facing boulder field on Google Earth and Allan came out to explore it with me.

Allan on the Raiders Boulder the diagonal rail is a fun V3 from a SDS.
Then Ashley came out on a day that wasn't as sunny as predicted and got the F.A. of "Downward Dog" V4.
Autumn lucked out with perfect weather on her days out there.

Here she's climbing "Counterpoint" V4.
 One of my favorite first ascents of the winter was "Final Fanfare" V6
 I'm still working on the "Piano Project"
Then snow hit Gateway but Green River was snow free.  I found some blocks near Swasey's Rapids.

The F.A. of "Wrecks of Human Ambition" V2
 The F.A. of "Teguayo" V4

A good V3 goes up the slab to the right called "The Rim of Mormondom" and "Old Spanish Trails" is a V2 that was done after I broke off a fragile flake in the corner to the left.

Autumn put up a steep V3 called "Puffy" just up the hill.

And back in the canyon to the south we put up some very sheltered problems like "Where the Crimps Have No Names" V3.

The rock is generally good at Green River, but we are doing first ascents on untested features.  A crimp pinch I was yarding on snapped and cut me above my eyebrow.  Too bad, it would have been a fun V7.
Autumn got the first ascent of the proudest line there so far. "Finger Wrecker" V6.

And I got another aesthetic line "Splendid Isolation" V5.

A shelf of nicely sized boulders is seen across the river to the west.

I checked them out.  They aren't solid, and aren't worth the effort.
Fun times in a zone where it almost never rains!

After finding good blocks north of Green River I started checking out other blocks north of I-70 and closer to home.  I didn't find enough amazing boulders to switch my destination, but I found a lot of ancient rock art.

Fremont Style with faded Barrier Canyon Style above.
 Barrier Canyon style.

This looks like a game of fetch!
 And some recent rock scratching.  Would Dean have approved of this memorial under the Crack House?

 A view near Gemini Bridges near the Crack House.

Eventually, the snow melted and I was able to get back to Moab.  Jamie came out and we explored deeper into a canyon I'd only partially explored.
 I was happy to see that the good blocks continue up the canyon.

 At the end of the day we tried one of my favorite projects.
 Then Autumn and I spent a day on it.

 But it's still a project and I'm pretty sure that it will remain one until the Fall.

Spring break arrived and we rented an Airstream Basecamp to see what it's like to use a camper.  It was nice and we slept better, but I don't see one in our future.
 We started our trip at Gypsum Gap.  It's a beautiful, vast, quiet area with rock similar to Unaweep.  A great place to go to get away from it all!

Here's Autumn on the first ascent of "Flux" V4.

 And I put up a tricky problem that I'm quite happy with.

From Gypsum Gap we continued traveling to Indian Creek.  The area is vast and scenic and it has some good problems.

Climbing a classic unknown V4 crack line.

We even put up a few nice lines.
And I really liked "Dying Light"

Autumn attempting the start of "Shackelton" a V10 HB.

But many parts of Indian Creek seemed too busy over Spring break.  Based on videos I also expected to find the best Wingate bouldering anywhere, but I didn't.  It's good, but the stone isn't as good as the Wingate near Moab or Gateway.

One rainy weekend we escaped the rain in the San Rafael Swell.
 It was such a cool place to explore!

 Some of the most amazing views,
 and interesting formations!
But the good Wingate boulders are few and far between in the Swell.

More recently I spent a morning exploring Escalante Canyon for bouldering and was underwhelmed.  Then I spent the afternoon looking at more promising boulderfields west of Delta.
 Unfortunately the best bouldering sector I found was also used as a place to dump cars,

 and extra car tires.  A clear reminder that some people suck, and it left me disappointed.

But I also came across a memorial to a guy named Greg amongst the blocks, and he was born in the same year as me.  Which reminded me that I'm still happy to be alive.
 Quite recently I hiked to a spot I'm calling First valley.

 It has some nice walls and some featured overhangs.
 And then I found an even better valley.
 It's a big hike to get into it.
 But it's a spectacular place which might be worth the effort occasionally.  I'll be doing some more exploration as soon as I can find the time.
 But lately I've been bouldering a lot in Unaweep.  And it just impresses me more and more.  It's got a lot of great stone and classic problems!
 Ely climbing "Amigos" V5.
 Ashley climbing "Goodbye Blue Monday" V6
 Ely looking at a nice wall with two potential lines I'm excited to try.
 Autumn climbing "Ishmael" V5 up beautiful patina.

 So to sum up, here's what I've found so far.  Good Dakota sandstone extends from Unaweep to Montrose and west all the way to Dove Creek and south through Telluride and Durango.  It's extensive and much of it is almost as good as the stone found in Unaweep, but it doesn't get much better than Unaweep unless you go all the way to Durango.  Good Wingate bouldering extends from Gateway and the San Rafael Swell to Indian Creek and west through Capitol Reef National Park and into Zion.  But it doesn't seem to get better than what can be found in the Gateway and Moab area.  I've been exploring far and wide and there are amazing areas out there.  Scenic wide open unique and special landscapes!  But I'm happy to find that the best areas for bouldering and development in this region are actually the ones closer to home.  And the exploration will continue...