Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Boulderer's Book List

I received my Climbing Magazine "Readers' Choice" Issue in the mail today.  And it's such a disappointment.  It surprised me that I could be so disappointed by it, because I've already lowered my expectations of Climbing magazine substantially.  But not a single thing in the entire issue passes as a real article.  Just page after page that look like what having A.D.D. must feel like.  Busy pages of lists, survey results, a few short columns, and a bunch of things taken straight from the internet.  If I want something from the internet, I'll just go get it from the internet!   Why would they ever think readers want to pay for a magazine to tell them what's already on Mountain Project, or repeat what people said on their blogs?  I realize that times are tough for the magazine business right now.  I'm not trying to kick Climbing magazine when it's already down.  But I would like to take it to the corner of the ring, slap it in the cover and tell it "You need to fight for your life or it's going to be over, and you're just not doing it right!  You can't out internet the internet!  It's time to calm down, just calm down, you have your own niche.  If you print some good full length articles in every issue, then everything will be okay. Just one knock out article is really all you need to stay in this game."

I'm absolutely sure that there are still things going on in the climbing world, and topics to be explored, that can keep readers' interest for more than a couple pages.  Rock and Ice still prints some really good full length articles, Alpinist is amazing (if you're into mountain climbing), and I enjoyed reading the most recent Climbing Zine from cover to cover.

But despite the previous rant, I'm just writing a list this week.  Like one of the lists you could find in Climbing Magazine.  What else can I do? The weather's been bad.  I don't have a story, or any new information, or truly original opinions to share this week.  But I have been reading a lot.  And it's fine for me to just write a list, because #1 that's the type of thing the internet is for, and #2 I'm not asking you to pay for it.

 So my true goal with this post is to help you spend some quality time away from the internet.  To read something meaningful, something someone spent quite a bit of time to produce, a work that's actually worth your precious time.  So here's a list of books that I'd recommend for anyone who's interested in bouldering.  Buy them, borrow them from a library, or add them to your Christmas list.  Then find a quiet spot, sit down with a warm drink during bad weather and enjoy one of them for a while.

For Bouldering History

John Gill Master of Rock by Pat Ament  -This book helped John Gill get this whole thing started.

Stone Crusade by John Sherman -An entertaining account of American bouldering history up until 1992.

For Bouldering Development

Rock 'n' Road by Tim Toula - Documenting over 2000 in North America, this atlas to climbing areas still beats the Internet when it comes to finding fresh boulders.  Buy some brushes, drive to any area in the guide, and see what you can find.

For Entertainment

Sherman Exposed by John Sherman - Still the funniest bouldering stories I've read.

Stone Play: The Art of Bouldering edited by J S Watson- Good photos, and even better articles.

A Night on the Ground A Day in the Open by Doug Robinson- Deeper articles that are still fun to read.

For Geology

Flakes, Jugs, & Splitters by Sarah Garlick- Learn how the boulders happened.  Appreciate the stone, the world, and time in a more complete, more accurate way.

For the Climbing Life

High Infatuation: A Climber's Guide to Love and Gravity by Steph Davis- It's all in there somewhere.

For Getting Even Deeper into the Topic

The Boulder: A Philosophy for Bouldering by Francis Sanzaro - Think about bouldering in whole new ways.

For your Coffee Table

Southern Nevada Bouldering by Tom Moulin - Almost too heavy and too nice to actually take out to the boulders with you, it's an amazing work!  If a guidebook can be art, this is the first that feels like a masterpiece.

I hope that you enjoy these books as much as I did.  Who would have thought that recent Climbing Magazines, and the proliferation of internet click bait, would give me a such a renewed appreciation for books?

It's time for Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What a Way to Wrap Up the Season!

Winter is definitely here!  The snow outside squeaks underfoot, and the air makes my face hurt.  But before winter hit, so much was accomplished!  Jimmy Webb made a visit to Neverland.  Davin and Bryan gave him a tour of some of the hardest projects, and he sent two new V14s "The Multiverse" and "Komodo." One of them is now Wyoming's hardest boulder problem, and the other one is the second hardest.  Kasia Pietras made the first ascent of "Triple X" which was also a long standing Neverland project.
Then news came out that Jamie Emerson finished off the Mega Mega project at El Dakota.  He named it "The Hunter," rated it V12, and I recommend reading his well written account of it at B3bouldering.

Bryan, Davin, Mike, Brian and Jamie working at what was still the "Mega Mega Project" last July.

As the famous unfinished lines kept appearing on my Instagram feed with names and grades on an almost daily basis, for a moment it started to seem like all the hard projects in Wyoming were suddenly complete.   But with just a little thought, a bunch more came to mind.  And with so much good rock, I'm absolutely sure that new, never before seen, world class Wyoming lines will show up on Instagram by next year.  Even in my guidebook, there are still quite a few impressive undone projects listed in the V12-15 range.  And it isn't out of the realm of possibility that the Rock Shop could have the most difficult problem in the state if a strong enough climber visits the area.  Hopefully a few of the projects in the Lander area will get attention, now that the quality of Wyoming bouldering is becoming more well known.

With my teaching and family schedule, I wasn't able to make it out to Neverland to see all the strong climbers who visited over the last couple weekends.  But that's alright.  I got to climb in empty beautiful places, in amazing weather.  Here are some photos of Sierra and Matt from a recent trip to Torrey Valley.

Sierra climbing The Good Earth East Face V2.
 Matt on the Mead boulder.
 The fine grain Torrey texture on "Gold's Gym."
 Davin showed me "Gold's Gym" on my first trip to Torrey Valley and called it V5.  Matt and I might have been starting somewhat lower than the original line, but it felt really hard to me.

Matt sent it.

 I didn't.  But now I know what to do, and I'm excited to get back to it!

It's been one of the most exciting couple weeks ever for Wyoming bouldering as a spectator sport.  But as a participant, my last two weekends were exactly the same as they've been for many years.  Just wonderful days in vast lonely spaces, playing at getting up rocks, trying as hard as I can, with family and friends.  The types of days that I've become very accustomed to, yet seem to appreciate even more as time goes by.   So it's wonderful that some of the world's strongest boulders are making visits and putting up amazing lines.  I'm excited that it's finally happening.  As a Wyoming bouldering developer it's good to get some validation and recognition that these areas we have really are as amazing as we think they are.

But it's also good to occasionally ask the question "Is any validation actually necessary?"  I've finally come to realize that it isn't.  When you've got boulders you're excited to climb, that's really all you need.

Who knows when temps will be warm again?  Not by this weekend.

Luckily, there will be a bouldering comp at Elemental on Saturday.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Deer Park

Deer Park is the suburban sounding name for a pretty wild area north of Worthen Reservoir.  We spent a couple days over a three day weekend exploring and putting up some problems out there.

Jesse on the hunt for new blocks at Deer Park.

On Friday, Matt and I spent most of the day working on the first good overhang that I found out there last Summer.

Matt cleaning what turned out to be one of the best mantle top outs in the Lander area.
 Matt and I worked on a couple lines on Friday, but just one got sent.  We both made ascents of a V6 that climbs in from the right following a seam, throws to the top, traverses left a couple more moves on great slopers, to a committing full mantel top out.  I made the first ascent, but I never would have gone for the mantel move without Matt's beta and encouragement.  Thanks Matt!

Matt climbing "Spooky" V6.
 A shot of the rock formations as seen from Deer Park.

The next day, Jesse and my family joined me for another session out there.

Jesse warmed up by putting up a tall V1 slab named "Horror Show."
 Followed by the first ascent of "Dracula" V5/6.  Jesse made the exciting jump to the top a couple times before figuring out the top out sequence.
 My weekend was made with the first ascent of "Ghost Story" V7.  It's a SDS that begins right behind Autumn in the photo below, and ends at the long tick marks.  It's hard, climbs well, has perfect stone, is a nice height, and I just barely managed to finish it.  Exactly the type of problem I look for.
 Ashley had a strong session, making ascents of both "Spooky" and "Ghost Story."  I gave "Dracula" a few tries, but stopped trying after a dismount that tweaked my ankle.  No major injury, but it hurt enough to make me cautious.

Matt and I did a thorough hike of the first two formations on Friday, and Jesse and I explored the formation to the north on Saturday.  We didn't find nearly as much potential as I hoped to, but I did find one very nice overhang that will warrant a return trip.  Deer Park won't be one of Lander's major bouldering destinations, but it will remain a quiet place with some really nice lines to do.  A fine option to have when hit by certain moods or weather conditions.  I'm happy that I got a chance to spend last weekend out there, had fun sessions with both Matt and Jesse, did some good new problems, figured out what really is waiting to be done out there, and that I won't spend all Winter fantasizing about what  I thought might have been hidden in those trees.

Have a Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Finding Gold at The City Walls

The City Walls are what I've been calling a set of small formations on the east side of the highway near South Pass City.  After looking at them from summits at the Rock Shop for a couple years now, I finally hiked some of the area at the end of my summer break.  On my initial hike I was very impressed by the rock quality, but disappointed that there wasn't very much overhanging rock out there.  That fact hasn't changed, but there are some really great lines and walls to be climbed here and there amongst the slabs.

City Walls at sunset, with the rising moon.
With so much bouldering to be done at a variety of areas this time of year, it's been difficult to decide where to focus my attention during the one day per week that I'm able to free up for climbing.  Two weekends ago, we ended up back at the City Walls just because it was the area with the lowest possibility of rain on the forecast map.

We ended that day climbing on a beautiful, slightly overhanging, wall of perfectly featured stone.
Due to some lichen on the upper holds, I didn't top out the wall on that day.  That fact bothered me all week, and so I went back after school on Friday afternoon to clean the upper holds on rappel.  I cleaned another line as well, and went home when it got dark.

On Saturday, it was a little windy, but I topped out the wall first try.  It felt easier than I thought it would.

"Oregon Trail" SDS HBV3
Ashley did a traverse across the middle of the wall "The Oregon Trail Traverse" at about V3.  I added a high traverse "Oregon Trail Northern Traverse" that's probably V2.  Then Ashley did the FA of a lower traverse, "Oregon Trail Southern Traverse" at V5.  All of these traverses follow clear lines of features and could be linked into zig zags or rings.  Ashley connected the Oregon Trail Southern Traverse with a return trip on the Oregon Trail.

Ashley climbing "The Oregon Trail Southern Traverse" V5.

While we've been out there we've climbed on a lot of other walls as well.

This is "The Other Warm Up Wall" with five V1 up problems, and the long "Flaming Lips Traverse" V3.
Ashley ending "The Flaming Lips Traverse."
Right in front of the "Other Warm Up Wall" is "The Onion" V3 which climbs from a SDS on the left arete of the boulder to top out in the center of the overhang.

It was Sierra's project, but she finished it last weekend.

Here are a few other lines that got done.

Ashley climbing "The Lander Cutoff" V2.
"Placer Gold" is a steep V3/4 with the crux at the top out.
"Uncontrived Roof" is a SDS that goes at V2 to the left, and "Contrived Roof" is a V4 that stand starts in underclings and goes straight out the biggest part.
To wrap this up, I'll say that all of these lines ended up being easier than expected because the rock at City Walls is well adorned with solid, incut features, that are perfect for pulling on.  For that same reason it offers the best bouldering in the V1-V3 range that I've seen anywhere in the Lander area.  And the views are great too!
Feel free to get in touch if you'd like more specific directions.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Rainy Day Diversion

A few weeks ago, when I posted The Best of Horsetooth Reservoir Bouldering to YouTube.  A DVD extras section I'd made wound up on my computer with it.  Stuck at home on this rainy day, I decided to post it.

Before I started blogging, I recorded bouldering ascents on my video camera.  This video includes some favorite lines from Vedauwoo, RMNP, Carter Lake, The Flatirons, Morrison, Red Feather, Arthurs Rock, Poudre Canyon, Eldorado Canyon, and Horsetooth climbed by people much younger than they are today.  Most ascents are by Ashley and me when we were still in our twenties.  The soundtrack is composed of my favorite alternative music from the late nineties and early aughts.

Or just skip it if you aren't in the mood for thirty-five minutes of Front Range bouldering from over a decade ago.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Visit from LT11, and Another Trip to Sweetwater

Trying to teach well, and climb well, is cutting into my sleep, so I'm not planning to write much tonight. Let's see what I can put together in twenty minutes.

Jon came out to do some filming for LT11 the weekend before last.  I gave him a tour of Oz on Saturday.  It was a quiet day.  Just my family, Jon, and a couple bow hunters in the area.  They were looking for elk that I'm not sure are out there.

Jon warming up on The Walrus V6 (or possibly Wicked Witch?).

 Ashley and I warmed up on this unknown V4 lower in the gully.
 I didn't get many photos that day.  Just like when I went out with Kyle, while filming "Wind and Rattlesnakes," when I boulder with film makers,  I tend to leave the documentation to the professionals.

Jon sent "A Tribe Called Lander" very quickly and I used his sticky rubber knee pad for a few attempts.  Just one move is giving me trouble.  If I get a kneepad, and put in a session or two, I think the line might be within my reach.

My favorite send of the day was this unknown V6 on the campground boulder that climbs really well.
 We also added a few easy warmups "The Wonderful Warmups of Oz" V1-3 and Jon did the first ascent of the highball just to the right.
 On Sunday, I gave Jon a tour of lines, done and undone, at the Rock Shop.  Then Ashley and I put a little bit of time into "Grave Wave."  Neither of us sent it, but I'd like to work on it some more.
 Jon stayed here for about a week with a couple other friends who came up from Boulder.  It looks like they spent most of their time putting up first ascents at the Rock Shop.  It was fun to climb with Jon, and I'm looking forward to checking out the many new lines they did at the Rock Shop, and seeing the LT11 film!  Thanks Jon!

I'm always somewhat torn in September.  Should we take advantage of sending temps at the higher areas like the Roaring Fork?  Or should we take full advantage of warm sunny weather before the inevitable winter hits.  Lately we've been doing the latter.

Last Saturday we spent a beautiful (but somewhat warm) day bouldering at Sweetwater with Ana and Devlin.

Ana warming up on the Ivory Traverse V2.
 We repeated a few lines like Hunny Pot Roof V3.
And I did the first ascent of "Sunshine" a V3 SDS that ends up a somewhat committing slab just right of "Thunderbird."

Ana climbing "Sunshine."

From there we went up to the Ocean boulder, which was still in the shade.  We all put a bit of work into "Another Toe in the Ocean", but it didn't get any ascents from its SDS.  Incredibly psyched, and in very crisp conditions, I did the first ascent quickly last year.   That day, I thought it was a solid V4.  But now I think that I was way off.  It's probably a V6.

We added a new line that traverses into slippery features to an obvious top out to the left of "Debaser."  Devlin came so close to getting the first ascent, but had trouble with the committing top out.  I tried next, got scared, but shut off my brain and just rolled over the top as quickly as I could.

Devlin on "Rock and Ice" V4.
 We ended the day in a cool cave that will have some fun drop off problems (or highballs/free solos) some day.

Ashley looking at the project we spent our time puzzling out.
I think it will go when we visit it again with fresh fingers.

Well that took thirty-five minutes, and I need to get some sleep.  I've got class, and another weekend of climbing to rest up for...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Problems and Projects From Sweetwater

We had a beautiful day at Sweetwater on Saturday.  And Ashley has started naming all her first ascents with a Winnie the Pooh theme.  Here's her best new line.

"The Hunny Pot Traverse" V4  
 Finishing the traverse.
 I did a sit start below the roof, and decided to stick with the theme.  "Honey Pot Roof" is a V3.

The view from the top out.
 Facing the roof is another new line.

"Thunderbird" V3
 Sierra working on "The Ivory Warm Up Traverse" V1/2.
 Following just the lower crack with hands is "The Ivory Traverse Project."
 In the distance are a couple more boulder covered domes that I haven't even had the chance to hike yet.
 A couple weeks ago the weather wasn't as nice.  We dropped our plans for the Ocean Boulder sector, and returned to the more sheltered Easter boulders.  Ashley got the first ascent of this low boulder with really nice stone.

"Very Blustery Day" V4
 I worked on the "Easter Boulders Project" but it's going to be difficult.  I'll probably need to leave it for someone else, and estimate that it's in the V10/11 range.
 We ended the day at the Tick Tock boulder.  I added the "Tick Tock Arete" V4.
 Lankin as seen from the Easter boulders.
Still got a lot to do out there.  Hope I can find the time to rap a few things...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Way Things Were at Horsetooth Reservoir (Circa the Year 2000)

Back in the year 2000 it was much more difficult to make a bouldering video.  Digital camcorders cost $850, and the resolution wasn't even close to HD.  The Apple laptop I made this on, using the original Imovie software, cost $5000, and it only had 5GB of memory.  To put together this 38 minute long video required editing it, and exporting it, in three separate sections.  I had no experience, or training, with filmmaking.  And I bought the video camera specifically so I could make this movie.  So this was literally the first thing I ever filmed!  I didn't even own a tripod during most of the process.  Which is painfully obvious as soon as the film gets started.

Once the movie was finished, there wasn't a viable internet video site to post it to.  This was recorded to about 200 VHS tapes in my apartment.  Labels were glued on, plastic cases were fitted with covers, it was stocked in a few climbing shops, and it ended up being sent as far away as Japan and Australia.  It's hard to comprehend just how little bouldering footage existed back then.  Just a couple bouldering films would be commercially produced nationwide in a year.  Today a couple professionally produced bouldering films seem to come out every day, and almost all of them are free.

The grades weren't as high, the pads weren't as thick, but it's obvious to see that we were having a good time at the boulders!  And I miss climbing with a lot of my friends from this film.  We had a great crew back then!

So the film lacks polish, it's got too much camera shake, and some of the top outs take way too long.  That's why I wasn't in any great hurry to get this uploaded to the internet.  But it is fun to look back at how things were fourteen years ago, and John Gill's insights still ring true.  The film shows what we were climbing, and also who was climbing, at Horsetooth in the year 2000.  And if you don't like it, just remember that it's free.  You don't even have to rewind the tape when you're done.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wrapping Up Our Summer

With the end of Summer approaching, and a lot that we still wanted to do, we climbed outside every other day during the last few weeks of summer.  A couple projects are still unfinished, but we got quite a bit done.
Ashley's hardest ascent of the summer was Electric Storm SDS V7/8.  Chris found this line and did the first ascent from a very low start on a low right rail at ~V9.  Not knowing where Chris had started the line, we had begun working on it from a sit start with our right hand on the rail, and our left hand on a higher crimp.  We got used to our start, and our beta.  Later, when we found out that Chris had started lower, we decided that our start was already hard enough for this season, and didn't make the switch to Chris's harder start.  The line has great features, fun movement, and offers a lot of climbing for a single boulder problem!  Nice work Chris!   

Ashley sending Electric Storm SDS.

I was having a lot of trouble with a move on Electric Storm, so I also put my energy into a couple lines I felt more likely to finish.  I rapped and cleaned a line on the right side of the boulder.  I called it "Perfect Storm" and think it's a V6.  It's a good training line that isn't too fingery and worked my core.  Here's video of the first ascent.

I also sent "Sh!# Storm" from our sit start at ~V6.

Going for the big move!

We spent a day sport climbing at the Aspen Glades with perfect weather.  It was our first day on a rope since last winter!  Not only was my endurance poor, but I'd completely lost my pocket climbing callouses.  The skin on the sides of my fingers started hurting surprisingly quickly, but I still had a good time.  We'll probably spend some more time sport climbing this fall when I don't have as much time to find and develop new boulder problems.

The Aspen Glade on a cloudy day.  Exactly what you want this time of year. 

One of the most convenient ways to find new rock is to hike out to any unknown rock formations that are visible from the areas you already climb at.   One evening I hiked with my dogs out to a formation I'd seen from the Roaring Fork.  The area has a lot of potential, but catches a lot of sun.  So I'm planning to return as soon as the weather cools. 

This compression project at the area really caught my attention.
We got back to the White Stripes Sector of the Roaring Fork for our final climbing day of summer vacation.

I got the second ascent of Davin's V5 "Guardian Angel Arm."  We also had a project I'd jokingly named the "Mini Mini Project."  I got the first ascent, and decided to keep the name.  I climbed up and left from the start, but Ashley also worked out a method that goes right.  Either way, it starts sitting with the big rail and tops out using the good hold only four feet higher.  Don't let it's stature fool you.  This short line packs a punch, and either method is ~V6.

Ashley on "Mini Mini."
Sierra is climbing more, and doing better all the time.  At the Roaring Fork she's projecting Justin L.'s line "Tic Tac Crack."  She's really close to doing it, and it's a perfect way for her to learn both lieback and jamming technique.

And we aren't even done yet.  We've got another area to talk about.

On a summer exploration day, I hiked some domes that I had noticed from the Rock Shop.
The entire area has a lot of boulderable vertical walls, but few freestanding boulders, and is close to South Pass City.  So I'm calling the area "The City Walls."

The vast majority of the rock out there is solid, and featured, but unfortunately overhangs are rare.  And it's often too featured to create hard bouldering.  This gorgeous overhanging face probably goes at only V1.
I was feeling sore, and a little ill, today.  So we decided to make a trip to The City Walls.  It was a good place for me to do some moderate climbing, and for Ashley to still be able to get good workout.  We left the house at 6:30 AM to get as much cool weather as possible, and managed to get in a great session due to a brisk breeze and by spending the middle of the day climbing in a shady gully.  On the first wall we visited we put up four new up problems and two traverses.  Ashley's low traverse is probably V5.
Repeating a fun V2.
Sierra really surprised me by flashing this steep problem that Ashley named "Wind Tunnel."  It felt ~V3 to me.

You might have noticed that Ashley has a new Organic Pad!  It's was my gift to her for our 14th wedding anniversary.  We love the colors and design!  Thanks Josh!

Willow and Roo seem excited about it too.
So there are many new areas and problems to be excited about right now.  I'll be looking forward to each and every weekend...