Sunday, July 30, 2017

Changing States

The change is abrupt.  There is no gentle transition.  You can't be in two places at once, it's all one world or the other.  And the trip between two states doesn't feel like a transition, it isn't life, it's just driving.  So here we are in a brand new reality, full of extraordinary convenience, extraordinary heat, extraordinary desert life and landforms called Fruita, Colorado.  All new places to explore, with a feeling of excitement and ignorance about much that surrounds me.

This move was different than our move from Ft. Collins to Lander.  For one thing, we knew what we were doing this time.  We spent the first week of summer vacation house hunting in Fruita and Grand Junction.  We sold our house in Lander, found a great house in Fruita, got all the contractual dominoes to fall in the right order, and it all worked out.  Credit for orchestrating the impressive housing hunt and flawless transition goes to Ashley.
 With our house chosen, and under contract, we went back to Lander for the first half of summer.  I spent a few more weeks enjoying Wyoming.  Soon after moving to Lander, eight years ago, I truly learned to love a place.  The Wind River Mountains and the sagebrush sea surrounding them are special, a landscape that will always feel like home.

 I continued to search for boulders, despite the amount of snow that fell last winter.
 We kept up our climbing schedule, packing all our boxes on rest days.  We spent one day working "The Ground From Upside Down" 5.13a /V7 at Wild Iris, but we still need to work out one long crux move over an "edgy" part of the sloped landing, and I will need a bit more endurance to finish it.
 And we spent many days at the Rock Shop.
 Sierra sent "Perfect Storm" V6, and Ashley did it too, after clipping into a toprope for the top out.  I sent "Electric Storm" from the SDS V7/8, and we spent a session at the Sail Boulder after getting a tour from Justin Iskra.

Kelsey working out the crux of "Perfect Storm."
I took photos of many of the Rock Shop boulders, and have been making progress on guidebook work.
 We tried to get in one last day of climbing at Sweetwater, but our session got cut short by swarms of no-see-ums.  They didn't seem bothered by Deet at all!  Sweetwater just isn't a summer bouldering area.
 I spent one more day at Sweetwater that didn't include any climbing.  I was giving input during the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative Sweetwater Site visit.
 It's important to me that climbing and bouldering are considered in future management plans, and I was able to see many formations that I'd never visited before.

Such as the Tea Pot and the Sugar Bowl.
 I also saw promising looking bouldering zones.  Accessing them wouldn't be difficult.  All it would require is a respectful request to the landowner for passage across their land and their bridge.

Our time in Lander ended with the International Climbers' Festival.  I helped out with the Boulder Bash. Temps weren't perfect until 11 pm, and the dolomite boulders are as sharp as ever, but everyone was psyched, so it worked out well.  The professional photographers got a lot of great images, but I was too busy guiding, cheering, and lighting up holds to focus on photography.
 I also lead a clinic to the Weather Station sector of the Rock Shop, but didn't get any photos of that fun session.  It was a great Festival, and I'm looking forward to visiting Lander for future International Climbers' Festivals.  There's no better time to see everybody.

For our last session in Lander we visited Worthen Reservoir.  I climbed Jesse Brown's "Babymaker Arete" V6.

And Ashley repeated "Viskers" V6, one of the first boulder problems that she did after we moved to Lander.

Colorado's Western Slope

We've been in Fruita for twelve days now.  I've been taking morning hikes to look for boulders in Colorado National Monument.
I'm lucky to still have abundant wildlife close to home.
And species I've never had the chance to encounter before, such as this Collared Lizard.
But it's been too hot to boulder outdoors near Fruita.  Hiking boulders is fun, but it doesn't satisfy like actually bouldering does.  I needed to get some bouldering in.  So we drove a few hours to a low key alpine bouldering area based on a recommendation and some Google Earth reconnaissance.  We found great alpine bouldering and landings built of perfectly arranged talus.  It was obvious that this area had been visited many times before, and I managed to find a few old photos on the internet, after we got home from our trip.  I now know that efforts have been made to keep the area quiet, so I won't share anymore information here, just a few photos.

Ashley climbing an unknown V5 sds line.

I'm living in a new state now.  Significantly different than anywhere I've lived before.  But I bring what I've learned with me, and I'm confident that I'll continue to love the places I find myself in.
Because life never stands still.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Bouldering Treasure Map

Quite a few bouldering developers have started using Google Maps to document the areas and problems that they've developed.  For areas that aren't too forested it's a convenient way to record what you've done.  But it's far from a guidebook.  Access routes aren't explained, and often paper maps need to be consulted and marked before heading out due to lack of cell phone coverage, and important information such as private land boundaries.  So I'm not convinced that Google Maps will take the place of guidebooks anytime soon, but they can be useful for the truly motivated, the casually curious, and for developers who want a convenient way to journal what they've done.

So here's a map where I've been recording some of the new boulder problems put up around Lander.  Enjoy!

A Bouldering Google Map to Some New Problems near Lander, WY

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Last Go, Best Go

"Together Alone" V4 Sweetwater Rocks, WY
Word has gotten out, but it hasn't been announced on this blog yet, that we'll be leaving Wyoming this summer.  Wyoming is still amazing, and I highly recommend the Lander area for any climber, but life isn't just about climbing.  Great teaching jobs opened up for both Ashley and me in the Grand Junction area.  We applied.  We were lucky enough to be offered the two jobs we wanted the most, and we decided to take them.  Since then, every bouldering trip this spring has felt like it could be my last one to each particular bouldering area.  With a teaching schedule, it's easy to envision summer bouldering trips back to the Rock Shop, or into the Winds, in my future.  It's harder to imagine a way that I'll make it back to shoulder season areas such as Sweetwater.  This season we ended up spending three sessions at the Weapons of Mass Destruction sector.  Abundant snow in Sinks canyon, and abundant mud on the two tracks to Oz made it the best option for multiple weekends this spring.  On Earth Day we decided to warm up on the balanced block seen north of the road on the way into Weapons of Mass Destruction.
I knew that Jesse, Justin, and Matt had spent a day on this boulder and I wanted to repeat "Together Alone."  It's a great line, and challenging for short climbers.  We saw other undone lines on the block, and we started trying them.  By the end of the session Ashley added two lines to the left of "Together Alone" and I added a classic line to the right.

"Earth Day" V6 sit starts with a good hold under the overhang.
Moves up the left side of the arete.
And traverses to the top of "Together Alone."
Our other two Sweetwater sessions were spent on the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" boulder proper.  "Weapons of Mass Destruction" V7 was at the top of Sierra's boulder project list.  She worked it for an entire session.
And she sent it during the next session!

While Sierra worked on her project, we enjoyed the sun.
And put up an interesting V4 to the right called "Mean Little Flower" V4.

Once the days got long enough, I was psyched to get Sinks Canyon sessions in after school.  Snow limited my options though, and I found myself back at the Kingsford boulder trying to add the full sit start to the "Seam Project" I'd put in the guidebook.  Towards the end of the session I noticed a line of vertical edges to the right, and it looked like maybe I could use them in opposition to the rail on "The Seam" and finish on nice edges just below the top, at the highest point of the boulder.  It looked beautiful, and I couldn't believe I'd never noticed the line before.  I tried it out, but was too tired to put much together.
One more session, and I thought it was possible.  At the end of my second full session on the line I put it all together.

Once I figured out the beta, it was even better than I ever hoped.  It ranks as one of the best dolomite boulder problems in Sinks, and it's the best first ascent I've put up in Sinks Canyon.

Only one weekend day was warm enough, still enough, and dry enough for my family to make it out to Oz this spring.  Sierra and Ashley worked out all their beta on "Heart Sing" V7.  I even set up a top rope so they could practice the committing top out.
And I got heartbreakingly close to finishing "Wild Thing Stand" V8.
We were all set to send next session, but we never got a next session.  Nick, Wendy, and Philip came out with us. Nick set up cameras and recorded the day.  He put together the following film from it.

Working beta, falling off problems, and talking a lot.  It's an accurate look at what it's actually like to boulder with the Lloyds.

We hiked up the Granite Buttress one weekend.

I scouted and brushed some lines for our day.  But we only finished one good line before we got stormed out.

"Hang Nail" V1
While hiking out in the rain and thunder we were passed by two cowboys on horseback followed by a pack of Corgi dogs.  They chased a marmot into it's burrow, and then caught up to the horses by running incredibly fast on their short little legs.  An interesting and unexpected sight!

Then came the highlight of my season one afternoon, after school.  I did my first V10.  The Camera at the Cabin Boulders is a short boulder, but the holds are very small, the move is big and surprisingly intricate. It has thwarted my countless attempts over multiple sessions for many years.  During my second session this spring, and my second "last go," it all came together.

I'm not sure that I'm actually stronger than I was last year.  But the thought that I might never get to try "The Camera" in good conditions again made me try harder than I ever had before.

The next weekend I gave Ken a tour of one sector at City Walls.  A cold wind from the west meant that the day wasn't as productive as I'd hoped.  We stayed on the downwind side of the formation, put up a few good warmups and then spent some time cleaning up "The Good Life" wall.

Ken helped brush from a six pad stack.
He gave me a great spot on the committing first ascent of "Wetland" V4.
And sampled a bit of the upwind patina covered stone before driving back home.

I've always been motivated by the knowledge that it might be a long time before I will get back to a project again.  But the knowledge that I might never find a chance to get back to something again was extra motivating.  It lead to a new level of productivity for me this spring season.  I thought I was already trying as hard as I could, but this season taught me that I can dig even deeper.  I'll try to remember that, even when there isn't a deadline looming.

I fall in love with wild landscapes, and I'm going to miss so many places that I've grown attached to over our last eight years in Lander.  Magical areas full of fond memories.  I've enjoyed small town life, teaching at the Lander Middle School, and the Lander community.  Moving here from Ft. Collins was a great decision, one that I'd never take back.  But the west is big, and life is short.  Good books have many chapters, and we're turning the page to the next one.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Boundless Riches Beyond Compare

It's no secret that I think public lands are one of the best ideas Americans have ever had.   I wrote up my thoughts, perspective, and history with the topic for
Thunder Cling with help from Dave McAllister.  Check it out, and I hope that you like it!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

First Ascents

First ascents stand out.  The ones I've seen, and the ones I've done.  I've compiled a slideshow of Wyoming first ascents that I've been lucky enough to be a part of, mostly for my own benefit.  Keeping the days fresh in my memory, making sure that problems don't disappear, that they are documented, and shared.  The time seems right to share this video for those who are interested.  Note that the person photographed isn't necessarily the climber that got the first ascent.  Sometimes it's the repeats that get photographed.  If a problem in this video isn't in the Bouldering in the Wind River Range guidebook, it will most likely appear in a google map that I'm compiling or in the upcoming guidebook to The Rock Shop and City Walls.  Thanks go out to all the first ascentionists, and all the boulderers who shared information with me over the years.  Special thanks goes to Davin Bagdonas, Chris Marley, Jesse Brown, Vance White, Steve Bechtel, Greg Collins, Justin Iskra, and Justin Loyka.  Without them the vast majority of these problems never would have been done.  I'd also like to thank Ashley, and my family for climbing with me every weekend!


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Winter Days on Sunny Stone

The good winter days are often the best days!  The air is still, the rock is cool, you can spend all day in the sun without getting burned, and because they are rare you appreciate the nice days more. Our winter began with warm weather, and a great day at Roy, New Mexico.
 "Buttercup" is pretty tricky for V5, but I figured it out, and climbed it, before the end of the session.

I highly recommend this problem!

 We were there on a weekend during Christmas Break, and we still had the Jumbles all to ourselves for the day.

We managed to hit Sweetwater during a good day in February.  We added a few new lines to the warm up wall in the Norwegian Sector.  

When the stone is good at Sweetwater, it's amazingly good!
 Ashley and Sierra used the day to train for a trip to Hueco.
 A Sweetwater view, photos don't to the distance justice.  Those are the Wind River Mountains in the background, over 70 miles away.
Ashley and Sierra spent a whole week at Hueco, had a great time, but didn't get any great photos.

When the weather was poor this winter I looked at a lot of boulders.  Sierra hiked the granite with me.
 And I looked at sandstone high on the hills of Sinks Canyon.
 And sometimes we bouldered despite less than perfect weather.
Sierra's been interested in seeing what she can do on a rope.  She redpointed "Hardware" 5.12 on her second attempt.
 Did "The Wilds" 5.12a in conditions too cold for my fingers.
 And she redpointed "Moe" 5.12b in a session.  Here's Dave giving it a valiant effort.
Before Science Fair in Laramie we got in a couple sessions in northern Colorado.  Sierra flashed "Punk Rock Traverse" V5 at Horsetooth Reservoir.
 She did "Corner Lock" V4 on her third attempt.
 And unlocked the reachy (for her) crimp line on the left side of Pitch Penny.
We were only able to pack one pad for this trip, so I worked on the only difficult line I was comfortable trying with one pad, "Beast House" V9 at Arthur's Rock.
I didn't do it, but I did a move I'd never stuck before.

Torrey Valley delivered great conditions on a couple weekends.
 We climbed every line and variation we could come up with on the Bunk House Boulder.
 And one fun line on the "Chances" boulder.
The ice was very clear on the creek.
 I had Sierra pose on a finger crack in the ice.  Then I posted it to Instagram.  I thought the reflection and the snow boots made it pretty obvious what was going on, but it appears that some people were fooled by it.
The wildlife in Torrey Valley adds to the experience.  Sheep watched while I worked on a new compression line.
My highlight for the season was finishing the first ascent of "Just Being" V7/8 at Sweetwater.  My fifth session on the line, I worked out a sequence and had good enough conditions to keep the right hand crimp.
Here's video.

I've also been working on writing projects, and spring has gotten off to a good start.  I should have more news to post soon.