Friday, May 4, 2018

Boulders Ahoy!

It seems like the other side of the river always has more boulders.  It's the peaceful side, away from the highway, and it was driving me crazy not knowing what amazing lines might be in all those inaccessible boulderfields.  So I bought a boat for my birthday in order to get across rivers.   It's an AIRE Tomcat Solo inflatable kayak, and we've used it a lot this spring.  It's opened up so many possibilities!  Here's what we've been up to.

Ashley got the first ascent of "Armadillo" V4/5 on our very first trip across the river.

 It's still a project for Autumn, but she came very close.
Her climbing has been improving rapidly, and I suspect that I'll have some outdoor ascents to report for her soon.
 I went out by myself one day and put up some lines in a different sector.  This one was a good warm up on perfect stone.
I'm calling these two boulders the Valentine's Blocks.

 I put up a few lines on the right block.  The best one is the tall arete called "Heartbeats" V2.  
 The entire sector has amazing sandstone patterns and patina.

On my third trip with the boat, I inflated it and then realized that I'd forgotten to bring the paddle.  I tried paddling with my arms in the icy cold water.  I thought it could work, but Ashley and the girls didn't trust my bare arm paddling abilities. 

 So we changed plans, and went to the Big Bend boulders where Ashley climbed the 

"Basketball Diaries" V5.
 And I decided not to commit on the highball V5 "Army of Darkness.
I've remembered to bring the paddle ever since.

 Castle Valley is a beautiful place, and it's wonderful to have it just an hour away from our house.  We've started crossing the river to boulder in this area too.
 Autumn climbing "Vitamin D" a V2 on an obvious boulder across the river at the entrance to Castle Valley.
 "Venn" V3
 "Mini Comp" V4
 "Dewey" V3
Noah and Siemay vacationed out here, and I joined them for a couple sessions.  
Many lines were done!  This single boulder has 13 problems!  They call it the Baker's Dozen.
 Here's Noah repeating an incredibly good warm-up that Zun climbed first.
 I put up a V6 nearby called "Bayonet."


Over Spring Break the Lloyd family camped, explored and climbed in central Utah.
Cedar Mountain looked like it would be amazing on Google Earth so we checked it out. The view is amazing, but the boulders are pebbly choss.
So we drove down the mountain and climbed at Triassic.  It was our back up plan all along.  Two problems really stood out at the Petroglyph Area.

"Homemade Goodness" V5
and "Hammerhead" a more difficult and intimidating V5.

 We camped in the southern San Rafael Swell and then visited Capital Reef National Park.  The whole region is gorgeous, and it has boulders, but the stone we found isn't as solid as the Wingate near Moab.



 The last day of Spring Break was forecast to be really windy.  So we visited a boulder field on the downwind side of a cliff.  It's a trick that I learned while we were living in Wyoming.  The large boulders had top rope bolts already, but the smaller boulders appear to have been ignored up until this point.  This small boulder yielded two surprisingly good lines.  And we were mostly out of the wind.

"Triangle Man" SDS V4/5
 "Universe Man" V6 traverses the entire east side of the block to top out on "Triangle Man."
During another fun weekend session, I watched Andrew get the third ascent of "Sexual Chocolate" an amazing V6 highball near Gateway put up by Matt and Noah.
My favorite send of the entire spring season was "Two Sides To Every Story" V6.  Christian was the first to climb this line.  It's strenuous, delicate, and puzzling. It looks and feels impossible until you manage to do it.


Another notable line in the area is "Classic Eagle" put up by a very young climber named Bayes.  I got the second ascent, and Ashley got the third.  It's a solid V6 for me, and Ashley reported that it felt very difficult (significantly harder than V6) for her.

During the last two weekends, as the weather warmed up, we've shifted to morning sessions in Unaweep.  The stone there is featured Dakota sandstone which is much more straightforward to climb on than the Wingate sandstone.  Almost all the stone near Fruita is sandstone, but it's impressive how different the style is between Wingate sandstone, Dakota sandstone, and the Joes Valley sandstone that we visit occasionally.  Before we moved, I was a little worried that I'd get bored of bouldering on sandstone all of the time.  But it hasn't been a problem at all.
Mountain Project is the best source for bouldering info on Unaweep Canyon.  I'm really happy to have it, but I've learned to take the posted grades there with a healthy grain of salt.  So far I've found many of Nick's V4s to be very solid for the grade, and some of the higher graded lines to be quite soft.  The star ratings seem to be more reliable than the difficulty ratings.

For example "Acromian Division" felt like a solid V6 from the sit start. It's a fun tall problem, and I recommend it.  But it wasn't the V8/9 that I was expecting to find based on the Mountain Project description.  Maybe something has broken, or I just found better beta.
 But I did find another project nearby that'll probably be a V10.  There are plenty of difficult lines to be done at Unaweep if you take a little time to look around for them.
 Ashley got a couple extra grades of effort out of "Daft Punk" V4 at the Zephyr Boulders.

But really it's all about the challenge and finding fun climbing, no matter what the grades end up feeling like.

Our inflatable kayak has opened up whole new worlds of bouldering, and Unaweep has over 1400 boulder problems spread through many sectors.  And due to those facts, we've visited a sector that was new to us every weekend through the entire spring season!  It feels like we've been spending all of our time on appetizers so far, convenient lines that we can send in a single session.  I haven't spent more than a session on a problem since January.  Now that I've gotten a taste of each spot, I'll be ready to really dig in this fall!  But all these area's will probably have to wait until then.  Temperatures are rising in the desert, and I'm excited to start exploring the mountains again.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

An Endless Season, in Unaweep and Beyond

A year without winter.  It looks like we may have one.  A couple dustings of snow that melted within hours seem barely worth mentioning.  We've been getting out every weekend, and spend most of our bouldering sessions in Unaweep Canyon.

Ashley warming up with "Endocrine Disruptor" V3
Sierra climbing "Southampton Dock" V4

Adam climbing "Outside the Wall" V4
Jesse exploring the upper rim.
Jesse on an unknown line at the Other Side of the Road Area.
I'm still working on "Huckin' Bronc" V7 on the Dune Boulder, just one of my many current projects.
I'm especially excited about my first documented ascent of "Spotless" V4/5 HB at the Other Side of the Road Area.
It's a tall vertical face over a sloped landing, with long moves between thin crimps on perfect patina.  I was so excited about the line, I decided to session it by myself in a well timed session on a cold afternoon.  The rock had just enough time to warm up in the sun.
Video of the ascent can be found @mrdlloyd on Instagram

The stone at Unaweep isn't as solid as the stone at Roy, NM but the climbing is surprisingly comparable.  I know because we visited Roy recently over our Christmas Break.

I'm tempted to spend another session on "Flaming Liberty" someday.  It's a very committing V6 for short climbers.  I needed to jump for the horizontal slot near the top out, and I wasn't willing to risk the fall on this trip.
 Sierra climbing "Star Wars" V2
 Ashley climbing "Milagro Beanfield" V3.
After our day at Roy, we decided to dodge an incoming cold front by driving south to Socorro.  We were surprised by both the quality of the volcanic bouldering, and the popularity of the area.  The place is busy in mid-winter, but the locals are friendly, and the weather was nice.

Ashley climbing "Peck's Mystery" V4.
 Ashley climbing "Sofa King" V4.
 My favorite ascent of the trip was "Rubber Walrus Protector" V5.  A puzzle of a problem, that's so much fun to work out.
 And "Pressure Drop"V2 is one of the best for the grade that I've ever done.  The "Unbeatable Boulder" deserves the name.

My post wouldn't be complete without a few photos of the sandstone bouldering we've been doing on the Wingate.  Adam and Nicole gave me a tour of a special sector they've been developing.

Adam climbing "Surf's Up."
 Nicole putting up a probable first ascent of a great V2.
 And I put up a probable first ascent of "Babies' Blood," a short V7 named from our discussion of therapy options for aging joints.
 The sector includes historic problems that were put up before anyone was keeping track.  This is an unknown and historic classic V3.

 And last but not least, here are a couple photos from Big Bend.  It's worth hiking up the hill for "Drunkula" a high quality V4 on the Monster Block.
 Bruce enjoying the sunshine, and attempting a huge move on the "Right Side" of Split Decision last weekend.
Now I'm looking at the long-term forecast and see only rising temperatures.  A long fall, an early spring, and winter never arrived.  A never ending season, enjoyable, yet unsettling.  It doesn't feel normal, it hits me as unnatural, even here in the desert.