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...

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Day at El Dakota

While my family was out of town, I made a trip to see El Dakota.  Davin was giving a tour, and I'd seen enough photos to make me interested.  High altitude Dakota sandstone?  Deep forests, and expansive views? Seemed like interesting, almost unbelievable, combinations.  But we drove up a mountain, a few boulders came into view, and all those things really do come together in one place.
Only a few blocks are visible.  Most of the boulders are hidden in the dense forest above.  A lot of work has gone into cutting a path into the area!  Davin and Bryan compared their machetes before we headed up the hill for the day.
Mike M., the other Mike M., Abby, Jamie, Wendy, and Brian C. all made the trip as well.  Once we made it to the top of the steep hill, Davin gave me a tour of the first sector.  He showed me a lot of problems and projects on varying Dakota Sandstone.  Some of the rock feels just like the stone at Rotary Park, Horsetooth Reseservoir, some of it is like the pebbly stone of Carter Lake, and all of it was quite solid.

Mike climbing "Alca."  It's a V5 that climbs tenuous, pebbled slopers.
Abby climbing "Alca."
After climbing for many years on the lower altitude Dakota sandstone areas found on the Front Range of Colorado, it felt odd to be climbing on sandstone blocks in a deep forest environment with occasional alpine wildflowers.

While waiting for cooler evening temperatures, we got on "Ever Dusty" a V5 slab problem.  Really good, difficult slab problems are hard to find, but this line really fits the bill.
Here's a shot of Wendy climbing "Ever Dusty."

A gem of the area is the "Mega Mega" project.  All the moves go, and I wonder who will be the first to piece them all together.
Brian unlocking one of the project's many difficult moves.
The "Mega Mega" was way too mega for me.  So I hiked up the hill and cleaned a wall just well enough to make an ascent of a line I named "Mossified" V3/4.  The beta is simple, just reach for the only holds that aren't covered in moss.

We hiked out in the dark.  Everyone else drove home,  but I camped with my dogs on the mountain.  Gorgeous stars, deep sleep, and an inspiring sunrise!
I felt too sore that morning to do any more bouldering.  So I drove home through Saratoga, where I soaked in the hot springs.  New landscapes, new boulders, a fun group of boulderers to hang out with, and hot springs on the way home.  It was a very good trip in what's been an incredible summer.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The White Stripes Sector of the Roaring Fork

We've got a new sector that we're developing in the Winds.  It's a small north facing talus field with some very large boulders.  The rock isn't quite as good as the Falcon's Lair, and it isn't awe inspiringly extensive like the Devil's Kitchen.  But it is the most alpine place, I've found nearby, that I can take my family to.  The rock is very good, and it stays cool enough to boulder all day in the shade up there, even when temps are in the nineties in Lander.  Most of the local Wind River granite has stripes, but the stripes really stand out in this part of the Roaring Fork.  So we named the place after them.    

The Tall Star boulder's impressive stripes are a form of natural graffiti.
I'd wanted to see this talus field for almost a year.  After finding a nice sector of boulders in the Roaring Fork last September, I'd begun looking at the area in more detail on Google Earth.  A talus field caught my eye that wasn't much further up the trail than we were already hiking.  Early in the Summer, I tried to get up there with Alex, but we got turned back by deep snow.  Later in the Summer, Calen hiked up to the talus field with me, and based on what I saw, I knew that I wanted to go back.
When Davin came to Lander a couple weeks ago, we hiked up with pads for the first time and started putting up problems.

Davin flashing the first ascent of "Guardian Angel Arm" V5.
Off to a good start, Davin moved on to climb"Old Mountain Chrome." A problem that's so height dependent, I don't know what it should be rated.  The nice looking problem starts in underclings, hits a rail, and works out both.
And then dynos to the arete out left and tops out.  I couldn't even work on it, because I couldn't reach the rail.
So while Davin worked on that, I put up a tricky V4 on the other side of the boulder.  It starts in poor underclings and moves up the right side of the scoop.
"Mountain Dharma"
We did a few unmentioned warm ups as well, and left some unmentioned projects unfinished.

White Columbine that grow by the streams up there.
I really wanted to get back up there to try one of my projects as soon as possible.  But my family was on a trip, and I didn't feel comfortable working on the line up there alone.  Justin L. responded to a desperate post I made on Facebook, and we coordinated plans for the day.  While we were there, Justin put up five new problems, worked on some others, and even did some exploratory free soloing.
I managed to finish a project that Davin had previously cleaned that day, and named it "Legend" V6.  I'll get some photos of it as soon as I can.  Towards the end of our day, Justin put up an incredibly good V2 called "The Mummy" and I almost sent a difficult crimpy line on the wall facing it.

Justin getting the F.A. of "The Mummy."
Ashley and the girls got back from their trip to North Carolina.  And the White Stripes area is the first place we went.  The long hike up there is surprisingly pleasant, because it's all on a trail that never gets steep.  Even Autumn thinks it's fine!

While Ashley warmed up with some yoga, I cleaned up another two lines.  A cute balance problem called "Kewpie" V1, and this line called "Chia Pet" V3/4.

Here's Ashley getting the second ascent.


I really thought my crimp project near "The Mummy" would be safe, because it had a long reach, and Ashley hadn't climbed much on her trip.  But I was wrong.  Ashley got the first ascent of my project, and named it "That's Pretty" V6.

I think Ashley's sequence might only work if you're short and really good at using tiny crimps. I got the second ascent using a different sequence and a better crimp out right.  So I think the line can be done by climbers of all sizes, as long as they're good at making big moves off of small crimps.

To sum up, White Stripes Sector has sixteen problems already, and a few more projects brushed and ready to go.  I'm really happy with the spot, and will most likely be alternating trips between projects here and at the Rock Shop until my Summer break is over in a couple weeks.
Feel free to get in touch if you want to check it out.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Rock Shop Mega-Post, with directions to a dozen new problems.

The Rock Shop is in the midst of its busiest season yet, but it's still very peaceful up there.  Recounting the numerous sessions so far this season would be overly time consuming for me, and for you, so here's some of what's been going on based on photos I've taken so far this season, and a few of the new lines you might be able to find.

This year was the first time that bouldering at the Rock Shop was officially part of the International Climbers' Festival.  Angie and I lead a clinic for a wonderful group of climbers.  We had participants from both coasts, the midwest, the Colorado Front range, and a family of five all the way from France.

Everyone under the UFO.
Everyone appeared to like the bouldering, and even Angie (a pro climber who has climbed on the best granite in the world) was impressed by the rock quality up there.

In midsummer, it always takes some effort to get good conditions.  But it really isn't that hard to get good conditions.  We camped at the Rock Shop for a couple nights which allowed us to take full advantage of cool evening and early morning temps.  I used a lantern one evening and finally managed to climb "Pork Chop" which is a Bryan V. problem that I worked on for three days last season.
But after trying it, we decided that evening climbing wasn't ideal.  Lantern light doesn't reach all the holds, and the mosquitoes get bad after dark.  So our new strategy is to set our alarm clock for five A.M. so we can get to the Rock Shop before seven.  It hurts a little when the alarm goes off.  But it's worth it; for three hours of great weather and a couple more climbable hours to round out the workout.  We've had plenty to keep us busy.  In addition to working on our own projects, we've been repeating lines established by Tony, Chris, Calen, Jesse B., Jesse F., and Bryan V.  I'm excited that so many boulderers help to develop the area!

Here are directions and descriptions for some new lines to check out:

If you go to "Lord of the Flies" and then turn around.  You'll see a small boulder with a couple good V2s.  I'm not sure if they're named, but I think Tony and Chris put them up.
About forty feet left of these new warm ups is a built landing with a trail leading to it.  Starting matched in the chest high hueco and moving up and slightly left is a superior problem established by Tony called "Foul Mouth."  V4 moves, with a tall top out with amazingly good finger jams.  And the built landing is an incredible work of craftsmanship!
Up on the ridge above "Foul Mouth" is the Swan boulder.  Three interesting, fun lines, established by Chris, ascend it's shady north face.

Ashley climbing the easiest line on the Swan.
Southwest of the Swan at ground level is a great V5/6 SDS that follows cracks without using the top of the boulder until the apex is reached.  Another difficult low SDS also climbs straight up.  It has cool movement with heel hooks, but is somewhat dabby at the start.  Chris has been climbing so many lines, he hasn't even gotten around to naming these two yet.
If you pull into the Main Parking a small formation is on your left.  On the back of that formation is a little corridor with two lines.  On the left is the surprisingly difficult and dynamic V3 "Darth" which was put up by Bryan V.  On the right arete is a low SDS V5 that Elliot and I finished cleaning.

"Millenium Falcon"
Elliot made a nice video of the first ascent if you'd like to see how it goes.


My best new problem at the Rock Shop this season is a powerful sit start on crimps that I added to "Stone Country."  It can be found by following the gully uphill east from Sleepy Hollow to the top of the formation where the gully ends.

"Stone Country SDS" V7
I put together a video if you want to see how it goes.

Crawl under "Stone Country" and in the gully behind it is another new V5 I did called 
"Gaston Gaston"

And a final new line to share.  Alan cleaned this line to the right of Font Simulator that goes at around V3.
"La Boulangerie"
To wrap this up this post here are a few new photos.

Zach on "Gem Thief"
Alex climbing on the Storm Boulder.  One of the best blocks at the Rock Shop.  Chris found this block and recently shared directions with me.
Ashley taking advantage of the tree shade on "My Mind's Eye Traverse"
A lizard taking advantage of the pad shade.
The bird that nested in the jugs on "Piggy."
And my favorite bird species seen at the Rock Shop, Western Tanager.
We've been enjoying our time up at the Rock Shop, and still have things that we hope to finish soon. Summer won't last forever.