Friday, July 8, 2016

The Importance of Traveling and Coming Home Again

We've been climbing on the road, and climbing close to home.  To construct the narrative I've diverged from chronological order.  But our summer break began with a road trip to see family in Oregon.  We camped and climbed along the way. 
 We bouldered at City of Rocks, a spot I've wanted to check out for a while now.  It's a very beautiful area.
 The rock is both pretty and pretty strange.  Some of the most solid patina I've grabbed covering some of the softest granite.  We had a good time there.
We spent most of our day climbing and trying a variety of lines on the Green Wall.  Sierra climbed her first V7.  I'll need to return to put all the moves on this line together.
 We camped above Boise.  I began the night wondering how it was that so many people were in the city below us, and none of them were camping near us this beautiful Friday night.  Later we were joined by three stoners who parked nearby, and proceeded to keep me up with their laughing from 2:30 am until sunrise.
 We also took a trip to see family in Vail.  I was excited to gauge my bouldering strength by getting back on "Return of the Jedi" V8 at Red Cliff.  I'd almost sent this the year before we moved to Wyoming, and had never gotten the chance to return.  I did the problem, and Ashley repeated it too! It's wonderful to find that I'm a little bit stronger than I was eight years ago.
 We also repeated many classics, like "Star Crossed Lovers" V5/6 at the Aircraft Carrier.
 And Sierra was introduced to and climbed a lot of the great lines too.

We've also been climbing closer to home.  We spent one day in the northern Winds on our trip back from Oregon.
 Where we cleaned and climbed a few new moderates.
 I thought the line below would give us a good workout, but the friction was too good, and it ended up going at V2.  Sierra got the first ascent, and she hasn't told me a name for it yet.

 We've also been climbing closer to home.  Repeating lines at the Rock Shop, and getting a few we hadn't done before.

Here's Cole demonstrating the stretch and then scrunch beta of "2nd Hand Smoke" V5.

 When we went to Deer Park I was the only one prepared for a river crossing, so I carried my family, and all of our stuff across.
 I put up a V3 called "Tell Me Now" and then an extended traverse into the line called "Tell Me Later" V4.
 That was how I warmed up for the project.  But I we haven't been able to finish it yet.
 Even closer to home, I did the "Caterpillar Arete Traverse" V8 at the Source for the first time.  A little more evidence that I'm a bit stronger than I've ever been.
 And Sierra climbed it too.  Demonstrating that she is getting stronger much more quickly than I ever have.

A rare Chocolate Lily up at the Source.
 And I explored some new stone in the Winds with Davin.  We found lines I'd like to return to.
 A lot of rock with great features.
 We put up a few lines there already.  The best one of the day was cleaned up with the help of Davin's alpine rappel kit.  Behind it, I put up a V3 traverse that exits the cave along a thin seam called "Out of the Den."
 Davin climbing his line.

 It's a tall line with an interesting crux.

I'm impressed with the area, and will go back as soon as someone commits to going there with me. We'll also come up with a good name for the sector eventually.
Travel is essential. It's been good to see new things, and it's been great to climb some established lines that I haven't been able to climb before!  But having a home is essential too. I feel more relaxed here, and enjoy being able to contribute to climbing, by exploring and putting up new lines.  Like most things it seems, a balance must be struck.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Lander Bouldering Migration

The last month demonstrates, in a concise way, what has become our standard spring bouldering migration from area to area.  If you live in the Lander area, or are considering a trip, this post could help you know how our areas come into season, or where to look next if the weather changes in either direction.

May began with a bunch of snow in Sinks Canyon.  
 But it didn't last long on the north side of Sinks Canyon.  And that's where the bouldering migration begins most years.   I spent one after school session at the "Don King Dyno" V6, and unlocked the problem by using a razor sharp hold, and a dead point, instead of a dyno. 
  As the weather warms, and the winds calm down, bouldering activity moves out to Sweetwater.  We're drawn by endless rock with new things to climb, and roads that stay relatively dry.  Sierra, Dave, and I spent a perfect day out there.

Dave repeated many of the lines we put up last December, such as "Vast and Still" V2.
 I got distracted by an undone short dyno up the hill, "Small and Violent" V3.

Then I used all of my skin and determination to nab the first ascent of "Mr. Klaw" V5.  Good thing too, because Sierra sent it on her next try.
 We ended the day on a line that called to Dave, a surprisingly exciting finger crack up a slab.  It was Dave's first, first ascent.  He hasn't told me a name yet.  Until he does, I'm calling it "Starting at Zero" V0.
 In the second half of May, heavy rains caused extensive flooding in Lander.  Waterfalls fell off the cliffs in Sinks Canyon in places I've never seen them before, and the hills had some small landslides.  While checking out the new radar feature on weather.com, I noticed that Torrey Valley didn't get much rain, and the sun was supposed to come out that afternoon.  I still had some boulders to check out from a topo Davin gave me.  We packed quickly, drove up there, and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon at Beck's Boulders while the rain continued in Lander.

Sierra climbing "Vladimir's Puttin" V4 at Beck's Boulders.  We added two V5 variations that follow holds left, and further left, from Vladimir.
 Before things heated up, I still had some projects I wanted to try out at Sweetwater.  Dave and Cole joined us for a day out there.  My projects didn't get sent, but I made some progress.  Cole and Dave got the second and third ascents of "Just Being Crazy" V3.

Dave committing to the crazy move.
 We hiked up to the Ocean Boulder at the end of the day.

Cole sending "Dynomite" V3.

When the weather gets too warm at Sweetwater, we often find ourselves spending a couple weeks at City Walls.  There are still great lines to be done out there, and it's consistently warmer and dryer than the Rock Shop, just a few miles away.  We spent our first climbing day of summer vacation out there with Brandon.  Brandon and Amanda were two of our climbing friends back in Ft. Collins, and now they're moving to Lander!

A cold wind sent us to a corridor where we hadn't climbed before.  Conditions were surprisingly nice there.  We found a perfect warm up and called it the "Wanderer Traverse" V1.  Here's a shot of Brandon climbing the line, with solid stone, large features, and a few pumpy slopers right at the end.

I also cleaned and climbed a line going up the wall that follows perfect features to a ledge, and then tops out to the right.  "Watery Wanderer" V3.

Sierra trying it from the sit start.

Some snow squalls came through from time to time.  But we were already warmed up, so we just climbed through them.  

Sierra getting an ascent of "Golden Gate" V4 as some snow came in.
 Just up the hill I cleaned up a traverse, and we got to work.  Towards the end of the session I thought I finished the traverse, but then Ashley unlocked a fun and logical compression sit start further right on the wall.
We returned a couple days later, and Ashley grabbed the first ascent from the best start.

 "Mom's Birth Day" V5
 We went to the Hawaii Boulder at City Walls for an evening session.  The "Tiki Power" project now goes from a low stand at V6/7, but the full sit start is still undone.
Temperatures rose in the last week, and now it's Rock Shop season again.  We got off to a good start up there.  Chris Marley's been getting up there for a while already, and has put up some fantastic new lines.  One of them is "SunDance Kid."  It's a bit tricky to rate.  The crux hold is small, sharp, and it feels ridiculously committing to dead point off of it.  But once you fully commit, the move doesn't feel that bad.  The next move is jug to jug, but it's a big move high off the deck.  When I came down and switched my shoes, my legs kept shaking.  Physically I'd call it V6.  But it ranks right up there with "Nexus" and Germ Free Adolescence" as one of the most exciting boulder problems I've done. 
Later in the day, Ashley added a ten foot traverse into "Giddyup" V4

called "Hold Your Horses" V5/6
Later in the summer, we'll continue our migration up to Deer Park, Roaring Fork, the Falcon's Lair, and possibly further into the Winds as temperatures rise.  That's our spring to summer migration.  Every area has its season.  We appreciate it while it's there, try hard on our projects because time is limited, and then get excited for the next area that's just about to open.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Long Rush for Timelessness

"I confess I do not believe in time... And the highest enjoyment of timelessness ... is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants.  This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain.  It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone."  Vladimir Nabokov 

That's what boulderers are looking for!  That sense of oneness with sun and stone.  Most of the year, I can find it, but it often gets difficult in spring.  Weather and circumstances force a sense that time is limited.  Spare moments, before heading to work, are spent studying weather websites, making plans, and then having them fall apart as new spring storms appear.  Probabilities need to be assessed, and I end up settling for sessions that can only last a couple hours, before the sun sets or the snow starts to fall. What I want is a full day of bouldering outside each week.  Long enough for that sense of timelessness to set in.  But I settle for minutes, or even moments, when that's all that I can get.  Here are some of the best bouldering moments I've managed to find this spring.

Climbing the second ascent of Ashley's problem "Lioness" V7 at the Beach in Sinks Canyon.
A fun left to right traverse, that felt like V5, along the Warm Up boulder at the Beach, Sinks Canyon.
We lucked out with a perfect weekend day at OZ.
We put up a couple new warm ups.
And I tried as hard as I could on "Wild Thing Stand" V8.
We made our way to Gateway, CO for spring break.
And I finally feel like we've devised a really good car camping system.
We sampled new stone.
And got to experience spring before it made it to Lander.
I really enjoyed "Blacking Out the Friction" and "Blood on the Tracks" which both felt V4 to me.  But both lines were too reachy for Ashley and Sierra. They've decided that Wingate Sandstone is not a fair rock type for short people.  It doesn't have many extra holds. And between holds, the stone is totally blank.   It's pretty though!
"Rail Slide" was once a V4/5 but Christian Prellwitz (the guidebook author) told me that a hold broke on it, and it's harder now.  I'm not sure how much harder it is, but we couldn't hit the top out.
Ashley was disappointed by the Wingate, so she had us make a stop the next day for the Dakota Sandstone of Unaweep Canyon.  She was so happy to have multiple traverses to climb, with plenty of small features!


We had some rain over the break, and while giving the sandstone plenty of time to dry, we climbed at the gym in Grand Junction and took a look at Colorado National Monument.

We also checked out some interesting rock art panels on our way back home.
During recent spring weekends the Falls Trail was the only place we could find bouldering out of the wind.  We put up some new moderates.  This is the shortest one, but it has the most photogenic backdrop.
I sent a project on the Blind Eye boulder.  "Foot in the Eye" V6 starts on a good hold low and left, then traverses the sloping lip to end at the top of "Blind Eye."  Ashley got the second ascent.
Then I got to work on a line in the talus field.  I was already tired, and it felt slick in the sun.  So I didn't send it that weekend.  And that bothered me all week.
So I came back with Sierra on Friday after school, and climbed it.  It's called "Freaky Friday" V4.

Then it was my turn to spot Sierra on "Silver Spoon" V5.  She did all the moves, and would have put it together, but then it started to snow.
The snow didn't stop.  The weekend was so cold we didn't get an outdoor bouldering session.  We hiked up to Bomber Basin instead, and I scouted a few boulders there.

Since that weekend, we've managed to get a couple after school sessions.
A highlight was climbing this fun V5 on the Balanced boulder above the Beer Time Boulder last Friday.
Last weekend we got rained out, and the weather this upcoming weekend is also looking poor.  I need some time, some good weather, some sense of oneness with sun and stone.  Without it, life just rushes by.