Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Diamond

Sunday, Andre and I headed up to the Diamond. I'm still sore, and even feel a bit sick. We left at 1:30 am, and started the hike at 3:00. It was a neat hike at night. The sky was clear. The stars were bright, and at spots we could see the city lights of the Frontrange. We got to Chasm Lake before sunrise, just as the sky began to brighten. I'd never been around Chasm Lake before, and I was surprised by how much talus we had to cross to get to the base of the Diamond. At the base I felt dizzy, and had a slight headache. I had a bit of altitude sickness, but I didn't realize it at the time. I thought I was simply tired from the hike, and out of breath from the altitude. The North Chimney was completely clear of snow. It looked low angle and easy, so we started up unroped. It got steeper, and the rock was much worse than I had expected. We didn't solo much before we decided to rope up. The chimney was full of dirt, and sliding rock. The flakes on the side of it are loose, and once I grabbed the top of a ledge and a huge section of it rocked out towards me. We ended up doing 3 roped pitches to get to Broadway ledge, and it took us a lot longer than expected. The clock on my phone didn't work because it couldn't connect, but I estimate that it was 11:00 am when we got there.

We took a short hydration break on the ledge. I was feeling a bit sick, and was upset at how bad the North Chimney had been. There were a lot of protection options, but the route felt like 5.5 X because falling rock could easily kill you in there. While setting up a belay, Andre knocked down a rock that hit my helmet pretty hard. I was lucky I hadn't been looking up. Truthfully, I wasn't that psyched to climb anymore, but the weather was good. Andre was into it, and we had done so much work to get there that I decided to go for it. Andre lead the first 5.6 pitch very quickly. I took the sharp end for pitch two and headed up the 5.9 finger crack to slings. My topo said "climb to the slings, then climb left across the flake traverse." It warned not to traverse too low or you would end up doing poorly protected 5.10 moves. I saw what appeared to be a good line of flakes. I looked below it and thought "Yeah, you wouldn't want to traverse out there." I started to traverse looking for the fixed pins that are supposed to protect the traverse. I kept traversing farther. Putting in very marginal gear as I went, I kept thinking that a fixed pin must be around the next little corner of rock. I was fifty feet out sideways with four bad nuts placed before I realized I was off route. I had traversed too early. I climbed left 5 more feet to a flake and tried twice to fit a #2 cam behind it, but it wouldn't fit deep enough. I needed a .75, but I had used it already on the crack below. It took many nervous minutes, but I managed to get three nuts behind the flake and then clip into the anchor. The possibility of taking a huge gear popping pedulum, and getting seriously injured, without a working phone, where rescue would cost over ten thousand dollars in helicopter fees, left me very nervous. Andre followed the pitch to the sling anchor in the crack, and belayed me back across the traverse. It was now probably 2:00 pm, and we could see many small storms to the east.

It was only a matter of time before the storms would hit us. We were behind schedule to reach the top with light for the descent, and I was still scared from my off route epic. I told Andre it was time to retreat.

It took six double rope rappels to get back to the base. On the way down, we got hit by some hail, but luckily it stopped quickly. The hike out seemed much longer than the hike in, even though it was downhill. It rained heavily for a little bit, and I was very happy that we were off the Diamond. We got back to the car at 8:00 pm.

Andre is still psyched to climb the Diamond, but I'm not planning to go back. I've checked it out, and for me the planning, work, commitment, and dangerous loose rock in the North Chimney outweigh the benefits. It's a cool environment. The Diamond above Broadway has great rock, but it is hard to enjoy it when you need to climb as fast as possible to beat the storms. I can climb pitches that are of similar quality elsewhere, and have more fun, with much less stress. I understand the Diamond's appeal. I felt it's pull for years, but I don't anymore. I learned a lot on the Diamond, and I think I'll go back to bouldering for a while.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Kind of Like Morrison

A little over a week ago, I did the two V7ish traverses from the right arete sit start into the Kind. Since then I've wanted to link the two together into a loop by going left on the upper traverse, then down to the lower traverse, and climb right on the lower one back to the start. Just like problems at Morrison where it is common for climbers put two problems together, give it a new name, and a higher grade.

Now it's quite likely that someone like Dean Potter did this problem before I even knew the boulder existed, and named it something like "Black Pearl Necklace", but I've never heard of it before. People I've met lately at the Kind boulder have never seen anyone work on it. So it could be new. I showed Ashley my idea, and mentioned I wanted to call it the "Kind Circuit." Ashley started to work on it too, and said that if she got it first she would call it "Kind of Loopy." I hated that name, so we were quite competitive over who would get the first send. My power endurance is far from being as good as Ashley's, but a couple big moves on the upper traverse were harder for her. I thought I had a chance. Long story short, Ashley climbed it today, and it's still a project for me. I did get her to compromise on the name though. She decided to call it "Kind Loopis" because of its similarity in style to "Air Loopis" at Morrison. It feels about V9 with the crux being a couple difficult downward moves into the lower traverse. It's a fun problem, and if you know that someone else did it first, then let me know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Vedauwoo Bouldering

Over the past few summers, Ashley and I have been bouldering primarily at Vedauwoo and RMNP. Rocky has lots of other climbers, but we almost never see anyone at Vedauwoo. The other day I was talking with a boulderer who implied that Vedauwoo bouldering sucked. I disagreed, and stated that Vedauwoo, when taken as a whole, is as good as any other Front Range area. I was asked to name Vedauwoo problems that were as good as Rocky problems. I named a few that came to me quickly, but my mind has been churning over the topic quite a bit since that discussion. Here is an explanation of my experience with Vedauwoo bouldering. Hopefully it will help others discover that the best bouldering at Vedauwoo matches the best bouldering anywhere. Take care of the area if you visit. This post may increase bouldering traffic at Vedauwoo, but that could be a good thing. People often say that lichen takes hundreds of years to grow, but that is wrong when it comes to Vedauwoo. I've seen cleaned boulders grow a new layer of lichen in the course of a year. Nowhere needs crowds, but enough traffic to keep the classics clean should be considered a good thing. An increase in the climber to redneck ratio would also be welcome.

Vedauwoo bouldering has a greater range of quality than your average area. The majority of boulders at Vedauwoo are climbable, but most boulderers wouldn't want to bother. Most problems and possible first ascents are vertical to slabby on sharp crystals that sometimes break, or are crack problems. One can learn to have fun on these types of problems, but to most boulderers it doesn't come naturally. Here is a picture of me climbing a V6 near Tempest. This is what many problems at Vedauwoo are like.

Instead of this problem type, most boulderers would rather climb on overhanging problems with solid, comfortable holds. Many boulderers don't realize that Vedauwoo has these types of problems. Davin Bagdonas wrote the guide to Vedauwoo bouldering, and he did a great job of documenting and giving directions to the problems. I really like the guide, but it doesn't have star ratings or area descriptions to guide readers to the best problems. That is what I will do here.

Here are a couple general guidelines to help you use the guide. 1. Problems with names are usually worth climbing. Problems without names usually aren't. 2. The farther north the area is in the Vedauwoo area, the better the rock is.

The Nautilus is popular with roped climbers, but it has only two problems that are really good. The Tempest V10 and Sun Up to Sundown V6/7.

The main area has a few more spectacular problems, but they are very spread out from each other. The Gill Seam V6 is pretty good as is Har Mar Superstar V11(?).

The list of outstanding problems at the main area would include Analog V8/9 which was found by Josh Helke and isn't in the guide. It is easily found if you follow the old nature trail to the Land of the Rising Moon.

Daisy Cutter V6 is a perfect highball arete that can be easily toproped, and the NFL Dyno V10 looks really good if you're into V10 dynos.

The best rock quality at Vedauwoo can be found at the Eagle's Nest Area. All the problems here are covered in patina, and the best ones have rock that feels more like quartzite than granite. The Pawn V2/3 doesn't top out, but has excellent movement. The rock and moves on 80 Pounds of Adorable V7 are so good that I consider it an outstanding problem even though it's only 10 feet tall.

Camp Jack is probably my favorite single area at Vedauwoo. I've heard rumors that parts of it may be on private land. Keep a low profile, and if a landowner does show up, be polite. I've spent about 10 days there, mostly on weekends, and have never run into anyone out there. Outstanding problems in this area include Sweet, Sweet Lovin V1, Skeavey Bastard V4, Suzuki Roof V5/6, and Desperado V9. Below are Suzuki Roof, and Skeavey Bastard.

Coyote Rocks is a very nice, and concentrated area by Vedauwoo standards. Roast Possum Vinegar Pie V5, Acid House V6, and Heart of Stone V6 (V8 in the guide) are the best problems. Short Bus V8 might make the cut, if I could figure it out. The Rose V7 and the Thorn V8 should be tried if you're in the area. Below is Heart of Stone.

Building Blocks V6 at the Citadel is fantastic, but I haven't enjoyed most of the other problems at that area. I really like the Bunker, but no specific problem there feels perfect. There are many other good problems at Vedauwoo, but this is a list of problems that really stand out for me. Hopefully this list of recommended problems will help people have better sessions at the Voo. If you're inspired to make a trip to the Voo, I recommend late September and early October. This time of year often has the best weather, and the most beautiful aspen leaves. This article leaves out the crack boulder problems which can be fun if you take the time to learn how to climb them. If you're ready for a new type of challenge, bring a roll of tape and jump on a few.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Secrets of My Plateau

People always ask me "Dave you climb all the time. Why aren't you getting any stronger?" Well here is the answer. The Secrets to My Plateau. The first secret is never train. Only climb for fun, indoors or out. If you climb longer, harder, faster, or slower than you feel like climbing, that is training.

"But Dave, what about when I have a day of climbing that is so intense that it might increase my strength?" Sometimes this happens, and here is what you do. Find a way to undo the workout. My favorite way is by drinking a vanilla malt as soon as possible. Vanilla malts are full of empty calories. The weight gain will counteract any strength gain, thereby preserving your plateau. Plateaus are great. They keep you from climbing out areas, and let you savor projects for a longer period of time. You also get to savor vanilla malts.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Kind Boulder is Very Nice

The possibility for storms has finally fallen, and Ashley and I took the girls to Rocky for the first time this year. The trips were rough last year. We had to carry both girls, and Autumn would cry a lot because she missed her naps.
This year Sierra was hiking, Autumn doesn't need naps, and it went quite well. Temps were great. We had alot of fun on two V7 traverses into and up the Kind from the right sit start. One is at a nice height and is 3 star. The other is lowball, and might be a bit soft at V7. The pictures show Ashley on the lower one, and me on the higher one.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Wyoming Sandstone

Ashley and I checked out the School Yard near Vedauwoo today . The School Yard is a pretty good name for the place. It has a lot of easy problems, and many of the problems aren't very high. The rock is very unique. It is sandstone, but it feels a lot like limestone. It has pink and white layers, and the layers form nice smooth crimps and slopers. It looks like it would be soft and break, but it is actually quite solid until you get to the topouts, where weathering has softened it up. The soft rock on top can make the topouts exciting even on the shortest problems. The opening photo is a perfect V3 on slopers. The next photos are of a V6 sloper lip traverse that tops out. I highly recommend the place for V1-5 boulders or stronger climbers that feel like doing a lot of easy-moderate problems in a day. The best conditions are probably found in September and October. It gets a lot of sun, and the snow doesn't melt out until late May. Today was hot until the storms came in.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Views From the Dungeon

Today I worked on Iron Maiden. I didn't do it, but I made enough progress that I'm planning to go back. Between burns I took some photos of the views.

Obviously Vedauwoo is a pretty special place. Yet, people don't always treat it that way. Many do things that mar its beauty. Party goers leave their beer cans, and bonfire pallets. I've found full trashbags left by campers, to be torn apart and spread about by wildlife and wind. Offroad vehicles, dirtbikes, and 4 wheelers are often seen tearing up the landscape off of designated routes. All these things piss me off, but it bothers me even more when members of the group I feel I am a part of, the boulderers, don't respect their areas. Today at Vedauwoo, I saw a couple problems with tick marks over a foot long just left unbrushed, and then another problem where about a block of chalk was rubbed into about six holds. The boulder looked awful, and it didn't even make any sense, but it had obviously been done by a boulderer. I spent twenty minutes brushing, and half of my water bottle cleaning it up, but it still looked over chalked. To me, climbing works as a doorway towards a greater appreciation of nature. I don't understand how boulderers, who should be more attuned than the average person, would leave things such a mess. It affects fellow boulderers, and gives other people a bad impression of what boulderers do.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Diamond Preparation Day 3

The plan for today was to climb long multipitch routes at Lumpy Ridge to prepare for the Diamond, but it looked like it was going to rain today at Lumpy. The weather looked better for Vedauwoo, so we went there instead. Our first climb was Beef Eater (5.10b). I forgot my camera, but here is a picture of another climber on the route that I found on Pete Takeda's website.

Andre will be switching leads with me on the Diamond, so I want him to get as much experience leading and setting anchors as possible. Andre lead the first pitch of Beef Eater (5.9), Finally (5.9+ with offwidth), and Stand and Deliver (5.10). The obvious crack splitting the top block in this photo is "Finally." Neither of us fell on any of the routes today.

Then it rained a bit, and we couldn't tell if it would start raining again. We decided to boulder rather than get stuck on a route in the rain. I worked out all the moves on Iron Maiden (V9), and Andre climbed Tempest (V10). It was a good day.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Iron Maiden Video

Here is the video of Ashley climbing Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden is a strange problem. The holds run out at a good edge, and the problem finishes there. You just drop off after you've grabbed the last hold. It's pretty short, but it has two difficult moves on it. Ashley makes it look a lot easier than it feels.