Sunday, August 24, 2008

Frustration Equals Motivation?

I'm not so sure. We had a frustrating day at the 420's yesterday. No sending, no pictures, lost our skin quick. Poudre granite is incredibly good. Fine grain, smooth, and solid, but it felt slick as snot yesterday. The granite at Red Feather and Vedauwoo might not be as aesthetically pleasing, but at least you can stick to it when it's humid out. That's my new theory, anyway.

Here is the video of Ashley climbing Return of the Jedi at Red Cliff a couple weeks ago. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Red Feather


Wednesday afternoon we headed out for an afternoon session with Jacob and Amanda at Red Feather. On Ashley's last trip to this part of the Feather she was still recovering from her surgery and couldn't climb much. She had a lot of things to get on. One problem that didn't interest her was the problem that involves a dyno to another dyno. She wouldn't even try it, but a line of crimps a little to the left got her attention.

I tried it a couple times, but my feet were wrong, and I couldn't get my hand placed well on the left crimp. It felt awful. Ashley was getting very close, but couldn't quite latch the lip. On my third try, new feet allowed me to set up on the left hand. It was just good enough that I could get my right foot up, and jump hard to the lip. Ashley was shocked. For the first time since her recovery I climbed something faster than she did. It's only a variation first ascent that allows you to skip the first dyno, but I named it "Snake in the Grass" since I snaked it from Ashley. I think it's harder than just dynoing, but Ashley and Amanda seemed to prefer it. We all did it before moving on.

Don't forget the top out.

Next we visited the Turtle Boulder. It has one short power problem called Turtle Head that is better, and more difficult than it looks. I tried to get the first session ascent, but Ashley's heal hook beta was more effective, and she snagged it.

After Jacob showed us how the unnamed V6 is done on the Fat Man in a Little Coat boulder he took us hiking up a gully to the North. Tours are definitely the best way to find the bouldering at Red Feather.

We went to the Morning Wood boulder which has a really nice arete on it. The right side of the arete is fun and moderate. The left side of the arete is a problem first done by Ben that is more classic and difficult. We gave that a few tries, but mosquitoes, and the coming darkness forced us to head out.
Here are photos of the right side of the arete.

A very fun session, and possibly the last one of my summer vacation. I'm hoping the rain will stop so I can get one more in.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Our Letter to Falcon Publishing

I wanted to see Bob Horan's Colorado Boudering guide for myself before I formed my opinion about it. Last night I saw it at the Northern Colorado Climber's Coalition meeting. Here is the letter I wrote Falcon Publishing today.

Dear Scott Adams,
Last night, my wife, Ashley, and I were able to take a look at the new Colorado Bouldering Guide by Bob Horan at the Northern Colorado Climbers Coalition Meeting. We've been bouldering in this area for the last 12 years, we've met Bob Horan on a couple occasions, and we're generally in favor of guidebooks. About two years ago we were bouldering near Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. A man walked up and took some pictures of us. He later introduced himself as Bob Horan. We talked about his guidebooks, and he mentioned that it was his dream to do a bouldering guidebook to the whole state of Colorado, and that he was working on one. He asked if he could put a picture of us climbing in it. I answered that it was fine with me, and if he ever wanted me to read over sections for bouldering in the Ft. Collins area I was willing to do so. We exchanged e-mails, but I never heard from him again.
When I looked over his guide last night, I was impressed by the number of boulders Bob included. Many that I wasn't even aware of. Unfortunately, the guide has so many inaccuracies and omissions that I was also greatly upset by it. The first concern I have is that boulders on private land are included without any obvious way of knowing that they are private. Access to most of these private areas has not been secured by climbers, and the guidebook will have the effect of promoting trespassing. This will hurt the chances of law abiding boulderers ever gaining consent to climb at them. I highly doubt that Bob consulted private land owners about their land being included in the guide. A letter I saw from the U.S. Forest Service said they hadn't even been consulted about the inclusion of Designated Wilderness Areas.
One of my favorite bouldering areas is Poudre Canyon. We've been climbing there for years, and we know many of the boulderers who found and made first ascents of the problems there. I was shocked to see how many of the problem names and grades for the area were completely wrong. Bob found the boulders, but not knowing what the names or grades of many problems were, it appears that he made them up instead of consulting someone who did know. This shows total disrespect for the boulderers who took the time to find, clean, and establish the problems in the first place. They earned the right to name the problems, and Bob shouldn't change them. It is also disrespectful to the guidebook buyers who deserve accurate grades to plan their trips and measure their progress with, rather than arbitrary grades that appear to be simply guessed at.
Another disservice to the guidebook user are the many direction mistakes, and incorrect photo captions that will lead readers to be completely lost at worst, and very confused at the very least. Bob spent an incredible amount of time finding and photographing boulders. This work should serve as a foundation for a spectacular guidebook, but as it is, the book is so poorly done that Bob should be ashamed for considering it ready for release. Falcon's reputation will be very hurt if it is sold in it's present form. Bob did use the photo he took of me on the "Kine"(should probably be called the "Kind") boulder in the guide, but we didn't know he followed us to the next boulder that day. My wife is pictured climbing the Tommy's Arete found at Emerald. We didn't know he was there, and Bob didn't bother to put our names in the photo captions. As it is, I'm glad he didn't. We're embarrassed to be pictured in a guide that shows such blatant disrespect for private landowners and public land managers, first ascensionists, and guidebook users. I understand that it would be costly for Falcon to not release a guidebook that has already been printed. But, releasing a guide that is so poorly done will probably cost Falcon more in the long term. Climbers won't buy Falcon guides if they don't feel they can trust them. Please don't release this guide as it is currently written.

David and Ashley Lloyd

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Week in Vail

We spent last week in Vail with Ashley's extended family. We had four bouldering sessions, and I spent one day searching for new boulders.

Session 1: Last Sunday, we climbed on the Aircraft Carrier boulder near Red Cliff. Eric, who we met at the Wild Basin Boulder a few weeks ago, gave us great directions, and we found it easily. The highlight of the day was climbing "Star Crossed Lovers." When you imagine a perfect boulder problem, something like it should come to mind. Ashley also did a harder sit-start problem a few feet to the left. I was very disappointed that I forgot my camera bag that morning at the condo.

Session 2, 3 and 4: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday we spent at the Kluttergarden just outside of Red Cliff, a great set of boulders in a beautiful aspen forest. It has changed slightly since my last visit, 5 years ago. Someone has built wooden sitting benches at almost every boulder.

The temps were good, but the humidity was incredibly high.

Holds felt slick and looked wet after being held. We got stormed out a couple afternoons. Not good for sending at our limit, but we still had lots of fun. We didn't see any other boulderers during our sessions. Quite a surprise at such a good area.

The area's stand-out problem is "Return of the Jedi."
The crux of "Return of the Jedi."

Ashley climbed the problem, and I came very close. I'll post video of Ashley on it soon, and I'll be heading back for another go in the fall. The area has many great V5 and V6 problems. Here are photos of Ashley on various moderates.

On Wednesday, Ashley watched the girls while I went searching for new boulders. There are some great looking boulders shown on hiking websites from the Mt. Holy Cross wilderness area. Like this
and this of the same area near Tuhare Lakes.

With this area as my goal, I went 8 miles west on Homestake Road and parked at the base of Jeep Trail #759. I started hiking up the Jeep Trail, and came across this giant boulder in the aspen forest.

It had some chalk on it's North face, but a few more highball lines could be done on it with proper cleaning and courage. I looked around it a bit, but didn't find other large boulders nearby. Another mile up the jeep trail I saw this boulder in the firs.

It also had cleaned lines, and chalk. The hike to this point was a mile and a half, all uphill. It doesn't make sense to me that someone would hike this far uphill for the problems I saw, but a quick search didn't reveal any other boulders nearby.

I was expecting the Fall Creek Trail to be marked, and have a permit station like the trail at Mt. Evans. It didn't, and I ended up passing the trail. If you don't want to miss it, look for some strange wooden structures blocking motorized users just after the no snowmobiling signs. Unaware that I had missed my turn-off, I kept hiking. I think that the miles of Jeep Trail in this area probably has a greater ecological impact than all the vegetation degradation inadvertently caused by boulderers in the state. Bouldering does have a concentrated impact under popular boulders, but the areas are quite small when compared to miles of this.

I even found a stashed jeep!

Soon I came to Holy Cross City, and realized I was off route.

I kept hiking uphill anyway, and got this overview of the Fall Creek Trail Area.

This boulder caught my eye, and I could see the trail I wanted to be on.

I hiked back down the Jeep Trail, and got onto the Fall Creek Trail which enters Designated Wilderness. The boulder that caught my eye from the overlook wasn't visible from the trail, and I ended up passing it without getting to check it out. All the rock in the area was perfect gneiss.

The rock resembles that found in Chaos Canyon, but something about the geology has caused almost all the rock to be in boulders the size of small cars or smaller. If you're into two move, sit start, first ascents this is your mecca. If not, it probably isn't worth the hike. Occasionally, I found a boulder large enough to have good problems, but they were very spread out. This area will never be anything like Chaos or Evans. Here are some of the best faces I came across.

My shoes got soaked from water flowing down the trail, rain clouds started coming in, and I had hiked far enough that I decided even if another "Kind" or "Mushroom" boulder lay beyond the next bend in the trail I would never carry a pad so far to climb on it. I never even made it to the Tuhare Lakes boulders whose photos brought me to the area in the first place, or got to check out the best boulder I saw from the overlook. It will be at least a year before I get back, so I thought I'd share what I found. Maybe one of you will find the area worth checking out. Be warned. The hike is brutal. I predict this area will only become popular when future generations are athletically enhanced through chemical, genetic or mechanical means. Until then, the very occasional boulderer that loves hiking, camping, or has a jeep with a winch, might enjoy the area.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Guidebook's Influence

In 1996 I bought John Sherman's guidebook to Hueco Tanks and drove to Texas. Climbers from all over the United States and Europe were there. I spent the first day climbing on and around the Mushroom Boulder, and camped that night next to Pete's parking lot. Pete's small restaurant and shop served mostly climbers. He wasn't a climber, and was grumpy sometimes, but he and his wife both seemed to like having climbers around. They kept a scrapbook of letters they had gotten from some of the most famous climbers in the world. That night at the communal campfire I listened to the music of three Austrian climbers playing guitar, accordian, and trombone. Hearing one sing "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" with a thick accent was hilarious, strangely beautiful, and very memorable. I was on the trip by myself, but never felt lonely. There was a rich variety of people to climb with during the day and talk to at night. It felt like I was in the middle of something new and exciting. What Pete called "a new religion." I felt lucky to be witnessing it. John Sherman's funny and well written guidebook deserved a lot of credit for creating the situation. Hueco Tanks, and the book that brought us there, turned myself and many others into devoted boulderers. A couple years later the park imposed major restrictions. Many climbers felt that the climbing crowds brought by the guidebook were to blame for the restrictions. Years later, while on a ranger supervised bouldering tour at Hueco, I was given another explanation. In response to some questions I had about the issue, the ranger said that graffiti on North Mountain and two illegal excavations were the primary cause of the restrictions. The park managers didn't feel like they could continue to let the general public into the majority of the park without supervision. He said that climbers were considered one of the most responsible user groups, but that the same rules had to apply to them as everyone else. According to his story climbers weren't to blame for the restrictions. Everyone got punished due to the behavior of one gang influenced graffiti artist, and a couple people trying to steal artifacts. I'm not sure it's that simple, but that is what the ranger implied.

In 1999 Phillip Benningfield's "Colorado Bouldering" came out. I was so psyched. I'd been bouldering mostly at Rotary Park using a guide Craig Leubben had written for "Climbing" magazine. Suddenly instead of having a few places to boulder, I had reliable directions to over 40 areas across the state and the problems they contained. Ashley and I took a week long road trip to Durango and Telluride. We stopped at Morrison on the way there, and Marmot Rocks on the way back. Bouldering at a new area everyday on that trip was so much fun. For years my bouldering goal was to climb as many of the problems listed in the book as I could. This meant I spent a lot of time climbing easy problems and visiting new areas instead of projecting hard problems. I quit counting after climbing over 400 problems in the guide. Looking back on it, I had more fun playing that game than I'm having now trying to keep my 8a score from falling. I should go back to focusing on my old game. It's been almost 10 years since the book came out, and I can't think of any access issues that have arisen because of it. In fact, it helped a lot in getting Biglandia officially opened. Carter Lake rangers closed the area because they didn't know anyone was using it. The guidebook allowed me to show that climbers had used the area for a long time, that they valued it, and it was worth the ranger's time to make some calls to have it re-opened. I also learned from this incident that areas can be closed when climbers keep such a low profile that they aren't included in recreation planning documents.

Davin Bagdonas wrote two guides to Vedauwoo bouldering that lead me to spend countless incredible sessions up there. Despite the well written guides, I almost never see other boulderers at the best Vedauwoo areas.

In my experience, the connection between guidebooks, impact, and access problems hasn't been clear or predictable. Sometimes popularity makes an area harder to close. Public Land Managers need public support. If issues arise, the more climbers there are that care, the more power that they have. Sometimes guidebooks reduce impact and crowding by spreading people out. If it weren't for "Colorado Bouldering" and "Vedauwoo Bouldering" my family and I would have spent a lot more time at Emerald Lake and Chaos Canyon during the last 7 summers. Due to guidebooks, we've spent the majority of that time at Vedauwoo and other areas such as the Wild Basin Boulder. Often secrets travel more quickly than regular information. In a similar way, semi-secret bouldering areas seem more fashionable than areas found in guidebooks, and end up becoming more crowded rather than less.

There are many ways to learn about bouldering areas. You can hike a lot, ask for tours (this often feels like begging), search the internet, and examine climbing videos like a detective watching crime footage. I use all of these methods, but my favorite way to learn about climbing areas is to use a good guidebook. A well written guidebook is an incredible public service to the climbing community. Guidebooks help us get to new areas, plan our sessions, help the climbing community grow, and reduce elitism. I view the contributions of John, Phillip, and Davin as being completely positive, and hope they know some people greatly appreciate their efforts.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Chaos at Night

I spent last week in Estes Park attending the Rocky Mountain Nature Association Teacher Field Seminar. Class went from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm everyday, there was an evening dinner, and a Ranger program to attend. I enjoyed it all, but it didn't leave much time for climbing. I managed to get out after class on Wednesday for a session at Chaos. I worked on Gang Bang, but I can't catch the swing on the first move. A very strong Japanese climber was working Aslan. When he does the first move, he swings out and swings back. When I do the first move, I swing out and just keep going. After using up most of my power, I tried Taurus which is just behind Gang Bang. It looks like it should be easy, but the direction of the holds makes it harder than it appears. It's a good one move wonder. I was coming very close on it, but it got dark. I climbed until the holds were hard to see. I didn't have a headlamp with me. The hike down by starlight by myself was fun and a little scary at the same time. It took a lot of attention to stay on trail and not trip on rocks. A squirrel ran around me, at one point, chirping and I couldn't see it at all. I had the irrational fear that three Japanese climbers, who started hiking down a few minutes before me, might hide beside the trail and scream at me when I passed. If that had happened, I would have screamed too. Probably at an embarrassingly high pitch.

One afternoon, I got into the Estes Park library and spent fifteen minutes on the internet. The FRB messageboard was very busy last week discussing guidebook opinions. I didn't have time to get involved, but it got me thinking a lot about the influence bouldering guidebooks have had on my life, access issues I've been involved with, and what direction bouldering should head in. The posts, along with a lot of new information from my class about Rocky Mountain National Park lead to many ideas. I'm still working it all out, but I've got a lot to write about when I get a chance. Till then, here are a couple things I saw during the class. Bear claw marks on an aspen near Cub Lake, and a line of rocks archaeologists believe were part of a wall, used to herd elk towards an ambush, built by humans living in the area three to four thousand years ago.