Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Sessions

Christmas didn't fall early enough in the school break for us to make a trip to Hueco this year. We spent a week with Ashley's family in Colorado Springs instead. As it turned out, we did as much climbing, left the girls at home (thanks Pam!), and had better weather than we got at Hueco last year. Our first session was at the Snake Pit Area, Garden of the Gods, on Christmas afternoon.

After warming on the Nose Lunge Block, we turned our attention to the Traverse Boulder. Ashley got really excited about the lowball traverses.

I found a dyno to play on. It was pretty easy one handed, but for full V5 glory, the guidebook said I had to do it double handed.

The double felt awkward. I was jumping into the rock, but launching backwards as well, which made the grab difficult. I didn't get the problem I wanted on Christmas.

All I got was a bloody flapper.

On Sunday, I super-glued tape over my finger, and we checked out the Buddha and Berthoud Caves in Castlewood Canyon.

The rock there varies quite a bit from awful choss to perfect turtle shell textured patina that feels like Dakota sandstone.

Most of the climbing is on cobbled conglomerate that falls somewhere in between choss and perfection. Both the cobbles and the huecos left behind when they fall out make good climbing holds. The Buddha and Berthoud Caves were sheltered from the breeze, and caught direct sunlight all day. Perfect for a winter day.
Ashley warming up on "Sometimes Wet."

Ashley climbing "Phillip's Problem"

We climbed a lot of problems in Buddha Cave and then moved on to Berthoud Cave. Benningfield's star ratings didn't suite us. All the single star problems ended up being our favorites.
Here I am working the moves on "After Berthoud." I was trying to keep up with Ashley, but my skin gave out before I could send it.

One of the favorite problems we climbed was "Berthoud Canal." It had one move that was really long for Ashley, but she caught the dyno, and then asked me to put down the camera so I could spot. After the dyno, you heal hook by your head in order to reach left and then get to the "top out" five feet above the lip.

On Tuesday, we were quite surprised by how good the bouldering is at Ute Valley Park in Colorado Springs. We had been there many years ago, and all I remembered was a very small area with sandy moderates. Equipped with a guidebook written by Brian Shelton and Stewart Green, that I bought at the Mountain Chalet, we climbed and attempted many classic problems. The sandstone is soft, but it has incredible features. I'd recommend staying off the rocks for a day or two after rain so the holds don't brake off. Weather permitting we'll be heading back on our next trip to the Springs.
Ashley warming up on the Galley Boulder.

V4 doesn't get much better than the problem pictured below. It's called "Wedgie."

Ashley climbing "Wedgie"

My favorite ascent of the day was when I accidently sandbagged some locals who were working on "Floater." The fact that it was unintentional made it even more fun. They were nice guys who were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. I shot this picture as they walked away. I'm sure they'll send it soon.

We had great sessions without driving to El Paso to get them. 2008 was a good year, and I'm excited to see what bouldering 2009 will bring. My only resolution at the moment is to get back to Needle Peak.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Two Bouldering Films

School is out for a couple weeks, and I finally got time to check out some bouldering videos I've been wanting to see, "Unreal" and "Swedish Meatballs." They are about as different from each other as bouldering films can get. "Unreal" was released by Momentum Video Magazine, stars Ivan Greene, and documents a bouldering trip to Virgin Gorda.

Ashley and I took our own bouldering trip to Virgin Gorda about six years ago so we were excited to compare Ivan's experience to our own. Virgin Gorda is a unique and beautiful place, and the film shows that. The boulder problems in the film are varied, and most of them look really fun to climb. It amazed me how many featured overhanging faces they were able to uncover. Ashley and I only found vertical, and slabby lines at the Baths. The film is well done, but some aspects bother me. One in particular is that the film feels "unreal." Travel footage isn't included, the female climbers look more like models than boulderers, and there's plenty of posing. Having been to Virgin Gorda, we know that not everything in the Caribbean is paradise. You wouldn't know that watching this film. All the annoyances, and legitimate reasons the area isn't a major climbing destination, are left out. The cruise ship tourists that pack the Baths everyday, the oppressive heat and humidity, and the high prices to stay on the island aren't brought up at all. The area has no local climbers, no guidebook, and nowhere to even buy chalk. The trip seemed planned with the purpose being to make the film. The result is a fantasy, shot in an environment that looks like one.

After "Unreal", "Swedish Meatballs" was a refreshing change of pace.

The film follows a Welsh boulderer on a month long road trip with a couple friends through Sweden. Normal looking boulderers bundled up for cold temps. A world away from the swimsuited models and shirtless Ivan Greene in "Unreal." Along the way, local climbers at each area are included. The three climbers joke around a lot. They barely say a single serious line in the film. The film follows a repeating pattern of showing the bouldering at a Swedish area with an unpronounceable name, the three going out to eat unhealthy food and make jokes, then sleeping on the floor of someone's house before they do it all over again. The pattern gets repeated at new areas probably seven times. The main guy, Dylan, goes back to one area to get a project, and that is the end of the film. The bouldering is beautiful, on granite in thick forests, next to meadows or calm open water, but it doesn't appear that problems were chosen for aesthetics. Much of the film is shot in dappled light during the middle of the day. I think the film maker simply followed the climbers as they got on what they were interested in, when they happened to be there. Plenty of low ball boulders and falls are included. Most problems are in the V7-10 range. It's just boulderers playing the game the way it is actually played, edited together nicely, with a pleasant soundtrack. According to all appearances the trip was the purpose, and the film simply an honest documentation of the trip. They had a lot of fun, and I laughed a lot watching it. When it ended, I was psyched to go on a bouldering trip somewhere around here or to Sweden one day. For me "Swedish Meatballs", though not nearly as slick, was a much better film.

Fantasy leads to disappointment. The best things in life by far, are the things that are real.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Morrison Delivers

Snow still blankets most areas on the Front Range, and we woke up to a cold and cloudy morning. We could see blue skies to the south, so we drove to Morrison. We had trouble getting psyched during the drive down, because neither of us had a project in mind. After many years of winter sessions spent in the Black Hole, we've already climbed the uncontrived lines that seem doable for us. I was holding out hope that we might find a fun contrived problem. Annette has shown us many good contrivances over the past few years, and as we drove in, I saw her hiking up to the cliffs with her three pads. The day was suddenly looking brighter. We warmed up in the Lobby, and asked Annette to show us a few problems. Years ago we climbed "Willow's Wart," but since then we've only warmed up in the Lobby. We decided to work on "Some Biceps are Bigger Than Others." It's a shouldery contrived traverse with a long cross off an atrocious left hand gaston. I eventually figured out that the best way to do it is to just keep crossing further left, even though I feel myself starting to fall off, and grab the hold with my right hand just before I fall past it. I was able to commit to the move because Annette let us use her thinner pads. The crux is right over a narrow rock shelf and thick pads don't leave room to do the move. I was having trouble linking the problem together, and pretty much wrote it off for the day when a group of climbers arrived including Kyler, Todd, and Dave. With Dave spotting, a couple more pads in the landing zone, and an audience, I managed to summon up the strength to climb the thing.

The gaston move didn't fit Ashley, so she made up her own variation with two matches and a lower top-out. The matches looked hard, and she barely managed to do the problem on her last attempt of the day. She calls her variation "Ashley's Biceps are Smaller Than Others." Here she is just before the crux.

Kyler at the same spot on "Some Biceps Are Bigger Than Others"

It amazes me how often we see certain climbers at Morrison. Rufus and Annette are two friendly Morrison climbers that stand out. They show us problems, help us work out beta, and were kind enough to pose for me. They happen to be out there almost every day that we are, and Morrison just wouldn't be the same without them.

The weather ended up being fine. It was a bit windy, but the sun was wonderful, and for half an hour, conditions were a little too warm for me. Colorado's micro-climates are amazing. In the early afternoon, the wind started getting more intense and clouds came in. We ended our session early, but we have no complaints. One good problem, one good day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Inner Strength

The weekend weather has taken a turn for the worse since the Thanksgiving post. Maybe I jinxed it. We spent our weekend session at one of the few dry climbing areas in Northern CO, Inner Strength Rock Gym.

Julie checked us in, and I thought we were hearing her eclectic mix of rock, reggae, and country through the entire session, but I've been told it was Mike's.

Everyone who works behind the counter plays different music. Mike plays mostly classic rock 1970-1994.

Colin plays alternative/indie rock.

On this night Mike was busy setting up for a special event called the Blacklight Blitz.

Amanda watched the girls while we climbed (Thanks Amanda!) so we were able to focus completely on our climbing. I managed to flash the orange route, and the yellow/black route on the lead wall. Ashley bouldered well. Here she's climbing a contrived problem I made up.

I couldn't do it.

Jon was climbing, and we talked about sport lines in Big Thompson canyon.

We had to leave before the Blitz, but if you saw a glowing pink forearm, it probably belonged to Mike.

It was a fun indoor session, but I'll be going on a blogging strike until the weather improves.