Monday, December 21, 2009

Sinks Canyon: The Most Consistently Climbable Area in the World?

Ash warming up on the Beehive boulder Dec. 21, 09.

Today, as we climbed comfortably in T-shirts on the shortest day of the year, I began thinking about what individual climbing area has the best year round climbing conditions. Tropical locals such as Virgin Gorda come to mind, but while climbing is possible all year around in the tropics, conditions are generally too hot and humid to ever really be ideal.

We climbed almost every weekend for years while living in Ft. Collins, but we were visiting elevations and micro-climates from full sun at Morrison to chasing shade in Rocky Mountain National Park. Bishop, CA is probably similar if you include areas from the Happies to the Sierra, but I'm not wondering about regions in this post. I'm wondering what single climbing area is the most consistently climbable. Eldorado Canyon came to mind. I've climbed in good conditions there from midsummer to midwinter, but then I remembered how often it gets too windy.

I'm beginning to think that Sinks Canyon has good conditions more consistently than any other area I know of. That's not saying that Lander weather is perfect. We're getting a full winter experience. The snow in town is sticking around. But in the 5 months we've lived here I think we've only had two weekends with weather bad enough that we couldn't have had a good climbing session in Sinks. In winter, sun warms up the south facing cliffs just as consistently as it does at the Morrison bouldering area. The trail gets snowy, but the cliffs stay dry. Yet, Sinks is still good in midsummer. The Cabin Boulders just 2 miles up canyon stay nice, and there are sport climbs on the shady side that probably stay cool as well. Sinks also seems sheltered from the wind. When the wind is screaming at Wild Iris, in Sinks there's usually just a breeze, and you can get out of it if you try. Any particular boulder or route might be too hot or cold on a given day, but if you climb where conditions are best they're usually good somewhere. Good climbing conditions about 320 days a year, according to the guidebook, only 10 minutes from Lander.

If you know of another single climbing area that's consistently climbable all year long, Guadalajara maybe?, let me know.

Today we found good conditions on the Back Pocket Boulder. All the dolomite bouldering at Sinks is sharp, but when you work on a problem for a while you learn what to grab, how to grab it, and which holds to avoid. Once the right beta is discovered, the climbing can actually feel really good. I really like my current project. We're both very close to sending "Sit Start Back Pocket Traverse to Double Clutch." Ashly and I climb completely independent lines through the crux, and Ashley can't avoid all the sharp holds. I go low, Ashley goes high. Today I got pumped, and fell off the top out on my best attempt.

Ashley finished a traverse from "Double Clutch" to a top out on the low left side of the face. It was hard for her because she had trouble reaching feet, but could it could be linked from "Back Pocket" which would create a really long, difficult problem.

Here's Ashley repeating the best dolomite V4 in Sinks, "Double Clutch."

Yesterday I hoped to discover a perfect bouldering area behind the Grade II wall in Saw Mill canyon. The area looked like it had potential on Google Earth. To get across the river, and avoid private land, I crossed the Nature trail footbridge and climbed a tall steep gully between the Shady Side dolomite cliffs. I got some nice views.

But the canyon is so tight and steep that the snow hasn't melted out. This is as much as I saw of the rocky slopes.

It took a lot of work getting as far as I did in the knee deep snow. The slopes looked too steep to hold many climbable boulders, the approach would be heinous even without snow, and I was worried that if I climbed down into the canyon I might have trouble getting out. If I want to know for sure whether there are good boulders in lower Saw Mill Canyon, I'll need to wait for the snow to melt, maybe rappel in, or get permission to cross a corner of private land.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gym Weekend

The weather has been improving, but it was still too snowy to boulder in Sinks Canyon this weekend. I know because I checked, twice. It was possible to sport climb, but our daughters were doing Cheer Camp and we had errands to run, and we didn't make it out. We did have a session on the wall at Elemental.
Got there just in time for fresh problems.

Yesterday we had some outdoor excitement sledding at the golf course.

Easy access, long ride, and a nice view.

Great type 1 fun with the family. To learn about the three types of fun, check out the most recent Dirtbag Diaries Podcast.

This Week's Climbing News:

Urban Climber just ran an article about the making of the film "Rocky Mountain Highball" announcing that it will be available in December, but the Rocky Mountain Highball website hasn't been updated in over a year, and Andy Mann's blog hasn't supplied any news. I was disappointed not to get the DVD for Christmas last year, and Santa probably won't be able to find it this year either. I've been really really good, but I'm old enough to understand that that doesn't make movies get released any faster, and I'm starting to doubt there is a Santa.

The NCCC has released a new online guide to Horsetooth Reservoir. It's a well written, great looking, and accurate guide. Follow the NCCC link to download your copy.

Better posts will be coming soon. But that's not an apology for this one.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The CWC Bouldering Competition

Perfect conditions for bouldering can usually be found somewhere, but in Wyoming this weekend the only place to be was indoors. Luckily, Central WY College held their 2nd Annual Bouldering Comp last night.

Ashley loved the fact that the women got to boulder for over an hour before the men were allowed to start. With about six or seven women competing, Ashley didn't have to wait for routes. She got a good workout and placed first. She won $40. Our entry fees were $20, so we climbed in the comp for free.

An attempt on Open #7.

The mens comp wasn't as laid back. With about 30 competitors, and many of the difficult problems for each division found on the roof, it was difficult to get on the wall sometimes. I tried not to be a jerk, but often the only way to get a try was to jump on as fast as you could. If I cut anybody off, I apologize. At any moment, four people would be chalking up, and if you hesitated, someone would jump in. On two occasions I asked another climber if they wanted to go, and by the time they answered someone else had jumped on so both of us had to wait. I climbed pretty well, but backed off on Open #4 because I was scared. I could have swung off at the top, and was concerned that I might fall on people. Other than the wall being crowded, which was probably unavoidable, it was a good competition. The route setting was good, everyone won raffle prizes, and the competition was strong. I finished the night in fourth place, and we had a great time.

While competing I overheard two girls and a guy talking about me behind my back. The first girl said "Look at his forearms!" Then the guy said "They're bigger than his head!" The first girl replied "Yeah, they really are." I was beginning to feel like a freak when the second girl said "That's cool!"

Last weekend we got a bit of snow on Saturday. On Sunday the tops of the boulders were still a little wet, but cliffs were dry, so we did some sport climbing. We decided to try "The Wilds." At 55 feet tall, it's one of the shorter climbs at Sinks, and I was very happy to find a great rest stance 30 feet up the route. My type of route. Sierra had the camera. On my first try, I had to hang a couple times to work out two crux sequences. That's when Sierra took all the photos.

On my second try, I got the redpoint.

This week Davin began writing a Wyoming bouldering blog. He will be sharing beta and photos of areas all over the state. A very exciting development for bouldering in Wyoming. The perfect way to spend snowy days, get excited, and make plans for the spring season. Check it out- A Place of Legend.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Sandstone Sessions

Wednesday afternoon, after a half day of school, we tried to get up to Sawmill Crossing for a session with Davin, but the Forest Service closed the loop road. It won't open again until late spring. Disappointed, we turned around and went to work on the Back Pocket Boulder's "Back Pocket Traverse into Double Clutch." Davin found us there. We made plans to explore the granite up the Middle Fork trail on Thanksgiving Day, and then have a climbing session up there on Friday.

On Thanksgiving, Davin and I were driving up to the trail when we pulled over to check out a good looking sandstone boulder. We found good stone and ended up looking at sandstone blocks for the next four hours. We never made it to the Middle Fork trail, and we decided to spend today climbing at one of the areas we found.

The area got so warm today, we're calling it the Ice Age. The perfect place to go when things get cold.

The Warm Up boulder has amazing features.
Ashley warming up.

Davin warming up.

Davin got the first ascent of the area classic. A sit start arete problem called "Il Mammut." Italian for the Mammoth.

Davin conquered the beast by getting two fingers in it's eye.

Ashley and I topped out later by crimping a wrinkle on the beast's forehead. I used a kneebar on my ascent, but Ashley's stretchy synthetic pants wouldn't stick in the kneebar. She demanded to borrow my pants, and did for a few attempts. Now you all know who wears the pants in our family.

We finished the day on a few more fun problems. A right exit to "Il Mammut" I'm calling "Ice Age 2." A traverse Ashley named "Prehistoric Squirrel Traverse", and a contrived problem called "High Steppe" pictured below.

We're thankful for the fun Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Productive Day

Ashley climbing "Premiere Traverse" on the Dolomite Band.

A lot got done today. In the morning, I explored the Sawmill Crossing boulders.

It's near a stream crossing so I was expecting shade and snow. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the area gets sun all day, is sheltered from wind, and is easily accessible with the van. The area isn't large, but it has at least three good boulders, and possible problems on the small cliffs above. Most problems are between 12 and 15 feet tall. It doesn't look like they've had much traffic.

I'm planning to return with brushes soon.

This afternoon we were on our way to the Back Pocket boulder, but a frigid breeze sent us back to the car. We started driving to the gym when I noticed the Dolomite Band above Sandstone Buttress. It looked sheltered from the easterly breeze. We decided to give it a try.

It was pretty cold when we started bouldering, but the clouds broke and things warmed up nicely.

We did a bunch of fun moderates, mostly V2s, and then I noticed a possible line out the middle of the face on Big Overhang. It took some work, but I unlocked it just as the sun was about to go down. Here are photos of the crux moves.

It's a really nice line, the most direct way up the middle of the face. Here's the full description: Sit start, then a large move to a small left hand crimp, lower body rotation to get a high right foot, pull really hard to get to a horizontal line of holds above, then climb the committing, straight up, top out. It shares it's sit start with a V3 to the right, and uses a heel hook on "Off the Butt" to the left. It felt V5/6 to me, but it might be more difficult for tall climbers. It's probably been climbed before, but I'm calling it "Double Helix" until I hear an official name.

It's nice when things exceed expectations.

Monday, November 16, 2009

We're Boulderers

Bouldering "Double Clutch," a classic on the Back Pocket boulder.

On Sunday we went climbing in Killer Cave.

It's the most famous cliff in Sinks Canyon, and our goal was to project the route called "Killer." Eighty feet of solid steep climbing. Seemed like a good goal, and a great way to get a workout for a few weekends.

A climber on "Killer"

I set it up mostly bolt to bolt, linking the easier sections. Ashley had a try on toprope, and then I tried it on toprope too. Ashley went up forty feet, and came down because she doesn't like heights. I went up forty feet and fell off an easy section because I don't have endurance. Then a climber we had just met asked "Aren't you boulderers?"

My immediate answer was "Yeah, we are." And as I said it, I knew it to be true.

Other climbers from across western Wyoming and northern Colorado were all having a great time.

But the boulders at the base off the hill now looked more appealing. We hiked down from the cliff, and made our way to the Back Pocket Boulder. We did difficult moves on the classic problems, and confirmed that we do like bouldering better.

I got pumped a couple times, but never so pumped a problem wasn't worth trying again.

We'll be spending our time on the boulders, and the shortest routes in Sinks this winter. Because we're boulderers.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Quick Trip to Cody

After a couple twelve hour days of teaching and conferences with parents, we had a day off on Friday. We decided to spend a day and a half of our long weekend in Cody, Wyoming. I've had Mike Snyder's Cody Bouldering Guide on my shelf for over two years, and finally got a chance to check the place out. We started with the Antelope boulder, and ended up spending the whole session on it. Its west face is perfect. A sweeping overhang of beautiful sandstone featured with incut rails and crimps. One of the most fun individual boulders I've ever climbed on.

"Meathook" was harder for me than I expected, but I knew it could be done. Ashley shot these pictures of my fourth attempt.

Somewhere between attempt fifteen and twenty I dyno/deadpointed accurately enough to latch the crimp, and topped the problem out. By then we had given up on getting photos.

Ashley made a quick ascent of the steep and crimpy problem "Pocahontas."

There are many good lines explained in the guide, but eventually we just started making up problems that looked fun. Features are plentiful enough to create many ways of climbing the wall, but not so plentiful that you have to off route holds to make things difficult. Ashley found many ways to extend problems by traversing into and out of them using the horizontal features.

The rock has a good texture. It reminds me of Joes Valley, blended with some Horsetooth Reservoir.

When the weather is good, and we have a break from school, we've got our sights set on Cody.