Monday, February 23, 2009

A Couple Fun Sessions at Arthur's and Carter

Ashley and I had a three day weekend, but the girls had school on Friday. A perfect opportunity to go climbing without the girls. The day was windy so we decided to go to Arthur's. Sheltered from the brunt of the wind, conditions were quite nice.

Some may complain that the rock at Arthur's is sharp, but no one says the boulders are too small.

After warming up, I sent the "Snake and the Skewer." I've spent a lot of days on this problem, but it didn't feel as hard as I expected it to on Friday. The top-out holds are surprisingly good, and someone has removed the sharp dead "skewer" branch from the tree that inspired the problem's name. I have mixed feelings about it. The problem might be safer now, but it was probably safe before and would have felt more committing. It's a beautiful line with really good movement, and two very sharp holds.

Ashley worked "Mole People," and we repeated some problems to finish off the session. Here's Ashley climbing a problem we call "Joe's Arete." It sit starts low, matched on the lowest decent hold.

On Sunday, we went to Carter with Brandon and Amanda. One of the keys to climbing with kids is making it fun. We brought balloons, and they had a "Ballerina Picnic."

Ashley used her traverse endurance to send "Sergeant Woody," and the rest of us spent the afternoon pumping out on it. It's a bit harder since a jug broke off it a few years ago. Here is Amanda having a go.

A couple problems got sent, everyone made progress, and the weather was perfect.
Here's Brandon contemplating the meaning of a "Rocky Top" ascent.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Good Video of the Hang 2008

More evidence.

Thoughts on the Geography of Bouldering Subculture.

Melting snow kept us off the boulders this weekend, but that doesn't keep my mind off of climbing. Lately I've enjoyed thinking about bouldering as a subculture, how the subculture developed, and where it currently resides. John Gill got the ball rolling in the Grand Tetons and Colorado. Hueco Tanks, with help from crashpads and John Sherman, made it grow. And then restrictions at Hueco caused a diaspora, possibly quickening the growth in numbers of bouldering problems and participants worldwide. The story is complicated by the fact that bouldering is part of and influenced by climbing subculture and it's history. Based on Ken Gelder's definition below I feel subculture is an accurate term for the pursuit.

"Subcultures are social, with their own shared conventions, values and rituals, but they can also seem 'immersed' or self-absorbed—another feature that distinguishes them from countercultures.

He goes on to identify six key ways in which subcultures can be understood:

through their often negative relations to work (as 'idle', 'parasitic', at play or at leisure, etc.); Many climbers and boulderers work, some don't, but there's a certain tension between our work and climbing.

through their negative or ambivalent relation to class (since subcultures are not 'class-conscious' and don't conform to traditional class definitions); This is spot on.

through their association with territory (the 'street', the 'hood, the club, etc.), rather than property; We definitely have our territories. Ken goes on to say "Subcultures inhabit places in particular ways, their investment in them being as much imaginary as real and, in some cases, strikingly utopian." Bouldering at a good area feels very utopian.

through their movement out of the home and into non-domestic forms of belonging (i.e. social groups other than the family); Yeah.

through their stylistic ties to excess and exaggeration (with some exceptions); Is bouldering subculture an exception here? Could go either way.

through their refusal of the banalities of ordinary life and massification. Definitely.

So I feel pretty comfortable that bouldering exists as a subculture, but does bouldering subculture have a center? If it does, could it be northern Colorado? Other areas have higher quality rock in higher concentrations. Other areas might have tighter knit bouldering communities. But culture is more focused on people, the artifacts they create, and the spread of ideas. A quick perusal of had more high ranking boulderers from northern Colorado than any other definable area. The majority of climbing magazines, organizations, photographers, and film producers have strong ties to the area. In the intro to his book Climb! Jeff Achey says "Writers go to New York. Actors go to Hollywood. Climbers go to Colorado." It's a book about the history of climbing in Colorado, but he might be right. Colorado's combination of quality climbing areas, good weather, and varied job opportunities makes it a great place for the bouldering subculture to develop. Many other parts of the world beat northern Colorado in one or two of these criteria, but I can't think of anywhere that beats this place in all three. Bouldering culture is very diverse and circles the planet. Maybe the bouldering subculture has no center. Every bouldering area and boulderer has an influence, but if you feel another geographic area is more central and influential to the culture of the sport than northern Colorado I'd like to hear your point of view.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cool Day at Carter Lake

Brandon on "Rocky Top"

After last week's big plans didn't work out as we hoped, we decided the short drive and hike to Carter Lake would be nice. We repeated some classics and worked on "Sergeant Woody" with Brandon and Amanda.

After an extended warm-up in cool weather, Brandon and Amanda made quick work of the problem, pictured below, on the Northeast side of the Kahuna boulder.

A few climbers were making attempts on "Doughboy." Chuck walked up to it, and I knew I would need to be quick if I wanted photos. He made a casual looking ascent on his second try. He's a rock climber.

It's great to have a laid back session now and then.

Chuck has a new movie coming out in a couple weeks. Check it out

PURE - A Bouldering Flick by Chuck Fryberger OFFICIAL TRAILER from Chuck Fryberger on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lost in the Elegant Infinite: The 100th Post

We had big plans for yesterday. It's my birthday weekend, and I wanted to see some new problems at Eldo. Modump posted video of two problems last week called "Lost" and "The Elegant Infinite." Despite having hard ratings they looked fun. I got directions, and the weather forecast looked perfect. We spent a couple days getting the girls mentally prepped for a long hike. I let friends know our plans, and we headed out. We planned to warm up at the Musical Boulders, and the guidebook told us to take the Eldorado Canyon Trail to get there. Hiking at a three year old's pace, in gusty wind, the switchbacks seemed like they were never going to end. After suffering a while, we crested. The trail started going downhill, and the wind wasn't bad after we entered some forest. Our daughter Autumn had a new burst of energy and was trotting ahead of us with her hands in her pockets when she tripped, and her head landed on a sharp rock. Ashley got to her first and picked her up. She was crying, and blood was streaming down her face. I grabbed a tissue, and applied direct pressure while Ashley got out the first aid kit we bring bouldering. After Autumn calmed down, I took off the tissue. The cut was only a quarter inch long, but it was also a quarter inch deep and gaping open. It looked like it needed stitches. We had some steri-strips left over from when Sierra needed stitches from slipping in a swimming pool. We taped Autumn's skin together with them, and covered it all with a band-aid. I could see the Musical boulders on the ridge ahead of us, and thought we could probably get to our car the fastest by hiking to them, and taking the social trail down. I put Autumn on my shoulders and took a social trail that headed toward the boulders. It turned out we had cut off early, but the trail took us past the Sinus boulder, and we headed down from there. In ten minutes we were at the Keg boulders. In what seemed like no time, were down what had taken almost an hour to walk up. If you're heading to the Musical Boulders, take the bouldering trail. It's much shorter.
The Keg boulders were out of the wind, the temps were nice, and the girls wanted lunch. So we got out lunch, and sat under Ron's Keg.

I was disappointed with how the day was going, but I came up with a plan. I thought we might as well get a workout on the Keg boulders before we got Autumn to a hospital. I didn't feel like working a gym day into the weekend schedule. Autumn wasn't crying anymore. She was in a good mood in fact, and wasn't acting any weirder than is normal for a three year old.

Ashley agreed we could try to get a quick work out. I wanted to finish off "Ron's Keg Traverse" so I suggested that Ashley should try to do it backwards, and then forwards without resting. We were warming up, when Ricky and his friend John showed up. They were on their way to meet us at "The Elegant Universe," but they heard the girls and found us at the Keg boulders.

We ended up having a really fun bouldering session. I got "Ron's Keg Traverse" which is tied with "Pinch Overhang" as the hardest V5 I've ever done. Ashley didn't quite link it both ways, but she came close and got the work out she wanted. At the end of the day I repeated Chip's Arete so Ashley and Ricky had to do it too. I got my camera out, and took some shots I really like.

John is just getting into climbing, but he kept at it despite the sharp rock. It was fun watching him try really hard, and make quick progress on problems that pushed him. He has the right mindset for the sport.

After climbing, we left Eldo, got cell phone reception, and called climbing friends with medical experience. They felt that if we could wash out Autumn's wound, and hold it together with steri-strips and liquid band-aid, she wouldn't need stitches. When we got home we fixed her right up. It's a good thing we didn't rush to the hospital right away.

Ricky has a funny post about the day from his point of view, including some shots of a bald eagle we watched. The eagle was soaring up and down the canyon on updrafts. It explored the whole canyon with just a few flaps of it's wings. I felt envious of the eagle. I've added Ricky's blog and Modump to my links list. Check them out.

It amazes me that this is post 100. The blog is now as long as a novel.