Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Sunny Day in Eldorado

Rain and wind kept us inside this weekend, but the weather was good on Thursday. My students were participating in "Take Your Child to Work Day." I couldn't teach, so we took the day off to climb. We picked up Maciek in Boulder and started hiking. The Plan, once again, was to find "Lost" and the "Elegant Infinite." We stopped at the "Sound Wave Traverse" to warm up. It was in the sun, and our skin was giving out quickly on the warm rock. We needed a shady block, so we changed plans and started the steep hike to the "Nightmare Block."

The "Nightmare Block" problems climb strange purple/maroon rock that is solid and slick. The "Standard Nightmare" had a stream running under it so we stuck to the shorter problems on the left. After warming up on "Derek and the Sentinel" we started working on "One Cigarette Makes it Murder." It took a while to figure out the sequence. I got to the topout first, but got pumped and backed off. Maciek climbed it next try. After seeing him do it, I committed to the highstep at the topout and it felt fine.

The sit start makes the problem even better. We worked out the moves, but the problem came into the sun and we decided to leave it for another day.
We went back to "Sound Wave Traverse" which was now in the shade. The "Sound Wave Traverse" has some really neat holds including a long feature that climbs like a tufa!

Ashley loved the problem.

She did the long variation, and started trying it backwards. I did the shorter one, but Maciek wasn't very interested in traverses. We got a chance to talk about the world and U.S. policies. I really enjoy hearing about issues from a different perspective. We talked about a lot of climbing areas too. Maciek mentioned sandstone bouldering back home, and sent me a link to some photos. Beautiful looking lines. It looks like Fontainebleau to me, but in a wilder setting.
These are a few of the shots.

Bouldering there requires forestry practices. Notice the saw on the ground.

Blackberry bushes grow all over the boulders. Maciek says the berries are really good, and that boulderers often top out, and aren't seen for half an hour. When they get back down, their fingers and lips are covered with blackberry stains.

First ascents there require a lot of gear. This photo was captioned "Kill da Forest."

I hope you all have a good time at the "Rocky Mountain Highball" show tomorrow. I'd be there if I could be.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Puzzling Progress

With most areas melting out after another big storm, we didn't make it outside over the weekend. Sunday afternoon was spent making up variations at Inner Strength, but now I'm making up variations for Sierra too. One of the most amazing thing about parenting is watching a person develop from day to day. I thought this would be something gradual, that I would only notice when looking back at old photos. Something imperceptible in the short term. I've discovered that often this isn't the case. Kids sometimes develop a new skill overnight. One day they can't get the timing down to keep themselves going on a swing set, and no amount of teaching helps at all. Then a couple weeks later, without any practice, they just jump on a swing and get themselves going with perfect timing. I'm not sure if there are circuits pre-wired in the brain, that turn on at a certain age, or if it like a machine that is being built, that doesn't work until the final piece is added? I should do some research. Either way, kids just start doing things that they couldn't do before, and do them surprisingly well. That just happened with Sierra's climbing. She's been on the wall occasionally for a couple years now, but something clicked last week. Suddenly she's doing all sorts of new climbing moves on the boulder, trying things she never would have tried before, and is so psyched, she climbs until her hands are red. Here are photos I took on Sunday.

Autumn is trying harder. She wants to do everything that Sierra does. She was almost as good as Sierra on the boulder until last week, but now she can't keep up. I wonder if she'll make the ability leap sooner due to higher motivation, or if she'll have to wait a couple years for new skills to suddenly emerge?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Childbirth Day 1

Once again, not everything went as planned. I tried to get a crew together for a Saturday session at Arthur's. My hope was that with enough people and pads I could try "Childbirth" in relative safety and Ashley might top out some tallish problems like "Godzilla" or "Syringe." I'd take photos and then put a huge headline on the blog that read "Ashley Climbs Highballs!" There'd be tons of comments, and it would all be a lot of fun.

We woke up to a cold, cloudy, humid morning. At the parking area, Ashley checked out the weather, and declared it a gym day. The weather felt alright to me, and Chase was coming out, so I decided to give the day a shot. Ashley said "Have fun in the land of highballs and sharpness." and drove away. I hiked up hoping it wouldn't rain.

It felt a bit like winter, but there were small signs of spring.

Chase arrived, but a couple other friends who said they might make it, didn't. While we warmed up, it looked like it would be just Chase and I and our two pads, but then two guys arrived carrying five large pads. One looked familiar to me, and introduced himself as Bart. The other boulderer is on a trip from Poland, and his name is Maciek. He pointed at the warm-up wall and said in a most sincere accented voice "I came 9000 miles to climb this problem." His sense of humor and timing was spot on for the rest of the day. I asked what they were planning to get on with all the pads. When Bart mentioned "Childbirth" I couldn't believe our luck. Chase and I headed up to start working out the opening moves. "Childbirth" isn't quite as tall as I expected, but the landing slopes away making it feel airy and sketchy once you begin climbing. I couldn't start the problem using the standard method I watched in "Solutions" the night before. The first foot was too high, and I'm not very flexible. I figured out a jumpstart that is pretty difficult for me, reminiscent of the first move of Pinch overhang. Since no other solution will work, I start on the first holds, and I'm not stacking pads, I think the jumpstart is legit. In this case, I climb right to switch hands before heading back left so I use all the holds.

I got the traverse wired, but wouldn't make the move to the crimp with only two pads under me.

Then Maciek arrived with two more pads. He said "Guidebooks should have pad ratings so you know how many to bring." Sounds like a good idea to me. Most ratings are subjective, but with this rating scale the first ascensionist could just say how many pads he used and then a consensus could build over time with subsequent ascents. With two pads, Chase swung past and hit bare ground once, and I just barely threw the pad under him in time when he took two more swinging falls. With four pads he worked his way up to the crimp pretty quickly. Two more pads changed the game significantly, for us both.

Maciek told us that in Poland people spot by just taking a step back, and smoking a cigarette. "I'm not joking. I have pictures." Most of his finger tips were covered in tape. He said it was because the rock hurt so much. Bart asked "Do your tips have holes?" Maciek removed some tape, looked at his fingers and said "It seems like such a simple question, but it's really hard to tell."

Chase getting up to the crimp.

With four pads I was able to do two more moves. So according to the logic of mathematics, with six pads I should be able to finish the problem. The first jug looked far away, but I ran into Andre and now I have the beta I need for trip two.

Feeling a bit worked, but not yet done, we walked down to "Shot Put." I was getting the feel for it, and having some lunch between attempts. I pulled into the crux and the main foothold exploded off the rock. I hit the pads hard. We were bummed, but instantly started looking for new beta. On my next attempt I broke a low right foot hold. Maciek discovered a new sequence using a crystal out left. I tried it, and that crystal broke. Chase said "I'm never showing you a problem I like again." We laughed, and I grabbed my sandwich. As soon as I took a bite, Maciek looked straight at me and commanded with a strong accent "Stop eating." I laughed so hard I almost chocked. Not much got sent, but we made a lot of progress, laughed a lot, and had great weather by the end of the session. I love this sport.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

An Important Meeting This Tuesday

This Tuesday, April 7th, at 6:00 pm a Rotary Park Trail Improvements Meeting (With Larimer County Parks) will be held at the Fort Collins Senior Center, 1200 Raintree Dr, Fort Collins. Hopefully we can get an area above the main cliffs fenced off and restored, social trails closed off, and terracing of the most eroded landings at Rotary. It would be great to show Larimer County Parks how important Rotary is to climbers by showing up in large numbers. Please come to the meeting if you can. You can find more information about the upcoming meeting, and what was discussed at last Thursday's meeting at

Sheltered from the Storm at Biglandia.

On Friday, the girls were in school, but Ashley and I were off. All week the plan was to go to Eldo to check out "Lost," "The Elegant Infinite," and any other cool boulders we could find in west Eldo. Ricky was planning make it too, and everything was going according to plan until we drove over the small rise just south of Loveland. We saw dark clouds over the Flatirons, and possible rain or snow. We called Ricky, and turned west, hoping to get a session in at Carter before the snow hit. The wind at the parking area was pretty strong. When we got over the ridge we realized that it wouldn't be a pleasant day at the Monster boulder. We decided to check out conditions at Biglandia. The cliff faces east and we'd escaped the wind there in the past. As soon as we stepped over the Biglandia ridge, the weather was nice. The hillside was in the sun, the cliffs were in the shade, and there was no wind. The rock there is sharp, and many problems don't top out, but any climbing will do when a storm is coming in. We started to warm up, and Ricky and Alexis joined us for a fun day of bouldering and just talking about climbing and life.

Ashley and I were working on a traverse we had tried a couple years ago called "The Rotund." Ashley worked out all the moves again a bit faster than I did. She topped out the end, and I knew she'd probably send it next go. I could keep working out the problem, and likely send it, or I could go for it while Ashley down climbed and maybe get it before she even had a chance. I decided to go for it. The first two thirds went really well, and then I hit the part I hadn't done yet. I gave it everything I had, but fell short. The pump never fully went away during the rest of the session, and I never got "The Rotund." Ashley did it a couple tries later.

Alexis and Ricky did an unknown problem on the right side of the wall, and were working "Ponts De Lyon," a problem that is trickier and more powerful than its appearance or grade would suggest. I got on to show them how it was done, thinking I could get the sending train started, and fell a few times. It didn't go until I made a firm decision that I was going to do the problem. The importance of committing fully to a bouldering problem was reinforced once again. Here are some photos of Ricky sending the problem after deciding that he wouldn't leave until it was done.
"Ponts De Lyon"

Sweet victory.

The stone at Biglandia trashes skin pretty fast. Luckily the "Big Betty" boulder lies in the valley just below. Three quarters of it is smooth Dakota sandstone, Ashley and I hadn't done the full traverse of it yet. We did that, and all four of us ended the day on the moderate slab which was just difficult enough to be fun for us when we were fully worked.

The storm came in, and we headed out. A good session, during unsettled weather.