Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Great Escape

We got out for an evening session on Friday at the Rubber Blanket Boulder. Perfect conditions for our project, and nice lighting for photos. We learned today that the problem is called "Jeremy's Traverse."

Ash between attempts.

On my fourth attempt of the session, it all came together.

Today we had some very strange weather on the cliffs in Sinks Canyon. Sun and snow simultaneously.

We warmed up on "Winds of War." I was warm, climbing in the sun, with snow swirling around me.

Then the clouds and snow came in to stay on our next climb, "Face Dancer."

We finished the day at the climbing gym.

Our session was cut short, but it was great to get out. Climbing is a great escape from the ordinary and unpleasant. As I examine my motivation, I think that, for me, this is climbing's greatest draw. Books, movies, hobbies and games offer escape as well, but really can't compare.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Changes of Plans

Saturday, we drove out to Sweetwater Rocks to check out a couple areas off of the Ore Road that are described in the Lander Bouldering guide. The first area (the 45's) was fenced off, and near some "No Trespassing" signs, so we kept driving. We found "the Egg" which had some cool looking sport climbs on it, but it was in the wind. I drove just a bit further, and saw some nice looking boulders up on the hillside that were sheltered from the wind by a cliff. I ran up to them and saw that a few lines had already been cleaned, and I found a chalked hold. A fisherman was in the river just below the hill. The girls sat in a sheltered gully while I ran around looking for the best problems. Then my searching was interrupted by sirens. I saw a Fremont County sheriff parked beside our van. We hiked out to see what the problem was, and it turns out the area we were exploring was once state land, but it was bought by a uranium mining company. There isn't public access anymore, except for fishermen. They are allowed to follow the river into the property. Both of the Ore Road areas described in the guidebook are now closed to climbing. It's quite a bummer. There are some good boulders there.

We tried to salvage the session by going to the El Paso boulder, but it was in the wind and had some snow around it. We drove to some other boulders that I wanted to check out, but a large hunting party was camping right next to them. Maybe we should have kept driving out to the Hampi boulders, but we were no longer in the mood. The wind was picking up, hunter traffic kept passing us on the road, and we didn't have orange clothing. We decided to go home, get some work done, and try to get out for a session on Sunday.

Today we couldn't have a long session, so we returned to the Rubber Blanket boulder.

The mid-morning weather was perfect. The north side of the boulder was free of snow, so we had a few new problems to climb.

Ashley climbing the thuggy moderate "King of Birds."

Our main goal was to complete our traverse project from the session last week. It might be "Milton's Traverse," but it feels much harder than other V4s on the boulder. I think that "Milton's" probably uses higher crimps, and that our project is harder by a few grades.

The crimp match crux.

We made a little progress, but we'll need another session.

The short session was good enough to make me reassess some of my exploration goals. I love the potential of Sweetwater Rocks, the epic vastness of the scenery, and the feeling that there's probably a "Mushroom Boulder" hiding somewhere amongst the rock formations. But the drive, the wind, the strange access situations, and the popularity of the place with gun toting ATV drivers has dampened my enthusiasm to some extent. We're now planning to spend more time exploring the boulders close to Lander, and maybe make a trip up to Cody soon. I'm hoping that this weekend is the beginning of a beautiful Indian summer.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Columbus Day Miracle

It was quite cold and dreary until one o'clock this afternoon. Then the sun came out, but it was still below 30 degrees outside. I thought the Rubber Blanket Boulder (the one I swept off a couple days ago) might be climbable, so we drove up Sinks Canyon to check it out. The possibility of perfect conditions never crossed my mind, but that's what we found. T-shirt weather on fun moderate up problems, and difficult crimpy traverses.

Still lots of snow where I hadn't swept or shoveled.

We did a couple great traverse problems, and we still have a couple more to return for.

Saturday's prep session paid off nicely, and I'm feeling much more secure about winter climbing in Sinks. Thank Christopher!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Stuck in the Snow

The snow and cold have lingered into this weekend. We spent a session on the Elemental Training Center's wall, and I took a drive up Sinks Canyon.

The snow was deep, but I still have hope for climbing on Columbus day. I spent an hour with a snow shovel and broom getting snow off a boulder, shoveling a trail, and digging out an area for the girls to hang out in. Maybe winter isn't here to stay, and my efforts will pay off.

Or maybe it will keep snowing tonight.

To help myself get through the weekend, I bought the new guidebook to Ten Sleep Canyon, Wyoming Heavenly Thunderstorm Opens Up New Universe by Aaron Huey. It's a very entertaining and strange guidebook. I checked out the website address in the back of the book, and was impressed by Aaron's photography. Check it out at Aaron Huey is a Photographer.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Snow Hits Lander!

Yesterday, we had a good afternoon of sport climbing on the Hardware Wall in Sinks Canyon. The mountains kept getting obscured by clouds, then the skies would open a bit. This kept repeating, and each time the mountains got more and more covered in snow. The snow didn't come down canyon though, until this morning. It has snowed heavily for at least 13 hours now, and it's supposed to continue through tonight. Here are a few photos I took this afternoon.

Throughout today, as I cleaned and did laundry etc., I was planning to write a well developed post about how climbing alters consciousness, perception, and also alters my mood. Basically about how all three are enhanced by concentration and fear while climbing, and for an hour or two after a session. But also about how I'm often in a bad mood the day after intense climbing. A type of climbing high hangover. I'm wondering about whether this is common for other climbers? Now it's late, and I'm no longer in the mood to write a long post.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Hampi Boulders' Access Situation

I've gotten some information about the access situation at the Hampi Boulders, and feel the best way to protect the area is to let those who read this blog know about it. Many of the Hampi Boulders are on private property, and vehicle access to climbs on many of the domes at Sweetwater rocks crosses private property. The landowner allows access, but this access could be revoked at any time at the landowner's discretion. An employee at the BLM told me that the landowner will allow climbers in low numbers, but has expressed the opinion that they don't want their land to become a "destination climbing area." To maintain access, it is very important to limit group size, and the number of vehicles parked near the rocks. Anyone visiting Sweetwater areas on private lands, or requiring roads that cross private lands, should maintain a low profile by visiting in small groups with few vehicles, leave all fence gates as found, cross bridges slowly, never build fires or spook animals, and obey posted signs.

Or just spend time exploring the rocks on public lands by getting a BLM Surface Management Status map. Now that I've got one, I know of some good looking boulders that I'm allowed to check out.