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.


Davin said...

Just north of you guys in Torrey Valley the season lasts for an entire year. Hope you had a good Christmas!

RRR said...

Although I think Sinks is an amazing canyon for climbing all year, it is hard to beat Eldorado Canyon. You can boulder or do trad/rad routes all year. If it is windy, hit the trees. Snow? Just hike on the western slope of Eldo and there are boulders that stay dry all year, plus it gets tons of sun so you can climb when it is 0-10 degrees in Boulder. If it gets hot, just go into the shady draws which usually stay pretty cool of hit the Peanuts Wall.

Also, what about LCC or something? I know you can climb there all year round, although I think it gets a tad hot in the summer, even on the shady side.

Lloyd Family said...

Yeah, now that I think about it you can find places to get out of the wind in Eldo. Canyons that go east to west or formations that face all directions in temperate parts of the country are probably the best bet in the U.S. Also I've heard the Mediterranean is supposed to have mild year round weather. I've only been to LCC a couple times, but my impression was that it was often too hot in summer, and could get really snowed in during some winters.