Monday, December 13, 2010

Two Days in December

The sun was bright and the sky was deep blue last Saturday. We got back to the cliffs after two weeks spent indoors. It felt so good to be out, like waking up again. We passed some more cool icicles on the approach. In Moss Cave this time.

We warmed up on "Southpaw" which is a good route, but an abrupt warm up. Conditions were perfect on "Purple Galaxy," and I redpointed to the first set of anchors on my second attempt of the day. It's a fantastic route, long and sustained, which is my weakness. Then we top roped "Crowheart." Ashley got it without falls, and I'll be heading back to lead it. Fierce slab moves on perfect stone to dirty rock for the top ten feet.

On Sunday, we got out for a second session. The sky was cloudy, but the air wasn't very cold, maybe 50 degrees or so. We felt like climbing some new boulder problems, but we didn't have time for a long approach. So we took brushes out to some short boulders I'd noticed just above The Rise parking lot. We warmed up on a jug covered rock just above the lot, and then hiked a short steep gully to a rock split by a thin finger crack. Amazing stone with no evidence of established problems just a minute from the parking lot. The only explanation I can imagine is that other boulderers were frightened away by the very low starts, and the boulder's lack of height.

But Ashley isn't afraid of low starts or short boulders. She got the first ascents of both problems that we did. We named the rock "The Scrunchy Boulder."

The crack problem starts with a left hand pretty low in the crack, and the right in a shallow but positive one finger pocket.

Shoot up to a flat crimp.

Get finger jams with both hands in the sandy crack.

Get a foot up and grab jugs.

That's "Smooth" V3 or 4. A sit start might be possible, but it will be very difficult, and uncomfortable.

The second problem we did climbs really well, but the start is very low. Pull up into the horizontal, and keep the right knee off the ground.

Reach left to a pretty good pocket, carefully, so you don't dab with the right knee.

Do the crux move which isn't pictured.

Reach out left to a good crimp.

Get your feet higher, and top out by making a big move to the top of the large patina panel. That's "Kinky" V5 or 6.

They aren't three star classics, but they are fun, climb good sandstone, and are very easy to get to. I'd recommend them to other climbers our height or even climbers a little taller.

That's post #200. The blog now has three and a half years of posts written almost every week. The time's been flying by. But when I look back so much has happened, a lot of climbs have been done, and we've had so many great days. Thanks to everyone who has gone out with us, shown us around, or developed the routes and areas we've visited so far. Our adventures wouldn't have been the same without you.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The 2010 CWC Bouldering Competition

Last night, Ashley and I competed in the third annual CWC bouldering competition in Riverton, WY. We had a great time, with a laid back and entertaining group of competitors, on very well set problems.

Darren Wells organized the competition.

Chris Marley and Jesse Brown set the problems.

Ashley competed against four other women, came in first place, and won fifty dollars.

Sixteen men competed, which filled up the wall pretty well, but never felt too crowded. Luke Ross, a climber from South Dakota, came in first place. He climbed open problems 2 though 6 without a single fall.

Here is a photo of him attempting open #8.

I came in second place by climbing open problems 2 through 6 with one fall on #2, and three on #6. For the second hour of the competition I made attempts on Open #8. I knew that I was behind Luke in falls, but if I could reach the top of Open #8 I still had a chance to win. I took good rests, cooled down outside between attempts, and gave it everything I could, but couldn't quite make it happen. Here I am latching the hold that was my high point.

I didn't win, but it felt good to know that I could have if I was a little stronger. The setting was very good, and other than open #7 which was a dyno that no competitor was able to climb, every problem felt within reach. Good job to the setters, and everyone who helped out.

We've had some trouble getting outside lately due to low temperature weather, and high temperature children. Our last good day at Sinks was on Thanksgiving. A high of 22 degrees in Lander, 16 with the windchill, left the pockets a little cold, but surprisingly still climbable.

Many large icicles formed in the back of Killer Cave. They're so cool... they're like ice.

Autumn says they even taste good.

One unexpectedly nice day, when we should have gone climbing, we explored the sandstone of Red Canyon. It looked like it might have some bouldering potential.

But it doesn't. The rock is so soft that even jugs break off when weighted.

I had some time to wander the internet over the Thanksgiving break, and found a couple things worth recommending. Pat Goodman has a great blog that I added to my list, and if you have an extra hour, Aaron Huey's photo lecture about his walk across America called "American Ocean" is very well done, enlightening even.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The More You Know

You can learn a lot from climbing. The pursuit has lead me to learn about geology, natural history, weather and micro-climates, map reading, western geography, backpacking, photography, video editing, knots, impact force physics, pulley tendon anatomy, the effects of ibuprofen and caffeine on injury and performance, sociology, pedagogy, philosophy, ethics, history, and writing.

So when Alan introduced me to Tom Moulin's new guidebook Southern Nevada Bouldering, which includes a field guide to the animals, and plant communities of southern Nevada, and extensive sections on western geology, and a complete human history of the area, it took me a while before I realized the strangeness and then the appropriateness of each section's inclusion. I've been into reading field guides and geology books for years now, but most guidebooks don't include much of such information. Yet knowing the geology, human, and natural history of an area improves the climbing experience immensely, so why shouldn't they be included?

As I climb at Wild Iris, I notice sea shell fossils and imagine the world during the Paleozoic Era, 480 million years ago, when Wyoming was a continental shelf under ocean water west of the mainland. And I start to feel like the ocean is nearby. When we climb on the Rubber Blanket boulder, or in Torrey Valley, the glaciers that dropped the huge granite boulders and carved out the valleys come to mind. The last ice age ended only a little over ten thousand years ago, and I imagine the mammoth hunters and what the area looked like to them. I notice flowering phlox growing on a dolomite boulder in Sinks Canyon, and think of the "cushion" plants, usually found in alpine tundra, which live on rock by collecting their own mound of soil from particles blown in the wind. Most of this knowledge isn't "useful" for climbing, but the days spent outside wouldn't be as interesting if I hadn't learned this type of information.

Tom Moulin's guide is one of the best guidebooks I've ever had. In addition to the educational sections, the entire guide is done in color with excellent photography of problems and even cool sequence shots. I bought it, and read it. And I'm not even planning to boulder in southern Nevada anytime soon. Though I'd love to.

The more you know, the more you appreciate climbing and the environments that we climb in. Knowledge and experience affect each other in both directions.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Copacetic Cowboy

Here is video of Chris Marley making the first ascent of what I believe to be the hardest boulder problem in the Lander area. It's also a problem of the highest quality. A just featured enough to be climbable, solid and fine grained granite roof. Problems like this aren't found very often.

Davin first began working on the problem many years ago, and since then many of the strongest climbers in the Lander area have put in time working on the line. Known for a while as the "Brazilian Project" it is now "Copacetic Cowboy."
Great work Chris! It's inspiring to see what the next level looks like.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Recent Happenings

On Halloween, I displayed a pumpkin showing a terrifying scene. As I carved, I imagined a girl falling off a highball boulder problem. Her hands slipping off over an awful talus landing. Her spotter standing back, too far away to help her. I thought the carving turned out alright, but the trick or treaters didn't get it. "Is that Jurassic Park?" was one question I got.

The day before, I went out with Davin and Chris to some boulders that Chris has started developing in Sinks Canyon. We warmed up on a moderate highball with a spooky top out which was first climbed by Tom R. and Steve B. and called "Purple Heart."

Chris climbing "Purple Heart."

Davin getting the second ascent of the day.

We found what looked like a witch's broom next to the boulder.

Then Chris showed us the moves on his classic, and very difficult, first ascent called "War Tactics."

Davin worked the line.

It felt beyond my reach, but I noticed the climbable crack just to the right. I used the witch's broom to brush off some cobwebs, sat down back in the alcove, and hand jammed my way out to the top out of "War Tactics." I'm calling the problem "Voo Tactics." It isn't great, but I had fun on it.

We made a trip up canyon where Chris made great progress on a long standing project.

We walked out in the dark, with lightning flashing over the ridges. It was a good session, imbued with Halloween atmosphere.

On Halloween, I had a short session at another area developed by Chris called The Stash. It's a small area with a few good sandstone problems off the highway. My favorite is "Cow Pies and Rattlesnakes." I worked out all the moves, and then a small storm chased us out. I'll be heading back to finish it.
A photo of the short dyno to the top.

I found out about The Stash by picking up a copy of a topo Chris had made for the Wild Iris climbing shop. Chris has been developing a lot of great problems, and his topos inspired me to draw up a map of the area where I brushed boulders last summer.

I left some copies at the Wild Iris shop.

Since my last post we've spent a couple fun days on the cliffs in Sinks Canyon. The weather has been warm all fall, so we are just entering what I consider the Sinks sport climbing season. Conditions are starting to get really good up there, and we have a lot of projects to work on.

Climbing never ends.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cody Bouldering Sessions

Ashley climbing "Arnold Palmer"

We had two fun sessions bouldering at Cody last weekend. We were in the mood for a trip, and the concentration and quality of developed problems on Cedar Mountain keeps calling us back. On Saturday, the Snyder family joined us at the Sheep Camp area, and Mike gave us a tour of many great problems. Half of them were new lines, done since the guide was published.

Mike climbing the classic "Tiger Style."

Ashley sending "Manley Traverse."

We enjoyed getting to know Mike and Meg, and we had a productive session too. With lots of good beta, I climbed "Ahona Verdugo" and the highlight of the day was watching Mike get the first ascent of a classic and difficult line that climbs from a sit start on the right arete into the top out of "Ahona Verdugo." It will probably be named "When Life Gives You Lemons" and it's on the top of my list when we get back.

Here are a couple photos of Mike working the problem.

Meg recommended a Mexican restaurant, and it was just as good as any I've visited in El Paso.

I thought it was supposed to be cold and rainy on Sunday, but when we got up the weather looked good. I was a bit stressed about all the work waiting for me back in Lander, but Ashley talked me into a short session at the Stonehenge Area before we drove home.

Another shot of "Arnold Palmer."

Ashley climbing "Shyza."

Getting scared, but topping out anyway on "Narmar Arete."

I continue to be impressed with the bouldering on Cedar Mountain. Thanks for the tour Mike, and all the effort you've put into the area. We're looking forward to our next trip, and hope that we can get out with you all again.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Sweet Day at Sweetwater Rocks

Plans to visit Cody this weekend changed with the weather. Saturday was windy and rainy so we cancelled the Cody trip, but Sunday looked like it would be beautiful in our part of Wyoming. When I saw a forecast for Jeffery City predicting a high of 60 degrees and wind at only four miles per hour, I knew we had to go to Sweetwater Rocks. Whenever I post about the Hampi Boulders I like to make sure that the access situation there is well understood. As long as everyone is respectful of the landowner's wishes, we will probably be able to continue climbing at this spectacular area.

Hampi Boulder Access Information
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.

Conditions were about as perfect as they get at Sweetwater. Comfortable bouldering in either sun or shade with a light breeze. The highlight of my day was sending the "Hampi Boulder Traverse" 4th try of the day, after a, too pumped to do anything, fall off the end on attempt #3. Here are a few photos of the crux sequence.

The crux for me is catching the swing when I release the heel hook.

I'd call it a very solid, world class, V7.

From there we checked out many lines up on the formation.

I found a bunch of lines that look incredible, but still need some cleaning. I'll get back to them someday, with brushes and a rope. We kept walking to some clean established lines. The granite on top of the formations at Sweetwater Rocks has the coolest patina covered wavy pocket features I've ever climbed on.

We did a fun variation I'm calling "Pocket Swing" that climbs the crack, matches in the perfect wind carved pocket out left, and swings left to an insecure but not too difficult top out. The glassy patina face is pretty much useless for your feet.

I'm hoping for a few more sessions out at Sweetwater this season, if other good bouldering plans don't interfere.

In other news, no one requested a tour of the sector I developed at the Source, so I might have it to myself for a while. But Chris has been busy in the area too, based on this video from the NOLS blog of his new problem "War Tactics."

We've also had a couple great sessions out at Wild Iris with nice conditions recently. If I had climbing photos, I'd write about them, but all we have are photos of us in front of the beautiful Autumn colors.

So much climbing, exploration, and development to do. When will I find the time?