Monday, May 24, 2010

A Few First Ascents

We had surprisingly nice weather on Sunday at Sweetwater Rocks. Lander was cold and cloudy, but I saw a sliver of blue on the Eastern horizon and we drove to it. I showed Ashley some week old classics, and got first ascents of five new problems. We added a sit start to "Quartz Quarrel" and I climbed "Quartz Quarrel's" wide crack offwidth style to create "Quartz Chasm."

The most difficult and classic new line of the day is pictured below. For a while I wasn't sure it would go.

When I try really hard, sometimes I lose my shirt.

Bruce Banner had a similar issue.
All rock right of the chimney is off.

Ashley climbing a problem that hasn't been officially finished yet. It will be a highball one day, but for now it ends with both feet on an obvious jug 7 feet up below a tall lichen covered slab. I call the sane variation "Take a Stand."

The following problem turned out to be pretty easy. The glassy texture of the holds, and uneven landing, add excitement. I call it "Glass House."

Ashley on the crouch start of a nicely featured line. I topped it out above and to the left the crouch start, but it still needs an obvious and burly sit start added to it before it will be a completed problem.

A closing Haiku.

Granite carved by sand.
Waiting on sagebrush highlands,
the season is here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sweetwater Rocks

Pronghorn from the Agate Flats Road.

I had a great day of climbing on Sunday. Ashley was on a five day field trip to Yellowstone, where she discovered some bouldering by the way, and I took the girls out to Sweetwater with Chris. Chris first visited the Sweetwater area only a month and a half ago. But since then, he's been busy hiking the area, cleaning problems, climbing problems and even getting permission to access boulders through private ranch land. We met at an area easily visible from Agate Flats Road that has been discovered at least a couple times. Public land, with easy access, that's already popular with campers and hunters.

The Pirates of the Caribbean Area

We climbed a few problems including the area classic. Which might have once been named
"Black Pearl", but was also named "Wave of Mutilation."

Fun stuff.

From there we drove to some great boulders accessed through private land.

Chris working a classic and difficult project.

Chris worked on many highball lines as well on Sunday, brushing holds as he climbed. Even more impressive than his ability to commit off the deck, is his willingness to commit on the roads. He's gotten his car into areas I'd never take my van.

As we got more tired, we moved on to more moderate looking lines. Many of them turned out to be much more difficult than expected. The white rock of the sector is the hardest stone I've ever climbed on, with fantastic sand polished, sculpted features that are as smooth as glass. The seemingly turtle waxed rock by the stream in Eldorado Canyon has more friction.

This moderate looking layback problem took me four attempts. I named it "Quartz Quarrel."

Some horses checking us out at the end of the day.

If boulderers can continue to get access to areas through private lands, and establish ourselves as a responsible user group. Sweetwater could one day become a significant bouldering area.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bouldering is Exploration

Sunday afternoon I went looking for new boulders near Sweetwater Junction. I was by myself, in the mini van, driving deeper and deeper into what felt like an ocean of sagebrush. No sign of recent traffic. My mind began to turn to what could happen if I got stuck. I started getting scared. Not of dying out there, but rather a great concern about the inconvenience of it all. The fourteen mile hike back to highway 287. Hitchhiking back to Lander. A week of rain and snow forecast to arrive that night. No chance to retrieve the van before the next weekend.

On a narrow two track, at the top of a long gentle descent, the boulder covered mountain came into view. It was just four more miles away. A short distance really, considering how far I'd driven already. But I turned back.

I never came to anything on the two track that I thought I couldn't cross, but the road was narrow with sage growing close on each side. It bothered me that I couldn't turn around in many places, and I didn't want to have to back up the hill for half a mile if I did reach an obstacle. It felt just like moments I've had in climbing where I wasn't willing to commit. I turned around when I found an opening in the sage, a bit disappointed, but also feeling like I probably made the right decision, considering the circumstances.

On my way out I decided to check out another area of possibility that I circled on my map when talking with Davin last weekend. I drove south near Sweetwater Junction until I saw some boulders in the distance on a gentle hillside to the west. I pulled over and began to hike.

It always surprises me when I find running water, and get muddy shoes when walking through what looked like uninterrupted sage desert from the car. But it seems to happen every time.

I found many cool rock formations made of perfect, Needle Peak quality, stone.

Unfortunately they were usually only a meter tall. The rock got taller as I walked across the ridge, but also got less steep. There was a cool cairn at the end of the ridge, and a golden eagle.

Only one formation was boulderable. With only a couple easy problems to be done.

I enjoyed the hike, and the views from the ridge. It would be a spectacular area if the boulders had formed a bit larger.

On Saturday, we spent the day falling off the end of the B1 traverse on the boulder band.

Ashley has a crimpy low ending worked out. I do a big move to a match on a slopey rail at the prow and continue into the corner. Both endings are difficult on their own, and feel really hard after climbing the first part of the traverse. We'll get back after school sometime to finish it, but we'll have to wait for the rain to stop.

My original plan was to contrast the two days in this post. Writing that they represent two extremes on different sides of the bouldering spectrum. But then I realized how similar the sessions were. Searching for new bouldering, searching for a sequence that will work on an established problem, even following a guidebook to an area you've never visited. It's all exploration, it's all problem solving, and it all expands what's possible for you. That's one of the things I love about this pursuit.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What's New

Things have been busy, and getting out climbing is more important than blogging about it, so I skipped last weekend. The weather's been wild, but during the last couple weeks we got out for three sport climbing sessions and some after school bouldering. Despite a poor forecast, Shaun and Elaina sp? drove up from Ft. Collins for some climbing. We had a cold and windy session projecting "Addiction." Shaun is committed to finishing the line, so we might get to climb with them again soon.

After school one day we did a variety of lines on Punk Rock. We each finished a lowball traverse called "The Cob."

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I might not have finished the problem during that session if spectators hadn't shown up. Thanks for the motivation Joe.

Spring keeps springing with blooming Phlox,

hillsides turning green,

and chirping Marmots.

The girls have been bouldering too.

Perfecting their mantle techniques.

And yesterday we came across some young kids having a wonderful time swinging out into the canyon on eighty feet of rope.

Here are some links you might enjoy.
If you're interested in a quick history of Lander climbing, and the influence Todd Skinner had on the area, check out this article Steve Bechtel wrote on the subject Lander- Climbing Capitol of the Rockies.

If you would like to see great photography of Wyoming wildlife, including a gallery from the Lander area, take a look at Scott Copeland's photography site.

And if you want to see an incredible bouldering film, including the best Wyoming climbing footage I've ever seen, download Core. You can read a full review on Mountains and Water. I'd summarize it as similar to "Pure" but meatier, with even better camera work and picture quality. Well done Chuck! There will be a showing at the Cowfish Bar this Thursday at 8:00. Wild Iris won't be selling it until after the show, but it's already showing at regularly scheduled times on my computer.

But that's not all! Davin was in Lander today. We hoped to get out to look at some boulders. But he brought weather with him from Laramie, and we didn't get out due to fresh snow last night. We did get a chance to talk, and mark up maps though. I've got hundreds of miles of driving and hiking in my future, and will also be hiring a pack horse.