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.

1 comment:

Davin said...


So happy you started looking out near the junction for new boulders. Some days are a life time of rock, some are a long walk. Keep up the search!