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.