Eight inches of new snow fell last night, and it's our first day of break. Couldn't climb, so we went sledding instead. Then I spent a couple hours improving this blog. Each post is now tagged with the area, or areas, that it's about. All the areas (38 so far) are listed to the right. Sorry, it took me so long to get organized. Now you don't have to scroll through hundreds of entries to find what you want, and you'll see the entries that Google doesn't catch. I can't believe I've written forty-five posts about Sinks Canyon! For a few areas you'll need to click on "Older Posts" to see all the entries.
A couple more bouldering blogs were added to my list as well, Kearney Journey and Try Hard.
It's nice to have some time to get the little things done.
Saturday felt like an early Christmas at Sinks. The gift being, The Most Perfect Climbing Conditions I've Ever Experienced! Cobalt blue skies, air so still it felt like being indoors, cool rock, warm sun. And a friendly crew of local climbers assembled at the Bootie Wall to enjoy it.
Evan lowering past Lindsey.
Lindsey climbing "Waiting on a Friend." The day's ingredients mixed incredibly well, and at one point I heard another climber spontaneously exclaim "I love my life!"
It's wonderful, when people are happy, and are aware that they are.
With no distractions or discomfort to fight, leading felt like top roping to me. I redpointed "Achin' for Bootie" for the first time ever, and then traded routes with Scott and Evan. With their draws pre-hung, I redpointed "Cavity Search", and then Scott put my draws on "Smell My Finger." (Don't blame me, Mark Howe named them.) With draws hung, and feeling very comfortable on the wall by that point, I flashed the route.
Last year, I wasn't sure I'd ever have the endurance needed to redpoint the long climbs on the Bootie wall. This year, I did three in a day. My endurance feels slightly better, but most significantly I'm learning how find rests, take the rests, and climb quickly in between them while holding back my effort. I'm realizing that successful route climbing effort feels very different than successful bouldering effort. Bouldering is all about learning to try harder. Sport climbing is mostly about learning not to try any harder than you need to. In the past, I approached routes like a series of connected boulder problems. Some routes work like that, but endurance routes don't. On endurance routes you need to move quickly, but stay relaxed. Trying as hard as you can between rests doesn't work. You've got to hold back some strength so you can use it later. I'm still learning some of the basics, 16 years into the game.
Ashley enjoyed herself too, top roping each of the three routes, twice in a row without rests, for an endurance workout. Ashley excels by training her strengths :)
Feeling bullet proof at the end of the session, I got on "Grabbing Greta" and accidentally didn't bring enough draws. The sun set, and the rock got really cold really quickly. It wasn't the perfect way to end the day. The session would have been more fun if we had quit while we were ahead. Night falls so fast this time off year. That was our climbing this week.
Winter bouldering sessions are rare in the Lander area. The overhanging cliffs of Sinks stay nice all winter, but the boulders are usually blanketed with snow. Sweetwater Rocks is almost always too cold and windy, but there was a favorable forecast for the upcoming weekend so Jesse and I made plans for a Sweetwater session. By Friday night the expected temps dropped ten degrees, and the wind forecast increased by 20 miles per hour. Sweetwater wasn't going to work, but we were set on bouldering, so we visited Torrey Valley instead.
The Croquet Ball offers good warm-ups and a couple harder sit-starts.
The north side of the canyon has an incredible micro-climate, and the canyon generally has less snow than Sinks. The forecast was for forty degrees last Saturday, and we climbed comfortably in T-shirts all afternoon. Most of the bouldering on the north side of the canyon is found on about 6 widely spaced granite erratic boulders. The sandstone boulders in the valley are off limits to bouldering because they usually have petroglyphs on them.
Most visitors to the upper valley don't notice the boulders. This time of year they're too busy looking for bighorn sheep. Torrey Valley is winter range for the largest single herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the world. Jesse and I got to see quite a show while hiking to the Croquet Ball.
The challenger circled the boulder, and then crash! It sounded so cool! The female ran off and the bigger male followed. The challenger watched them run off. The sheep were quite preoccupied by their drama, and didn't seem to care that padded people were walking across the meadow below.
After a bit of hiking, Jesse warmed up a second time on the Coco Cabana boulder.
Just behind the Coco Cabana boulder is a short little boulder with perfect stone, and frustrating slopers where a single unnamed Manley problem is found. It was mostly clean, in the sun, and looked difficult enough, but doable. We decided to give it some burns.
After falling off a few times, things started to get interesting. I wasn't sure if it would go or not. I wasn't sure how it would go, but still felt confident that one of us would unlock a sequence. Jesse was offering some friendly competition for the first send of the day. The conditions were perfect, and the scenery spectacular. It didn't matter to me that the short boulder problem would probably only be given one star on any objective scale. For many attempts it offered everything that a boulder problem has to offer. A very engaging and uncertain challenge, that required and allowed intense levels of effort. That's what it's about. I made an unlikely move, because it felt like the only move I could make, and it surprised me when it worked. Jesse sent it soon afterwards. Here is Jesse showing what ended up being our key sequence. I was excited to do some exploration, but Jesse felt tired after working a late night. Jesse napped in the van while I went hiking. It was a successful mission, and I will have some new things to climb and clean on my next trip to Torrey Valley.
We drove out in beautiful light, ate dinner in Dubois, and watched for deer while driving home with a full moon. Unfortunately, we were too late getting back, and missed the bouldering comp at Elemental. I would have enjoyed it. But I can't regret missing it. For me, nothing beats a good bouldering session outside. Yesterday, Ashley and I were able to try the problems, post comp. Really fun, well set, all new lines, which I highly recommend. Torrey Valley and Elemental offer the best bouldering in the Lander area, until Spring...
It took us a little while to get back to Sinks Canyon after the fire. Since the fire two weeks ago, we had a really cold weekend, and then we took a trip to Colorado for Thanksgiving. We returned to perfect weather in Wyoming, and decided to take advantage of it yesterday. The cause of the fire in Sinks hasn't been determined yet, but I can report on the damages.
I'll begin with the bad news. At least a couple, really good, dolomite boulder problems were destroyed by the fire. The Back Pocket Boulder sustained the worst damage. Key holds on "Double Clutch" V4 are now missing, because a nearby tree caught fire and a large flake exfoliated off of the problem. The V7 traverse from Back Pocket to Double Clutch was also destroyed. It's hard to say if the lines will go again. If they do, they'll be much more difficult.
On the brighter side, the cliff was barely affected. An obscure route or two could have been damaged near burned trees, but the popular walls appeared unscathed. The hillside is an even better solar collector, now that it's blackened. Our day felt quite warm for 45 degrees. T-shirts all day. Incredible conditions for late November, or anytime of year really. We spent the end of the day at the Addiction Wall. Once the sun started going down, the cliff cooled off, and Ashley used the improved friction to make a clean toprope ascent of "Public Enemy." I managed to struggle through the crux bottom half, but wasn't able to de-pump at the "rest" and fell off the easier second half.
The happiest coincidence, I noticed, was that the large juniper below the Addiction Wall didn't catch fire. It came close, as you can see on the lower branches above. If it had gone up in flames, "Pretty Hate Machine," "The Gathering," and "Dogs of War" would have all been destroyed.
Tony on the spared route, "Pretty Hate Machine." The fire could have been much worse. If you visit during the next few months, expect a blackened hillside, the lingering smell of smoke, and great climbing. Have fun out there!
Smoke and flames at the Main Wall on Sunday afternoon.
The weather on Sunday morning was looking nicer than we expected it to. We ditched our planned drive to the gym in Jackson, and went up to the Sandstone Buttress to try a few sport climbs on Sinks Canyon sandstone. Turns out, it doesn't rival the dolomite. But it is fun, and feels really different. Even when the moves aren't hard, they are often insecure, and you feel like you could pop off at any moment. I did once, taking a fifteen foot fall on "Lucky's Revenge" when my foot slid off a sandy smear.
About half way through the session, we noticed smoke coming from up canyon. Just when we began to get concerned that we hadn't seen any fire trucks, the first one sped past. The smoke obscured the sun, the wind picked up, and eventually eight more fire trucks headed up canyon. About an hour later the wind picked up so much, we decided to finish our session at the climbing gym. But before driving back to town, we wanted to see where the fire was. We were upset to find out that the source of the smoke was a large fire at the Main Wall. The fire started at the Fairfield Hill parking area and burned very quickly uphill. The burn reached the cliffs, and burned a large portion of the dolomite bouldering area. It's too early to say what the impact on the climbing and bouldering will be. And I've heard, or read online, five different rumors of how the fire got started. No official cause has come out yet. I'll update this post when I have more information.
Ashley doing a bit of sunbathing in the 30 degree weather yesterday.
I should check her ankles for tan lines.
The weather changed quite a bit during the last week. Yesterday was cold and breezy. But the Main Wall at Sinks was climbable near Killer Cave. We made the best of it, and so did quite a few Lander climbers. It's the time of year when we all gather at Sinks, and get to see each other again. It was fun to get back on the rope, and get reacquainted with the dolomite. I enjoy Sinks sport climbing. But we do so much of it during November, December, January, February, March, and April, that I try to avoid it during the rest of the year.
Last week Sunday, I had a feeling that it might be my last session of bouldering for a while. We followed perfect conditions on the granite boulders of Sinks Canyon all day. We warmed up at the Riverside Boulder, and contrived a nice V5 sit start traverse across a seam that ends on the crimps Ashley is looking at below. I did it just before Ashley, and named it "Water Snake."
After warming up, we went to the shady Cabin Boulders, and I managed to send "The Parkers" after two and a half years of sporadic attempts. I'm not feeling particularly strong or light at the moment, but conditions were great, and it all fell together. It felt a lot harder than it looks in the video.
We finished our day on the Rubber Blanket boulder, and watched the evening light move across the pines on the opposite hillside. Hopefully we'll get some more warm days before the heavy snows arrive. We appreciate the sessions more, and try a little harder, because we know what's coming.
Uploaded in full resolution. So much potential to explore! You can do some of it from your computer.
After two twelve hour teaching/conference days last week, Lander teachers were given Friday off. So I went to Sweetwater, and recovered from excess human interaction by being very far from anyone for an afternoon.
I did five first ascents. Four of them were on this wall.
"Beautiful" I expected the lines to be in the V3-V5 range, but they were easier. They're nice problems with incut crimps and good feet, and they all fall into the V1-2 range. It will be a good wall to warm up on for "Norwegian Wood" and a couple projects in the area. I was having trouble thinking of names, and I ended up using a set that Danny mentioned on his last trip to Sweetwater. From left to right the problems are called "Easy" "Breezy" "Beautiful" and "Cover Girl." They seemed appropriate.
Next, I'm planning to give this roof some attention. It could be easier than it looks.
After topping out "Cover Girl" I got distracted by a boulder in the distance, and decided to hike over to take a closer look. It has a very cool glassy north face with some thin features that might be climbable. The aretes on each side will definitely go.
I kept following the boulders and found this proud patina covered face. Then I found a sector of boulders in the sky. I'll get more photos of the problems when I climb there. Feeling a little overwhelmed, it was time to hike out. On the way, I passed these three boulders, and many more lines, and I just have to keep telling myself "I'll climb on them someday." It feels strange to have so much rock, and so few boulderers to develop it. Doing it on my own, one day a weekend, for a few months each year, well, I'll never be able to finish the job. It's going to take multiple people with brushes, many days devoted to hiking, and some crews with multiple pads to get the majority of the nice lines found and established. Until that happens, I'll probably be spending quite a few sessions at Sweetwater alone, brushing and climbing boulders. Just me and some wildlife. Let me know if you'd like to check it out.
Yesterday we had beautiful weather out at Sweetwater, and on a good day there is no where I'd rather be. I really like the lines I've found out there, and the ambiance of the place.
Ashley climbing what has become the standard warm up V0 in the God Eye Gulley. Pronghorn seen on the walk in.
Ashley continued her warmup on "White Knight," a nice V3 first done last June. "Rook" is a V4 sit start, directly below her in the photo below. Ashley repeated Jesse's "Rattlesnake Arete" V4 using a direct and static finish.
Here she is responsibly brushing off her tick marks, even though no one ever goes out there. It's the right thing to do. We spent the rest of the day in the "Norwegian Wood" area. I repeated it with much smoother technique on the top out than I did during the first ascent. Ashley climbed smoothly to the top, but was intimidated by the top out mantel. She will need another session to finish it off. I've begun work on a new problem, and hope that I can finish it before Ashley does. A little competition is a good thing.
I'm really hoping the good weather continues... I have so much that I want to do out there. Yesterday I happened upon a whole new sector just a minute's hike from "Norwegian Wood."
Then, on the drive out, we saw a short horse rockin' a mullet! You never know what you'll find at Sweetwater.
In other news, the Lander Bolt Anchor Replacement Fund aka BARF has started a blog. Sinks is coming into season and the bolts will be taking a beating. Check out the blog in the links list, and consider making a donation. It helps keep Lander climbs safe, it encourages the establishment of new climbs, and it's the right thing to do.
Saturday, I took the afternoon to check out a new area Chris discovered and named The New World. It's the loneliest set of rocks I've ever visited, found at the point where the Wind River Mountain chain dies, and the Red Desert begins. The rock is gneiss, solid and clean. There are many formations of climbable size, but few individual boulders large enough for climbing. The rock is highly featured, and most of the lines I saw would be moderates.
One of many formations from a distance.
A formation from a closer vantage point.
This wall is nicely overhung, a good height and covered with clean solid holds. The two track that gets you there and back. It's a cool place to hang out, and an adventurous boulderer could have a lot of fun in the area. The rock is great and there is a lot of it, so I'm sure some spectacular lines will be found.
For now, I'll keep developing at Sweetwater, which is more accessible and has a higher potential for concentrated boulder gardens. But I'll be keeping an ear out for news of the latest discoveries in the New World.
Speaking of discoveries, on Sunday I discovered the Old Lady Driver project goes from a stand start. It's listed in the guide as a sit start project, but I couldn't find any holds where a sit start would start. It's a technical problem with one fierce move, and it's a little hard to rate. At least V5, but it could be as hard as V7. The crux move is harder than any move on "Frankenstein" but it's over a lot faster.
I'll make some inquiries before claiming a first ascent. It seems unlikely that a granite boulder problem, ten feet from asphalt, in Bruce's picnic area, in Sinks Canyon, in the V5-7 range, hadn't been done yet.
It's worth a visit. "Rowan's Stand" "Robots" and an unlisted line from a diagonal pinch at the low lip left of "Bread Control" make good warmups.
After getting started on the Old Lady Driver boulder Ashley and I did some toprope lines on the Big Vision Boulder. It would have been fun to see this huge block sitting on the glacier during the last ice age.
We toproped "Super Corner" and a line that heads up slopers by stepping off the big grey boulder. Both are fun lines, set up from a good bolted anchor.
In climbing, there is always something new you can try.