Thursday, February 24, 2011

Escape From the Icy Incarceration

Last year's icicles.

Sometimes I check this blog to see what we climbed a year ago, and last year we didn't get to go climbing. Two feet of snow had fallen, trapping us at home. It looked like the same type of weather was going to hit this year. A winter storm watch was called for Saturday afternoon through Sunday. But this year we had a three day weekend for President's Day, and we didn't want to get stuck again. The snow was forecast to fall primarily on the east side of the Wind River Range. We got in the van and drove into the snow over Togwotee Pass to escape the storm.

By driving over the pass into Jackson Hole we avoided most of the snow, but there was no way for us to escape the cold. Didn't matter. We'd planned a rock gym road trip.

It was worth the trip. Jackson's gym, Enclosure, has a large bouldering area, and route walls as well. It would stand out as a great gym in any city. It's in Wyoming, in a town of 8,000 people. Economics work a bit differently in Jackson.

We enjoyed hours of new problems, and climbed the place like a classic bouldering area we'd never visited before. Warming up, sending as hard as we could, and then cleaning up the easier classics.

Time in the town of Jackson felt crowded. We had bad luck with parking, packed restaurants, and a kid puked in the Rec. Center pool soon after our daughters got in to swim. But the Jackson Hole landscapes and wildlife are just as spectacular in the Winter as they are in the Summer. A world of snow, forests, ravens, and moose.

We weren't able see the Tetons covered in snow, because the view was always blocked by snow.

Our hotel didn't allow pets, so Sundance stayed in the van. We brought sleeping bags for her to nest in. On the first morning she looked precious when I woke her up, all snuggled up, and I decided to take my camera down the next morning. She wasn't curled up on this morning, but I caught her head shake.

Her yawn.

And her "Why are you taking my picture?" look.

Before we drove back to Lander we checked out the new Teton Bouldering Park. Two boulders are already finished, and one more will be built when the money is raised. It's found under the Snow King Resort.

Maybe one day, climbing boulders will become a common feature of parks. An accessible way for people to be introduced to the sport, and for boulderers to be seen doing what we do. To get there, the public needs be introduced to the sport, and see what we do. A Catch-22 that the Teton Bouldering Park can begin to crack.

We drove back through new snow, which wasn't as deep as predicted. In bright sunshine through the Wind River Basin, the temps were in the teens. We were satisfied, we had climbed new problems, and we felt worked.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Better Climbing through Computing

Griffin on Mr. Majestyk.

Computers can greatly improve the climbing experience when used correctly. Yesterday, I checked forecast graphics on NOAA weather, so I knew the wind was supposed to get stronger in Sinks Canyon as the day went on. We hiked up anyway, and in a very short time the wind went from tolerable to uncomfortable. We almost got on the rock, but I knew the wind was only going to get stronger. So we hiked down and got a good gym workout instead of fighting the weather. It ended up being the right choice for us.

Last night, I was reading climbing blogs, when I found out that a United Bouldering Championship Competition was happening in Boulder, Colorado and was being streamed live over the internet at that very moment. I ended up watching for an hour and a half, until the finals were finished. I enjoyed it. Which is unusual for me, because I've never enjoyed spectator sports before. Sure I've watched the Olympics, and Ashley once coached a youth soccer team that was fun to watch, but other than that, I've never wanted to continue watching a sporting event, until last night. It was fun to see climbers competing, and in the audience, that I haven't seen since we moved to Wyoming.

Ian Dory stood out as doing very well. Alex Puccio and Sean McColl floated their final problems first try. Problems no other competitors managed to climb. They definitely deserved to win, but for the other competitors the scoring seemed a little strange. Two points were possible per problem, one for reaching a "bonus hold" in the middle of the route, and one for reaching the top. But each attempt counted against the climber. In the end, some climbers who appeared to deserve second or third place, based on how high they got on problems, didn't place as well as I expected.

The live streaming made it much more exciting to watch than other comp footage I've seen. A new way that computers are making climbing better.

Today, I used NOAA weather again, and discovered that the high winds in Lander and Sinks Canyon were supposed to die down at around 2:00 in the afternoon. I did all my errands in the morning, and we headed out after lunch. It was windy when we arrived, but Killer Cave was somewhat sheltered. We spent the afternoon toproping "Blue Moon." As we climbed, the wind stopped, and it ended up being a beautiful time to be up there. We both got the route without falls on toprope, and then called it a session. Today was supposed to be a rest day after all, so we didn't need to overdo it. Ashley and the girls did rest, for a little while, in the sun.

While they lounged, I took some photos of Griffin on "Mr. Majestyk."

It's an impressive line.

Weather websites are incredibly useful this time of year. Without them, we probably would have stayed out battling the elements yesterday, and wouldn't have even tried going out today. Best of luck to you, in the sometimes difficult quest to find good conditions this time of year.