Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Solstice Boulder

While out scouting The Heavens with Tom last week, I saw a boulder, in a gully out in the distance, that I wanted to check out one day. That boulder turned out to be huge and featureless, but nearby I found a block I've named the Solstice boulder.
I've learned not to get too excited until problems have been attempted. I've been fooled before by blocks that look great, but don't really have any good problems on them. Yesterday, I hiked up by myself and jumped on a few lines. The features were climbable and just where they needed to be. That's when I got really excited. Maybe a little too excited. This isn't the bouldering discovery of a lifetime, but it is a nice collection of problems in a stunning environment. The block is on a formation above Popo Agie Falls, and the view is panoramic. Ashley came out with me in the afternoon to sample what I'd found.

Ashley climbing the sds "Stone Poetry" V3.

Just left of "Stone Poetry" is a contrived sds line that uses the arete for hands, eliminating the face holds for hands but not feet. It's called "Contra."

On the arete to the right are small solid crimps. With Ashley there to help if I got hurt, I committed to the top out and finished "Solstice." It starts with a left undercling, and the right hand hold shown below.

It's a committing V5 or 6, a bit higher than it looks in the photos, and I'm really happy with it. A couple large blocks on each side of the landing add spice. Ashley also did the first ascent of a sds V3/4 on the back of the boulder off a large black L shaped hold to small crimps up a black slab. It's called "The Falls."

We did a couple warm ups on a small cliff line above the boulder.
And a couple more in a dihedral corner around to the left. There is potential for some nice high vertical problems on the cliff face, but use caution. One large feature is loose, and it hasn't been removed yet. Weather and plans permitting, I'll be head back to finish them within the next couple weeks.

To get to the Solstice boulder follow the Popo Agie Falls trail. Hike about a half hour, and after a few switchbacks you reach a small wooden sign that directs hikers left to the Falls. Don't go left, but keep following the trail straight for 5-10 minutes keeping an eye on granite formations South/left of the trail. When you see the boulder please stay on the trail, after a few switchbacks it will take you to the edge of the formation, and you can hike down to the boulder over rock.

If you visit, please leave no trace, other than brushed holds. Don't move large blocks under established problems, let me know if you get a good first ascent, and avoid stepping on wildflowers.
There isn't much shade on the formation, so evening sessions are best this time of year. It's one of the most beautiful bouldering environments around Lander, and even my daughters said it was worth the 45 minute uphill hike. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Some New Problems at Sweetwater

The spring season is coming to an end at Sweetwater. But on Sunday it was the only area that was climbable near Lander due to the rain. We had some sprinkles and some mosquitoes, but were lucky that the rain usually went around us. Alan came out for the day. We had a good time puzzling out the undone lines, and deciding which ones to get on. Eight new problems were done. All of them deserve at least one star, and one might be worth three. I didn't get the camera out much. It was under a boulder, safe from the rain.

Alan climbing an Ashley first ascent, that goes around V3.
The most difficult line we finished is called "Fingertips." It's a finger intensive V5.

Alan in front of a nice boulder. We warmed up on two lines using the huge flakes on the right. This boulder has potential for a couple really good difficult problems.
There is some crystal filled stone and some great patina in the area. I took photos of the patina.

Development will continue this fall.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sport Climbing Around Lander

Tom making a long reach on "Empire" at the Sanctuary.
On Monday, I went out climbing with Tom and Jesse at The Sanctuary. Tom helped develop the cliff, and he put me on some good routes. It's a granite cliff above the Falls trail in upper Sinks Canyon. I climbed "Obscured by Cloud" and "The Seldon Plan." And I now have a new project called "Foundation." With three climbers, I was able to get some pictures of Tom climbing while Jesse belayed. Here is my favorite.

Tom working "Rimfire."

All the necessary info is in the new guidebook from Steve Bechtel. It just came out, and copies are available here.

The Sanctuary has a wilder, more alpine, feel than the dolomite walls in Sinks Canyon. The feeling is accentuated this time of year by the roaring Popo Agie river. The climbing is also much less straight forward than climbs on the dolomite. Vertical puzzles that are very difficult to onsight.
On Wednesday, Ashley and I spent the day at Wild Iris. We got on four routes. I redpointed "Wind and Rattlesnakes" and Mike did too.

Two shots of Mike climbing "Wind and Rattlesnakes."

It was a great day, though the wind was distracting. Eventually it chased us out, but not before we got a good work out.

Today I introduced Ashley to the Sanctuary. She was unnerved by the exposure, loose rock, and big reaches. She declared it a "guys' crag" and she doesn't plan to go back. I fell off the very top of "Foundation" on toprope twice. Now I'm ready for redpoint attempts, so I'll need to get back out with the guys.

Sport climbing is a lot of fun, but I feel the need to go bouldering too. The Loop road just opened, and there are a lot of boulders waiting up there.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Video of Ahona Verdugo, Cody, WY

Here is the video of Ashley climbing one of my favorite problems at Cody.

Warning! Problems on internet video may appear easier than they are.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Trip to Cody, and a Second Trip to Flaming Gorge

About a month ago we planned a week long trip to Yellowstone. We'd spend climbing days in Cody and the Tetons, and rest days checking out Yellowstone and looking for wildlife. Ashley saw some wolves during a school field trip in April, and I really wanted to see them too. Unfortunately, the weather didn't look good for the 2nd half of the week. A cold front was coming, and the weather was going to get pretty poor in Yellowstone. On the bright side, things were going to cool off statewide. This meant I had an opportunity to show Ashley the bouldering at Flaming Gorge.

The trip began with a warm Sunday afternoon at the Sheep Camp on Cedar Mountain. Ashley felt she had some unfinished business from the last trip. She had gotten close to climbing "The Coke Twitch" and "Ahona Verdugo," and she wanted to send them both. She wasn't sticking to the crimps on "The Coke Twitch" in the heat so we both ended up doing the less conditions dependent traverse ending instead. It's not in the guidebook, and I don't remember its name.

Then we visited the Ahona Boulder. Ashley wanted "Ahona Verdugo" and I was curious to see what the final moves of "When Life Gives You Lemons" were like. Mike got the first ascent on our last trip, and I had begun working out the beginning. On Sunday, I worked out the end moves quickly, and surprised myself by sending the problem.
Here are photos of one of the harder moves.

Ashley had trouble with the crux move on "Ahona Verdugo" Here she is making faces at me, because I had a better session.
That evening we drove on to Silver Gate, Montana. We were driving into the Beartooth mountains, and Ashley told me it would be pretty.
Soon after turning off onto highway 296 some large grey overhanging limestone cliffs caught my eye. If I were a sport climbing developer, I'd head back to check them out.
Then we drove over Dead Indian Summit, and I was totally blown away by the view.
For the next hour we were driving through the prettiest mountain landscape I've ever seen. I've done some beautiful drives in my life. The drive into Telluride, Crested Butte, or from Redstone to Marble in Colorado. Highway 30 through the Adirondacks, and the Pacific Coast Highway north of San Francisco were pretty spectacular, but none have blown me away like this one did. It was pretty in every direction. It couldn't really be captured with my camera.
We had to get to Silver Gate, so I couldn't spend much time on photos anyway. I rented a spotting scope and made plans to maximize our chances of seeing the wolves. We'd leave at 5 am.

We followed the plan and made our way through the Lamar Valley. Stopping at every pullout that had people with spotting scopes. We even ran into a wolf biologist with radio telemetry equipment. But the wolves weren't out in the open. We ended up at Mammoth Hot Springs without seeing any wolves.

The Mammoth Hot Springs

We did see a lot of bison.

And a marmot at the limestone hoodoos south of Mammoth. The hoodoos look good for bouldering from the road, but not so good up close. A few problems have been done, a few more could be done, but it's only worthwhile if you happen to be there. Not worth a trip, for the climbing.
Tuesday we were back at the Sheep Camp. The cold front was coming through. It was in the 50s with 30 to 40 mile per hour winds. Luckily the boulders we wanted to climb were very sheltered from the gale. We warmed up and started on the Ahona boulder. Ashley tried the crux move once, and did it easily. Then she cruised it from the bottom. What a difference cool temps, and fresh fingers can make! Then she did it again for video. I'll get that edited and post it soon.

We returned to "The Coke Twitch." Ashley finished it off, and almost did it again for photos.
She pulled through using two really poor crimps that everyone else just hit as intermediates.

Ashley and I left Cedar Mountain happy to have completed our goals. We spent a rest day in Lander, and then drove down to Flaming Gorge.

On Thursday we went to the Cart Bridge boulders. It was too hot when we arrived, but as we walked the boulders, clouds came in and a breeze began to blow. We ended up having a great session. I showed Ashley what Alan and I had gotten on last week.

Ashley climbing "Batman."
On this trip all the cactus were flowering.
Lizards there match the rock color perfectly.
Ashley climbing "Nip Tuck."

I put away the camera for a while, and we just climbed a lot of moderate quartzite gems like "Barn Door," "Barney", and "Peddle Car."

We ended the day on the Grease Boulder. I did "Greased Lupeda" and Ashley did a non dyno variation where the "Greased Lightning Dyno" is located.

After a rest day spent in Dinosaur National Monument, and taking the girls swimming in the Reservoir, we visited the Overlook Boulders. We did a little warming up, and then jumped on "Lay Down Sally."

Warming up.
We liked it after we sent it, but you want to be very warmed up before going through the contortions it requires. The photos didn't look good.

We walked up hill to "Shady Lady." The crux is getting off the ground, but the moves are really interesting, and the stone is amazing. Highly recommended!

We finished the session at the Hard Rock Cafe boulder. Those photos are in the post below. Both trips were just what we hoped they would be (except for not seeing wolves). Now that they are done, I'm excited to focus on climbing near Lander for a while, and let the Summer slow down.