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!

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