Saturday, July 30, 2011

20 Days on the Road: The First 2 Days at Squamish

The drive into Squamish is stunning, the Howe Sound, the Chief, Shannon Falls, and views of glacier covered mountain slopes. The temperature was 60 degrees.

The Chief
The bouldering experience at Squamish is profoundly influenced by the forest. I'd never been in anything like it. The trees are huge, and shade everything except the largest boulders which were glowing as we entered the dense woods, spotlighted by the sun let in through spaces the boulders create in the canopy. Tree roots collect the soil, and create raised platforms between blocks of talus. The air and boulders had a moist feel, but the rocks were climbable and we had planned to stick to moderates for the first day anyway.

We got started at the Easy Chair area. I was excited to flash "Easy in an Easy Chair."

We did a variety of problems in the sector. Ashley's favorite for the day was "Swank Stretch."
We finished the day by both getting worn out on "Minor Threat." It's the only problem we ended up spending more than a day on during the trip.

The next day was a rest day, and it rained. The day after was a climbing day, and it rained. The guide recommended Gibb's Cave as a place to go, sheltered from the rain, so we did. The top out holds were wet, and a number of holds in the cave were seeping. At least we were protected from the rain. We made up some contrived starts and finishes across the roof just to get a workout. Late in the afternoon the rain stopped, and boulders outside of the forest dried out. We jumped on "The Cutting Edge" and both managed to climb it after about 5 tries. It felt really difficult for a V4. Later we learned that a hold has broken off the lower arete. It's been renamed and regraded.

"The New Cutting Edge" V5/6

We climbed a few more moderates nearby, and it was nice to complete a few problems that day, after we had given up any expectations to. The next day was a rest day, and it rained.

Friday, July 29, 2011

20 Days on the Road: One Day in Leavenworth

Camping in Tumwater Canyon
One day in Leavenworth, wasn't nearly enough. In hindsight, maybe we shouldn't have been in such a hurry to move on. We expected heat, so we spent our day at the Swiftwater sector. It has a lot of shaded problems, and each of the three types of stone found around Leavenworth. We warmed up on a large schist boulder, and then checked out Hate Rock which is just below the parking area.

Ashley climbing "Hate Monger"

The Hate Boulder has granite similar to that found in Little Cottonwood Canyon, so it's really good. But I had no idea that granite existed so fine as what we found across the road. It's granite with crystals so small it feels like sandstone. Absolutely solid, with the best friction I've ever experienced. Features that look impossible to hold onto, turn out to be good holds. The friction is that good. Here are a couple photos of Ashley on the end of "The Footless Traverse." Click the photos to see the texture up close.
Ashley's swinging, but her hands are sticking.
I climbed 11 problems, and Ashley did 9. The highlight of my day was sending "Raging Bull." A lot of my photos were taken in dappled sunlight, and didn't turn out well. If you're interested in Leavenworth bouldering, I recommend the video 5000 Miles-Part 1:Leavenworth by Max Moore. It documents the style and quality of the area's bouldering very well. As we continued our journey towards Squamish we saw many rocky canyons obscured by the thick forest. I wondered "Could an American Fontainbleau be hidden in the state of Washington?"

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

20 Days on the Road: Lost Horse Canyon

Ashley climbing "Cruiser Traverse."
We just got back from a 20 day road trip. It was a good trip, and it's good to be home. Over the next few days, I'll be posting about each area we visited. Our first stop was Lost Horse Canyon, Montana, and we really liked it. It has free camping, and great rock, unlike anything I've climbed on before. Incredibly solid granite/gneiss, covered with horizontal seams, and climbable features. Many smooth faces, and a texture I found geologically puzzling.

Our first climbing day of the trip, and after spending a full day in the car to get there, we climbed all we could. We got on 19 problems at the Roadside and Motherload areas. Ashley sent 18, and I was able to finish 16. With so much climbing, I didn't get many photos. We spent about a third of our day at the "Super Rad Boulder," and I managed to get some shots.

Climbing the "Dope Show Traverse."
I agree with the boulder's name. Perfect height and fantastic features, unfortunately scarred by someone's bonfire.
Ashley climbing "Zulu Death Mask." A perfect line up the blackened rock.

Each year, a Lost Horse Climbing Festival is held on the second Saturday in September. This year it will be on September 10th. We won't be able to make it, but I support the Bitterroot Climbers Coalition's cause, and appreciate the bouldering guide on their website. Get there if you can. It looks like a fun event.

I was impressed by the dramatic scenery, high quality stone, and accessibility of the Bitterroot Mountains. Hoping to get back, I bought a copy of Rick Torre's Bitterroot Bouldering Guide at a shop in Missoula. Missoula is a fun town. Scenic, and hip, with all types of outdoor pursuits. It even has surfing!
Next stop Leavenworth, WA.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Seeking Balance

We just got back from a week of not climbing in Steamboat Springs, CO. A wonderful week of family activities with people who aren't climbers. A week that drove home the fact that devoting so much time and energy to a pursuit like climbing can make one feel like an outsider. Now we're back, I'm climbing again, and I'm hanging out with people who share my interests.

Last night, Alan came out with me for some bouldering and development at the Source.
We had a fun session, and as we discussed life on the drive down canyon, he asked a profound question. "Why can climbers find balance on the rock, but have trouble finding it in their lives?"

That's a difficult question to answer. Does climbing unbalance the rest of my life? After a day of thought, I don't think that it does, but it's difficult to be sure. My life isn't always balanced, but as I think back to my life before I began climbing, I feel more balanced now than I did way back then.

A climber's life may appear unbalanced from the outside, especially to non-climbers, but what matters is whether it feels balanced from the inside. After a week away, I know I feel more balanced when I'm able to go climbing. Should I trust the feeling? After a full day of climbing at Wild Iris, I felt so good I didn't want to question it anymore.

Sunset from the Source.
Balance is always changing, and it always requires some attention, the journey continues...