Monday, November 28, 2011

Sinks Canyon Climbing, After the Fire

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!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Fire in Sinks Canyon

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.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sinks Season

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.