Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Winter Bouldering in Torrey Valley

Winter bouldering sessions are rare in the Lander area. The overhanging cliffs of Sinks stay nice all winter, but the boulders are usually blanketed with snow. Sweetwater Rocks is almost always too cold and windy, but there was a favorable forecast for the upcoming weekend so Jesse and I made plans for a Sweetwater session. By Friday night the expected temps dropped ten degrees, and the wind forecast increased by 20 miles per hour. Sweetwater wasn't going to work, but we were set on bouldering, so we visited Torrey Valley instead.

The Croquet Ball offers good warm-ups and a couple harder sit-starts.
The north side of the canyon has an incredible micro-climate, and the canyon generally has less snow than Sinks. The forecast was for forty degrees last Saturday, and we climbed comfortably in T-shirts all afternoon. Most of the bouldering on the north side of the canyon is found on about 6 widely spaced granite erratic boulders. The sandstone boulders in the valley are off limits to bouldering because they usually have petroglyphs on them.

Most visitors to the upper valley don't notice the boulders. This time of year they're too busy looking for bighorn sheep. Torrey Valley is winter range for the largest single herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the world. Jesse and I got to see quite a show while hiking to the Croquet Ball.
The challenger circled the boulder, and then crash! It sounded so cool! The female ran off and the bigger male followed.
The challenger watched them run off. The sheep were quite preoccupied by their drama, and didn't seem to care that padded people were walking across the meadow below.
After a bit of hiking, Jesse warmed up a second time on the Coco Cabana boulder.
Just behind the Coco Cabana boulder is a short little boulder with perfect stone, and frustrating slopers where a single unnamed Manley problem is found. It was mostly clean, in the sun, and looked difficult enough, but doable. We decided to give it some burns.

After falling off a few times, things started to get interesting. I wasn't sure if it would go or not. I wasn't sure how it would go, but still felt confident that one of us would unlock a sequence. Jesse was offering some friendly competition for the first send of the day. The conditions were perfect, and the scenery spectacular. It didn't matter to me that the short boulder problem would probably only be given one star on any objective scale. For many attempts it offered everything that a boulder problem has to offer. A very engaging and uncertain challenge, that required and allowed intense levels of effort. That's what it's about.

I made an unlikely move, because it felt like the only move I could make, and it surprised me when it worked. Jesse sent it soon afterwards. Here is Jesse showing what ended up being our key sequence.

I was excited to do some exploration, but Jesse felt tired after working a late night. Jesse napped in the van while I went hiking. It was a successful mission, and I will have some new things to climb and clean on my next trip to Torrey Valley.

We drove out in beautiful light, ate dinner in Dubois, and watched for deer while driving home with a full moon. Unfortunately, we were too late getting back, and missed the bouldering comp at Elemental. I would have enjoyed it. But I can't regret missing it. For me, nothing beats a good bouldering session outside.
Yesterday, Ashley and I were able to try the problems, post comp. Really fun, well set, all new lines, which I highly recommend. Torrey Valley and Elemental offer the best bouldering in the Lander area, until Spring...

1 comment:

Davin said...

Always great to see a Torrey Valley trip. It's really a treat to see the place even if it's just pictures. Really happy it's motivated you too.

I'll have to show you the Bunk House Boulders, Little Mexico, The Beck Boulders, and Hidden City. It will take the count of 6 boulders up to maybe 40 on the north side! There are a few more lone erratics too. The 6 you've been on are all in the Royal Garden sector.

Thanks for the reminder to folks that the sandstone is OFF LIMITS. Some of the worlds most unique rock art, plenty of granite up the valley, so no need anyway.

Hope the winter sessions continue!