Monday, January 23, 2012

Sunday on the Sandstone

Getting outside wasn't a sure thing this weekend. I had a lot of work to do, and the weather forecast looked cold and breezy. But the skies were clear on Sunday morning, and the breeze wasn't too strong, so we decided to try some toprope climbs on the Sandstone Buttress.

We warmed up on "Dorsal." Then we climbed "Code Blue," and finished with "Road Test." "Road Test" is a fun bouldery route which took us a couple tries to send clean. We enjoyed all three routes, and I highly recommend them. They have interesting features, on comfortable sandstone. It's fun to pull through moves that feel very insecure when you're on a toprope!

Approaching the crux on "Road Test."

Higher on the wall, two climbers spent the day multi-pitching. I couldn't identify what route they were on. It might have been a first ascent.

The topropes were a lot of fun, but they didn't provide a full work out. We hiked up the hill, and ended the session by working on the "B1 Traverse" on the Dolomite Band. It's a difficult problem for short climbers. We found separate sequences to do all the moves, but Ashley will need another session (and I might need two) to send the crux after climbing through the beginning.

Ashley approaching the crux of the "B1 Traverse."

For the past few years now, I've made an effort to post my climbing activities or some climbing thoughts on a weekly basis. This approach has provided a somewhat scientific transect of my climbing life. The interesting stuff is all here, and it's evenly mixed in with the not so interesting sessions.

Going forward I've decided to change my approach. Rather than write 18 posts about our next 18 weekend sessions in Sinks Canyon this spring, or committing philosophy because I feel forced to, rather than inspired to, I'll only be posting when I have something that I feel is worth sharing. With all the extra time I save, I'm going to begin work on a bouldering guide for the Lander area. The timeline isn't set yet, and I'm not even sure what form the final product will take, but I'm committing myself to finishing a guide. If you know about bouldering in the Lander area, and have something to contribute, please contact me. Photos, history, opinions on grades and star ratings, what areas should be included or which should be excluded, I'll be looking for information and support. Thanks in advance.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sometimes it's Personal

Were you aware that snow can get in your shoes during a long winter hike, completely numb your skin, and then rub your ankles until they are bleeding, without you even realizing it?

On Saturday, Ashley and I fled windy conditions in Sinks Canyon. So I decided to spend my free afternoon hiking to the boulders I noticed in a photo last week.

Objects in a cropped photo, taken with a zoom lens, will appear closer than they are.

Down in the canyon, it was difficult to tell which ramp the boulders were on. I cut off too early and ended up missing the main field in my photo. The snow was knee deep on the shady side of the canyon. And even after five hours of hiking, round trip, I didn't cover as much ground as I hoped to. I missed the concentrated boulders, but I did come across a few scattered sandstone boulders, and granite erratics that could have some good problems one day.

Next time, I'm planning to pack binoculars and hike the sunny side of the canyon.
While wandering on the shady side, I stumbled upon a well hidden cave in the woods with a wide ice pillar inside. It could offer some great bouldering, and I'm looking forward to climbing in it this spring.
Sometimes when I'm exploring, I can justify the time spent by thinking "I'm finding boulders for other boulderers to enjoy one day." Other times, I'm browsing Google Earth examining giant talus fields, miles from any trailhead in the Wind Rivers, or hiking canyons with very widely scattered boulders. Then the justification doesn't work. I ask myself "Who's going to hike this far, to boulder here?" Not many.
But I will.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fishing for Boulders on the Reservation

On Saturday, I dropped 85 dollars for an annual Tribal Fishing License, and spent my first day hiking along streams on the reservation fishing for good boulders. There are a lot of streams I could hike. All access to the mountains on the Wind River Indian Reservation requires a fishing license, whether you fish or not, and some trailheads require a guide. The license lets me explore. Special tribal permission is required for any bolting, but I don't think there are any regulations concerning bouldering. I'd like it to stay that way, so if I find good bouldering, it will probably stay low key. Ask me if you'd like a tour. Jesse got my exploration started by telling me about a sandstone boulder he had seen.
He also said there were sheep, and I spotted them right away.

The boulder Jesse told me about turned out to be really tall, and chossy at the base were it gets submerged each year. It could have a couple scary highballs, once it's cleaned.
Two boulders up the slope were more to my liking. Worthy of a session, if someone wants to clean them with me.
This boulder looked fun too.
The area's scenery and wildlife impressed me, but the bouldering potential wasn't as high as I'd hoped. The sun began to set. Before hiking out, I shot a couple landscape photos up canyon.

The hike out went quickly. I drove home, and downloaded my photos. That's when I noticed something in the photo above. The forested left ridge appeared to have some boulders on it. I zoomed in, and used Iphoto to brighten the shadows, sharpen the focus, and enhance the colors. Boulders emerged.
Suddenly, I was excited to give the area a second look.

In addition to my afternoon's exploration, we've had a couple great climbing days during the last week. The perfect winter conditions continue at Sinks. So perfect, it hasn't really felt like winter.

On January 2nd, Ashley climbed in shorts.
She was happy about it.
Unfortunately, my sending spree, that started on the Bootie wall, hasn't continued. After a wonderful sending spree I usually punish myself by trying to "Take it to the next level!" or even two levels maybe? And by "levels" I mean letter grades. Today's punishment was "Killer" where I worked really hard to link a few bolts together. It felt better than the last time I was on it, but it isn't going to be my project yet.

Eric had much more success on "Nirvana."
The skiers have been complaining, but I'm loving winter this year.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

End of the Year Climbing and Exploration

We spent Christmas, and the following week, with Ashley's family in Colorado Springs. The weather was warm, but snow covered boulders and wind limited our options. We had a session at the Drain and Berthoud Cave in Castlewood Canyon, and a second one at The Blowouts, Garden of the Gods. Both areas are protected from snow, and have problems that don't top out.
The Blowouts, Garden of the Gods, CO
Hidden in the trees on the west side of the Kissing Camels formation is a small section of overhanging, featured, solid sandstone with a couple jugs about 15 feet up.
Ashley climbed a long traverse to the left most hueco, off routing the low feet. It's a tough line, that I didn't quite finish. And it climbs through some cool pocketed stone.
Another fun line starts low and left, and ends with this deadpoint.

Ashley couldn't reach the deadpoint, but then she figured out how to use a tiny undercling to make the span.

Despite expectations of snow covered boulders, I decided to spend a day exploring the bouldering potential of Mills Canyon near Roy, New Mexico. Little did I know, the road into the canyon isn't plowed in winter. The road wasn't even visible. So I parked near a public lands sign and began hiking through the snow towards Mills Canyon.
Once I saw another sign, I knew I was on the right track.
Just past the sign I came across a dakota sandstone side canyon draped with icicles.
The sunny side looked inviting.
I hiked down the road, and explored side canyons, making sure not to cross any fence lines onto private property. The majority of the stone I saw was solid and fine textured like the sandstone of Horsetooth Reservoir. The worst stone I saw was still solid enough to be climbed on with a little cleaning. This boulder had some tick marks, but wasn't cleaned up yet.
Distant hillsides were covered in boulders that I didn't get a chance to see up close. I saw enough to know I'd like to get back to Mills Canyon someday.
Mills Canyon is a vast area, with the greatest potential for Dakota sandstone bouldering I've ever seen. It is so large, that I'd recommend trying to get a tour so you can see the best lines. A tour isn't needed to have a good time though. I'd recommend taking a camping trip in the spring or fall based out of either the Mills Canyon Campground, or the Mills Rim Campground. Take some brushes and explore. You're sure to find some great problems. I'd also recommend packing a toprope and some gear for anchors. The 60 foot tall cliffs extend for miles, have solid featured stone, and occasionally huge roofs.
That wraps up 2011. It was a very productive year, especially for bouldering in the Lander area. The best areas, so far, were discovered in 2011, and I can't wait to see what 2012 will bring.