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.

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