Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Back to Lander and the Lair

The fires in Colorado have been on my mind lately.  It makes me sick to think of all the homes, landscapes, and climbing areas that are burning right now.  The situation keeps going from bad, to worse, to frightening.  So many fires at once, and the firefighters haven't been able to contain them.  Many places where we spent a lot of time while living in Colorado, appear to have burned already, and many more are in danger.  Stay safe Colorado!  

Fires haven't hit the Lander area, but things are really warm and dry.  We have our fingers crossed that nothing gets started.

Since returning from vacation, we've had two sport climbing days at Wild Iris, and two bouldering sessions.  One evening, before the heat wave hit, I spent a beautiful evening by myself, exploring, and brushing at the Rock Shop.     
 Near a few of Chris and Jesse's problems, I found a wall that appeared untouched.  So I set up my rope and got to work.
 I hiked around the area too, hoping to find some caves that Chris gave me general directions to.  I didn't find the bouldering caves, but this boulder looks like it will be worth a couple roped brushing sessions.  It's slightly overhung, taller, and more angled than it appears in this photo.
 The brushing was on a rest day, and I didn't even take my climbing shoes with me.

The next day, Ashley came out with me for the climbing session.  We went to "Starry Night" first.  Ashley made progress, and I wasn't able to repeat it.  I'm blaming the vacation, and the warm conditions.  Then we tried "Gem Thief."  It seems absolutely, all out, crazy difficult.  We didn't get anywhere close to doing the crux move, but we were able to do the end moves after the crux, and got a great workout in the process.  After that we went to the wall I had cleaned the night before.

Ashley beat me to the first ascent.  "Too Fun" V4.  The crux is the sit start move shown below, and it tops out up a fun wall of enjoyable V1 jugs.

 We both climbed an absolutely classic moderate put up by Jesse Brown.  It tops out on good holds, but I was worked at the end of the day, and it was an exciting ascent.  I'm not sure of the name.

 The forecast for Sunday called for temps in the upper 90s.  So I let people know that I was interested in getting to the only area I thought could be climbable in such heat.  Davin was making the same plans, so we both returned to the Falcon's Lair for our first trip this season.  Bryan was already camping near the parking area, and we met him up there.  We hiked a lower approach into the valley, in order to check out the bouldering possibilities near the lake.  We also planned to ascend into another valley just north that looked great on Google earth.

The Falcon's Lair approached from below.
 The snow melt is at least a month ahead of what it was last year.  But I was happy to see that the high country still has some moisture.
 And the wildflowers are looking good.

 We hiked around near the lake in an area we call the Lower Lair.  Davin found two good boulders, and we got to work.  I started brushing what I thought would be a really nice warm up.  I didn't realize that it didn't have foot holds, and it ended up being too difficult for a proper warm up.  Davin got the first ascent at V5, and I got the second ascent after doing two other problems that were more appropriate for warming up on.  I don't know the name yet.
We did two ascents on the boulder just uphill.  Here is Davin climbing "The Edge of Refreshment" V2.  About seven feet to the left is a line following fun letterbox holds named "Letterbox" which is also V2. This boulder has features for a difficult line too, but it got to hot to work on it.
 The boulders we climbed in the woods would be appreciated anywhere, but conditions were getting too warm, and I've been spoiled by the upper Lair.  Little to no brushing is required to get a first ascent up there.  We also saw that Bryan was in the Falcon's Lair proper, so we postponed our trip to the next canyon and hiked up the canyon we were already in.  We found Bryan above the Lander boulder and he was interested in trying a project Chris had shown him the day before.  I asked, "Are you sure Chris won't mind if we try this?"  And then I promptly slid off the holds when I did try it.  It's much more difficult than it first appears, and it's still an open project.  Quality sloping edges that require a lot of tension to keep.

Davin got to work on a line of widely spaced holds to the left.  He came so close to sending the beautiful line, on this attempt.
 The hiking, the bouldering, and the altitude, left me feeling pretty tired.  I just wanted to try a problem a couple more times, and then start a slow hike back to the truck.  But Davin had other plans.  He still needed to get a look at the boulders in the next valley.  He'd been thinking about them all winter.  I looked at the steep hillside many hundreds of feet tall on the north side of the valley, and knew that I no longer had the energy to get over it and still get back out to the truck before nightfall.  I offered to wait for Davin at the parking area, and he took off down the valley and up the hill at an impressive clip.  Bryan took me on a more leisurely walk to see some newly chalked lines on the boulders nearby.  Chris has already been going up to the Lair for a couple weeks this season, getting some impressive lines done, and is working on an amazing roof project.

After our short hike, I felt somewhat rested.  I decided to give the line I was working on one last try, and I finished it.  It's called "Talon Traverse."  I'd rate it V5.  And it was the bouldering highlight of my day.
 Just below, is this amazing tall block with a perfect meadow landing.  I wonder when this beauty will get some problems?
 On the hike out I took my time, and explored some boulders southeast of the Falcon's Lair valley.  I found many good blocks that would be climbed on all the time if they were in Sinks Canyon.  But with a long approach, and the Falcon's Lair so close, they will probably remain unclimbed.
 Nearby was one of the most wildly shaped trees I've ever seen.
 Back at the lot, I drank the rest of my water, and finished off my lunch.  Bryan, Rachel, and their dog Oscar, got back about twenty minutes after I did.  We talked, played fetch, and waited for Davin.  After about twenty five more minutes he emerged from the woods looking like he'd experienced enlightenment.  He told us about a run in with a male bear, and an amazing valley with huge boulders north of the Lair.  The post about his adventure should not be missed.  It was another big and wonderful day for all of us at the Falcon's Lair.  One of my favorite places anywhere.

Sunset over Falcon's Lair.  With smoke blown in from fires hundreds of miles away.
I've posted about it before, but I'd like to remind everyone that the 2012 International Climbers' Festival will be happening soon!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Western Gold, Cody, WY

Savage Films has made the Cody portion of Western Gold available for free!  You can get a sense of what both Cody bouldering and Western Gold are like.

If you enjoyed that, download the entire film here, and make plans for a trip to Cody this fall.  Or you can believe Marc, and stay at home.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Letting the days go by, letting the water hold me down,

Shipwrecks Beach, Kauai

 It's been a while since the last post, because we haven't been climbing.  After 15 years of never taking more than a week off, we decided that it was time to let our bodies heal for a couple weeks.  Neither of us had injuries that kept us from climbing, but we both had creaky fingers, tweaky shoulders, and I often felt that my elbows were on the edge of tendonitis.  It would be good to heal, but when, and how?  We're addicted to climbing, and when it's available, it's what we do.  We needed to get away from the rocks for a while to avoid the temptation, but we didn't want to get out of shape.  So we made some plans last winter.  Ashley's parents let us reserve their timeshare in Kauai, and we bought plane tickets.  Instead of climbing, we would stay in shape, and get our adrenaline doses, by surfing and body boarding.

Ashley catching a good sized wave with my board.
 She couldn't use hers, because she had gotten slammed by a big one earlier.
 I bought some new footwear, because body boarding without fins is almost like bouldering without climbing shoes.
I tried surfing for a day, but gave up because strapping the board on top of our compact rental car, and then trying to drive without it blowing off was much too much trouble.  The body boards fit conveniently in the trunk, and by the end of our trip we were catching long rides on reef breaks far from shore.  The reef breaks were too far out to get pictures, but we also got some short, fun drops on the shore breaks.  

Life is everywhere on Kauai.  Here is a Monk Seal napping on the beach after a night of catching fish.

 And a giant green sea turtle inside the waves.
So much life, thriving and beautiful, isolated from the rest of the world.  It changed my perspective.

Much of the coast is covered by well manicured resorts, such as this salt water pool at the Hyatt. 

 But I prefer the wilder landscapes.
 The wildest we visited was the Napali Coast.
 A two mile hike lead us to an empty beach.
 Well almost empty.  This feral kitten is living there full time.

 We didn't bring any climbing gear, but we accidentally found out that a little climbing would be possible on Kauai.  Bouldering could be done in some of the coastal caves. 
 One short crag looked great, but it's on private land.
 We found a nearby cliff with fragile tufas.  Then we looked up, and we saw bolts.  The cliff had about ten short sport routes.
 But many of the bolts looked really sketchy!
So you could climb on Kauai, but I wouldn't recommend it.

The body boarding was so much fun.  Elemental, exciting, and enriching.  But I missed climbing.  I spent hours working on the bouldering guidebook, to try to fill the void.  
Now we're home, and the climbing posts will be back soon.