Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Devil's Kitchen Camping Trip

Conditions generally determine where I go bouldering.  I'm very aware of shade, sun, elevation, hourly temperature, cloud cover, and wind forecasts.  I'd rather do a circuit of boulders I've already climbed, or go sport climbing, than try new boulder problems in excessive heat or cold.  I know that not every climber shares my priorities.  

After a session in Devil's Kitchen with Brian earlier in the summer that was on the verge of too warm, I'd decided to avoid the Kitchen until fall conditions settled in.  So when Kerrek and Jesse F. both contacted me, and both were interested in a tour of Devil's Kitchen, I was somewhat conflicted.  I could only fit a couple bouldering days into my schedule before school started, and both available days looked too hot for a pleasant bouldering session in the canyon.  But I'd recently returned from a camping trip to Bear Valley, and realized that camping at the Kitchen would allow us to climb in cool evening and early morning temps.  Jesse, Kerrek, and Ina were camping in the park anyway, so I figured it would probably work for them.  Plans were made, and I picked everyone up at the park in the mid-afternoon.
A morning view, just before sunrise.     
 We made our way up the Seussian road, and I hoped the $1300 dollars I'd spent on the largest all terrain tires allowable on our Honda Ridgeline would pay off on the steep rocky two track we'd eventually turn on to.

Some of the road as seen from above.
I was pleased at how much better the drive felt than the last time I'd driven in.  We made it there just fine, and set up our tents.  A storm on the higher mountains cooled everything down dramatically, and I was excited that we'd be able to climb in perfect conditions.

 We warmed up on the Resurrection boulder.  Jesse F. did a new slab warmup, and Kerrek got the first ascent of the arete project.  It turned out to be a very high quality V5.  An instant classic that Kerrek hasn't named yet.  Jesse F. fired the second ascent, and after a few tries I got the third.

Kerrek's post send pose in his skater shoes and puffy.
Jesse and Kerrek both repeated "The Resurrection," discovered new beta, and think it's a V6.

Kerrek's main goal was to send "One Shot Antelope."  While he worked on that, I climbed this unnamed V3/4 problem put up by Tim L. It's a fun line in a very photogenic spot. 
 Jesse F. made a few attempts on "One Shot," explored a bit, and flashed "Live Streaming."

The next morning Kerrek came heartbreakingly close to sending "One Shot Antelope."  Afterwards he was worked. But he still sent my project "French Montana."
 Jesse spent most of the morning cleaning a proud arete below the Larry Bird boulder.  It's a long problem with a sit start between a couple boulders.
 Difficult moves lead to the arete which would be really high if it didn't have a boulder beneath it.

 The top was in the sun, temps were getting warm, and Jesse wasn't able to finish the line.  It's such a beautiful, difficult, and obvious line, I was surprised that no one had tried it yet.  Now it's cleaned up and ready for an ascent.  I'm not an expert on double digit ratings, but based on Jesse's ability and effort on the line, I'd estimate that it could be a V12.

On the drive out Jesse mentioned "Devil's Kitchen is not an inexpensive bouldering area.  People need to buy special vehicles just to be able to get in there."  He's right about that, but I'm starting to think that many of the "difficulties" that Wyoming bouldering areas present are actually attributes in disguise.  It's good to have high quality tires, and a vehicle that's stocked in case of emergency.  It's fun to carpool and take long hikes with other climbers.  An incredible opportunity to get to know people better.  It's amazing to have such spectacular, vast, and scenic areas all to ourselves.  We wouldn't if they were easy to get to.  And camping in these areas is much more memorable than heading out for a day trip.  I woke up in the night and was amazed at the brightness of the Milky Way.  I watched three shooting stars streak across the sky.  In the morning, the high peaks lit up beautifully as the sun came over the horizon.  The area feels even more vast in early morning light.  I'm glad that Kerrek, Ina, and Jesse gave me a reason to go camping up there.  It was a really good time, and a perfect way to wrap up my summer break.

Now school has started.  But with the guidebook finished I have a little more spare time this year.  Instead of typing into the night, I'm getting a lot of housework done, with the weekly goal of freeing up every friday evening for bouldering exploration and brushing.  I'm hoping to keep up this schedule until snow storms or short days shut it down.  Sierra went with me on a recent trip, and we found this nice block which will require some attention soon.
Yesterday, I cleaned a couple lines that I'm excited about in a different area.  Finding the time for everything requires as much focus as climbing does.  Another exercise in problem solving.

The best bouldering months of the year will soon be upon us!  And if you'd like to check out all the new bouldering near Lander, it's time to start making plans.  The guidebook is sold online at, Wild Iris Mountain Sports, Fixed Pin Publishing, and Wind River Gear.  Or you can pick up a copy from the Wild Iris shop when you get here.  Giddy Up

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Rock Shop Report

The Rock Shop continues to impress me.  The area isn't as epic as Devil's Kitchen or the Falcon's Lair in either sense of the word.  But I really like the area's ambiance, high quality stone, and reasonable summer temps.  We've been saving our most difficult project for cooler fall conditions, but quite a few lines were finished over the summer.  Here's photos and descriptions of many of them.   I'll put together better directions for my Bouldering in the Wind River Range blog site soon.

Jesse F., a strong bouldering developer who visited from Portland, flashed a lot of problems during two sessions at the Rock Shop.  He also went on a trip with Kerrek and me to Devil's Kitchen, but I'll report on that in the next post.  Jesse's done a well written trip report of our sessions at the Rock Shop on his blog Choss Odyssey.

Jesse got the first ascent of "Weirdos From Another Planet" V5 on the south side of the UFO boulder.  He also climbed "The Giving Tree" quickly, and in less than stellar conditions.

"Weirdos From Another Planet."

Many new problems have been done near the UFO boulder, and I don't know all the details of who did what or what's been named.  A quality V1 SDS can now be found just west of the UFO boulder.
 Ashley added a right SDS that traverses into the warm up on slopers that's V3.
 Just uphill is the "Escape From Reality" boulder.  Ashley got the first ascent of a line Alex cleaned up. It's a short SDS line with two difficult, powerful moves. "Snake Salad" V6.

The starting holds of "Snake Salad."

 Left past the crimpy V5/6 "Escape from Reality" is a nice V2 SDS problem that climbs straight up.

 Just uphill to the west is another good V1.
And just south of that is a very fun V2 SDS that ascends a cracked, but otherwise almost completely featureless slab.

Higher on the formation to the west is a new V6/7 called "If, Then, Because" that Jesse F. climbed first.  It's a short aesthetic SDS crimp line up a small wall.  I'll get photos of it soon.

 In another sector, hidden on the northwest side of a formation just west of the main parking is a great SDS V6 called "Pork Chop" which was put up by Bryan V.

Here's a shot of Jesse F. making a quick ascent.
 Just above the top out of "Pork Chop," Jesse climbed "Captain Obvious."
 Just above that is "Little Roof" V5.  Ashley did the FA, but then a hold broke, making it harder.  Jesse F. did the first post break send.  Ashley and I still need to return for post break dab free sends.

"Little Roof"

To get to the next three problems you'll need to hike a bit, and probably search for a while.

Roo with a rucksack of rations, ready for reconnaissance.
 Alex went out with me for an evening of brushing, and did the first ascent of a very pretty problem called "Seamingly Suspect" V3.  It's found in a gully that runs southeast from the "Super Nova" area.

 Climb a ridge just south of "Seemingly Suspect" and you'll hit these two problems.

"Silence" V3

"Fear of Commitment" V4 offers twenty feet of climbing, with just one crux moment where it feels like you will fall down the chasm if you pop off.

It starts matched on the right hand hold.

 I'm planning to return to brush the top till it's clean.  It still has a lot of lichen on the final holds.
 I'm feeling lucky that I had so many good sessions up there over the summer.
 And I'm sure this won't be the last report from the Rock Shop.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Trip to Bear Valley and Beyond

"Boulder fields of the Wind Rivers are among the most beautiful and unique in the world.  They have the power to change a person on a single visit." a quote from Davin's bouldering essay in the guidebook.

Davin overlooking a vast boulder field in the Winds that hasn't even been named yet.
 Davin invited me to see another life changing bouldering area last week, and I jumped at the opportunity.  It's almost become an annual tradition.
 I met Davin and Jamie in the northern Wind Rivers, and we got into Davin's lifted Tacoma for about two hours of driving on the worst road I've ever ridden.  We entered a high alpine land inhabited by ravens, pika, coyote, wolves and grizzlies.  Luckily we didn't have any grizzly encounters.  We made sure to make a lot of noise whenever we were hiking.

We actually spent most of the first day hiking.  When you're developing a new area, the temptation is to look at everything.  You want to see all the possible lines, so that you spend your time working on the best ones in the area.  But Bear Valley has so many sectors and boulders that it's impossible to see it all in a day.  We saw as much as we could.

The second day was devoted to bouldering on a few of the blocks we had looked at.  We started on one that is now named the Projects boulder.

This line looked like it could be V7, but after a lot of work we found out that it was much more difficult.
Davin working one sequence.
 Jamie almost staying on using another sequence.
 Eventually it felt like time to work on some other lines.  Davin and Jamie got to work on the gorgeous main line out the Projects boulder.  It will should be a committing, super classic one day.  It's probably V10 or a little harder.
 Just below the Projects boulder is this stunning roof line.  It's also still a project.
 While Jamie and Davin pursued the major league lines, I looked for things that I could climb.  I did a lip traverse that comes in from a sit start on the left side of the roof and tops out at the top of the project. It's named "Mountain Flowers" V4/5.
 I also did a warm up just east of the Projects boulder.

"Mini Miracle" V2.
 Eventually, Davin and Jamie moved on to lines that were doable in a day.

Davin got the first ascent of this line on the black boulder in the bottom of the valley.  A nice V3/4 on amazing stone.

Jamie climbing the line.
 We ended the day on a shaded east facing wall with a couple variations up widely spaced crimps.  Davin did a low start on the left, and Jamie added a more difficult line that comes in from a low start on the right.
 On our final day we hiked through a narrow pass to a vast boulder field that hasn't been named yet.  It sits under steep north facing walls holding small glaciers.
 Under the walls sit ridges of talus holding more climbable boulders than one would ever want to count.
 The field contains gneiss boulders of all sizes.  On the side near the glaciers the stone is very clean and unweathered.  The north side of the field has more lichen and is more weathered.  This area is as vast as the Cirque of the Boulders, but has stone that is much more featured.  And once you've made the difficult drive, it's only two or three miles from camp.

One featured roof.
 Davin had hiked uphill on his last trip.  So we explored downhill on this trip.  Plenty of blocks to examine.
 Beautiful stones.
 I was drawn to the meadow at the northern edge of the field.
 We didn't bring pads, and it was the only place I dared to boulder without one.

"There Can Be Only One" V1.
 It felt so good to climb in the place.  I ran around for a bit, climbing corners and traversing lips.  It was nice to spend a little time moving over the stone.
 In hindsight, I think I could have hauled a pad in and out from camp, and still would have had enough time for a full bouldering session within a long day.  A calculation you need to make in alpine bouldering.  I call it a grade III boulder field.

 Jamie still smiling on the hike out. 

The Winds continue to amaze me with their vast untapped bouldering potential.  Thanks to Davin for showing me this incredible area!  So much to be done, so much to be done... I'm not sure how to even handle the situation.  Lives and summers are just too short.