Friday, September 6, 2013

Psyched on the Source Again

The first ascent of "The Aftermath" V5.
A couple exploratory fridays ago, I decided it was finally time to clean up a few of the amazing projects on the summit of the Tombstone formation.  I was somewhat surprised that they were still undone.  It felt like I was giving them away when I put a full page photo of the blocks on page 114 of the guide with a caption reading "The Tombstone formation and it's summit projects as seen from the North."  I'd considered leaving the photo out of the guide in order to give myself more time to finish what looked like some of the best undone lines I'd ever seen.  But it's been almost four months since the book came out, and no one had even tried them yet.  They remained without chalk, cracks thick with lichen, completely undisturbed.  I set up a rope, got on rappel, and spent an evening brushing.  A small storm came through, a double rainbow formed two thirds of a circle to the east, and the sun lit the clouds in the west.  A spectacular sight, and nice way to spend an evening after a hectic school day.  But I was alone, and ascents would need to wait.

The next Friday, Calen and Meghan met me at the Tombstone.  Not only were they interested in spending an evening cleaning problems with me, but Calen had spent the day finding and cleaning new lines at the Source.  We brushed a lot of lines, climbed a few, and then I needed to make a decision about what would become "The Aftermath."  It might be possible for me to work the highball line ground up.  Falling or down climbing from progressively higher points until I committed to going for the top.  That's what John Sherman would have done.  But it was also very possible that I'd hurt myself badly if I fell from the top half of the line.  I remembered that John Sherman's style of highball first ascents, though courageous, had caused him to have a lot of injuries including aggravated arthritis in both of his hips.  The newly brushed line looked somewhat insecure, falling off it would be scary, but it was the possible aftermath of falling that really influenced my decision.  In my head I questioned "What if I fell, got hurt, and couldn't boulder for a while, or ever again?  What if I end up with as many injuries as John Sherman?"  My inner voice shouted in response to the thought "I'M NOT READY TO TAKE UP WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY!"  A clear sign that I'd better rope up.  Calen belayed me and I fell a couple times.  I tried it a second time, and got to the top without falling on the rope.  The next day I brought the family, and we met Calen and Meghan at the Tombstone again.  Ashley toproped the line, and I decided to toprope it a couple more times.  My beta improved with practice, and I felt ready to give it a try without a rope.  Calen spotted, Ashley took photos, I turned off the worried part of my brain, and just climbed it.  It felt wonderful.      

It's a difficult problem to rate.  Working it from the ground would probably feel V5.  With toprope rehearsal I refined my beta until the moves felt V4.  But it's a problem that probably isn't appropriate for anyone that can't boulder V6.  As far as quality goes, I think it's on par with Nexus.  One of the best first ascents of my life.

This wasn't our first session with Calen and Meghan.  They drove up two weekends ago from the Las Vegas area to visit Lander, do some sport climbing, and check out the bouldering.  We took them to the Rock Shop on their first weekend.  But they didn't ask for a tour of the classics.  Calen said he wanted to climb wherever we were going, and maybe put up some lines himself.

Calen climbing "Pork Chop."  A classic put up by Bryan V.  
As we climbed and brushed, Calen kept asking "Has that been climbed? Has anyone checked out that formation? Why hasn't this been climbed?  Is this for real?" His enthusiasm was contagious, and I realized I'd been taking some amazing things for granted.  Doing first ascents at the Rock Shop had just become an expected part of my normal weekend routine.  Listening to Calen's enthusiasm made the area feel new again.  We made our way to the summit above "Pork Chop" and did the first ascents of three new problems including a V4 roof called "Pit Viper."  Calen had a good session, and decided to buy a full set of brushes.

On Labor Day Calen gave us a tour of new lines he'd established at the Source the previous Friday.  Just south of the problem "South" at Source South is this boulder.  I hadn't gotten around to cleaning it because it looked a little short, but it climbs so well!  Calen has a great eye for lines.  He got the first ascent of "Anti venom" V6*** which starts on the lowest right rail and climbs left to an interesting undercling to sloper top out.  The moves and rock quality feel just like the good stuff at Squamish.  "Snake Wrangler" V4** climbs the arete and moves right along the lip to two possible top outs.
Uphill to the north are a couple more lines added by Calen.  They both start sitting at the horizontal.  "Longmire" climbs the left arete, and "Long Arm of the Law" climbs the right.  Both are in the V4 or 5 range.
Calen also noticed this slopey feature on the boulder just right of "The Aftermath."  He spent an hour or two on Saturday morning brushing it on rappel.

Calen did the line from a stand start on Saturday evening, but didn't finish it from the sit start.  After our tour of Calen's new lines at the Source on Monday, we headed over to the Tombstone for another try.  Calen let us work the line with him.  Ashley made quick progress, using some of my beta, and ended up nabbing the first ascent.  I got the second ascent a few tries later.  The problem's called "The Arrowhead" and we think it's a V6.  

Ashley climbing "The Arrowhead."

Another instant classic, but I hadn't noticed it.  It wasn't steep enough to catch my eye, but Calen saw that it was a beautiful feature that could climb really well.  He was right!

In the chimney just behind "Arrowhead" is a new easy, committing, and somewhat scary problem. A granite version of the "Plumber's Crack" at Red Rocks, Nevada.  Try it if you're confident.

"Do or Die" V0

A new warm up wall with many variations, and a couple other problems were cleaned and climbed on the west side of the summit.  I'll post more info when I have photos.

In just a two week trip Calen established at least fifteen new boulder problems, with days spent sport climbing at Wild Iris and Tensleep as well.  Thanks Calen and Meghan for making plans with us, cleaning and climbing so many great new lines, and helping me see these areas with fresh eyes again.  Have a good trip back to Vegas, and we hope to see you in Lander again soon!    

No comments: