Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wrapping up the Year at Roy

Exploring boulders I've never seen before is one of my favorite things.  Each new area opens up new possibilities, new problems, or places to go when conditions are right.  The boulders of Wyoming are covered in snow or being blasted by icy winds this time of year.  But we spent Christmas in Colorado Springs, and our break aligned with a couple days of good weather down in Roy, New Mexico.  The bouldering near Roy has been somewhat of a secret for many years now.  I went to explore the area, without much information, on a snowy day a couple years ago.  I saw that the area had a lot of rock and bouldering potential, but I wasn't able to locate the good, previously developed, areas.  This year a friendly New Mexico boulderer shared some directions and a google map with me before we made our trip.  Thanks for that!  It made all the difference.  I'd share his name, but I'm not sure how often he wants to get bothered with beta requests.  

I'm having trouble deciding whether this area needs to be a secret or not?  It isn't an area that will appeal to everyone, and in some ways the secret has already been out for years; the place has appeared in many blogs and online videos.  But the best problems there are pretty difficult to find without beta.  It's an easy place to keep quiet, and the camping nearest to the best bouldering is somewhat limited.  Some of the trails and problems could probably benefit from a little more traffic.  But no one wants crowds. Ultimately I don't feel the secrecy issue is up to me to decide.  I'm posting this; but I'll let the area's developers decide how much information they want to share.      

With a map in hand, and following any cairns that I came across, I was able to find many established sectors.
This area is too far from Colorado Springs for day trips.  So we camped out.  2013 stands out as the year I rediscovered camping.  In addition to opening up new possibilities, such as taking advantage of summer evenings and early mornings at the Devil's Kitchen, camping also extends the feeling of connection with the environment that bouldering helps create.  You can boulder while watching the sunset.  Wander back to camp and get a fire started.  Then cook dinner as the stars appear.

On our first night at Roy the air was so still I decide to sleep out under the stars.  Ashley bought me a new down sleeping bag for Christmas, and I was excited to test it out in cold conditions.  I'd never slept in a down sleeping bag before.  Based on published pros and cons lists in camping books I'd always bought synthetic bags.  Now in my late 30's, I realized that some qualities just can't be accounted for in a pros and cons list.  Yes, down might be expensive and lose all insulating properties if it gets wet, but if you keep it dry it is like sleeping in a light and airy comfy warm cloud.  
I felt perfectly comfortable, lying on my back, warm despite the very cold air I was breathing, and staring into one of the clearest night skies of my life.  Nothing between me and outer space but a thin skin of atmosphere, as I floated through the universe, stuck to Earth by this mysterious gravity.  So it took me a while to get to sleep, despite the downy comfort.

Most of the best boulders at Roy are tall, and many are highball.  The best rock reminds me of Rotary Park at Horsetooth Reservoir, but some of the area's rock is sugary and fragile.  This single boulder offered both rock types.  The west side was surprisingly fragile, but the south side had perfect patina.

Warming up on the south side.

"Spring Chicken" a.k.a. "Thumbelina" offers classic movement.  I onsighted the line.  Ashley got "full value" out of the problem, but eventually worked out good, intricate, beta for the top and sent the line.
We ended the first session on a low compression problem about 20 yards east of "Spring Chicken".  I worked it out, put the hard moves together from the start, but ended up dropping off near the end because I was irrationally afraid of a gap in the boulders beneath me.  Ashley had moved the pads, and everything was safe.  But I had dropped off, and it was getting too dark for me to rest and try again.

The next day I went in search of the World Wide Wall.  It was difficult not to get distracted by other rock on the way.

After more hiking than I expected, and more hiking than was required, I found the wall.  I also found cairns that lead to the top of it.  I ran back and got Ashley so we could start climbing.  We followed the cairns to the edge, and then I realized that though we could drop our pads and down climb to the World Wide wall, our dogs couldn't make it.  Worried that they might hurt themselves trying to get down, we decided to start climbing on the boulders above the World Wide Wall instead.  We made up four good variations on this wall.
And did five on this boulder.
Ashley traversed in from the left side and linked into the little dihedral.
I enjoyed a dyno in the center.

Fun stuff, but I wanted to get on some harder lines.  Ashley got out her reading book, and I went off exploring again.  I found what I believe was the Mega Roof and the Solar Roof, but it's hard to be sure.  The reaches didn't look as long in the Solar Roof, so we went there.

Ashley warmed up again, out the left side of the Solar Roof.  Thirty feet of horizontal climbing on mostly jugs.
I spied a line busting out the center of the roof and ending on some huge jugs.  One move was a little big, but the holds were surprisingly good.

For Ashley, the big move required a bit more work.  She tried four different methods, and decided that it probably wouldn't go for her.
I told her repeatedly "Try it just like I did it.  There isn't going to be an easier way for you.  You just have to do it my way, but jump a lot harder.  Please try it my way a few times.  I think you can do it!" After a power spot, many tries,  and further encouragement she did the move.  After a couple more attempts from the start, Ashley sent the line.

It was pretty cool to see her do it.

The expression below says that Ashley is simultaneously happy to have gotten the problem, and also upset that I was right.
  We lucked out with the weather.  Our two days there were sunny, still, and topped out at 60 degrees.  Warm enough that we could climb in the shade.  That was important, because the rock at Roy gets surprisingly little sun.  The trees, canyon angles, and large roofs create a lot of shade.  You can usually sit in the sun, but you usually can't climb in it.

To wrap up this post, I'll just say that if you're looking for concentrated, convenient bouldering, with ratings, beta, a guide, and other boulderers, Roy isn't the best place to find those things. But if you like highballs, exploration, bushwhacking, making things up as you go, brushing rock, breaking trail, development potential, and sunny weather away from everybody, Roy might be just what you're looking for.
We enjoyed ourselves, and hope to visit again during future Christmas Breaks whenever we're lucky enough get the gift of warm weather.

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