Sunday, June 15, 2014

One Avocation, Many Ways to Contribute

The wildflowers this year at the Cabin Boulders.
I'm so fond of summer, and time off.  Time to feel un-rushed.  And to pursue the more time consuming aspects of bouldering development.  Last week after work, Justin gave me a tour of boulders he's been developing up canyon from the Cabin Boulders.  Calen arrived that day from Las Vegas for an extended Wyoming trip, and joined us at the fresh blocks.  We warmed up, tried a very difficult project, and then went up to "Ocean Man."  "Ocean Man" is a great V5 Justin put up that moves up progressively smaller crimps.  You can crank off a tiny crimp to the top, or dyno up from lower holds.

Justin also got the first ascent of the V4 SDS arete just to the right of "Ocean Man" that evening.
The Upper Canyons still have a lot of lines to do.  So we cleaned up the boulder below.  Often bouldering developers spread out, find their own line, and clean it alone.  But on this night, all three of us brushed up this block at the same time.  I climbed the left line first try, despite the fact that it was still a little dirty, and called it "Scrub a Dub Dub" V3.  Calen did a line from the same start moving right called "Three Men in a Tub" V1.

Calen climbing "Scrub a Dub Dub."
It got dark, and was time to go.  But I was impressed by the bouldering Justin developed in this set of boulders.  I'd already hiked through this area years ago, and had dismissed the blocks as being too dirty and lichen covered to be worth developing.  Justin had a different vision.  He's developed boulders at Lolo in Montana that were just as moss and lichen covered when they were found, so he knew that good bouldering might be found underneath.  The area has so much lichen and moss because the blocks are very shaded and very near to the river.  Those two factors improve the venue once the lichen and moss are removed.  The Upper Cabins still have work to be done, but it's already a good area and will only get better.  A great contribution to Lander bouldering!

The next day Calen and I hiked way up into the Roaring Fork and found a new sector of blocks.  It's a good sector and it will be developed, but I didn't take my camera, and we were too tired to hike back to it again the next day.  So we went to the Rock Shop instead.  Every time I go up there I'm reminded that we have very high quality rock to develop that you barely need to hike for.  I know I've gotten a little stronger, because I climbed two lines that I couldn't quite finish last Fall, "Escape From Reality" and "If, Then, Because."

Calen is off the couch from a finger injury.  So he's brushing easier lines than when he visited last fall, but he hasn't lost his eye for good lines.  On the "Chocolate Thunder" boulder he added two great looking problems.  Both begin underclinging the hueco.  Going up the arete is "Big Fudge" and going up the crack is "Skid Marks."  I haven't climbed them yet, but plan to soon.  
The day after that, we drove to Neverland for a three day trip.  It was just as gorgeous as I remembered.
Conditions were amazingly crisp for June!  On our first morning the dog bowl was covered in ice, and frost covered our truck.
Clear fall-like skies, cool air, low humidity, and everything was green!
Davin had taken advantage of the recent cool weather to do his V10 crimp project.  He climbed up to the high jug, mantled onto it, and then down climbed a little and dropped off.  Nothing wrong with that. When a V10 line leads to an obvious jug, and can only be topped out with a free solo,  I think it's better to leave the line as a drop off problem.  Bouldering is about hard climbing, not risking your life.
Davin drove up back up to Neverland to meet us, gave us a tour of blocks further down the hill, cleaned some lines, and almost got sucked into starting on another spring project up there.

On Tuesday, Calen and I hiked east from camp to a ridge that looked good from a distance.  We found some good lines, but nothing like the blocks Davin showed us on the tours.  All of Neverland is good rock, but the outstanding lines aren't everywhere.  That's why we drive miles of two tracks past dozens of gneiss formations to camp at an area with many outstanding lines.  From the initial discovery of Old Neverland by Bryan V., to Davin's exploration of at least 20 other sectors, the driving and hiking required to get to know this entire vast area is staggering.  And it's really paid off!  The best of Neverland is world class, and finding the best spots took a lot of work.  Thanks again Bryan and Davin!

Off the couch, Calen lacked the power endurance needed for "Wilford's Reserve."  Turns out that I still lack the power endurance for "Wilford's Reserve," but I didn't realize that until the end of the trip. Calen was able to make impressive progress on "Wilford's Reserve Right"  
Warming up on Monday, I added a new line that starts on "Aging Moose" moves left past an amazing jug, and past a nice crimp rail, to a top out right of "Bullwinkle."  Great climbing on amazing stone!

"Rocky" V3
We spent the afternoon in the Black Boulder sector.  Calen went up the formation where he cleaned and climbed two new lines.  "Surf Wyoming" V4 uses big moves between big holds using both sides of a large feature up the roof.  His other line goes up the crack to the right, (seen above Roo) moves to another crack out right, and then hits the top.  You rock over your feet to the left and top out.  It's called "Toes on the Nose"V2.
In addition to exploring the new ridge that was somewhat disappointing, we spent Tuesday exploring the main sector too.  I'm excited about, and a little scared of, lines on Wilford's Boulder.  (Not to be confused with Wilford's Reserve)  All the lines look amazing enough to pull me in, but are also quite tall.
Tuesday evening, it was time to decide what I wanted to climb on Wednesday.  One line on the Black Boulder had gotten my attention.  I liked the fact that no one had been working on it yet.  The stone on it was amazing.  It was a long problem, but not too long, and the top out looked doable, but difficult.  It would need some cleaning, but I'd brought the gear.  I set up an anchor using 4 cams, and rapped down to brush off the top.  An hour later it was ready to go.  I got back to camp just in time to watch the sunset from a formation above camp.  We hoped to hear and maybe see the coyotes that sing most nights as the sun goes down.  It was windy, and we didn't hear any howls, but quite a few nighthawks flew right past us in the fading light.  I was reminded that I really like nighthawks.  During my childhood in Iowa I carved and threw cross stick boomerangs.  At sunset the nighthawks would swoop at them.

Roo in the breeze at sunset.
On Wednesday, I only gave myself two attempts on "Wilford's Reserve" because I wanted to save some juice for the new line.  I'm glad that I did because the project took all the juice that I had.  The end is really hard to do after hanging on through the start.  No single move is that hard so I'm calling it V6.  But in total it's really difficult, and I don't suspect anyone will want to downrate it.  Without Calen's spot I probably wouldn't have finished it.  Thanks Calen!

"Nighthawk" V6
It's my favorite first ascent ever.  I think it's a world class line, and I hope others will enjoy it as much as I do.

Back in Lander, I took Ashley on a tour of the Upper Cabins.  We were greeted by this marmot on the hike in.
Ashley and I did a few of Justin's established lines like "The Mollusk," "Bananas and Blow" and "Ocean Man."  Then we ended the day by cleaning and climbing a new traverse.  It's a V4/5 that Ashley did first.  It's named "Blow It or Blow It."  If you don't blow any dirt off of the holds before you're attempt you'll probably fall off.
Today was Fathers Day, and we spent it at the Source.  I didn't send anything new, but I figured out beta on the new "Southern Smoke."  A crimp broke last Fall, and I think it's a V8 now.  I also figured out my moves for "The Caterpillar Arete Traverse."  You can't send everyday.  But if you brush something, explore someplace new, pick up some litter, or just share a few inspiring photos, I think you've contributed to this avocation we call bouldering.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Yesterday, I finished my favorite first ascent to date.  Here's the video.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Merry Verde Month of May

Baby Roof, Crimps Start V5/6
It's been a while, and we've been busy.  So there's quite a bit to talk about.  This is going to be a long post.

First off, ALL of Wyoming is bright green right now!  Even Sweetwater looks like it could be located in Ireland!  Lately the weather has been wonderful, but the month didn't start out so merry.  Our planned Spring trip to Neverland, that we'd scheduled a couple weeks in advance, had to be cancelled due to an early May snowstorm.  That storm is one of the reasons it's so green now.  The four day climbing weekend we'd set up turned into a long weekend of catching up on school work.  We did get out for one afternoon of climbing during that long weekend at the Dolomite Band.  It was the only area around that was free of snow.  Since I've finished off all the established problems on the main section of the cliff, I explored the seldom visited walls to the right of the main area.  I climbed Baby Roof from the lowest start that I could manage.  It goes at V5/6 and my method requires a knee bar.

Further to the right on the cliff band, minor cleaning was required for this V3 left to right traverse.  It could have been done before.  This photo makes it look better than it is, but it is worth climbing.  It tops out after passing the roof.
The line shown below required more cleaning, so I'm not sure if it's been done before.  It goes at V3 from a SDS, and I'm calling it "Jenga," until I learn of a previous name, because it has a lot of loose blocks on top.
The final weekend of the school year included an absolutely perfect day.  Sunny and 60 degrees with just a slight breeze to keep everything cool.  The Loop road was closed, and the Rock Shop still had snow, so we hiked up to some lines I'd seen on exploratory hikes at the summit of the Granite Buttress.  

It's got a nice view up there!
The Summit Warm Up Wall turned out to climb very well, with five nice up problems V0-V1 and a full wall traverse.
Right at the summit, is this line called "Riversong."  It's a V3/4 with the first crux being getting both feet established on the wall above the low roof, and the second crux being figuring out what to do next.  This line might have a difficult SDS one day, and we wore ourselves out by trying the sit start for about an hour.
One level below the summit is this wall with a sloping landing.  The corner and the right side can be climbed without much difficulty, but connecting the two lines intrigued me.  I did a SDS on the right, and then walked my hands across the high line of small crimps until I could swing my feet over and finish in the corner on the left.

"Walk the Line" V4/5
Walking down, with summit walls in the background.
Closer to the pond on the north side of the Buttress, Ashley got the first ascent of this SDS crack called "Buttercup."  The perched boulder sitting on the top seems really stable despite appearances.  I wasn't able to make it budge while cleaning the line. We ended up needing to use it to top out, but tried not to pull too hard on the giant unstable looking block.  It adds a certain sense of excitement and dread to this short line.
We started working the line below, but were too tired to finish it.  The top still needs a little cleaning and it probably goes at V4.  It will be one of the higher quality lines at the Summit.  This one is actually better, and taller, than it looks in the photo.
Right after the last day of school ended, I got in the car and began exploring the Rock Shop.  I finally found Bryan's problem "Darth" V3.  It's really easy to find, but not where I had been looking last season.
But the Rock Shop was either too rainy or too hot during Memorial Day weekend.  So the next week, I turned my attention to the Roaring Fork.  Alex took a long hike with me through a lot of knee deep snow.   We didn't make it to a zone that looks pretty good on Google Earth, but we made it to this new line that someone built a landing for.
Alex decided to head out to get some dinner, but I felt like a little more exploration.  Right after Alex left, I started discovering great boulders.  I came across a sector developed a couple years ago by Jesse B.  During previous exploratory trips I'd spent my time hiking the valleys, but now I've discovered that the best boulders in the Roaring Fork are perched up on the ridges.

The next day, I took my family back out for a bouldering session up there, and we got started by developing a high quality warm up block.  It has three up problems and a fun traverse.  We've stopped trying to name all the warm ups.
The area has great views too, but they're too wide to photograph easily.  I love the ambiance of climbing on this sunny ridge in the woods, listening to the roar of the Fork, while a cold breeze comes off the snowy Winds that can be seen way off to the west.
Jesse B. met us up there that day and showed us his great line "Behind Closed Doors" V7.  His line "Slip and Slide" which is just to the left, looks even more classic, but requires more pads than we had brought up that day.
After Jesse gave us some great beta, we did all the moves to "Behind Closed Doors."  A couple days ago we both went back and sent the line.  I also spent some time developing lines on a very short block called "Short Stuff."  It has high quality rock and features, but I'm posting no photos of those problems because they look stupid.  And Ashley also did a traverse that moves right from "Behind Closed Doors" called "Too Close for Comfort" V5?.  But the block behind it is so close, only climbers as small as Ashley would probably be interested in repeating the line.

Wow, you're still here!  Well if you've made it this far I'll reward you with a few photos from a four day trip we made to Neverland last week.   It's a pristine, magical place, full of wildflowers and animals, great bouldering, and has an interesting bouldering history.  If it was easier to get to, I probably wouldn't post a thing about it.  But I'm happy that it is so remote, and is such a confusing area to access,  because I already love the place, and I hope that it never changes.
Davin and Bryan didn't tell many people about Neverland for quite a while, but have realized that there are more problems out there than they could ever do on their own, and that few people will ever find this place without getting a tour.  Check out A Place of Legend if you'd like to read more about the area.  I'm grateful to Bryan and Davin for rediscovering and seeing the potential of the area, and putting so much time into exploration out there.  And extra thanks to Davin for sharing the area with us, and taking the time to give me a very comprehensive tour of this sector!  There are about 20 other sectors to see, but I'll be happy to just keep visiting this one for a while.

It's a gorgeous place this time of year.  So green!  The color and wildflowers right now make up for the too warm mid-day temps.  And two out of four evenings we had rainbows.
Davin is working on a difficult crimp project with interesting moves.  If he gets some cool temps, I think he'll send it for sure.
While Davin gave me a the tour.  Ashley and the girls set up camp.  Our home for 4 nights.
During that time we didn't see or hear a single other person except for a short visit from Davin, Josh O., and Brian H. on a day that it almost never stopped raining.
It rained so much that day, that by the afternoon we probably couldn't have left if we'd wanted too.  The 4-wheel drive, high clearance required, maze of two tracks is a bit difficult to manage even on a day that's clear and dry.  We'd planned to climb three of the four days, but due to the rain we only got to climb on two.  We all did a lot of tent bound reading on the day of rain.

So what did we accomplish on the two climbing days?

I added a nice SDS V1 to the left of "Aging Moose" called "Bullwinkle."  It's a good warm-up for the rest of the lines on the Wilford's Reserve boulder.

Ashley warming up on "Bullwinkle."  
Sierra did a couple first ascents and named them "Brandybuck" and "Eastern Hill."  They're both about V1 and nice warm up lines as well.

Ashley did the first ascent of the somewhat contrived, but really fun, "Proudfoot Traverse" V3/4.  It climbs across the roof on the formation above the Black Boulder.  Only features below the lip are on until after you've rounded the corner on the left.  The stone on this formation couldn't be any better!
We might have added a lot more problems.  I saw a plenty that I'd like to do.  But Collin H. did a first ascent that's just perfect called "Wilford's Reserve", and we really wanted to climb it.  Most of our two sessions were spent there.  On our second day of climbing, Ashley was having some trouble, but then she made one slight change to her beta at the beginning.  It worked, and she just kept going and topped out the line!  I figured out every move, but wasn't quite able to link them all together, so I'll need to return.

Wilford's Reserve V7
I could talk a bit more about things we tried or looked at, but this is already more than enough for one post.
In recent months, I've been repeatedly reminded that the world is actually a very big place.  There is a lot of space between the roads that we usually travel.  A lot of layers to this existence as well.  And I'm quite happy that there will always be quite a bit to explore.  None of us can ever see or understand it all.