Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Rock Shop Mega-Post, with directions to a dozen new problems.

The Rock Shop is in the midst of its busiest season yet, but it's still very peaceful up there.  Recounting the numerous sessions so far this season would be overly time consuming for me, and for you, so here's some of what's been going on based on photos I've taken so far this season, and a few of the new lines you might be able to find.

This year was the first time that bouldering at the Rock Shop was officially part of the International Climbers' Festival.  Angie and I lead a clinic for a wonderful group of climbers.  We had participants from both coasts, the midwest, the Colorado Front range, and a family of five all the way from France.

Everyone under the UFO.
Everyone appeared to like the bouldering, and even Angie (a pro climber who has climbed on the best granite in the world) was impressed by the rock quality up there.

In midsummer, it always takes some effort to get good conditions.  But it really isn't that hard to get good conditions.  We camped at the Rock Shop for a couple nights which allowed us to take full advantage of cool evening and early morning temps.  I used a lantern one evening and finally managed to climb "Pork Chop" which is a Bryan V. problem that I worked on for three days last season.
But after trying it, we decided that evening climbing wasn't ideal.  Lantern light doesn't reach all the holds, and the mosquitoes get bad after dark.  So our new strategy is to set our alarm clock for five A.M. so we can get to the Rock Shop before seven.  It hurts a little when the alarm goes off.  But it's worth it; for three hours of great weather and a couple more climbable hours to round out the workout.  We've had plenty to keep us busy.  In addition to working on our own projects, we've been repeating lines established by Tony, Chris, Calen, Jesse B., Jesse F., and Bryan V.  I'm excited that so many boulderers help to develop the area!

Here are directions and descriptions for some new lines to check out:

If you go to "Lord of the Flies" and then turn around.  You'll see a small boulder with a couple good V2s.  I'm not sure if they're named, but I think Tony and Chris put them up.
About forty feet left of these new warm ups is a built landing with a trail leading to it.  Starting matched in the chest high hueco and moving up and slightly left is a superior problem established by Tony called "Foul Mouth."  V4 moves, with a tall top out with amazingly good finger jams.  And the built landing is an incredible work of craftsmanship!
Up on the ridge above "Foul Mouth" is the Swan boulder.  Three interesting, fun lines, established by Chris, ascend it's shady north face.

Ashley climbing the easiest line on the Swan.
Southwest of the Swan at ground level is a great V5/6 SDS that follows cracks without using the top of the boulder until the apex is reached.  Another difficult low SDS also climbs straight up.  It has cool movement with heel hooks, but is somewhat dabby at the start.  Chris has been climbing so many lines, he hasn't even gotten around to naming these two yet.
If you pull into the Main Parking a small formation is on your left.  On the back of that formation is a little corridor with two lines.  On the left is the surprisingly difficult and dynamic V3 "Darth" which was put up by Bryan V.  On the right arete is a low SDS V5 that Elliot and I finished cleaning.

"Millenium Falcon"
Elliot made a nice video of the first ascent if you'd like to see how it goes.

My best new problem at the Rock Shop this season is a powerful sit start on crimps that I added to "Stone Country."  It can be found by following the gully uphill east from Sleepy Hollow to the top of the formation where the gully ends.

"Stone Country SDS" V7
I put together a video if you want to see how it goes.

Crawl under "Stone Country" and in the gully behind it is another new V5 I did called 
"Gaston Gaston"

And a final new line to share.  Alan cleaned this line to the right of Font Simulator that goes at around V3.
"La Boulangerie"
To wrap this up this post here are a few new photos.

Zach on "Gem Thief"
Alex climbing on the Storm Boulder.  One of the best blocks at the Rock Shop.  Chris found this block and recently shared directions with me.
Ashley taking advantage of the tree shade on "My Mind's Eye Traverse"
A lizard taking advantage of the pad shade.
The bird that nested in the jugs on "Piggy."
And my favorite bird species seen at the Rock Shop, Western Tanager.
We've been enjoying our time up at the Rock Shop, and still have things that we hope to finish soon. Summer won't last forever.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Finding Giants at Rapid Lake

Jesse B. wanted to check out a boulderfield near Rapid Lake that he'd noticed while alpine climbing in the Winds.  He asked if I wanted to make the trip?  Of course I wanted to check it out.  I'd never been to the southwestern Winds.  On Google Earth the blocks looked a bit round and small.  I wasn't even sure that we'd find good bouldering, but at the very least I'd see some new scenery, and test whether two day bouldering expeditions into the Winds could be a good way to climb lines deep in the mountains.  Experience has taught me that Google Earth is no substitute for hiking.  To know what an area truly offers you've got to make the trip.

This is some of what we found.
To get there we hiked about 8 miles.  The first five are relatively flat easy miles to Big Sandy Lake.  Then came two miles of stream crossings, narrow trails, and steep hiking.  The last mile was across flat pleasant meadows.

Jesse at the first water crossing at Big Sandy Lake.
On my back was a large Organic Pad with a tent, sleeping bag, a long sleeve wool shirt, a small backpack filled with various granola and candy bars, a block of cheese, a half box of triscuits, one water bottle, iodine tablets, climbing shoes, chalk bag, two small steel brushes, matches, a compass, athletic tape, a tiny first aid kit, insect repellant, sunscreen, and a small toiletry kit all stuffed into the pad.  In one hand I carried my stick brush, around my neck was my camera bag where I also stored my Ipod, and I had bear spray in my pocket.  The pad felt heavy.  But I hiked as fast as I could.  We left Lander at 6 A.M and were to the boulders at noon.  We dropped our things and looked around for a while.  I saw some beautiful tall boulders up in the talus field.  Some had snow landings, some had talus.  Both types made me nervous.  With only two pads, no cell service, eight miles in, and maybe a mile from the nearest popular trail, I was very aware that getting injured up there could create a very unpleasant experience.  So I started looking at blocks in smaller fields to the south and in the meadows below.  I put up a nice slab V1 warm up on the back of the split double boulder below.  And then did a sit start from the left side of the large rail that goes straight up and tops out.

"Safety First" V4  
Jesse found a cool V5 compression line just up the hill.  This whole sector has good stone.

I'm not sure what he's naming it.  If you find Jesse's problem, a V2 I did called "Shenanigans" is just behind you.  It follows a feature out of a pit and through a gap on its way to the top of the boulder out left.

After that, both of us felt a bit tired and off.  The big hike, alpine sun, and altitude were having their effects.  We set up camp, and rested while waiting for boulders to go into the shade.  In the late afternoon we felt quite a bit better, and hiked up into the big field to a line Jesse found with a relatively nice, flat stone landing.  We worked on it until it began getting a little dark.  It's got long undercling moves to a very difficult slab top out.  I took a scary fall while working on the top out and got a bloody scrape on my leg on the way down.  Also I couldn't figure out a way to get past one long move below the top out.  Jesse worked it all out though, and came close to doing the line from the stand start.  I'd estimate the stand start to be V8 and a lower start might make it V9/10.  I have a feeling that even if this was the only line up there, Jesse might make the hike all over again, just to finish this amazing project.

Jesse's Rapid Lake Project.
We got back to camp and watched the sun leave the high peaks.
With my pad for a bed, tent keeping the hordes of mosquitoes away, and listening to an album I'd downloaded for the trip the Glow pt. 2 by the Microphones, I had a pleasant evening, and a great night's sleep.  The music fit the landscape quite well. 

The next morning, the sun came up and hit the boulders surprisingly quickly.  Only minutes after this photo was taken.
So many mosquitoes surrounded my tent and were trying to find their way in.  Jesse didn't bring a tent, and I wondered if he'd been completely drained of blood during the night.  I hadn't heard him stir since I'd woken up, had breakfast, and applied generous amounts of sunscreen and bug repellent to myself.

Their persistance would be admirable if they weren't so evil.
Finally, Jesse stirred.  Turns out it was only 7 A.M., and he claims the mosquitoes only attacked when the sun came up.  I'd still recommend bringing a tent if you visit the Winds this time of year.

Right below camp was a large aesthetic block of stone.  Thirty feet tall on every side, I wondered if we could put any problems on it?
We tried to climb the lowest angled arete to the top.  We made it up about 23 feet, but knowing that we'd have to down climb the same line kept us from committing and reaching the top.  So I doubt anyone has ever been on the top of the boulder.

On a satellite boulder just north I put up another short problem named after the terribly high mosquito population in the vicinity.

"The Gathering Hordes" V4 SDS
Jesse's project was already in the sun, so we explored the upper boulder field.  Walking talus is slow with a pad and large camera, so I put down my things and walked all over the place.  We found a strange mix of bad rock, good rock, and amazing rock.  Everything from crumbling crystals to features that seemed like Neverland gneiss.  I've never seen such a wide variety of granite quality in a single talus field.  But it's such a vast field, we ended up finding quite a few amazing boulders.  You'll just have to trust me on that, because I didn't have my camera with me.  We got excited and hiked a lot more talus, and then we noticed the sun was high and it was a bit hot, we felt really tired from the hiking and projecting the day before, and we knew we still needed to hike out of the talus and eight more miles out before the day was finished.  So we decided to leave all the amazing lines for another day.

The view as we made our way out of the main field.  
It was a very good exploratory trip!  There are so many huge boulders up there!  It seems like 90% of the best lines up there are king lines.  So climbing most of the good lines up there will require making a trip with a crew, maybe five or six pads, and someone bringing a rope, harness, and anchor gear so the cleaning can be done on rappel.  With the right group, gear, and planning Rapid Lake could yield some amazing bouldering in a knock out setting.  Maybe this post will help that happen sometime.

On the hike out, I noticed mushrooms that managed to melt snow, and found it oddly inspiring.
That mere fungi can fight through elemental adversity like that.  So tough, full of life, and humble at the same time.  I thought "Why can't we be more like that?"  Maybe the altitude and exhaustion were starting to get to me.

So I'm tired and sore, and need to get some sleep now. But thanks to Jesse for inviting me along for this adventure!  It was great to spend a bit of time in the mountains before a busy week, the International Climber's Festival starts tomorrow!  See you there.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Photos from a Trip Northwest

We spent a couple weeks on the road, visiting family, and bouldering in Washington.  On the way out, rain was forecast for Montana, so we took the southern route through Idaho.  Based on a recommendation from Bouldering USA by Alli Rainey we visited Dierkes Lake near Twin Falls, ID.  The cold front that brought rain to Montana, gave us a sunny 60 degree day in Idaho.  As perfect as a day in June could be out there.  I don't know any problem names, but the rock is basalt with huecos.

 Some of the huecos are so big you can get inside the rock!
 This was my favorite line.  We started it sitting to the left and traversed into this top out.
 Dierkes Lake isn't extensive, but it could keep most traveling boulderers occupied for a couple days, and it's the best basalt bouldering I've ever visited.  While there, make sure to take a look at Shoshone Falls, it's "the Niagara Falls of the West."
 We enjoyed our bouldering days in Washington.  Conditions were warm and humid, so it was hard to get psyched on the harder lines.  We chased stars and climbed 10-15 lines per session mostly in the V3-V6 range.

We spent our first day at Forestland.  Here are a couple photos.

"The Real Thing" V4.
 "Feel the Pinch" V4
 Our second climbing day was spent at the Beach, forest area.
 "U2" V3
 Our third climbing day was spent at Gold Bar.
 We weren't able to find the Five Star Boulder.  So we hiked up the closed road, which is rapidly being absorbed by the forest, to visit the Sanctuary, Clearcut, and Forest areas.  It's really all one boulderfield.

"Water" V5, yeah I'm downgrading this one.  It's definitely a classic though!
 "Midnight Lichen" V4.
The beauty and rock quality of Washington's bouldering areas are impressive!  Gold Bar reminded me of Squamish, but with better friction!  So it surprises me that moss is returning to many of the problems at Gold Bar due to a lack of traffic.  Either the hike is keeping people away, or it's the possibility of vehicular break-ins.  A car parked just down the road from ours had it's passenger side window bashed in while we were up the hill bouldering.  Our truck wasn't touched, but it felt like we'd dodged a bullet. The guidebook mentions that this was a problem in the area, but it's disappointing that it's still a problem seven years after the book was written.  Seems like the culprits should have been caught by now!

It was fun to visit some new boulders, see some new scenery, and enjoy the ambiance of northwestern forests!  But it's also nice to be back home.  We've been busy bouldering around Lander since our return, so I'll probably be writing another post soon...