Monday, November 20, 2017

From The Mountains to the Desert with Open Eyes

     We've been busy.  Starting at new schools, learning new routines, meeting new people.  On top of that I've been exploring.  Searching in an almost frantic manner, during every spare moment, needing to know this new landscape and it's possibilities.  To fill in the gaps in my interior map, and not feel ignorant of what surrounds me.  It's the only way that I can feel centered and grounded.  To begin growing new roots in this place. 

     And finally it's Thanksgiving break.  A chance to take a moment. To reflect on the past three months, and all the places we've been.

     Summer temperatures seemed to last forever, and I drove long distances to get out the heat of the valley.  Google Earth showed a canyon full of boulders, with a gravel road leading right to them on Wildcat Mountain.  I hoped to find a new area like Devil's Kitchen to develop.  As I passed Ruedi Reservoir I was surprised to find it covered with sail boats. 
Wildcat Mountain has boulders, but not many that are good for bouldering.  I enjoyed a nice afternoon of scrambling around, and searching, but never found what I was looking for.
One weekend we went to Crested Butte, and camped outside of town.  We had to drive many more miles than expected because every campsite was occupied.  The mountains felt crowded.
The beautiful aspen forests on the hike in were just as I remembered.
But near the Skyland boulders, all the green undergrowth was gone.  A small village of teepees and lean-tos was built out of sticks and abandoned camping gear.  
Glitter and glue was spilled on the rocks, and many boulders were covered in graffiti written with burnt sticks.
It appeared that the construction, crafts, and graffiti had been left by a large group of supervised children.  I'm glad that they are getting outside, having fun in nature.  But the impact they had on one of Colorado's premier mountain boulder gardens made me feel sick.  Autumn and I spent much of the afternoon attempting to restore the area to a more natural state, and I hauled out a heavy wet destroyed tent that the kids had added to one of their shelters.

A couple weeks later, we had a great trip to Telluride with the help of Christian.  We got a tour of a couple impressive areas.  Christian is putting the finishing touches on a guidebook to the area.  He was taking photos of friends on area classics for the guide that weekend, and invited us along.  

The approach to the Darkside boulder is unique, hiking on a water pipe through the woods for quite a ways.
The boulder's really good too!

Rachel climbing "Sheryl Swoops" V6.
We also visited an alpine sandstone boulder field in the San Juans.  Yeah, that's right.  Sandstone talus field bouldering high in the mountains where you'd expect granite or gneiss.  Info will be shared in Christian's upcoming guidebook.
The area also has one of the best campsites I've ever stayed at.
My last trip to the mountains was connected to Sierra's comp at the Front in Salt Lake City.
     The Front the best looking gym I've seen.

And I enjoyed a session of climbing as many "Mr. Smiley" variations as I could in Little Cottonwood Canyon on the day before the comp.
When the weather cooled down, we could transition to climbing closer to home.
But before we did that, we took a long day trip to Joes Valley.  The bouldering is amazing there. Everyone knows that already. 

But on the drive in I was disturbed to see so much air pollution caused by a single coal fired power plant in Castle Dale.  An eerie line of photochemical smog crossing the sky at sunrise, in a very rural part of central Utah.

My first trips to Unaweep Canyon disturbed me as well.  The first couple places I visited were trashed.  Surrounded by abandoned homeless person encampments.  I packed out a full truck load of trash from a single bouldering sector, and tried to figure out what had been going on.  Based on what I found, a single person with a car had used the site for weeks or months, they had brought cushions, a pot for use as a toilet, and even a collapsible children's pool. No attempt had been made to keep the area clean.  It had been abandoned for a while.  More useful things were scattered near the boulder, and weeks worth of trash was thrown into the gulley nearby.  

A small portion of what I hauled out.
And then someone named Shauna decided to tag up the most popular boulders in Unaweep with hot pink spray paint.  Adam let me know about it, as soon as it happened.  After a bit of research, I bought some Elephant Snot Graffiti remover, and Adam, Nicole, and I cleaned it up on Public Lands Day.

Since the late summer clean up missions, things haven't gotten trashed again, and I've started spending most of my time in Unaweep further from the highway.  Away from the highway Unaweep is quiet and clean. Some areas out there have great patina covered stone and classic lines like "Coked Out Trophy Husband"  I was psyched to send the stand start in a session, and would like to spend at least one more session attempting the sit start.

The Zevon Boulder

Bruce warming up on the Coy Boulder.
Brian working on a Wonder Wall project.

     The Big Bend boulders are an easy day trip now, and so far it's still been nice there whenever the weather is cold or rainy in Grand Junction. We've made two trips to Big Bend since our move.
I finally sent "Circus Trick." It's the most difficult thing I've climbed that's often called V4.

And Ashley found impressive short beta and sent "Block Party" V5.  She knew it must be possible because she watched Sierra do it.

Closer to home we started getting out to the Dynamite Shacks for weekend and after school sessions. It's an area that was once covered in trash and graffiti, but climbers have cleaned up the place considerably.  Now it's looking good for an area just outside of Grand Junction that abuts an old landfill.

Ashley climbing "Typewriter," an endurance based V3 that I didn't manage to finish in a session.
I prefer standard length boulders like "Vodka Arete" V5.

And "Medusa's Knees" V8, which I did manage to send in a session.

Ashley warming up on "Spidey Grip" V3, making cloudy and 60 degrees look like a winter day.
"Joe 97 Right" V3 is one of the best V3's I've ever done.  Great angle, features, and movement, I'd recommend it to anyone.

As you can see, we have plenty of developed lines to keep us busy, but I've still been developing when I can.  

Dominguez Canyon is a beautiful spot that has a few new problems we put up this fall.
Mike and I spent a day hiking the canyon.

And Bruce came out with us to put up some lines.
Like "Joi" V4.
"Words" V3
And "Giant Toe" V2.
I spent another day exploring a small portion of eastern Utah with Roo.
He enjoyed the hiking.
And I found a bouldering area worth the drive on my way out there.

The next weekend I took my family to the spot and gave directions to Adam and Nicole.  We passed through Colorado National Monument on the way.
And came to a big, empty and quiet area with a mix of great stone and choss.  A desert version of Sweetwater.
The place was first climbed at by Dane and Chandler, but hadn't seen traffic for a while.  We thought everything we did was a first ascent.  Turns out some of the lines Adam, Nicole, and my family did were repeats.
But they are great lines! We had fun on all of them.

And that's the full climbing story of our last three months in Fruita.  Things aren't perfect.  Industry, homelessness, crowding, and ignorance have caused negative impacts to the land.  But climbers are making efforts to clean things up.  Having fun, and getting things done.  The bouldering community here is welcoming, willing to share information, and psyched on development.  I'm beginning to find areas that are vast and wild, like the ones I loved in Wyoming.  I've learned that Wingate sandstone can be really fun to boulder on, once you get used to it.  And the weather has been great for months now.  I'll admit that I miss Wyoming sometimes, but I'm lucky and happy to be here.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Changing States

The change is abrupt.  There is no gentle transition.  You can't be in two places at once, it's all one world or the other.  And the trip between two states doesn't feel like a transition, it isn't life, it's just driving.  So here we are in a brand new reality, full of extraordinary convenience, extraordinary heat, extraordinary desert life and landforms called Fruita, Colorado.  All new places to explore, with a feeling of excitement and ignorance about much that surrounds me.

This move was different than our move from Ft. Collins to Lander.  For one thing, we knew what we were doing this time.  We spent the first week of summer vacation house hunting in Fruita and Grand Junction.  We sold our house in Lander, found a great house in Fruita, got all the contractual dominoes to fall in the right order, and it all worked out.  Credit for orchestrating the impressive housing hunt and flawless transition goes to Ashley.
 With our house chosen, and under contract, we went back to Lander for the first half of summer.  I spent a few more weeks enjoying Wyoming.  Soon after moving to Lander, eight years ago, I truly learned to love a place.  The Wind River Mountains and the sagebrush sea surrounding them are special, a landscape that will always feel like home.

 I continued to search for boulders, despite the amount of snow that fell last winter.
 We kept up our climbing schedule, packing all our boxes on rest days.  We spent one day working "The Ground From Upside Down" 5.13a /V7 at Wild Iris, but we still need to work out one long crux move over an "edgy" part of the sloped landing, and I will need a bit more endurance to finish it.
 And we spent many days at the Rock Shop.
 Sierra sent "Perfect Storm" V6, and Ashley did it too, after clipping into a toprope for the top out.  I sent "Electric Storm" from the SDS V7/8, and we spent a session at the Sail Boulder after getting a tour from Justin Iskra.

Kelsey working out the crux of "Perfect Storm."
I took photos of many of the Rock Shop boulders, and have been making progress on guidebook work.
 We tried to get in one last day of climbing at Sweetwater, but our session got cut short by swarms of no-see-ums.  They didn't seem bothered by Deet at all!  Sweetwater just isn't a summer bouldering area.
 I spent one more day at Sweetwater that didn't include any climbing.  I was giving input during the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative Sweetwater Site visit.
 It's important to me that climbing and bouldering are considered in future management plans, and I was able to see many formations that I'd never visited before.

Such as the Tea Pot and the Sugar Bowl.
 I also saw promising looking bouldering zones.  Accessing them wouldn't be difficult.  All it would require is a respectful request to the landowner for passage across their land and their bridge.

Our time in Lander ended with the International Climbers' Festival.  I helped out with the Boulder Bash. Temps weren't perfect until 11 pm, and the dolomite boulders are as sharp as ever, but everyone was psyched, so it worked out well.  The professional photographers got a lot of great images, but I was too busy guiding, cheering, and lighting up holds to focus on photography.
 I also lead a clinic to the Weather Station sector of the Rock Shop, but didn't get any photos of that fun session.  It was a great Festival, and I'm looking forward to visiting Lander for future International Climbers' Festivals.  There's no better time to see everybody.

For our last session in Lander we visited Worthen Reservoir.  I climbed Jesse Brown's "Babymaker Arete" V6.

And Ashley repeated "Viskers" V6, one of the first boulder problems that she did after we moved to Lander.

Colorado's Western Slope

We've been in Fruita for twelve days now.  I've been taking morning hikes to look for boulders in Colorado National Monument.
I'm lucky to still have abundant wildlife close to home.
And species I've never had the chance to encounter before, such as this Collared Lizard.
But it's been too hot to boulder outdoors near Fruita.  Hiking boulders is fun, but it doesn't satisfy like actually bouldering does.  I needed to get some bouldering in.  So we drove a few hours to a low key alpine bouldering area based on a recommendation and some Google Earth reconnaissance.  We found great alpine bouldering and landings built of perfectly arranged talus.  It was obvious that this area had been visited many times before, and I managed to find a few old photos on the internet, after we got home from our trip.  I now know that efforts have been made to keep the area quiet, so I won't share anymore information here, just a few photos.

Ashley climbing an unknown V5 sds line.

I'm living in a new state now.  Significantly different than anywhere I've lived before.  But I bring what I've learned with me, and I'm confident that I'll continue to love the places I find myself in.
Because life never stands still.