Sunday, October 2, 2011

Another injury, and a trip to Hasler Flats!

I seem to have acquired another climbing injury. They seem to be coming fast and furious these days, without even a break between them. A week ago, I was climbing at the climbing gym in Grande Prairie (a nice gym, smallish but with a very nice hold selection), when I reinjured my right knee while heel-hooking on a large sidepull. Years of bouldering in Squamish (with it's ubiquitous heel-hooks on flat ledges) caused me to get "heel-hook knee" fairly badly (and often) in my right knee, and it still has a tendency return easily. This time, I was aggressively pulling on my right leg when "pop" - I could feel something happen in the back of my knee. It didn't hurt at all (not right away, anyway), but I knew something unpleasant had happened. Sure enough, the next morning (and several mornings since then) it was very sore and stiff. Walking hurt it, kneeling hurt it, pretty much doing anything hurt it. What is "heel hook knee", anyways? I need to visit a physiotherapist to find out, but I suspect it's a partial tear in the hamstring tendon (or tendon sheath) in the back of the knee. It's getting better, but slowly. I am getting old...

But, more importantly, I finally (!) managed a day trip this past weekend to Hasler Bluffs, just west of Chetwynd BC. It's a 2.5 hour drive from Beaverlodge, but I was itching to get out there and check it out. Saturday morning, bright and early, Lupin (the dog) and I packed up the van and headed out. I had been to Hasler bluffs before, years ago, but since then a lot of route development has occurred at the main cliff. The cliff has a fairly traditional ethic (not surprisingly, since there are many cracks and slots), and has 40+ routes on excellent sandstone and conglomerate. The crag has many advantages - it faces south, and thus enjoys a great sunny/dry microclimate. The rock is well-featured, and the cliff features several splitter cracks. Furthermore, there is a nice little climber's campground (i.e. free) near the crag. All in all, it's a great mini-destination. Downsides? No readily available guidebook, although there is an online version that contains most of the routes.

I went to Hasler to do more than look at the rock, however. I was going to Hasler to check out the climbing potential in a nearby canyon. My friend Chris Small had suggested that I check it out for bouldering potential, since I am always on the lookout for new boulders. Parking the van, I quickly marched into the area. The approach walk in was short, and I found a trail down into the canyon. As soon as I was standing down in the canyon, my jaw hit the ground. While I did see several very nice boulders, what blew me away were the cliffs! Most of the cliffs were overhanging, and very well featured! Beautifully colored and streaked, this canyon is the place every climber dreams of finding. The rock is very coarse (being formed from Cadomin Conglomerate, it is about as coarse as rough Squamish granite), but it seems to have a lot of climbable features (ledges, slots, aretes). Like a kid in a candy shop, I ran from wall to wall to wall, getting more and more excited! Lots of training this winter, for sure, to prepare myself for next summer's projects! Time to stock up on bolts... there is room for probably 50+ routes here.

SUPER steep wall! Probably 25m high, overhangs about 6m. 5.13 land!

Another stellar-looking wall in the Canyon. Lake Louise-like features.

After my hike through the canyon, I headed to Hasler for some bouldering. There are several boulders there, so I hiked in with a mat, shoes, and chalk. To warm up, I walked along the base of the crag (which is 600m long) to look at the existing routes and scope out new projects. I did see some great-looking lines, including a super-steep, beautifully featured arete (another potential project!). I took a lot of photos, so I've included some here.

What I was surprised to find - disturbingly so - was that the Dept. of Transportation is quarrying the broken rock and gravel from the base of the cliff! In several places it has come dangerously close to the trail, and only about 8 m from the base of the cliff! Perhaps they don't know there is a popular climbing area here. I will contact the BC Access Society to find out what they know.

Not having a belayer, I headed for the few problems at the area. I worked and climbed three great problems there (two were repeats, I'm sure, though one was an FA). Once you get used to the aggressive texture, the rock is lots of fun, and has really nice features. The FA was a nice short problem starting in a little cave. It has a couple of very sloping pinches, which were surprisingly easy to hold on to due to the highly-textured rock. I'll be back with a wire brush to open several more problems there. I can't wait for my next visit to the area!

More soon! I am almost finished my new garage bouldering wall... just in time for winter. Hopefully I can find a good way to heat the space!



Bouldering at Hasler. My new problem (V4?) is in the little cave at the end.

Project arete! A great-looking line!

Great-looking Hasler sandstone. Lots of mixed (bolts + gear) at Hasler Bluffs, so be prepared!


Owen said...

Sorry to hear about heel hook knee.. you'll be better soon though. that last photo in particular looks astounding! great find

Steven said...

This looks awesome, I really want to check this place out before snow flies... or after with some hand warmers.

Unknown said...

That canyon looks pretty incredible! Has there been any development since this post?