Saturday, July 14, 2012

Summertime Climbing in Northern Alberta!

I've been getting out climbing a LOT this summer, mostly thanks to the tolerance of my wife (Thanks Shelley!).  In the last month, I've been to Jasper, Hasler, and Bear Mountain.  Three weekend trips, which amounts to a lot of climbing this month!

Trip 1: Jasper
I was invited to go to Jasper for three days with Renee, Steven, and Andrew, three of the staunch climbers from the GPRC climbing gym.  Although Jasper used to be my stomping grounds (hmmm... 13 year ago or so!), I hadn't climbed there in a while and was keen to make a trip down memory lane.  I was not disappointed! Although we didn't have perfect weather, we climbed at Lost Boys for 2 days, then at the Rock Gardens for a day.  I led a handful of 5.10 trad routes at Lost Boys, which I was excited about (I NEVER used to climb the trad routes there!), and managed to do a bunch of sport routes in the 5.10 to 5.12- range.  SO MUCH fun to climb at Lost Boys!  I climbed Peer Pressure (.12-) on my second try; it used to be somewhat sparsely bolted, but now with 2 more bolts it is an amazing route!  I onsighted (or re-onsighted, since I hadn't been on the routes there in 15 years) everything else I tried, which was nice.

Going back to the Rock Gardens was powerfully nostalgic for me; I had put up several routes there over the years, and even after such a long absence it seemed I remembered each hold and route.  With Andrew, I climbed on a handful of the new routes there; first we did a new(ish) 5.8 and .10c that cross Layback W (both cool routes), then we went around the corner to try (what we thought was) a new .10d.  The route consisted of a tricky vertical section, then a long TECHNICAL slab.  Andrew tried to onsight it, and did very well on the vertical section.  We was baffled by the slab, though, so he lowered off so I could give it a try.  Still thinking it was .10d, I thought the route was hard, and after a long battle with a sustained slab, I managed to clip the chains.  Later we found out it was .11b (the retro-bolted Yo-yo), and so we felt better.  Later, I flashed Climbing for Punishment (a steep .11b) and did Raven's Laugh (.12a) on my first try.  Raven's was the first .12 I ever bolted, so it was especially nice to climb it again!  Felt a lot easier this time than it did when I was 24 or so!  I also re-flashed Guidekiller (.11d), which was a treat!  Steven will get it next time, for sure; he made good progress on it.

I am very thankful to Renee, Steven, and Andrew (especially the latter, because he drove both ways) for a great weekend!

Trip 2: Hasler Bluffs
Several days later, Shelley, Aya, Rowan and I packed up for a weekend at Hasler Bluffs.  With Aya and Rowan, we knew that I would essentially be left belayer-less for much of the weekend, but I didn't mind that much, as I was keen to get some work done on my new project there (code name: Orange Crush).  It was hot and sunny, but I went up on a rope and put in the time to scrub lichen and put in bolts.  Originally I was going to end the route at about 18m, below what I thought was a blank section of rock.  To my surprise, the last section of rock had a number of positive holds, so I pushed the route to the top of the cliff (23m!).  It will be the hardest route at Hasler, most likely, at .12c or .12d (I'm hoping it's no harder than that!).  It has four cruxes, and the bottom half of the route climbs a beautiful orange-streaked sandstone wall.  It also climbs through a band of conglomerate (the third and fourth cruxes), but these moves are really terrific as well.  It's an amazing route, and I hope I can manage to get up it!

There were several people at Hasler, so I managed to borrow a toprope to do The Quick and The Dead (.10d) and Anorexia Crack (.11c).  I'll lead both next time I'm out there!  They're both stout trad routes, so I'm excited to get on the sharp end to do them!

Trip 3: Bear Mountain
Today, Shelley, Aya, Rowan, and I went to Bear Mountain, despite the heat (32C!).  We had a great time, on the blocks right at the beginning of the descent trail (not the rope access trail, nor the trail to the Shaman Area, but the trail that heads down and right).  I cleaned five new problems, although a couple had definitely seen some cleaning action previously.

The first problem I did was a very cool pinchy arete (Bear Mountain conglomerate excels at producing pinchy aretes), with a couple of very interesting moves, a very worthwhile problem.  Has it been done before?  Who knows!  I called it No Exit (V1 or V2ish), because the boulder has no easy downclimb (as it turned out).  To the left, it looked like there was a potential for a cool conglomerate-sloper problem, which I cleaned and did in a few tries (I wanted to call it 'The 41st Alderman', but Shelley said NO; it's V4ish).  It was very fun, and I convinced Shelley to take a video with her iPhone... so here it is, my first online climbing video! ;)

Next, I did a harder start into No Exit (calling it Full Exit, V2), then cleaned and climbed a V2ish highball arete on the boulder facing the No Exit boulder.  It's a square cut arete, and only the first move is hard, the rest is easy (which is nice for a 17 foot problem, in my mind).  I finished off the session (it was getting HOT out by this point, 32C) by cleaning and briefly working the 'slot traverse project' on the next boulder over.  It'll be hard (V6? V7?), and fun, but it was far too hot to try sloper problems, so we called it a day and headed into Dawson Creek for ice cream!
The 'Slot Traverse Project'.  It will have to wait for a cooler day!

Hope your summer is going as well as mine!  Take care!