Friday, August 3, 2012

Bouldering! Trips!

The Peace River Country continues to provide me with a fun (and satisfying) summer of bouldering.  In the last few weeks, I've managed to get out for two day trips - one to Bear Mountain, and one to the potential-bouldering-Mecca of Mount Babcock. 

Trip 1.  Bear Mountain Posse!
A few weeks ago, the planets aligned correctly for a number of Grande Prairie climbers, and a reasonably large posse of boulderers headed out to Bear Mountain.  I left early, planning to get there well before everyone else in order to do some scrubbing on toprope.  Weeks before, I had looked at a tall (!) line up an overhanging face in the Steps Area, left of the arete (Nipple Eraser V2) I had sent.  It looked like it had enough holds to make it go, including a prominent pebble protruding from an otherwise blank face.  Arriving at Windmill 34, I put a toprope on it, and started scrubbing.  The topout seemed a little tricky, but reasonable.  A high slot would provide a mental break immediately before the topout.  Then came the blow - the protruding pebble wasn't as solid as it looked, a little prying made this crucial hold disappear.  There were now only three holds in a huge blank section - a shallow mono, a terrible quarter-pad sidepull, and a high (but decent) three-finger pocket. 
Soon, Dom arrived and after showing him around the area a bit, we settled into cleaning problems, waiting for the rest of the GP climbers to appear.  We heard voices after an hour or so, but they faded away.  We decided that the rest of the group had arrived, but had headed off elsewhere, so we decided to hike over and find them.  Eventually we did (they had found some new boulders, and were climbing), and eventually the group coalesced at the Steps Area.
Armed with more mats, we tackled my newly cleaned highball.  Everyone made good progress, but we were stumped - as I thought we would be - by the huge blank section.  Chris almost solved the crux by dynoing, but couldn't *quite* stick it.  I eventually managed to do a HIGH high step, and a long cross-over, and gain the upper slot before the lip.  Unfortunately, I hadn't cleaned the holds I was now pawing at, and fell.  I cleaned it up a little more on toprope, took a good look at the mantle, then sent it next try.  At Julian's suggestion, I called it The Doctor's Office (V6-).  17 feet high, and a stellar line!  Not super-hard (maybe V5 or V6), but high enough to be exciting.  It's a real testpiece for the area, and since it's so clean, I encourage everyone to get on it!  (With a long sling, it can probably be easily toproped if the height is too intimidating.)
Me working The Doctor's Office.  Photo: Julian?
The Doctor's Office (V6-) climbs the block in the background, between the right-hand arete and the black streak. Very fun. And tall. Photo:?
We spent the rest of the day cleaning and sending new lines, especially Dom who cleaned a handful of new moderate problems.  We tried (!) to send the hard 'crack-direct' line on the No Exit boulder, without success.  I managed to send a new sharp problem to the right of The Real Chris, calling it Calvin Klein (V4+ or so).  Everyone migrated over to Carlee's Cave, where I managed to send the left-hand arete project, calling it High Functioning Human (V5).  That only leaves one more project in Carlee's Cave, namely the so-called 'Julian's Crimp' project.  I did the crux move, but couldn't piece it together at the end of the day.  Next time!
 Julian, looking tanned on one of Dom's new problems. Photo: Carlee?

Carlee on Carlee's Cave (V2+), looking tough.  

Trip 2.  Mount Babcock = Bouldering Mecca?
Last Sunday, Dom and I decided to make a quick trip to Mount Babcock for the day.  When we arrived, we engaged in an obligatory exploratory mission, and ended up on a ridge overlooking the area.  It is always amazing to see HOW MUCH bouldering there is at Mount Babcock.  From our viewpoint, we could only see about 1/5 of the area, but even that amount of bouldering is staggering.  I estimate that there are AT LEAST 2000 potential problems at Mt Babcock, probably more.  Certainly, Mt Babcock rivals (and likely exceeds) Squamish as the largest accessible bouldering area in Canada.  Downside?  It is fairly remote, and has a short season. Plus, there is a coal mine across the valley.  Upside? A lifetime of bouldering, tons of steep problems, and a beautiful alpine setting.
Me, looking over the expanses of boulders at Mt Babcock, feeling like a king in his realm.  The boulders below me are only about 1/5th of the potential.  Scale?  Two of the boulders on the right-side of the boulder field have short sport routes on them.  So yep, they're big.

We started by cleaning and sending a couple of moderate problems on bullet-hard sandstone.  Both were probably V1, with a harder traverse that linked them.  We moved over to the project-of-the-day; a stellar-looking block overhanging the spur trail (in the Lichen Towers area).  We counted at least 8 independent (and all great-looking) problems on the boulder, and set to cleaning.  The boulder was fairly clean, but did have a loose-block on top that had to be shoved off (there was actually two, but we couldn't get the second one off easily; the problems underneath it will wait for another day).  We sent a *beautiful* V2 or V3 problem that would have a line-up if it were in Squamish.  Pockets, a rail, and perfect incut crimps up a slightly overhanging wall (still unnamed; I'll think of something soon).  Then I sent a moderate line through a huge pocket to the left, and started work on a harder (V6ish with a V9ish sit start) project before we had to bail for the day.  I didn't clean the topout of the project, so it's still waiting there, a prize for a motivated boulderer!
Me and Lupin, looking at boulders. The first two problems we did are right in front of me.  A V1 face to my right, and a very cool V1+ arete behind the trees I'm looking at. No names yet...
Me topping out on a fun, pocketed V0.  Amazing stone!  The uber-classic V2/3 problem Dom and I did climbs the shadowed face to my left, and the 'arete project' is on the far left arete.
 Huge overhanging face.  Lots of these.  
Me halfway up the arete project in the Lichen Towers. Yep, I'm hanging on a huge, perfectly incut slot; a big dyno looms overhead. No, I didn't do it. I look like I have huge forearms in this picture.

I hope that Canada's climbing community starts to take Mt Babcock seriously.  It is remote, but it is truly an amazing area!

SO much to do, SO little time.  I'll have to come back soon for a longer trip!


m. said...

YOu do know that squamish has more then 2000 problems already right? I love the statements of whatever new area is better then squamish or bigger or a new mecca. Nice write up though.

The real Chris said...

Great summary of an awesome trip, Trent! A huge pleasure (and honor) climbing with you! Sad to see it fade away so quickly. All the best to you and the family. We WILL climb together again!

Chris said...

@ M. As a follow Squamite, I find your attitude that Squamish climbing and bouldering is the end all of Canadian climbing to be highly arrogant and condescending. For the most part the bouldering in squamish has shit landings, similar movement, (grab Sloping rail then heel hook, to another sloping rail). And the sport climbing here is not all that great (The rockies limestone has way better sport). Squamish is however Canada's best trad area. Squamite arrogance sometimes especially annoying, particularly from those who are poorly traveled in BC. I have climbed or traveled at pretty much every area in BC and AB including Mt. Babcock and there are plenty which could rival Squamish in term of rock quality and size. They , fortunately (for the quiet and adventure aspect) and unfortunately (more people = more developers), just aren't next to a city of 2 million citidoits. Maybe you should venture a little further off the beaten path. You could discover that variety is the spice of life.

m. said...

@Chris. Not my point but hey feel free to be a guy on the internet who attacks other people online by calling them names. Oh and I've climbed all over bc. My point wasn't that Squamish is the best area ever. I just find that Trent always claims whatever new area he's found is better then squamish. Having known and climbed with Trent for over 12 years i like to give my honest opinion to Trent.

As for your second point about Squamish bouldering having "shit" landings and similar movment is spoken like a person who hasn't really climbed in Squamish all that much. But you're not really worth my time trying to convince seeing as you like to take things in a very negative direction.