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.)
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!
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.
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!
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!