Sunday, February 17, 2013

Two Doses of Frank!

This winter's spell of relatively warm weather has continued, so the last two weekends I've made trips to Frank do do more winter bouldering.  These two days of bouldering make five days of bouldering this winter, to date. So far, so good!

Day 1.  Last weekend, Mark, Kyle and I headed to Frank although the weather forecast wasn't grand.  When we arrived, we weren't thrilled to see Frank Slide had received three or four inches of snow.  Regardless, we headed off into the City of Giants. The talus is especially coarse there, and the rough boulder-hopping was a lot more treacherous than it ordinarily would have been.  We scoped out several projects on our way through the boulderfield, and finally arrived at the Mushroom Boulder.  We wanted to try some of the harder projects there, but it was windy and cold, and we had a hard time warming up.  We tried Rythymic Gymnastics (V6), but the top was wet, so we gave up.  We decided to jump right on Dragon Fire (V10), because it had really sloping holds, and we figured we couldn't get injured on it easily.  To our surprise, working it was a good way to warm up.  We made reasonably good progress, and Kyle made good linkage very quickly.  I thought he might actually do it right then!  David came up to join us, and we stayed there for a while longer looking at projects, and trying a few problems.
Mark on the Mushroom Boulder.  Rythymic Gymnastics (V6), I'll be back for you when you're dry.

It was getting late in the day, so we headed out to try Railway, the hard (and famous) cave problem.  On the way out, Kyle showed us a handful of famous problems, including Commodore 64 (V8).  We tried Railway for awhile, and while Kyle and Mark made decent progress, I had a hard time with the opening crimps!  It is hard!
Mark on Railway (V10).  It turns out V10 is hard + steep + has small holds.  Who knew?

It turned out to be a strange day.  We never actually did any problems, although we had a great time trying some really hard things without success.

Day 2.  The next weekend, the weather forecast was a lot better (daytime highs of 6C), so Mark and I headed off to Frank again.  This time, we decided to go to the Healing Sector south of the Highway.  It was a little cold and windy (not surprisingly), and we warmed up on the Healing boulder, doing I Pissed On The Start Holds (V5) and the high V0 to the right, which we can call Easy Healing.  Then we headed over to Relentless, the classic V6.  Mark sent it in just a few tries, and I did it several tries later.  It's a great problem, lots of great compression moves and a very committing heel hook.  Mark also did Relentless Sit (V7) and Krimptonite (V8), although they did give him a few problems.  Dave and Michelle joined us, and we moved on to the next boulder over.
Mark warming up on the Healing Boulder.  High!

We added several new problems, including Sardine (V4) a fun little cave problem with an unfortunately stupidly cramped start, four really fun V0 slabs, Halfshell Slab, Gab Slab, Ribbed Pleasure, and Gold Leaf Slab, also Dave's Arete (V2ish), Dave's Arete Low (V3ish), and Mark's hard line on the boulder, The Hand Sponge (V7ish).  The name of the latter problem refers to the hard hand smearing needed on the mantle. I was very sad that Mark did a hard mantle, where I failed... Lots of new problems added to the sector, though! A great day!
Mark on a good problem with a stupid name.  It was crimpy, but I managed.

After getting back from Frank last night, it occurred to me that I have a rapidly growing list of projects at Frank.  I had better get to work to get some of these finished before my list gets of hand!  I usually give each project a 'working name', so I can call it something instead of using vaguely descriptive terms like 'that project just a couple of boulders north of the House Boulder'. A short list of the projects I'm "working on" is...

- the 'Submarine Project', a tall V5ish arete by the river
- The 'Snow Cave Project', a stiff V8ish crimpy line
- The 'Rum Runner Project', a very fun-looking V6ish compression problem
- The 'Pocket Project', a hardlooking (V10ish?) crimpy line up by the Mushroom Boulder
- The 'Mark of the Beast Project', a hard (V9ish) and high crimps-to-sloper problem
- The 'Raccoon Project', by Zombotron, might not be hard, I hope.
- The 'Flat Crimps Project', up by Mushroom boulder, maybe V5ish?
 Almost forgot one...
- The 'Sinking Ships' Project, across the river.

What's amazing about this list is that I have only seen maybe 10% of the bouldering at Frank!  In a few months this list will really grow.  Also, I have already made 12 first ascents at Frank (albeit mostly easy lines, from V0 to V6).  I was going to aim for 100 first ascents at Frank this year, but I also need to start doing some of my harder projects there as well

Anyways, LOTS to do!  It is going to be a fun spring season in Frank!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Frankly, my Dear!

It always seems to me that rock climbing presents different rewards to different people.  For many people, it is a deeply spiritual activity; for others it represents the opportunity to challenge oneself physically, and compare their achievements to the efforts of others; to many, climbing represents adventure and excitement, tinged with danger.  These rewards are not mutually exclusive, of course.  Many climbers experience all these rewards, and more.

However, there is a limited subset of the rock-climbing population for whom climbing offers an additional reward; the chance to explore new places and terrain with the goal of finding something completely new and unclimbed.  For boulderers, this translates into something akin to a global easter egg hunt.  Maps, Google Earth, binoculars, and rumor are all employed in the search for the perfect boulder problem.

The view of the vast boulderfield of Frank Slide from high on Turtle Mountain. 

It was the hunt for new bouldering that found Kyle, Mark, and I half-way up Turtle Mountain on Saturday morning.  An adventurous hike was made much more so by the fact that we were carrying bouldering mats and that the steep limestone talus was covered by eight inches of snow.  Our goal was to look at several promising-looking boulders high on the mountain.  Passing several decent but smallish boulders, we finally arrived at our first destination, a cluster of moderately-sized boulders in the talus.  Two boulders looked especially good, one with a leaning arete and one with a long, slightly overhanging face with a great landing.  Still warm from our hike, we cleaned up the arete and threw down the pads.  For a half-hour, we worked to figure out the technical sequence necessary to climb the sloping arete. Heel hook, crimp, move the heel, bump to another edge, cross to the sloping arete, high-step; it slowly came together until we had deciphered the necessary sequence of moves. We traded high-points on the problem, until I finally sent the problem, naming it Indian Tacos (V6) after a infamously mysterious sign at the side of the highway to Frank.  Mark and Kyle sent it in the next few minutes, the perfect conclusion to our first ascent. 

Mark riding the 'Send Train', as he dials in the second ascent of Indian Tacos (V6).

The topout of the second boulder was too snow-covered to climb, so we packed up and continued up the mountain.  Another ten minutes of trudging through the snowy talus and we arrived at the highest bench in the talus.  Several big boulders (including one huge house-sized boulder) littered the bench, and we saw several excellent-looking potential problems.  It is a little dubious that any boulderers (a notoriously lazy tribe of climbers) will make the trek up the mountain to climb them, but it was still exciting to see so many virgin lines awaiting ascents.

Kyle on the third ascent of Indian Tacos.  Notice the vastly different body positions (and thus beta) adopted by the two climbers for the same move (i.e. Kyle has better skills).

Eager to do more climbing and less trekking, we started the long descent down the mountain to the van below.  We finally made it back (although not without mishap; I managed to hurt my previously-sprained ankle... again), and after a little lunch we headed over to the House Boulder area to do some climbing.  Parking the van, we ran into Justin, another cold-tolerant Lethbridge climber.  With mats to spare, we lent him a pad, then headed up to look at the House Boulder.  I was excited, never having seen any of the bouldering north of the highway.  The aptly-named House Boulder is a huge block of limestone sitting just a short distance from the highway.  It lies immediately adjacent to the Cartel Boulder, which hosts several of Frank Slide's hardest lines, including Cartel (V9), Salacious (V8), and the somewhat contrived eliminate Vlad (V10).  Mark was really keen to try Cartel, which is easily the best of the three lines.  Surprising himself, he sent it in just a handful of tries (!) in a solid effort.  I tried it a few times, but because crimpy traverses with huge dynos aren't really my thing I lost interest and went for a bit of  a walk.  I scoped some new projects in the area, including a couple that looked fantastic.  I am glad to see that there are lots of new problems yet to be done at Frank, especially many of the taller aesthetic lines.
Mark throwing a lap on Cartel (V9) for the camera.  I was jealous.

With temperatures dropping, we packed our shoes and walked back to the van.  Grabbing coffees for the drive, we turned east and headed back to Lethbridge.

I am excited by the upcoming season of bouldering in Frank.  My list of potential projects grows every time I go to the area, and now includes an amazing sloper and compression problem high on the mountain (V6-V9ish), a short compression problem (V4-V5ish) near Indian Tacos, a tall arete near the river (likely V5 or V6), and a very hard, VERY tall steep line on a huge block half-buried in the talus (V9 or V10, I think).  Time to get in shape; 'Frank Season' has almost arrived!