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!

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