Thursday, May 23, 2013

Frank, Frank, and a little more Frank.

Sometimes a simple day of climbing in the Rockies turns out even better than expected.  An excellent case in point was last weekend.  The forecast predicted a day of showers, but several Lethbian climbers decided to risk it and head out to Frank Slide.  Fortunately, it was a great decision; the forecast rain never materialised, and instead we enjoyed a beautiful spring day with cool (15C) temperatures, perfect climbing weather.  Several of Lethbridge's growing bouldering community were at the Slide that day, including Mark G. and Beth, Kyle, Adam and Amanda ('Adamanda'), Mark D., Kyle, Ryan, and myself. 

Arriving at Frank, we decided to go the Ninja Turtles boulder first.  This was perfectly fine with me, as I had never been to that particular boulder.  I was keen to try as many problems in the House Area as possible, because I am starting to prepare the new mini-guide for that area and I hadn't tried most of the problems.  The front of the Ninja Turtles Boulder has several moderate slabs all named after those particular cartoon heroes (e.g. Raphael, Donatello, etc.), while the back of the boulder has two vertical problems named after the respective villians (Rocksteady (V4) and Be Bop (V3)).  I did them all pretty quickly, and everyone had a great time warming up on the boulder.

We moved on to the Aftermath Boulder, which is close by and has a great range of problems (from V0- to V6, with a couple of harder projects).  Everyone had a great session; Ryan, Mark, and Adam all came close on Aftermath (V5), Kyle repeated Vagina Dentata (V6, although he used different beta which may make the problem easier), and Beth did Four Inch Pinch (V2/3) quickly.  Mark, Kyle, and I spent some time trying to link the moves on the project just to the right of Aftermath (let's call it The Prism Project, because of the flat slopers that characterise the two cruxes of the problem), but while we made some great progress, a send still eluded us.

Adam looking stylish on the perfect edges of Aftermath (V5).

Earlier, I had spied a line up the tall face to the left of Aftermath, and although it looked difficult, I was excited to try it.  I cleaned up the face a bit, and we set to work.  A series of blocky sidepulls and underclings lead to a series of thinner, right-facing sidepulls higher on the slightly overhanging face. Everyone seeemed really psyched to try such a high-quality, hard, new line.  Kyle was able to link from the sit-start (on a large blunt sidepull) through to the flat sidpulls higher on the face reasonably quickly, and then Kyle and I traded highpoints until it became apparent that we were starting to head up into highball territory.  Since we were the only people still working the project, we decided to move on to the nearby Frictionary Boulder, another boulder I had seen from a distance but never climbed on.

Me on the Prism Project. This problem is one of those relatively rare lines where a great deal of subtlety is required on virtually every move.  Hopefully I'll actually climb it soon, it's such an amazing line...

My hands were feeling pretty sore by this time, so I initially watched as everyone else climbed some of the problems on the boulder.  Amanda sent her first V1 (congrats Amanda!), Adam did the thuggy undercling problem Underking (V5), and the fun Frictionary (V2) was sent by a handful of people.  I finally put my shoes back on to do Frictionary and Underking, as well as another new problem to the right of Underking I called Jigsaw (V3).  Unfortunately, the start is so cramped on Jigsaw that it really detracts from the line.

Kyle on the Communist Project, a brilliant new high line at the Slide.  We're not entirely sure how to finish this thing, I'm starting to think that it may actually have a couple of different finishes...

All things considered, another satisfying day in Frank.  I didn't manage to do anything particularly hard, but I did make great progress on two of the hardest problems (both projects) that I have yet tried at Frank.  Maybe next weekend I'll finally get some things sent!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


This Saturday, a contingent of Lethbridge boulderers headed to Frank for a day of springtime bouldering.  After a bit of discussion, we decided to start at the Snakebite Boulder, as it hosts a wide variety of problems, from short V0s to tallish, harder problems.  I was keen to go back as there were still a few problems there I hadn't done.  We had left early, so it was still a bit cool when we arrived.  I had to climb several problems to warm up, a process that seems to take longer as I get older.

As the morning got hotter, I did the last two established problems I hadn't done on the boulder, Brett's Ugly Face (V2) and Python (V2).  Both problems were a lot of fun, with big moves to big holds.  Mike (making his first real trip to Frank) did the tricky Apple Shampoo (V4) quickly and smoothly, while Kyle repeated KBMI30 (V5) to demonstrate key beta at the crux.  No one else managed to do KBMI30, although Mike and Mark came close; navigating the high sloper crux of the problem proved difficult in the hot sun.
Me on Obi Wan Kenobi (V5/6).  Look at that crowd! From L to R: Frecka, Mark, guy I didn't know, Calvin, and me.

I had previously spied another line on the Snakebite face.  Starting on the start holds of The Good One (V0 or V1), it seemed possible to traverse right into the juggy hold in the middle of Obi Wan Kenobi, and then finish on that problem.  It took me a little while to mentally work through the moves, but when I had a good idea of what to do it only took me a handful of tries to do the problem.  An initial cross through to a good pinch led directly to a long move out to the juggy edge in the middle of the face.  I called it Ben Kenobi (since Ben is an older, wiser version of Obi Wan Kenobi) ;).  It's probably V5 or V6, a fun addition to the boulder.  Now, there are four hardish side-by-side problems on the Snakebite Boulder, from left to right they are Ben Kenobi (V5/6), Obi Wan Kenobi (V5 or 6), Apple Shampoo (V4), and KBMI30 (V5).  Kyle and Mark came close to sending it as well, but as it was getting hot we moved on, trying to find shade.
An older, wiser me applying the Force on the last hard move of Ben Kenobi (V5/6).

A handful of people were keen to try the infamous Fender (V6?), so Kyle, Mark, Adam, Calvin, and I headed over to check it out. I had previously wanted to attempt to flash it, but a quick look at the holds suggested that would be a virtually impossible task.  Fender is sequential and technical, with small holds and body-position dependent movement.  Kyle and Adam made good progress, linking the beginning through to the crux dyno.  I eventually managed to link smoothly through to the dyno as well, but since I am virtually the world's worst dynoer (is that a word?), I gave up on the problem.  Mark had mashed one of his fingers moving a rock; sadly, he didn't even have a chance to attempt the problem.  Fender seems quite hard for the grade, although it did seem easier and easier as I figured out how it went.
The king of Frank himself!  Kyle on Python (V2, top) and the first crux move of Ben Kenobi (V5/6, bottom).

I did, fortunately, have something to do on the Fender boulder.  Beginning on the start holds of Fender, I cleaned up (and climbed) a new problem that trended up and right along a featured ramp, establishing Bloody Mary (V1 or 2).  It is a very funky line, technical and balancy, without being too powerful.  Kyle had also spied a new line on another boulder just a few paces away, so while they were engaged with Fender I put up another new short problem.  The Need (V1) starts sitting, compressing a distinct V-shaped feature, and climbs up and left on absolutely perfect (!) rock.  I started with a right knee-bar, hence the name (The Need = the kneed).

We had planned to leave Frank at 3:00, but after our attempts on Fender we still had 45 minutes or so before we had to go.  We decided to try Postive Water (V8), a short, hard lip traverse problem just west of the Albatross Boulder.  Although we didn't have much time on it, I managed to climb all but the last few moves.  Next time, for sure!  Adam also made great progress as well, I'm sure he'll make quick work of the problem.

Now that we're well into the spring season of Frank, it's time to get to work on some more serious projects.  I've pretty much thrown 'the pocket project' right off the project list (too hard / improbable), but I've added 'The Shield Project' (amazing, will be one of the hardest problems at The Slide) and the 'Trent's Cave Project' (looks awesome, I hope it is!) to the list.  I'd better get busy, and put some time into getting some of these things done!

Until next time!

[all photos were taken by the generous Adam Dipinto!]

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Frankly, It Was Really Hot.

Sunday! Sunny! Hot! Back to Frank Slide! More bouldering with super fun people!

I staggered out of bed early Sunday morning to a warm breeze and blue skies.  Dragging my bouldering pads out to the van, I was excited by the prospect of another day in Frank, despite the early hour.  I picked up Mark, then turned west to meet Adam, Amanda, and Calvin at the west-side McDonalds.  After I grabbed a coffee and breakfast, we piled five people and six mats into the van, and headed to Frank; despite feeling a little weak at the gym this week, I hoped to have a good day in Frank (the previous trip had been a blast, and I was hoping that this trip would be a repeat).

Calvin and I had been to the Aftermath / Ghost Rider boulder the week before, but I was keen to have Adam, Amanda, and Mark try some of the new problems there.  We all did the highballish slab Charlie the Horse (V0), and Mark almost flashed Aftermath (V5, he did it second go, very solid).  I did the first ascent of two more problems on the boulder, as well; Sour Grapes (V2, essentially an extension linking the start of Four Inch Pinch into the slab problems to the right), and High Life (V2/3, the high (!) arete to the left of Ghost Rider).  There are really just three (maybe four) lines left on the boulder; a really hard sidepull-oriented problem, another highball to the right of Ghost Rider, another hard sloper project between Vagina Dentata and Aftermath.  We spent some time working on the latter problem, but although we were getting close, it was starting to get too hot to work really slopey problems.  Unfortunately, the hottest part of the day was still to come...

Mark on the project immediately right of Aftermath (V5).  Still a long way to go, grasshopper...

Mark wanted to look at a cave/bulge boulder he had seen "just above the House Boulder", so we packed up and headed upslope.  The hike turned out to be longer than we thought, but when we arrived it turned out to be a good destination; not necessarily because of the boulder (which is steep with a nice looking project on it), but because it sits adjacent to a huge beach-like slab of rock which made for a brilliant lunch area.  We did a few moderate problems in the area (with Adam making the probable FA of a great-looking marble-white face), and Mark and I failed miserably on a white face/arete project with a black flame-shaped stain.

Amanda and Calvin hiding from the sun.  Strangely, they were the only two who didn't get sunburned.  Hmm...

By this time we were baking in the sun, and were beginning to look for shady boulders.  I had a few things I wanted to try on a long boulder in the Mushroom Area, so we moved the mats up to try them.  I had actually cleaned three projects there in the winter, so I knew there would be things for us to try.  Mark immediately set to work on the so-called 'pocket project', to no avail. I had hoped we could figure out a sequence that would unlock a improbable-looking four-foot gap between holds, but it didn't materialise.  In consolation I did a new problem on the blunt arete immediately to the right, which proved to be very fun.  Adam made great progress on it quickly as well, using so many foot-tricks that I decided to call it Trick Pony (V3 or V4).  There was another cleaned project to the right (which I had previously called the 'flat crimps project') which I managed to dispatch more easily than I had anticipated.  The moves were technical and hardish, but good footholds kept the difficulty down.  Adam and Mark repeated it, and I called it Sunburner (V3, maybe even V4) after the bright shade of red our faces were beginning to turn in the sun.  Calvin and Amanda made good progress on the crimps as well, but it was starting to get a little too hot for hard crimping...

Calvin nailing the first big move on Sunburner (V3ish).

Mark and I flashed the adjacent Hate (given V6, but more likely 4 or 5), and then we tried the low start to an arete to the right.  The problem started on a good jug in a little cave, then used a great heelhook to oppose a very sloping handhold to reach up to a minijug on the arete.  We both managed to do it in fairly short order; a very fun line somewhat marred by the fact that it is difficult not to dab on the boulder behind.  After some deliberation, I called it Get Carter (V7).

Mark pulling on perfect full-pad 'Frank edges', sending Hate (V4?V6?).  Get Carter (V7ish) starts in the little cave in the lower right of the photo.
Thoroughly baked in the sun, we began eagerly debating the relative merits of ice cream vs. slurpies.  Having convinced ourselves that cold treats were in order we packed up, and headed to the car.  Cold treats from the nearest convenience store made for a perfect ending to another stellar day in Frank.  It is always an honor to climb with such a fun, motivated, and hilarious group of people. Climbing is fun, but climbing with great people makes the experience just that much more rewarding.

POST SCRIPT: Kyle says the problem that we thought was Hate (V6) was actually an unnamed V4 (which makes much more sense); Hate starts on the same face, but traverses up and left to the arete.  Next time! 

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I seem to be developing a bit of a habit.  A Frank habit.  Last weekend, I stuffed three mats into the van, and headed off yet again to Frank Slide.  This time, however, I would be climbing with a different crew of folks.  Kyle had headed south to Joe's Valley, and Mark had exams.  Fortunately, the pool of climbing talent in Lethbridge is a lot deeper than that, and so I picked up Justin and then headed across the river to McDonalds, where we would meet Ryan for the drive out.  They're both enormously entertaining guys, so I was fairly certain we'd have a lot of fun. 

Justin had to stop in Pincher Creek for the morning, but Ryan and I headed onto the Slide.  I convinced Ryan that we should head up to the 'Mark of the Beast' Project.  We cleaned it up a bit, and sorted out the landing, and I started working the funky moves that define this problem.  All the holds on this problem are decent, but the moves are tricky and the body positions unusual.  Unfortunately, the landing for this problem is somewhat* dangerous, and we also kept getting blasted by gale-force chinook winds howling through the Crowsnest Pass.  Nonetheless I made good progress before we packed it in and moved to a more sheltered location.

Meanwhile, Mark G. (sans Beth) and Calvin had arrived, so we set up shop at a boulder in the trees near the House Boulder.  I had walked by the boulder a few timess, and had often wondered why it didn't seem to have any established problems on it.  Part of the reason, I think, is that it had a little loose rock, and part of the reason is that it is a bit tall (likely 18 feet at the tallest side).  Luckily, we had a rope with us, and a little cleaning produced several aesthetic, fun lines.  We managed to climb 11 new problems, including four really standout lines:

- Charlie the Horse (V0), a fun and easy slab, great for those new to the Slab Arts...
- Ghost Rider (V4), a very cool highball with a mid-height crimpy crux, pioneered by Mark, Ryan, Calvin, and Justin...
- Aftermath (V5ish), an absolutely stellar highish problem on perfect full-pad edges, and
- Four-Inch Pinch (V2ish), a classic moderate cave problem, reminscent of Superfly (V4) in Squamish.

We then moved on to the House Boulder area, where we did Galactic (V4) (I flashed it easily, which was nice), and some more highballs, including one on the House Boulder itself (it has likely been done before, but I decided that it needed a name, so I called it The Second Story (V0)).

Feeling a bit fried, we moved to the far side of the Slide to try the slab testpiece Frankenstein (V5).  I don't have any slab shoes at the moment, and I quickly gave up trying to climb Frankenstein.  Mark was making great progress, and came to within a few moves of sending!  Calvin was making decent progress as well, but Frankenstein is hard.  I mean HARD.  Very tall, very sustained, and features very small crimps, dimples, and sidepulls. It's similar to Black Slabbath (V7ish) in Squamish, I think, but a little shorter (only a little!) and a bit easier.  Still, a very formidable slab!

All in all, a great day of sending!  I think the next Mini-Guide that we will release will be for the House Boulder Area, so keep tuned for that.  The Healing Area Mini-Guide is online at, so you can find it there.

Sorry for the lack of photos!  Next time, for sure!

*Note: Even by my standards, this problem has a sketchy landing.  A fall at the wrong time, or in the slightly wrong direction would either have you slam into a fridge-sized block, or pitch 30 feet down a steep talus slope... Still, it is too amazing not to be climbed!