Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Valley of the Karst!

At long last, all the stars properly aligned, and I managed to get to the City of Giants for a day of exploring and bouldering.  On Sunday we headed into the City, specifically to the Karst Boulder.  The Karst Boulder is, for Frank Slide anyways, a singularly unique block of limestone.  It features a highly eroded surface with intact karst-like features (in places similar to the Tonquin Boulder in Jasper), indicating it must have once been part of an exposed (or partially soil-covered) face high on Turtle Mountain.  During the slide must have floated atop the sliding mass without rolling or flipping.  In its current resting place, the Karst Boulder is tall, covered with climbable features, and overhangs at a perfect angle.  Unfortunately, the landing beneath the boulder is especially rough and blocky, even for Frank Slide. 

Even Mark is dwarfed by the Karst Boulder.  Karst (V0/1), Karst Low (V3), and Dark Waters (V5) climb the steep face to Mark's left, while Giantsbane (V6) climbs the face on the far right of the photo. The tall prow to Mark's right is a true king line, but you'll need at least a dozen mats.  At least.

Arriving at the Karst Boulder, we dropped all the mats and took some time to look around. Ashlee, Ryan, and Kyle started warming up on a fun lip traverse problem immediately adjacent to the Karst Boulder.  Mark and I spotted several nice-looking potential projects among the maze of blocks that constitute the City of Giants; it'll be nice to get back there to do some more exploring!

Warmed up, we started in on a tall, heavily featured face on the far left side of the boulder.  A stand-start on a beautiful incut jug-slot seemed to be the most obvious line, so we lined up to try it.  Kyle immediately climbed to the top of the boulder, following first a series of sculpted mini-jugs then positive edges and flakes.  It was easier than I anticipated, and soon I topping out on the amazing line as well.  We named it Karst (V0 or V1) after the amazing holds on the bottom half of the problem.  Certainly, one of my favorite lines at Frank Slide! 

Warmed up, we added two very distinct starts to KarstKarst Low (V3) starts down and left on a crimpy slot and either a sidepull or undercling, while Dark Waters (V4 or V5) starts on a flat jug to the right.  Dark Waters is really fun, but unfortunately it is difficult not to dab on a block behind you, which really detracts from the line.

Using my camera, I took a brief video of Kyle on Karst Low, the sit-start to Karst (V0/1).  When you climb Karst, there is another boulder behind you, which  is nice (in a weird way) because a spotter can stand on top of that boulder to spot the second half of the problem, hopefully directing the climber onto the mats far below in the unlikely instance of a fall on the easy exit to the problem. 

Mark on the start of Karst Low (V3 or V4). All those light streaks stick out of the rock like tufas or bones.  A really fun highball (about 20 feet high) on fantastically-shaped holds. Crazy.

Every problem on the Karst Boulder looks amazing, although the two most striking lines are the tallest and have - by far - the worst landings.  Maybe with a dozen pads they can be tamed; but even with that many pads a weird fall into the talus would send you to the hospital.  Anyways, here's the video, even though it doesn't do the problem or it's amazing holds any justice.

Kyle 'Schulte' Marco sending Karst Low (V3) with authority. 

While I was cleaning and climbing some easier lines nearby, Kyle shuffled the mats over to try a slightly overhanging face heavily featured with small tufa-like features.  He sent it relatively quickly, employing a long deadpoint to reach the finishing jug.  I almost flashed it (using a bowling-ball pocket to do a static move instead of a dyno), but had to settle for a redpoint a half-dozen tries later.  Mark Guckert sent it soon thereafter, and eventually Mark Derksen threw to the finishing jug as well.  Kyle named it Giantsbane; another great problem for the area.

After adding another few problems to surrounding boulders (including the fun, technical, and slightly exasperating dyno problem Le Swoop (V4), and a short but tricky arete I may call Father's Day (V4ish)), we headed over to Trent's Cave (V6) on the other side of the City of Giants to finish the day.  Mark flashed it (not surprisingly, it suits his style very well), and Kyle sent it a few minutes later.  I was surprised to repeat it on my second try, making me wonder if it's perhaps a bit soft for the grade.  We spent a few minutes working the moves on the Glassberg Project (a very cool 25-foot long lip traverse / overhanging arete), then called it a day.  We headed back to Lethbridge, fully thrashed.

Kyle styling his way out of Trent's Cave (V6).  Nice work, Kyle!

Mark on the Glassberg Project.  Only the first half of the problem is in the photo.  Bring all your guns, and don't forget the hipster glasses.

I was a little disappointed that I didn't try anything particularly hard, but I was psyched to finally climb on the Karst Boulder.  I won't be Frank for a couple of weeks; instead, I am looking forward to trying some of the new sandstone problems at Bear Mountain next weekend. 

Until next time, happy bouldering!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Frank Slide Bouldering: House Area Mini-Guide!

Finally, the new mini-guide to the House Area is finished.  It includes 71 problems from V0 to V11.  The next mini-guide to be published will likely be the Snakebite Area.  The House Mini-Guide can be downloaded here. Enjoy!

Aya ripping it up on her first First Ascent, which she named The Stripey Problem.  I couldn't be any prouder.  Happy Father's Day, everyone!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Frank Spring

Slowly, the spring season in Frank is coming to a close.  The cottonwood trees are green, and ferns have popped up throughout the talus. Although the mornings are still cool, daytime temperatures have become very summery.  Compared to the endless blue-grey-white palette of winter, the Slide in late spring is positively verdant.  I'm a little worried that summertime temperatures will be too warm for hard climbing, but I've been assured that it rarely gets too hot to climb.

Frank Slide!  Green!  Trees!  Looks a lot different than winter, certainly! Looking at the House Area from the parking lot, the boulder that holds The Evangelist (V7) is visible on the left (it has a flat top, doesn't look like much), while the Road Rage boulder is on the centre-right (the really obvious one).

The new Gripped article on Frank Slide has finally been published.  Entitled 'Speaking Frankly: Exploring the Limestone Bouldering of Frank Slide', it's a great article on the history, present, and future of Frank Bouldering.  Pick up a copy, check it out!

Last Saturday I was back at the Slide.  I was looking forward to climbing with Evan from Calgary, who is responsible for several of Frank's hard boulder problems including Nintendo 69 (V9).  When we arrived at the Slide, we went to the Sofa King / Curse / Teen Titans boulders to warm up.  I think these boulders will be a popular warmup area, as they are both close to the parking lot and right on the trail to the House and Heart of Frank areas.  Armed with my newly completed mini-guide for the House Area, Ryan and Ashlee climbed several of the problems, while I did a couple of the easier lines on the Sofa King boulder. 

Ryan and Ashlee at Frank Slide.  Wacky good times galore!

I spied an unclimbed boulder through the trees, and although it looked small, I walked over to take a look at it.  I was psyched to see that the far side of the boulder was much higher than it looked, and had a well-featured face over a good landing.  Looking closer, I realised that it also had perfect start holds (a rarity for Frank). Game on!  The moves turned out to be a lot more stout and technical than they looked, so I decided to recruit Kyle and Evan for a session.  After ten minutes or so, we started to link some of the moves, but it took another half-hour before Evan managed to send the line, calling it The Evangelist (V7).  The first move is hard and tricky; from two right facing holds that are near a right-facing arete, you have to reach up right handed to another right-facing sidepull.  It takes a unique combination of tension and technique to do the moves, and so I felt lucky ten minutes later when I squeaked through the start and finished the problem for the second ascent.  The Evangelist also has a sustained and sequential topout, which is unusual for Frank.  A great find, one of the nicest V7s in Frank!

From there, we headed up to the Mushroom Boulder where Evan wanted to try Dragon Fire (V9?) and Kyle wanted to try Dark Age (V10?).  Putting the mats down, Evan immediately made great linkage, and Kyle repeated Dragon Fire in just a few tries.  Kyle, an absolute master of the heel-toe cam, uses the technique to great effect on Dragon Fire. Booting up, I sat down to give Dragon Fire a burn, only to feel the start hold (virtually the only big hold on the problem, and an absolutely key foothold) shift and make a grinding noise.  We took a good look at it, and unfortunately it looks as though it is going to fall off.  If it comes off, both Dragon Fire and Dark Age will be no more.  I think Dragon Fire might still go, but it likely won't be quite as nice and will be MUCH harder.

 Evan hamming it up on Race to the Top (V2/3) on the Mushroom Boulder.  At least I think he's hamming it up.

Not wanting to touch the start hold of Dragon Fire for now, we looked around for other problems on the boulder.  I did Rhythmic Gymnastics (V5 or 6) and the juggy arete to the right (V3).  I had cleaned a couple of lines on the side of the Mushroom Boulder as well, so we tried them.  Evan did the first ascent of Race to the Top (maybe V2 or V3), a very fun Squamishy rail-to-rail-to-jugs problem, and I did the stand start to a cool (but not too hard, V2?) slot problem that I am sure has been done before.  I cleaned some of the loose rock chips out of the slot, making it a much nicer problem. Seeing a line of perfect edges that continued right from the horizontal rail on Race to the Top, I added an extension to the problem (Race to the Top Extension) that essentially doubles its length, although not it's difficulty.  A fun addition to the area.

Wrapping it up, we headed to Tim Hortons for coffee and doughnuts, and then headed home.  I've always been curious how much gasoline it takes to get to Frank.  I had filled up before we left, so I filled up again when I got back to Lethbridge.  My van had used 27 litres of gas ($34) in the drive to Frank and back, about what I had expected. 

So, what's next for Frank Slide?  Let's see... (1) The next mini-guide is finished (for House Area), so that'll be going online in the next day or so, likely on Sendage.com.  Work has already started on the next mini-guide (for the Snakebite area), so with luck that'll be coming out in July sometime.  (2) I have a bunch of projects I REALLY want to get wrapped up sometime soon; it's time to buckle down, and put some real attempts into these things instead of just floating around. Communist Project? Prism Project? The three potential hard lines in Trent's Cave?  Get to it!  (3) Time for more exploration!  I still haven't seen about half of the Slide, and I'd like to get into the Prow Area, check it out.  I practically need to go on a road trip to Frank to get these things done!

Until next time, happy bouldering!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Franks, Two for a Dollar!

The last two weekends have produced very successful bouldering forays into the massive limestone cookie jar that is Frank Slide.  I'm finally comfortable with what I consider the three "Main Areas" of Frank Slide, namely House Area, Healing Area, and Snakebite Area.  I'm currently working on the mini-guide for House Area, so I've spent the last three trips to Frank in that area, putting up new problems and attempting to get consensus grades nailed down.  I've been climbing a lot with Kyle, which is great because he both knows the area incredibly well and is a solid climber.  Together we've managed to get the House Area pretty much wrapped up (69 problems from V0 to V11), so the new mini-guide will be done this week, I hope!

I'm already looking ahead, trying to decide what area I should attack for the next mini-guide.  Snakebite is probably the best bet, but I am also tempted to do a guide covering Zombotron / Wind Ridge / Rising Tithes Areas (the three small areas across the river), mostly because I haven't climbed there in a while and it would be great to do some exploration over there.

Saturday Number One
Kyle and I were keen to head out, but everyone else was busy elsewhere, so we went to Frank to get some stuff done in the House Area.  We had an amazing day, doing or working 20 problems, including 15 first ascents.  We started just across the road from the House Area parking lot, and did all the problems on the Sofa King Boulder including 2 FAs (Sofa King V5, Sofa Queen V3, Posturepedic V1, Pocket Face V0, LaZBoy V0), five FAs on the Curse Boulder (Private Dancer V1, Hug O War V1, Hide and Seek V2, Tipping Point V2, and the unexpectedly hard The Curse V5).  We then moved over and did two new dyno problems on a boulder close to the highway (the perfectly clean dyno Kyle's Dyno V6, and Dead or Alive V3), and then five new problems on the newly named Teen Titans Boulder (Starfire V0, Robin V1, Raven V4, Cyborg V2, and Beast Boy V2). 

Random picture from the previous weekend.  Kyle chalking up to do Rocksteady (V4).  The gang from left to right; Ryan, Beth, Kyle, Mark G., Adam, and Amanda.

After all that, we had lunch and headed over to try The Shield project in the City of Giants.  It was likely too late in the day, because we didn't make any progress at all.  Actually, I couldn't do any of the moves, leaving me feeling a little bummed.  We did walk over and try my cave project, and I unexpectedly sent it after several tries, calling it Trent's Cave (V6).  It's very steep for Frank, and follows a incut rail out a small cave.  More reminscent of Squamish than Frank!

By this time it was getting quite late, so we packed it in and headed to Tim Hortons for celebratory coffee and donuts.  A great way to end the day!

Another random photo.  Mark checking out a sandstone boulder between Lethbridge and Frank.

Saturday Number Two
This past Saturday, I went to Frank Slide with my family - Shelley, Aya, and Rowan!  Shelley hasn't really climbed for the past five years, so I was curious what she would think of Frank Slide.  Shelley had never been that enthused about the bouldering in Squamish.  While the forest was amazing, and  the boulders very beautiful, she had not really appreciated the "right heel hook left lockoff" style of climbing on rails and slopers. She really prefers crimpy climbing on slightly overhanging faces, which is really the Squamish anti-style.  When we arrived in Frank, we went to the House Area (which seemed most kid-friendly), and we warmed up on a few of the problems I had done last week.  Shelley did everything pretty easily, including a quick send of Tipping Point (V2).  Aya was also excited to boulder, and seemed fearless!  She soon asked for the cleaning brushes, because she has found a new problem she wanted to do. I helped her clean it, and she sent her first-ever first ascent, which she proudly called The Stripey Problem (V0).

Aya on The Stripey Problem (V0).  Working her project for the first ascent!  And no mat!?  Over those blocks!? Brave!

We headed up the hill to the House Boulder.  I wanted to try two problems adjacent to Salacious which appeared in the old guide; a "V5" that apparently followed a "traverse in from the left" and a "V4" that traversed in from the right.  It appears to me that these problems are either (a) based on misinformation, i.e. they were never actually problems, or (b) holds have broken, which seems unlikely after examining the rock.  In terms of recording history and writing a new guide for the area, I've made the awkward decision to supplant both of these "problems" with new lines that have well-defined starts.  I knew that one of the lines (the "V5") had actually been done via a low, well-defined sit-start.  It is unclear who did it first (perhaps Evan Erickson?), but I decided to call it Lost (as much a description as a name).  Arriving at the boulder, I padded the landing and starting working it from a incut lefthand sidepull and a small right-hand crimp at the left side of the cave (about a meter left of Salacious).  Kyle and I worked through the beta for the problem, which involved tension-dependent moves on sloping edges along the lip of the cave.  The start was hard, used a difficult high-step to push into the first hard move of the problem.  I finally did it, figuring it was V7.  The "V4" on the right didn't appear to have any start or even any interesting moves, so I abandoned it, relegating it to the dustbin of history.  Had it once been a problem?  Had holds broken?  Hopefully one day I'll find out, but until then, it won't appear in the guide.

Aya on The Stripey Problem.  Still no mat!

I convinced Shelley to try Galactic (V4), which she flashed with relative ease.  Like me, she is skeptical that it is really V4; perhaps a downgrade is necessary.  I did several of the moderate problems in the area, including the 'block' problems above House, which I dubbed Lego Blocks (V1) and MegaBlocks (V3), the latter of which is one of the worst problems I've done at Frank.  We finished off the day with a visit to the Aftermath Boulder, where Kyle and I tried the Communist project briefly.  Kyle broke off a key hold, but then discovered a slightly better slot-crimp nearby, which actually seemed to make the next move slightly easier.  I think Kyle will send it soon, and I hope that I will as well.  Aya wanted everyone to try her problem, so on the way out Kyle stopped and didThe Stripey Problem, which turns out is maybe harder for tall people...

All in all, a good day in the mountains! As always, a trip to Tim Hortons for doughnuts followed.

I'm hoping to get to Frank next weekend, and knock off at least one of my projects.  I've been a little lax lately, not really trying my hardest.  As a result, I'm getting close on some lines, but I haven't finished any of them.  Time to stop letting myself down, and get to business!  So many projects I'm trying to wrap up right now...

1) The Mark of the Beast Project. This line is amazing, with some of the best movement I've experienced at Frank.  However, while it's only V5 or so, it has a terrible landing.  A fall from the crux would be serious (you land on a large angled block), but a fall from the finishing slab (which thankfully looks easy) would probably result in a trip to the hospital. 

2) The Communist Project.  A great tall project, lots of body tension, really poor feet.  Kyle unlocked what looks to be the last hard move on the weekend, but putting it all together is going to be HARD.  I think it's likely V9 or so, and I suspect that my knees are going to hurt from all the high falls that I am going to take.

3) The Prism Project.  I feel like I'm getting close on this, one move at mid-height is giving me a hard time, and the finishing crux is going to be weird/hard.  It's not pumpy, though, so that works in my favor!  Very cool moves, maybe next weekend?

4) Salacious (V8/9). I think I'm adding this to my Project List.  I did Lost (V7) last weekend, which is basically a slightly easier / better start to Salacious.  I think with a little effort I can manage Salacious as well.

This is just the short list, though.  I've got a bunch of stuff on my 'long list', including Rising Tithes (V8), the Sinking Ships Project, the Rumrunner Project, The Shield Project (likely V11ish, too hard for me most likely!), The Submarine Project (currently underwater, most likely), plus the three projects in Trent's Cave.... Time to get busy!

Yet another random Frank photo.  Mark on Get Carter (V7).  Mark went sport climbing last weekend, instead of Frank.