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  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!

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