Monday, July 15, 2013


Summer is in full swing in southern Alberta, and it always seems especially summery at Frank Slide.  The weather is usually sunny, and even the summertime thundershowers only seem to last a few minutes at the Slide.  Although it seems a little too warm sometimes, in reality temperatures rarely get above 30C, and the long hours of sunlight make late afternoon climbing a joy.  This past Sunday, I headed to back to Frank Slide with Mark G. and Mark D. for a day of bouldering and exploration.

Life in the slide.  Potentilla growing amidst the scree.

After a protracted discussion en route to Frank, we agreed to cross the train tracks and head toward the Hulkamaniac Area.  More accurately, we wanted to explore the area just west of the Hulkamaniac boulder, as it appeared to have a decent concentration of large boulders.  Although I had not previously visited that area of the Slide, I knew that it had been intermittently popular in the past, and that there was a handful of established problems scattered throughout the blocks there.

 Mark G. moving from the face to the arete of The Glass Ballerina (V3 or V4).

We crossed the tracks and climbed up a grassy ramp to the boulders above.  After spending a few minutes checking out the blocks, we started warming up on a decently large boulder near the top of the ramp.  Mark D. remembered climbing an obvious easy problem on horizontal rails in the middle of the boulder; I climbed it a few times, a really fun and satisfying easy line.  Mark G. and I also climbed a tricky (V3?) line on small crimps to the left, which, in retrospect, may not have been the best way to warm up!

It also looked like there were two unclimbed harder lines to the right, so we fixed the landings below them and set to work.  Mark D. climbed the fun right-hand arete from a sit-start first, calling it The Glass Ballerina.  Mark G. and I sent it straightaway as well, and then we turned our attention to a much harder line to the left.  We lined up to try an obvious and amazing-looking vertical problem that moved between large bone-like features (coral fossils?) jutting from the rock. With no reachable holds, we were forced to jump to the first hold, a half-pad crimp.  After 20 minutes or so, we managed to piece the moves together, and my ascent was rapidly followed by sends by Mark G. and Mark D.  Whale Bones (V5 or 6) is a great addition to the area; it reminds me a fair bit of the problem Worm World in Squamish.

Mark G. getting serious on Whale Bones (V5 or 6).  Tiny holds, big moves!

I had spied another promising-looking block just to the south, so I headed over to clean some more problems for us to try.  I cleaned up four promising-looking lines on two faces of the boulder; the first face had prominent horizontal rails, while the other face featured crimps and edges.  Starting on a low prominent edge almost directly on the arete between the two faces, I sent Bump Bump (V3?), a line that headed up and slightly right to a techy mantle, while Atlas (V5?) headed up and left using tricky heel-hook beta.  Shortly after we also did the two problems on the right face of the boulder, a V2/3ish line with edges, and a great V1ish problem I might call Balance, which was a lot easier (and more fun!) than I anticipated.  We finally wrapped up the problems on the boulder by starting on Bump Bump but adding a long lip traverse to make a long-ish pumpy problem that went around V3.

Me on the first bump move of Bump Bump (V3ish).  Felt very Squamishy to climb an arete with rails and a slopey lip...

In my earlier foray, I had realised that what looked like a short slabby boulder to the south was, in fact, a fairly large boulder with two tall faces.  When I went to clean some problems I saw that some of the problems had previously been cleaned.  Looking at the lines, I wasn't suprised; side-by-side on the boulder were two of the best easy problems I have so far seen at Frank, a V0 arete and a strangely-featured V0 steep slab.

Mark G. on the last looong reach to the final jug on the extension to Bump Bump.

Being mid-afternoon, though, we were in the mood for some shade, and the easy arete was in the full sun.  I saw that there was a unclimbed (and dirty!) line on the shady side of the boulder, so with a little cleaning (and landing-fixing) we had a new moderate line to try!  It turned out to be easier than it looked, although still a lot of fun!  One of the nicest V2ish lines I've done at Frank, it starts on the lower of two horizontal rails, then moves up to a very fun high-step-gaston move to reach the lip.  I think I'll call it Deep Blue Sea after all the marine fossils in the boulder.

We moved around to the sunny side of the boulder, and were rewarded with another half-dozen vertical problems from V0 to V4ish.  Mark G. made a stemming problem just left of the prominent arete look easy, while Mark D. and I found it to be stiffer than Mark G. had made it look!.  We finished up the boulder by doing the sit-start to the prominent arete; it looked great, and we weren't disappointed, it is a great problem, a four-star line!  The slab to the right was equally good, and it was a pleasure to climb on the crazily-featured face.

Mark G., sendage-style!  Posing, at my request, atop the amazing arete on the Deep Blue Sea boulder.

Mark G. and Mark D. wanted to leave the Slide to get ice cream, but I was hoping to get another problem in.  I settled on a steep compression problem not far from Deep Blue Sea, which looked both physical and technically-demanding.  Initially I thought it would be brutally hard, but I was surprised (and happy) to send it only after about 10 tries or so.  It suited my style really well, and I think it is one of the nicest moderately-hard problems I've tried at the Slide.  I called it Breathing Underwater (V6, maybe low-end V7).

The crazy features of the V0 slab on the Deep Blue Sea boulder.  This photo doesn't really do the features of this face justice!

All-in-all, a great trip to a new area of Frank Slide.  The Slide continues to surprise me, and I look forward to my future explorations of what the Slide holds.  I need to focus more on difficult projects, though; I think there are a lot of testpieces hidden away in the maze, and I mean to find them!  Also, there are lot of classic lines that I haven't tried yet, including Serial Killer (V5) and Healing Arete (V5), that I am hoping to try soon.

Until next time... Cheers!

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