Monday, August 26, 2013

Little Hulkamaniac, the Prince of Frank!

Even though my elbow is still feeling sore and weak, last weekend was simply too nice to pass up a trip to Frank.  Plus, a handful of boulderers from Lethbridge were heading out, so it seemed like a good opportunity to do some bouldering with fun people.  We decided to visit the Little Hulkamaniac area, which was fine by me; I had only been there one day previously, and I was keen to see what else the area had to offer.

Arriving at the Slide, we (Kyle, Mark D, Ryan, Amanda, Calvin, Justin, and I) headed across the tracks and up the ramp to Little Hulkamaniac and the surrounding boulders.  We decided to warm up at the cluster of boulders where Deep Blue Sea (V2) is located.  We ended up climbing several new moderate problems on the boulder next to it as well, including a handful of V0s and V1s, and a new V3 (Mark D.'s Some Like it Hoth).  Amanda also did the high V0 arete of Coraline, a great venture into the world of high bouldering!

Soon thereafter we packed up and moved on to Little Hulkamaniac.  This tall pyramidal boulder dominates the skyline at the area, and Little Hulkamaniac (V2) is one of the tallest problems at the Slide.  Certainly, it is the tallest non-slab problem; at about 22 or 23 feet high, it starts as a steep slab but then slowly becomes vertical, then overhanging right at the end.  We arranged the mats, and then everyone chalked up to try it. It soon became apparent that the problem had not only an opening crux (the second and third moves are tricky), but an final end crux as well (the last two moves on the face are committing).  After everyone had had a chance to try the moves, Kyle booted up and climbed the line.  Watching him, it became apparent to me how serious Little Hulkamaniac is; the last two hard moves involve a long reach to a thin edge, then another long reach to the finishing ledge.  Blowing either of those two moves would result in a huge plummet to the mats below.

On my first couple of attempts, I climbed up to the second crux, but then reversed a couple of moves and jumped off.  After watching Kyle do the problem, I realised that I needed to man up and commit to a high step and those two reachy moves.  I hopped on, and before I knew it I was at the finishing ledge, feeling a bit pumped.  I grabbed the lip, and topped out. Such an amazing line, perfect edges and minijugs up an arching face.  I have a lot of respect for the guys who worked and sent the line years ago!  One of the best problems at Frank, for sure!

Kyle and I then worked a line to the left of Little Hulkamaniac, that reminded me a lot of Connect Four (V8) in Squamish.  However, we were stymied by the powerful and technical moves, and moved on.   I did a couple of new moderate mini-cave problems close to Little Hulkamaniac, Tooth (V2) and Claw (V2), both fun lines on really amazing rock.  Mark D. did a couple of hard lines not far away, including Rise of the Phoenix (V5) and Stairway to Evan (V7).  Wrapping things up, we did a handful of moderate lines on a long block near Little Hulkamaniac, including the fun Rail Gun (V2).

I had a fun time, but was a little bummed that my elbow was causing me problems.  I still can't lock off with my right arm, and it feels weak.  Still, it is slowly improving, so I can't complain!  I'm hoping I can get back to regular climbing again soon; I'm looking forward to a long fall of bouldering at Frank.

What's next?  Get my elbow healed, get in shape, and get back to my projects!  Lots to do!

 On a closing note, I would like to extend a heartfelt farewell to Adam and Amanda ('Adamanda'), who are moving to Vancouver soon.  Enjoy the ocean, sushi, and Squamish!

[Sorry, no photos this time, I forgot my camera...] 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Day of the Frank!

Slowly, my elbow has begun to improve.  It still hurts to extend my arm or to pinch anything (like a cup), but gradually the pain is lessening and is being replaced by a uncomfortable tightness.  I went bouldering to Frank the last two weekends (first with Shelley, Aya, and Rowan, then the second weekend with Kyle), and to my surprise my elbow felt better after a day of climbing!  I think it really needs to be stretched as it heals, so the tendon doesn’t end up scarred and overly tight.  I have been stretching and massaging it every day, so I imagine that has helped as well.

My trip to Frank with Shelley, Aya, and Rowan was half bouldering trip, half family picnic outing.  Shelley, Aya, and Rowan bouldered a bit, but mostly clambered over the rocks and played in a pond / sidechannel of the Crowsnest River.  I was unsure if I would be able to climb, but to my surprise my elbow held up reasonably well, although it was somewhat uncomfortable.  I cleaned and put up a handful of problems south of Albatross, including the especially fun Jumbo Shrimp (V1) and Nectarine (V2).  I also did Limestone Catastrophe (V2/3), which is a very interesting problem on a unique nose-like feature.  A fun day in the mountains with my family, capped off by a hot dog roast by the river.  My elbow felt really good that evening, more comfortable than it had for a while.

Not a great picture of a great problem; Chicken Little Arete (V3).

Frank summer; potential across the river.

Encouraged, I made another trip to Frank the following weekend, with Kyle.  It’s always fun to climb with Kyle; he has a focused approach to bouldering that I always find refreshing.  We spent the day climbing problems along the river, including several new lines. As we headed in to the boulders, we saw a large garter snake, which watched us calmly as we walked by.  Kyle had never seen a snake in the boulders before, so I gathered it was an unusual sighting.  We warmed up on Limestone Catastrophe and a new tallish arête to the right (which I called Attack of the Pikas (V0), on account of all the pikas we saw near the boulder). 

We then did a new problem (The Bowing Bishop V4ish) to the left of Attack of the Pikas, and then set to work on repeating Don’t Blow It; it had been V4 until I broke a crucial hold off.  Kyle and I found that it could still be climbed, although it was certainly harder (hard V5?), and the sequence somewhat different.  We tried a few more lines on that face, then turned our attention to the backside of the boulder.  I had cleaned up a problem on that face the previous week, and I wanted to try it.  I fumbled my first few attempts, then watched as Kyle nearly flashed the problem with completely different beta!   Both Kyle and I sent it soon thereafter, calling it Day of the Snake (V4ish).  I added a much easier direct finish to the problem as well, calling it The Smarter Garter (V0).

Kyle checking out the first crux hold (the second move) of Day of the Snake (V4ish) (first photo), then grabbing it with authority (second photo).  The heel-toe cam is an important technique on many Frank Slide problems, as Kyle demonstrates here.
Continuing our circuit along the river, we did a handful of new problems, including three problems on the Hubris Boulder (including a really nice V1 slab), and three new problems on a new problem boulder right beside the road.  We finished off the day with a send of a new bulge problem by Worm Face (I called it X Factor (V2ish), great holds on perfect rock), and three easy slabs on the Worm Face (such amazing features, it’s too bad the problems there are so easy).  We wrapped things up with a trip to Tim Horton’s for doughnuts.  Thanks to Kyle for a great day of bouldering! 

Again, my elbow felt better after a day of climbing than it had the previous day.  Encouraging, certainly.

With a little luck, my elbow will be healed enough that my fall season isn’t a write-off.  Lots of projects that need to get done this year, including The Communist Project (should be a fun fall project), the Mark of the Beast Project (I just need to man up and climb that thing), the Submarine Project (still wet last time I checked), The Prism Project (I think I need to train my open-hand strength a bit)...   I’ve also added another couple of projects to the list, a V7ish face problem on sloping but full-pad edges, and a V9ish-looking arête.  Whew! 

Until next time! Cheers!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The legend of Gioia (8C+)

In 2008, Christian Core linked together 14 moves across a giant block of stone in Verazze, Italy.  He named this problem Gioia, Italian for 'Joy'.  From what I understand, this word describes not only Christian's feelings about finally completing what many consider to be the hardest boulder problem in the world, but also his emotional state when he found the problem after years of searching the boulders of southern Europe for the perfect problem.  Christian Core has won bouldering world cup events, and in 2003 was the bouldering world champion, yet despite all the hours he must spend in a climbing gym, it is his outdoor explorations which drive him forward. 

Christian Core on the amazing Gioia (8C+). (photo: Roberto Armando)

Late in 2011, Adam Ondra repeated Gioia after many days on the problem, giving it a 'personal grade' (and what we must consider a consensus grade) of 8C+.  In 2012, Christian repeated Gioia at night, showing the amazing power and crisp technique for which he is known. 

The video of Christian Core climbing Gioia at night can be seen HERE.

Video of Adam Ondra repeating Gioia (video link below) is incredibly interesting, especially with respect to how the two climbers approach the movement.

So why the post-hoc discussion of ascents of Gioia?  To me, it is an interesting case of what drives many climbers; the need to explore and find lines which challenge them intellectually, emotionally, and physically.  It is, I suppose, this need that drives many climbers to seek out new challenges, regardless of their level of skill, or how hard the route or problem is. Difficulty in climbing is, essentially, scale-free; the amount of effort that Adam and Christian put in to climbing Gioia might be the same effort expended by another climber to send his/her first V7. 

Until next time... Cheers!