Sunday, September 15, 2013

Projects and Flat Landings!

The summer season is over, and it seems that I haven't really accomplished as much as I would have liked to in the boulderfield of Frank Slide.

"I know," you say to yourself. "But you are injured.  Your elbow is a mess.  Given this, your accomplishments are reasonable, even admirable!"

You're correct, of course.  My elbow injury has taken at least 6-8 weeks out of my season.  It is still painful, and feels incredibly tight until I get it stretched out (which climbing actually does well, I'm finding out).  But still, what about the weeks before the injury?  Why wasn't I getting a lot done then?

Perhaps the answer is that I'm getting old.  However, I suspect the real reason is lack of intensity.  Too much futzing around, not enough training, and certainly a notable lack of simply trying hard to succeed.

Luckily, my last two weekends in Frank have helped remedy this situation.

A week ago, Mark D., Calvin, and I went to Frank Slide for a sunny day of early autumn bouldering.  We headed into the City of Giants / Karst Valley area to see what we could find to climb.  To date, there are only a few dozen problems there, but room for many more.  Unfortunately, the landings in the City are bad, even for Frank, which may explain the small number of established problems.  Arriving, we cleaned up a few warmup problems on a large split boulder not far from the road. Mark climbed a couple of fun moderate-ish mantle problems, while I cleaned and climbed a tallish arete with cool juggy pinches (calling it, somewhat lamely, Pinch Arete (V1)), and a fun slab with angular features (Geometrica (V0)).

Moving around to the back of the boulder, we found a hard steep line of crimps which we tried to no avail.  Beside it, there was also a leaning arete with a perfect starting hold.  It looked like a fun easy problem, but despite our best efforts, we couldn't make ANY progress on it.  It will go, certainly, but how to make progress seemed to be a mystery to us!

We moved over to another boulder, where I spent some time moving rocks to build a landing for what I call the 'Feed The Need' Project (it has a big kneebar, hence the name).  I spent a half-hour trying it, but the first move (the crux) still eluded me.  Perhaps next time!  I did a few moderate lines to the right, though, both first ascents; Peachy Pinch (V1) and Cherry Pit (V4), the latter a great problem with a bad landing (you start half-standing in a narrow pit amongst the blocks).

Calvin ready to pull onto the crux sloping shelf of Ride the River (V0).

Wanting to get on some established problems, we headed over to the Trees Boulder (which features PERFECT landings in a shady forest setting!!!).  Calvin did the high Ride The River (V0), and Mark and I did Broken Tree (height-dependent V4 or V5).  I was excited!  Finally, one of my projects knocked off my list, though not one of the major ones.  Broken Tree has great movement, though the face is covered with a weird crumbly rock that looks like gloppy mortar with too much sand added.

Mark D. making short work of Broken Tree (V4/5).

On the way out, we stopped at the Healing Boulder to run up some tall, super-easy slabs.  I did a really easy but high problem with a big crux reach that I called The Grim Reacher (V0-).  A fun day at the Slide!

Yesterday, I was keen to get out to the Slide to get on some new problems. Everyone else in Lethbridge was heading out on Sunday, but I couldn't.  A solo mission was in order!  Truthfully, I miss this kind of experience, which I used to do a fair bit in Squamish and Godman Creek.  I like having the energy of a group when it comes to sending hard problems, but I also like the freedom to work hard and focus on a line that comes with climbing alone.  Plus, I wanted to clean some tall projects on toprope, which isn't particularly compatible with a group of people around.

I headed to the Aftermath Boulder, where I wanted to clean the tall arete above The Pocket Problem (V2-).  The Pocket Problem is a fun problem, but it ends halfway up an arete, on a big pocket (hence the name). There were a few pieces of dangerously loose blocks of rock on the arete above this (which had previously prevented people from climbing above the pocket), which I removed on rappel. I spent a few minutes cleaning the holds and checking out the moves, and then I was ready to try it.  Though high (about 15 or 16 feet) the problem is relatively easy, and features a huge finishing hold.  It went really smoothly, and in a minute I was grinning on top of the boulder. I decided to call the entire problem Evil Eye (V2/3), after the large pocket on the arete (and because my kids and I have this game, where I draw 'evil eyes' on the sidewalk, and it gives me powers to see everything they do, so they try to destroy the 'eyes'...).

The overhanging arete of Evil Eye (V2/3).  A sit start on pockets leads to some cool arete moves and another cluster of pockets; above this, more pulls on blocky holds leads to a huge final jug.  A good highball for the not-so-keen-on-high-problems crowd.

Since I had a rope there, I decided to clean off a line between Ghost Rider (V4) and the arete.  The line looked interesting - a crimpy start led to a line of big sidepulls and a fun mantle.  I was psyched to try something harder, so I cleaned the holds and set to work.   I was stymied for a half-hour by a single move (the third move) off a small edge; I could do the move (from the crimp to a gaston) by itself, but I was having a hard time hanging off the hold long enough to set my feet up to do the move.  Finally, after a rest, I managed to squeak through the move, and I easily pulled through the sidepulls to the easy mantle above.  So happy to send!  Such a great feeling!  I called it Invincible (V6+?) after the crazily endorphin-infused feeling I get after I send a high problem.

I really wanted to try the 'Rumrunner' project across the river, so I packed up and moved over to south side of the slide. Unfortunately, I couldn't cross the river (still too fast and deep!), so I decided to try the problems on the Expected Surprise boulder instead.  I flashed Expected Surprise (V3?V4?), did Expected Surprise Left (V4) in two tries, and spent some time cleaning and sending another new line to the left, which I called Otter Surprise (V4), after an otter that was playing and barking in the river behind me.

It was late afternoon, and I still felt like I had some gas left in my tank, so I headed over to Postive Water (V8) for a session before I left for the day. I had been on it before, so I was looking forward to finessing my sequence and making good linkage.  To my surprise, I sent it on my second try!  Shuffling the mats, I decided to try Triforce (V6).  I tried the moves, and fell.  I refined my beta.  And fell. I tried this, and tried that. I tried with a high heel, then with a low foot scum. All to no avail.  Finally, I micro-refined my beta and squeeeeezed (literally!) out an ascent of this surprisingly intricate compression problem.

Finally, I was spent.  Happy, though!  For the first time in a long time, I had had a decent day, doing two V6s and a V8, and three first ascents, including two significant new highballs.  It was time for a doughut!

Crowsnest Mountain in the evening light, as seen from the Slide.(*Thanks for the correction, Calvin!)

Still, lots of projects left on my list.  As of today, the "Official List of Projects" includes...  The Rumrunner Project (hardish? with a bad landing), Rising Tithes (V8), the Floodwater Project, the Submarine Project (currently underwater... still), Frankenstein (V6 tall hard slab!), Roadrunner Excavation Company (V8), the Feed The Need Project (just one hard move, really, but a very cool line), the Wizard Project (HARD, TALL!), the Mark of the Beast Project (not crazy hard, but a perfect-looking highball with a go-to-the-hospital landing), The Communist Project (powerful and tall, very hard first three moves), the Prism Project (the direct finish is HARD, but I think it'll go with a lot of work), Approved Beta (V8), Paleofit (V7), and the Railway Slab Project (really tall V0ish slab).  14 projects!  Whew!  Time to get serious!

Until next time... cheers!

PS> I've decided to add one more project to the list; I used to refer to it as the Alcove Project, which made no sense because it wasn't in an alcove, at all.  In a self-mocking vein, I am going to refer to it as the Old Man and the Sea Project.  This one is a bit of a long shot; it looks hard and tall, but I'll give it a serious effort! 15 projects in total...

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