Sunday, October 27, 2013

Relaxed Day at Frank!

Shelley is away for a few days at a conference, so I decided to take Aya and Rowan to the mountains for a bit of adventuring.  We went for a bit of a hike, explored along the Crowsnest River, and had a little fire.  We found a number of additional (free) campsites immediately adjacent to Frank Slide as well, so if any visiting climbers want info on some brilliant free camping very close to the Slide just let me know.

Mark G pulling hard on the classic Relentless (V6), shortly before he sent it.  Nice work!

After our hike, we went to do a little bouldering.  We tracked down some of the Lethbian boulderers that were in the Slide that day, including Calvin, Mark / Beth, Ryan, and Mark D.  They were at the Relentless Boulder, where Mark G was trying Relentless (V6, which he sent!), and Ryan was trying OFD (V3ish, which he allllmmmost sent).  I did a few of the easy lines on the boulder which I hadn't had the opportunity to do before (including one I think is new, to the right of Krimptonite).  I suggested that Mark try the low start to the V1 face/arete to the left of Relentless, since it looked decent.  We both did it quickly, revealing a really fun V3ish line that Mark wants to call The Incident

And Beth lost her toque.  But then she found it again.

Aya, Beth, and Lupin the dog at the Foxhole Boulders.  This was before Beth lost her toque.

We headed over to the Albatross Boulder, where I had some things I wanted to try, including a short/ugly problem I had excavated just right of Roadrunner Excavation Company.  I had also shifted a big boulder on the other side of the boulder, opening up a potential new line right of Shutdown (V4).  I quickly jumped on this new problem, finding it to be an extremely fun V2ish steep traverse-to-a tricky vertical move line.  No name yet; I need to find a good name worthy of such a fun line!

Mark D on The Incident (V3ish).  A fun new problem on the Relentless Boulder.

Mark and I worked the short/ugly problem.  It turned out to be somewhat easier than I had thought it might be; I did all the moves pretty quickly, but then tweaked my shoulder a bit so I stopped working it.  Mark kept working it, and sent it eventually, calling it Hoedown.  He speculated it might be a V7, but I think V6 is probably a better estimation of the grade.

CALVIN!!!  Perhaps the last warm and sunny day of the fall season...

Ryan came verrrry close to sending the somewhat spooky Albatross (V4/5), but fell touching the jug after the crux.  SO close!  Maybe next time!

The temperatures were dropping, so we decided to call it a day.  Rowan, Aya, and I headed to Tim Hortons for something to eat... something of a post-Frank tradition, it appears!

The next day, it started to snow, and snow, and snow... hopefully this is not the end of the fall season!  I am hoping that we get another month of fall climbing weather, but we'll have to wait and see!

- - - - -

A Case for Firming up the Grades at Frank Slide

One thing I have noticed in the year I have lived and climbed in the area is that the grades at Frank Slide are wildly inconsistent, especially for the harder problems. I think this trend is not unexpected, especially since the people who have put up problems here are from a number of different areas and have very different levels of experience. However, I think that it is a worthwhile goal to try and arrive at proper consensus grades for the problems here.

Good cases in point are the problems Shutdown and Galactic, two short fun problems at the Albatross and House areas, respectively.  Originally graded V5 and V4, they have both been downgraded a full grade or more, and are now thought to be softish V4 and V3.  I think many of Frank's harder problems suffer from this kind of grade inconsistency, although since most of the hard problems at Frank Slide have seen very ascents, it is difficult to arrive at a consensus on how difficult they are.

Some of the older problems (especially those done by Kyle and Evan in the early days of Frank Slide) tend to be stiffly graded (a founder effect, likely exacerbated by the fact that Kyle and Evan were stronger than they thought they were).  Some of the later problems tend to be a bit soft.  Even I have a hard time grading problems accurately some of the time, mostly because I`m not as strong as I used to be, and Frank Slide is much different from other areas I have climbed a lot at (namely Squamish and Hope).

Accuracy in grading can be made much easier if we are able compare problems to others that are considered to be area-specific benchmarks for each grade. The problems used as benchmarks should be as typical as possible for the area; in the case of Frank Slide, the problems should be vertical or slightly overhanging, neither too short nor too long (i.e. not two moves, but not a dozen moves, either; usually Slide problems are five or six moves long).  The climbs should be relatively straightforward, without obscure trickery that might make it difficult to determine relative difficulty.  They should also be problems that are relatively accessible (i.e. not tucked away in a rarely-visited corner of the area); benchmarks are of no use if no one climbs them!

After giving it a great deal of thought, here are the problems that I consider to be benchmarks for each grade at Frank Slide.

V1: Killer Ss and Snakebite (with the latter in the upper end of the grade range)
V2:  Python and Four Inch Pinch (both good Frank Slide lines)
V3: Expected Surprise and Galactic (although suggested grades for the latter are all over the place)
V4: Apple Shampoo and Shutdown (although the former high, and latter low, in the grade, IMHO)
V5: Aftermath and Healing Arete (haven't done the latter yet, but people seem to think its solid)
V6: Relentless and KBMI30 (both solid problems, I think)
V7: The Communist and The Evangelist (both stellar lines)
V8: The Prism and Roadrunner Excavation Company Left (not many at this grade; these aren't ideal)
V9: Nintendo 69 (very few problems at this grade; Cartel is notoriously reachy, so it's useless)
V10: Railway (really, THE standard for the grade at Frank Slide!)

For example, it took me only a handful of tries to climb Roadrunner Excavation Company Right, which is often cited as being V8.  However, Communist and The Evangelist both seem substantially harder, which suggests to me that RECR is probably a low-end V7 or upper-end V6.  In contrast, REC Left seems very hard to me, somewhere in the (relative) V8 range.

Anyways, that's my take on the issue of grade consistency at Frank Slide.  I think that the grades of some problems will change as more people climb them, so don't hesitate to chime in if you think any published grade is erroneous!  Ordinarily, I don't particularly care about grades, and am usually more interested in climbing problems of high quality regardless of how hard they are.  However, because Kyle and I are currently writing a guide to Frank Slide, trying to nail down appropriate grades for the problems here has become a necessary task!

Hopefully I can get out to Frank a few more times before the winter really sets in to get some problems climbed!

Until next time...

PS> Some of these suggested benchmarks might be replaced as input from other climbers comes in.  If you can suggest better problems that can be used as benchmarks, don't hesitate to tell me.  I'm waffling on a few myself; Healing Arete is considered by some to be V4, for instance.  Check here for an updated list!

Sunday, October 20, 2013


We are now deep into the fall bouldering season, and the bouldering continues, unabated.  Yesterday, I headed to Frank Slide with Kyle, Mark G, and Calvin, three of Lethbridge's most stalwart boulderers.  For many people, the appeal of bouldering fluctuates with the temperature and the seasons, but luckily there are those climbers who are eternally keen to head to the mountains for a day of pulling on holds at Frank Slide!

Arriving at the Slide, it was cool (6C or so) and windy, which didn't seem like ideal climbing conditions.  Kyle suggested that we head to the Railway Boulder so I could do Railway Slab, one of the remaining 13 problems on my list of projects.  Warmed up somewhat by the approach, and encouraged by the dying wind and the growing sunlight, we booted up and did Railway Slab, one of the highest moderate (V0) slabs in Frank.  Psyched, we continued to climb another seven easy slabs on the boulder, all between about 15 to 20 feet tall.  Mark G, a slab-climbing machine (!), knocked them off without hesitation, including an especially tall and aesthetic slab on the east face of the Railway boulder.  (No names yet for all these new slabs!)

We then ganged up to try a strange hanging slab problem that started at the lip of a small overhang... with a mono-pocket for a starting handhold (thus combining two of boulderer's favorite things - slabs and monos - in one problem!!! ;) ).  After much shenanigans, beta-swapping, and falling, Kyle finally sent the FA of Mono Slab (V I have no idea, maybe 3 or 4 but it is such an odd problem that it defies grading).  Mark then cruised the second ascent when he realised that he could use his almost-supernatural hip flexibility to stand up onto the slab, and then I finally grunted out the third ascent.  The slab above the pocket was also very satisfyingly good, which was nice!

I added a couple of new easyish vertical problems on the boulder above Railway, before heading down to the steep cave on the downhill side of the Railway boulder.

Kyle and Mark G. briefly worked the classic Railway (V10), without much success.  We then did Gunslinger aka Railway Crack (V3) (which I flashed with a little struggling), and I worked The Approved Beta (V8) briefly without any luck on the cruxy first two moves.  Feeling a little bummed, I moved around the corner and tried a slab-to-bulge-to-slab problem with Calvin.  Finding the prospect of falling onto a slabby apron a little freaky, we recruited Mark, who promptly sent the line, calling it Caboose (V1?).  Another fun and tall line on the Railway Boulder!

I had earlier cleaned a short problem on small holds on the opposite side of the boulder. It looked like it would be a hard dynamic problem, so we shuffled the mats over to try it.  The problem really only consisted of three moves; a tricky move to a very small edge, a powerful (though not terribly huge) dyno to a good lip hold, followed by an easy(ish) mantle.  Kyle initially thought the first move might be impossible, but after only ten or 15 tries were we were sticking the first move.  Though I could link from the start into the dyno, it never really felt that doable to me, and I kept falling inches short of the lip hold.  Kyle, on the other hand, kept getting closer and closer to sticking the crux dyno, and after only 30 or 45 minutes of work he linked the three moves for the first ascent of Blood Brothers (V6? harder? I have no idea how to grade dynos...).  I had punctured a fingertip that was bleeding on the start hold, hence the name.

Calvin and Mark also sent a steepish, juggy, but dynamic problem to the left of Blood Brothers; it didn't look like much, but it climbed REALLY well on fun holds.  A fun moderate addition to the area!  We finished our day in the Railway area by climbing another V0- slab on a nearby boulder.  Kyle, Mark, and Calvin thought it looked easy enough that they could do it in their approach shoes; I bet them an ice cream that they couldn't... needless to say, I didn't buy anyone ice cream. :)

We headed by Kyle's Dyno (V4/5?) on the way back to the car, which Kyle and Mark both sent.  A fun way to finish a lllloooonnnggg day at Frank Slide!  A great day in the mountains, with great weather and good friends - is there a better way spend a fall day?  15 first acents, including some of the best high slabs in Frank and a significant new hard dyno problem.  Epic!

Until next time!

[sorry for the lack of pictures, I couldn't find my camera... next time, I promise]

PS> Don't forget to send me your Tour de Frank score cards!

PPS> Another problem off my current Project List!  only 12 left!  All the rest are much harder, though...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013 Tour de Frank!

This weekend, the 2013 "summer" season, and the 2013 Tour de Frank, officially came to a close.  The 2013 Tour de Frank spanned the weeks between the May long weekend and Thanksgiving Monday; if you've been keeping track of all of your Frank Slide bouldering sends, send me a list of the seven hardest bouldering ascents at Frank Slide (problem, grade, and approximate date) that you sent between those dates to be entered!

The Tour de Frank is entirely a "for-fun" event, but there are rules, nonetheless.  (1) Be honest. (2) Use consensus grades; this is a tricky issue, since many problems at Frank have had few ascents, and many of the upper-end problems at Frank are notoriously over-graded.  To avoid controversy, use a published grade (either the Norman or Hoover/Marco guides will do, even a grade will do in a pinch), a consensus grade if the problem does not exist in a guide, or your (brutally and soul-searchingly honest) opinion if the problem is a FA and has not had subsequent ascents. (3) Have fun! Remember, the best climber is the one having the most fun!

Send me your virtual scorecards via email or a FB message.  You have a week to get your scorecards to me!  You don't need to be a Frank Slide regular to join in; even if you only bouldered at Frank a few days this summer, you can still send me a list!  It's all in good fun, and I will post results on my blog.  If I feel particularly motivated, I may even scrouge together a few prizes.  I would be especially excited to hear from people who I haven't met or climbed with, so don't hesitate to join the growing ranks of Frank Slide Boulderers! 

- - - - -

Adam Dipinto on the crisp edges of Aftermath (V5); to his right is The Prism (V8?) (see the chalky holds?), and to his left is the perfect highball The Communist (V7?).

In other Frank Slide news, HUGE props to Kyle Marco and Mark Derksen for nailing down two of Frank Slide's most wanted projects.   Kyle walked away with the FA of The Communist (V7?), a beautiful highball on the Aftermath Boulder.  The Communist was the last completely independent line on the boulder, and perhaps the best.  A few meters to the right, Mark managed to finally link all the moves on The Prism (V8?), a powerful line of sloping holds and edges just right of Aftermath (V5).  Two new additions to Frank Slide's growing list of difficult problems!  Congrats to Kyle and Mark!

Kyle Marco  projecting The Communist earlier this spring.  Tall, but not crazy-tall, maybe 15 or 16 feet?  The harder and much scarier Communist Right Project is still up for grabs...

Me on The Prism.  Someday soon, I hope!  I have a new toque, so maybe that'll help. ;)

Until next time!

[For those of you who are curious...

Positive Water (V8)
Road Runner Excavation Company Right (V8)
The Evangelist (V7)
Breathing Underwater (V7)
Submarine (V6)
Trent's Cave (V6)
Invincible (V6/7)

...for a grand total of 48.5 points.  Not the 56 I was hoping for, but given the fact that I lost a month or two because of my elbow injury, I'm pretty happy with it!]