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!

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