Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall? Winter? Bouldering!

It seems as though I am back in winter mode.  When the weather forecast for Saturday projected a daytime high just marginally above freezing, I decided that it meant a day of bouldering was in order.  There was a little snow on the ground, but not enough to make the boulders wet, so off I went on Saturday morning, after a stop to pick up Mark D. and grab some coffee at McDonalds.  It was a beautiful bluebird day, which made for a nice drive out to the Crowsnest Pass.  I love this time of year in southern Alberta, when the sky is bright blue and the landscape is cast in a hundred shades of gold and tan.

View out the windshield.  Next stop, Frank Slide!

I had planned to spend the morning looking at some new projects, and cleaning some tall new problems on toprope (unfortunately, this seems to be the only effective way to determine how solid the holds are on lines over about 15 feet high; these tall faces are too tall to inpect from the ground or by leaning over the edge from atop the boulder).  I hoped to check out the HUGE cave on the east side of the House Boulder, to determine if any of the lines will go as boulder problems, but it was so steep a toprope wasn't of much use.  I'll have to find some other way to get a good look at the face.

Then we headed over to the Railway Boulder; I wanted to check one hold on the arete to the left of Railway (V10); it turned out to be perfectly solid, which means that there is another long (!) arete problem ready to go.  While it looks like a cool line, it is probably about 15 moves long, and pumpy, which isn't really my style.  But the line looks good enough that I'm excited to give it a try!

I then put a TR on a boulder just east of Railway, to clean off the top of a great-looking arete project that many people have looked at over the years.  It orginally had a steep landing or talus and gravel, but a month or so ago I put some work into flattening the landing, and then Mark did some work as well, and now it has a much flatter landing zone.  I brushed off the holds, and since Mark was keen to try it I spotted him as he pieced the moves together.  The line starts on some very nice pinches, then moves up and along a steep arete / fin, and finishes up a prow above a huge roof.  Mark was making good progress, and making the line look incredibly fun, so I put my shoes on to give it a try.  I hadn't really had any opportunity to warm up, but since the holds were mostly big and blunt (except for a few crimps on the prow), I figured that climbing a big roof would warm me up well!

Mark D on the crux prow moves of Marked for Life (V5 or V6).  All kinds of fun!  

It took me a handful of tries to reach the prow, but once there, I was a bit stumped.  Mark and I were making good progress, but the sequence on the prow was proving to be a bit mysterious.  I took a little break, looked at the problem from a couple of different angles, mentally ran through the alternative sequences I could use... then I put on my shoes and sent it next go.  A brilliant new line for Frank Slide; nice and tall, very steep (rare for Frank), with great movement on good rock. I decided to call it Marked For Life (V5, maybe bottom-end V6), in part because of the work Mark put in on the landing.   

Mark D on Marked for Life (reverse angle), squeezing the fin a couple of moves before the crux prow.  Doctor Who (V4ish) essentially turns the lip at this point, and employs some very cool press moves to gain the slab above.

Mark continued to work the problem, getting closer and closer each time.  When cleaning the holds for Marked for Life, I thought there might be another fun line on the boulder, starting on the same problem, but veering directly up the face at the fin hold on the arete.  Getting back on the boulder, it took me two tries to send Doctor Who (V4?), another brilliant new line with a funky rock-over move and two VERY cool press moves.

Meanwhile, Mark was making great progress on Marked For Life, but was getting stumped on the last few prow moves.  Where I had used a small sloping crimp on the prow, Mark was opting to use a similar, but more incut, crimp slightly further left, and taking this hold precisely was giving him some grief.  Digging deep, he pulled it together for the send, slugging it out through the slightly spooky mantle moves. A great effort by Mark!

2:30. In the afternoon. Sundown. Winter. Frank Slide. (Other parts of the slide were still sunny, though.)

By this time, it was 2:30, and the sun had gone down behind Turtle Mountain (!).  We headed to the car and drove to the Cinnamon Bear Cafe for coffee and cinnamon buns.  Mark got a text from Calvin (also in the Pass for the day), so we agreed to meet him at the Healing sector for some more bouldering.  By this time, it was starting to get colder (-4C ?), and I was having a hard time warming up again.  Mark and I did the short and surprisingly tricky Cow Elbow (V2), and then I tried to onsight Healing Arete (V5-), which I failed to do... The top of Healing Arete (including one of the key holds) was dripping wet, so I will have to come back to send it another time.  I had heard Healing Arete was a fun line, and I wasn't disappointed; very interesting movement!

The Cinnamon Bear Cafe.  Pastries and coffee make a great midday bouldering snack!  But remember, they're not open on Sunday!  Check them out, and make sure to tell them you're bouldering at the Slide!

Mark and I finished the day by trying a problem on the undercut arete left of Healing Arete.  Mark sent it, but despite making it through the crux moves of the problem I couldn't feel the final holds (COLD hands!), so we decided to pack it in and head back to Lethbridge.  Another fun day in the mountains!

I definitely need to step up my training a bit, though.  I'm feeling relatively strong, but there are many problems I want to do in Frank Slide, and success on these lines will be a challenge unless I can bring my fitness levels up.  Kyle's garage wall is helping; I've definitely noticed an increase in my power since I started climbing there.

Until next time!  Happy Bouldering!

Friday, November 8, 2013


Although it still looks like fall outside (in fact, our grass is still green), it is starting to feel more and more wintery outside.  Last weekend Justin and I went to Frank, but because it started to snow we ended up hiking for the day, looking at boulders and crags.  We had a great time, and I got the chance to look at a lot of exciting climbing opportunities that I ordinarily would have ignored as I headed out for another day of bouldering.  Justin and I saw a few potential projects that look like they could be a lot of fun.  We also took a good look at the Goat / Bluff Wall, and saw some nice lines.

- - - - -

But now, without further ado, here's the winners of the 2013 Tour de Frank!  Not many people sent in their scorecards, but here are the results.  Remember, these are the compiled V-grade points of their hardest seven boulder problems from the May long weekend to Thanksgiving Monday.

Mark Derksen (56 points)
Kyle Marco (49 points)
Trent Hoover (48.5 points)
Dan Archambault (41 points, a one day effort!)
Mark Guckert (35 points, though this relies entirely on his memory...)

Congrats to everyone who sent in a score card!  Mark, your trophy is in the mail. ;) 

It was a fun thing to do, and went off without any real issues.  I'm thinking that it would be fun to make it a one- or two-day event (like the Hueco Rock Rodeo), instead, but perhaps that won't happen for a year or two.

Until then, I hope you have a productive winter climbing season, whether you're climbing outside, inside, ice climbing, or whatever inspires you!