This past week I've been thinking a lot about how much fun I had on Hoedown (V6) last weekend. Though it is only six moves long, it has a very clear sequence that demands the use of a very particular set of climbing techniques. Climbing through sidepulls and slopers, successful suitors of Hoedown will have to employ hee-toe cam trickery (first with the left foot, then with the right) in combination with subtle compression in order to maintain the requisite body tension needed to send the line. In some ways, this problem represents much of what I consider to be vital about bouldering, namely the solving of three-dimensional, physically-demanding riddles in real time. I often liken bouldering to martial arts, except that one knows in advance exactly what the opponent will do, and how strong he will be. It is left to the climber to understand the movement and techniques that are required to succeed, and to muster the sufficient power and skill to execute those movements.
Unfortunately, it snowed a PILE this week, and the temperatures have dropped precipitously. I suspect that this means that bouldering in Frank Slide is done for several weeks, unless it warms up a LOT over Christmas. Upon reflection, I realised that I have climbed at least once (usually more) every month since last Christmas. Lethbridge is a good Canadian city for a boulderer to live in! Many winter weekends are too cold or snowy to climb, but many are not. With a little luck, I am looking forward to another winter of Frank Slide Bouldering! Ca colle!
The sudden onset of winter has also made me reflect on the past year of climbing. I've had a lot of fun the last 12 months, and have succeeded in most of my climbing goals. I didn't make the first ascent of a new multipitch route (a fall plan that fell through), but I did spend a lot of time bouldering in Frank. I opened 106 new boulder problems in Frank Slide this year, finished new mini-guides to three sectors of the area (House, Healing, and Albatross sectors), and climbed a fair number of hard problems. I didn't win the Tour de Frank (I did get third, and it would have been hard to beat Mark D!), and I didn't climb any V9s or 10s. My elbow problems in July, August, and September slowed me down, but it healed up well and I enjoyed a great fall. I learned how to make climbing-wall volumes (Kyle's Garage wall now has four of them!), and feel that I am heading into winter in decent shape.
I was privileged to open some great new lines at Frank Slide, repeat others, and watch friends climb still others. The following problems represented especially rewarding highlights of the year for me, for a variety of reasons.
1) Jolly Green Giant (V0+ X) The highest problem I've ever done (I think...), and certainly the tallest first ascent (the only X rated FA I've ever done). Because I cleaned it on rappel, I got to suss out the holds and moves while on a rope. One one hand I think this watered the experience down a bit for me, but on the other hand I'm not sure that I would have gone up and soloed a friction slab of that height without knowing what I was in for!
2) Invincible (V6), Ghost Rider (V4), and Evil Eye (V3-). These three highballs are side by side on the Aftermath boulder, and I was gratified to be able to be the first person up all three of these. Great movement, great problems, on one of the best single boulders in Frank Slide.
3) Trent's Cave (V6) and Marked for Life (V5). Frank Slide isn't known for steep problems. It was a treat to send these problems, two of the few really steep lines at Frank Slide. I also sent these with two of Lethbridge's most dedicated boulderers; Trent's Cave I did with the Wizard himself, Kyle Marco, and Marked for Life I worked with Mark D.
4) Railway (V10). I didn't do this. Nor am I close. However, I did have the priviledge of working it with several Lethbian climbers (primarily Kyle and Mark D), and had the absolute treat of watching it done quickly and beautifully by two of Alberta's very best boulderers (and good friends) Terry Paholek and Dan Archambault. Terry also sent Shelley Was A Doctor First (V10) the same day; the name refers to one of the longest-running jokes in my life, one that Terry has always found especially funny...
5) Submarine (V6). The first project I cleaned at Frank Slide, and when I finally did it (after waiting for the river to go down) it was my 100th FA at Frank Slide. Fun, aesthetic, tall!
Me sending Submarine (V6) this fall after the river subsided a bit. This riverside problem has a spring running out from underneath it, hence the little bridge of driftwood. Powerful first moves lead to a tall, technical, and balancy arete.
6) The Stripey Problem (V0-). This was my daughter Aya's first FA! I was so proud of her!
I made some significant progress on my eternally expanding-and-contracting list of projects. Several lines were knocked off the list successfully, but more were added on. Much climbing left to do in the new year! My current list of as-yet-undone projects includes...
1) The "Rumrunner Project". Somewhere between V4 and V8. Still have not seriously tried this thing. Maybe when the snow melts a bit?
2) Frankenstein (V5/6), Frank's hardest - and smoothest - slab.
3) The "Floodwaters Project". Maybe V7? Perfect edges up a slightly overhanging block of great rock, amazing movement.
4) The Approved Beta (V8). A funky Terry Paholek problem, sometimes I think I can do this, sometimes it seems impossible. Only two sessions on it, may have to get a little more serious.
5) The Prism (V9?). A Mark D FA. Very cool holds, great technical line. Looking forward to sending this one!
6) The Communist (V7/8?) A Kyle M FA, one the best lines at Frank. Tall, big moves!
7) The "Mark of the Beast" Project. Very fun, but with go-to-the-hospital fall potential.
8) The "Feed the Need" Project. Maybe V6 or 7? One good session on it, no send. Just one hard move, really, to a long prow problem with the coolest kneebar I've ever done.
9) The "Wizard" Project. V8ish. About 20 feet high, with a BAD landing. Needs at least 12 pads just to be sane. Hence the lack of sending.
10) The "Old Man and the Sea" Project. V9ish? Another winter prospect.
11) Rising Tithes (V8). Great line, should go pretty quickly once I devote some time to it.
12) Paleofit (V7). Slopey traverse problem high in the City of Giants.
That's what left of the original list. I've got my eye on some new lines that I should probably add to the list, though... :) Everything considered, I think it's not too bad for my 43rd year on this planet. My knees and elbows grumble more than they used to, but I'm still holding together. So far.
Anyways, I'd like to thank all the people that have made bouldering in Lethbridge and the Crowsnest Pass so rewarding over the last year. My bouldering posse - Kyle, Mark D, Mark G, Beth, Ryan, Calvin, and Justin. Those bouldering folks who have moved away, Amanda and Adam ('Adamanda') and Dave. The U of L people who I love to boulder with but periodically try to get me to put on a rope, including Mike, Jayden, Morgan, and Ashley (among others, you know who you are!). And especially my long-time climbing friends from Edmonton (so many of them, Lloyd, Terry, Selena, Dan, Greg, Colin, and many others!) and Vancouver/Squamish (Ronald, Israel, Peter, Vince, Tim, Jack, Brad, Mike, Jamie, Sean, Rolf, and literally dozens of others) who I can always count on for inspiration. I'm sure many other names have slipped my mind; don't be offended if you don't see your name here, I haven't forgotten you!
There's also a bunch of people who I would love to climb at Frank Slide with in the coming year! I'm hoping for a road trip from the eternally-psyched GP crew, especially Julian, The Real Chris, Carlee, Steven, and Renee (though the latter couple has left GP for Calgary). I'm hoping I can also manage a session with some of the Calgary folks who I haven't ever quite managed to meet in real life, including Ghislain (who I've known online for over a decade!), Adam C (the Ghost of Frank Slide), and Chris. And will someone tell Simon V to get down here and do some bouldering! :)
Thanks everyone! All the best as this year ends, and we welcome the new one! Have a great winter of climbing, whether it's at the gym, the boulders, the crag, on ice, or some far-off climbing destination in places warmer than this one!