Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014: The Year in Review

Another great year of climbing - mostly of the ropeless variety - has come and gone! Bouldering was heavily featured on my climbing menu this past year; unless I am mistaken, the only times I put on a rope were to clean tall boulder problems.  Most of my climbing days were spent at Frank Slide, but I did manage a couple of trips, one to Leavenworth, Washington and one to Priest Lake, Idaho.  I began my new ‘real’ full-time job in August (I am now a Professor at the University of Lethbridge), but managed to keep on climbing through the fall, though not as frequently as I would have otherwise liked.  Given that I am 43 (turning 44 in January!), I was pleasantly surprised that I climbed so well this year.  I climbed a number of hard(ish) problems this year, though I have no illusions that I am as physically strong as I once was (erp!).  Hopefully with a little effort I'll get in proper shape again in 2015.

Regardless of my level of fitness and my state of employment, I had a lot of fun climbing this year.  So, in no particular order, the top seven things that went down in “Trent Hoover’s Bouldering Universe” in the last 12 months!

Evan E. on the stellar almost-highball The Communist (V7), Aftermath Boulder, House Sector, Frank Slide.

1) My trip to Leavenworth, Washington.  For years, I have listened to and read about trips my friends made to Leavenworth.  Though I lived in Vancouver for years, it was always so much easier to go to Squamish or to the Fraser Valley instead of crossing the border and driving to Leavenworth.  This past year, though, I had to opportunity to go on a 10-day trip to Leavenworth with two great boulderers, Kyle M. (Frank Slide’s reigning king of bouldering) and Colin D. (one of my oldest friends, and perpetually excited to climb).  We went to Leavenworth in mid-May, and had a great time; perfect weather, lots of fun, good people, and a chance to sample the bouldering of one of America’s best bouldering areas.  For me, the trip culminated with a send of one of the west’s most celebrated problems, Was (V8).  Another highlight of the trip was watching Kyle almost do The Amphitheatre Dyno (VHard) at Mad Meadows, a truly giant jump.  Needless to say, I didn’t try it (those of you who have ever seen me dyno will appreciate that).

Caitlin D. on The Hueco Route (V1), Mad Meadows, Leavenworth.  The foot in the hueco is Colin's, who managed to climb entirely into a huge hueco... 

2. Keep The Faith (V8), Priest Lake.  Some people think boulderers have no sense of adventure.  While that may be the case for some people, it certainly doesn’t apply to me (or so I like to think ;) ).  The search for new boulder problems (and new areas!) has kept me prowling about the mountains of western North America for many years.  This year was no exception, and in August Kyle and I headed off to Northern Idaho on a hunch; that we might find new boulders in the Lion’s Creek watershed near Priest Lake.  After a long drive, we finally arrived.  We DID find lots of boulders in the forest there, but most of them were unfortunately blank.  Still, we did clean one of the coolest new problems I’ve seen in a long time.  We spent two days working the moves, and I sent it on the last day of the trip, naming it Keep The Faith (V8).  A series of underclings lead to a big cube-shaped block underneath a roof, followed by a very cool lip move and one of the most unique top-outs I’ve ever seen.  Immediately to the left of the problem is Black Robe (V4), a very cool highball with a fantastically continuous rail that zigs and zags from the base of the problem almost to the lip.  Two world-class problems, side by side!

Me on the huge roof block of Keep The Faith (V8), Priest Lake, Idaho.
3. 71 First Ascents!  I am always thankful that I live close to a bouldering area with interesting problems.  I am even more thankful that Frank Slide has interesting problems still waiting to be done.  Graveyard Shift (V6), Helping Hands (V1), the fantastic bulge problem The Blessing (V7), and the fun prow Black Peter (V4) were all great new problems we found in The Slide this year.  I am looking forward to another year of new problems at The Slide and beyond.  I have my eye on more lines, so I’m excited to get back to training this winter in hope of doing a few more hard FAs come spring.

4. The Karage, Lethbridge.  Kyle’s garage (aka The Karage) has been a great place to train.  A TV, a couch, and lots of holds; what else does one need? It’s pretty much a three-season facility, though, since it can be too cold to climb at in winter unless temperatures are unseasonally warm (which does happen periodically, given that we live in Lethbridge).  I need to be a little more regimented with my training in 2015, though, if I am going to reach some of the goals I have set for myself.  The Karage has a new DVD player, and in 2015 it might get a new TV. 

Kyle M. starting up the fantastic highball Overtime (V2ish), City of Giants, Frank Slide.

5. The 2014 Tour de Frank.  This autumn we hosted the inaugural Tour de Frank, an outdoor bouldering competition / festival.  We kept it pretty casual, with minimal advertising, and still had about 30 people show up.  We’re not certain of the TdF’s future, because there are many logistic hurdles to overcome, but we’re hoping that next year we can elevate the TdF to make it a fun regional event.  This year, the TdF was won by Andrew Funk and Josh Bylsma (tie) for the men, and Shelley Hoover for the women.  

Andrew Funk on the seldom-repeated and intricate Fender (somewhere between V6 and V8) during the 2014 Tour de Frank, Frank Slide.

6. The Right Right (V8).  I was excited (and pleasantly surprised) to send The Right Right, which is the right-hand version of the Split Right Project (which is still undone).  The so-called ‘Split Projects’ were long-standing projects on the backside of the Split Boulder in the City of Giants, and I was glad to send one of them. The Right Right is a heel-hook dependent problem (which is cool), but on small edges and pinches (not my strength).  Regardless, I managed to send it in a handful of tries on my second session on the problem.  On the same day, I sent the FA of The Blessing (V7) and also sent The Cure (V6/7), a Kyle Marco technical arête line on the Porcelain Boulder.  A fantastic day in the Slide!

Josh B. on Morgan Dunnet's testpiece Cognitive Dissonance (V10).  Hard!

7. All the hard lines in the Slide that went down (though not by me) this year!  Several lines were done that are not only brutally hard, but inspiring; Morgan Dunnet’s powerful Cognitive Dissonance (V10) (check out the video HERE) and Josh Bylsma’s testpieces March of Time (V10?, a very hard (!) lip traverse), and The Shield (V10ish, harder as you get shorter).  These problems are now among the hardest problems at the Slide; the other hard lines being Terry Paholek’s Shelley Was A Doctor First (V10), and Adam Currie’s  now-broken Chain Gang (V11?).  Another huge send was Morgan’s Split Left (V9), one of the most technically demanding and powerful problems in the slide.  Another key ascent this year as Kyle's send of the absolutely stellar The Communist (V7), which is one of best (if not THE best) problem at the Slide.  The number of hard problems exploded in The Slide this year, and there are still hard projects remaining; Josh is making the Sunny Corner Project look feasible…

Jonas G. on Calvin's Arete (V0/1), one of the lines in the Karst Valley Sector; dozens of lines went up in Karst Valley and the City of Giants this year. 

So what does the New Year hold?  The future is always a mystery, but there are a few things I am looking forward to in 2015.  I have a half-dozen lines in The Slide I would really love to climb; most (but not all) of them are currently unclimbed.  It will take some dedication on my part, however, to get in good enough shape to climb them.  Most of the hard problems in the slide are on flat edges / crimps, which isn’t my strength.  However, it is easier to make gains if you work your weaknesses rather than your strengths, so that is what I hope to do in my quest to knock off a few more hard problems in the next twelve months.

I would also like to go on another spring trip, either to Joe’s Valley (which is number one on my list of places to visit) or to Hope / Okanagan.  The bouldering at The Boulder Fields by Kelowna looks fantastic, but is primarily on crimps, which doesn’t make me that excited.  However, it IS really steep, which would be a nice change from Frank Slide.
Finally, I am looking forward to climbing more with my family in 2015.  My kids are old enough now they don’t immediately hurt themselves in the boulders, and it would be great to climb with Shelley at Frank Slide.  So, with a little luck, bouldering will be more of a family affair in the next year.

And finally, as always, I would love to climb with you!  If you'd like to climb at The Slide, and have a tolerance for bad landings, let me know; I'm always up to show people around!

So Merry Christmas and a Happy New (Bouldering) Year, everyone!

Jonas G. on the fun new slab Salted Earth (V0), high in the City of Giants.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

(The Other) Limestone Bouldering Area!

I couldn't help but repost this video of the bouldering in the Gran Sasso of central Italy.  Limestone doesn't usually produce boulders big enough for bouldering on (the rock tends to fracture instead of forming blocks).  I was excited to see this trailer for a film about limestone bouldering in Italy, especially as several of the problems look very (!) Frank Slide-like.

The film Magia di Calcare (Magic of Limestone) by Roberto Parisse

The film is entitled Magia di Calcare (The Magic of Limestone).  Click here to enjoy the short film!

PS> Let me know if the link doesn't work for you, or if the photo doesn't appear...

2014 Tour de Frank Recap

The 2014 Tour de Frank was a success!  Perfect weather and a great group of climbers was a winning combination for the first annual Tour de Frank.  We had intentionally tried to keep the event low-key, with minimal advertising, as this was our first attempt at running an 'outdoor bouldering festival' event at Frank Slide.  Despite the limited advertising, we were excited to see about 25 people come out to the Tour de Frank, including handfuls of climbers from Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge, the Crowsnest Pass, and Lethbridge. 

Orientation started at about 11:15 (with free coffee and muffins available), and by 11:45 climbers were heading out into the Healing and Snakebite Sectors of Frank Slide for five hours of bouldering.  Everyone was provided with a guide to the area and a scorecard (which listed the 70+ problems that were included in the TdF this year, including four previously unclimbed projects).

After orientation, I stuck around the 'front desk' for an hour or so, in case any stragglers showed up.  Luckily, there were fun problems close at hand, and I warmed up by climbing Cottonwood Road (V1) a handful of times with Jonas Gagnon, who recently moved to Lethbridge.  I also managed to repeat the tricky Two for a Dollar (V3) before moving on.  I was happy when my wife Shelley (as well as my children Aya and Rowan) showed up to climb as well - we rarely get to climb together!  I was also excited to see my friend Geoff Mintenko, who I hadn't seen (or climbed with) in over a decade. The Tour de Frank is a great way to meet people, apparently!

 Boulderers around and on the notoriously reachy Snakebite (V2).

We headed over to the Snakebite Boulder where we climbed with a handful of boulderers from Lethbridge and Cranbrook, as well as Jonathan (and his two amazing girls Ruby and Sadie) from Beaver Mines.  Shelley warmed up by doing the reachy Snakebite (V2) fairly easily, with Jonas coming very close on the line as well.  We packed up and headed over to the Relentless Area to climb some of the slabs on the Foxhole Boulder, where we climbed briefly with Kyle and a few people from the Crowsnest Pass area.  I tried to repeat the powerful Relentless (V6) with Dan and Geoff, but none of us could quite make the huge cruxy reach at mid-height. I then turned my attention to Redonculous (V5) to the right of Relentless (which I had never tried before), coming very close but falling off the last hard move.

Boulderers from Lethbridge and Cranbook sending the powerful Apple Shampoo (V4/5).

Packing up to head over to the Healing Boulder, we met up with Dan Archambault, Andrew Funk, Josh Bylsma, and Mark Derksen (from Edmonton, Red Deer, and Lethbridge).  They were steaming through the hard problems on the scorecard, even though it was a bit too warm at that point for truly hard climbing.  I chatted for a bit, but then quickly dashed over to the Killer Boulder to do a lap on Killer Bees (V4) before I ran out of time.  I did manage to send Killer Bees, but I was too slow on the walk over to the boulder and didn't get it done before the time ran out.  I wished I had had the opportunity to climb a bit more, but being one of the organisers it was a great experience just to be able to hang out with so many climbers. The social experience was as rewarding as the climbing, certainly!

With sore tips, I headed back to the 'front desk'.  Kyle was already there, gathering the score cards.  Andrew and Josh had tied for the top overall spot, with Dan Archambault close behind.  Seeing what they had accomplished in five hours made me think I need to devote a little more time to training! Not everyone turned in a scorecard, which was fine with us; not everyone is as interested in the competitive aspect of the TdF, and we were excited to see that people were interested in coming out just to enjoy a day of bouldering.  

When all the points were tallied, the winners were:

Top Junior Male: Will Kwan
Top Junior Female: Ciara Meadows

Top Beginner Female: Danica Jensen
Top Beginner Male: Jonas Gagnon

Top Master' Male (40+): Dan Anhorn

Top Open Female: Shelley Hoover
Top Open Male: Andrew Funk and Josh Bylsma (TIE)
All things considered, it was a very successful TdF, especially since we hadn't advertised the event widely and hadn't expected too many people.  The only small disappointment was the rather small number of climbers from Lethbridge.  The Lethbians that did attend were definitlely psyched (!), which was awesome to see, but it would have been nicer to see more climbers from the closest city to the Slide.

I also wish I had had more time just to be able to connect with the climbers.  In particular, I wish I had been able to spend more time climbing with people from the Crowsnest Pass (if Crowsnest Pass climbers are reading this, I'm hoping to get the chance to climb with you again!).

We're already planning next year!  Huge thanks to my co-organisers Kyle and Alyssa; Kyle spent a lot of time distributing pencils and signs to all the areas, and Alyssa took some amazing pictures despite having her foot in a brace (all the photos above are by Alyssa).

Until next time...

PS> I'll try to get names attached to the captions in the photos, I don't have them here at my desk...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tour de Frank THIS WEEKEND!

The Tour de Frank is almost upon us!  This Saturday! 

This year, the TdF will be a low-key event - intentionally so.  We're working to create a casual event, with a focus primarily on the fun bouldering at the Slide, having a good time, and creating an opportunity for people to meet other climbers at the biggest bouldering area in Alberta.

Having said that, we have a great selection of problems for people to choose from (from V0 to V8+, with four unclimbed projects). Whatever your climbing level, we have problems that will ensure you have a good time.  Come out and climb!  The weather forecast looks absolutely perfect!

If everything goes well at this inaugural (and experimental!) event, we'll expand into a more substantial event next year.  This year, though, it will be a casual event.  We'll have the trappings of an outdoor bouldering event at Frank Slide on Saturday, though; free coffee and muffins in the morning, slacklines and a fire afterwards.  Prizes will be really minimal (as this is a 'test run'), but so is the entry fee (entry by donation to offset the cost of food, any excess money collected will be donated to the Southern Rockies Route Bolting Fund).

The format and rules of the Tour de Frank are as follows:

1)  You have FIVE hours (11:30 – 4:30) to climb as many problems as you wish!  There will be 70 hand-picked problems to choose from. We will use your SIX hardest problems to determine your score, though, so plan wisely!  You only have so much skin!
2)  You MUST (and this is NOT negotiable) have at least ONE spotter and TWO pads when attempting problems.  We realise that this may be inconvenient, but this is not a bouldering gym.   Our solution?  Be social!  Climb with others!  Climb with people you don’t know!  Introduce yourself, and ask for a spot.
3)  When you complete a problem, check it off on your Check List by initialling beside it.  Simple!  Don’t lose your pencil.
4) Keep track of the time.  Starting heading back to the main area / parking area around 4:00. You must have your sheet handed in by 4:30. 

In both Male and Female groups there are Beginner (V0-V1), Intermediate (V2-V6), Open (V7+), and Masters (40+ age), and Junior (age 0-16) categories.

Time & Location
10-12 Free Coffee and Muffins, 11-11:30  trash cleanup (see a TdF helper if you want to help), 11:30-4:30 Bouldering!  We will meet at the east end of the slide at the gravel road that parallels the river (see the map below); the gravel road can be accessed from the main highway by turning south (toward the river and Turtle Mountain) at the last turnoff at either end of the slide, and following the road back into the slide.  If  you are approaching from the east (from Calgary), take the last left turn you can make before the slide, driving down the hill, and turning right before you cross the bridge. 

We'll have volunteers around to help people find problems.  Don't worry if you've never been to The Slide before!  

DO bring a bouldering mat if you have one, though!  We'll have a dozen mats for use at the TdF, but we can always use more at the Slide!

See you there!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 Tour de Frank! One Month To Go!

After a great deal of thought and planning, we are psyched to announce the time, format, and location of the 2014 Tour de Frank!  For those who may not be aware, the Tour de Frank is a celebration of Alberta's best bouldering area, the limestone blocks of Frank Slide in the Crowsnest Pass.  It is both a fun day of bouldering in the southern Rockies with your friends, and a way to meet climbers from other areas. It is structured like a competition (complete with a range of categories), but the focus is on fun and the challenges of bouldering!

The Tour de Frank will be held on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014.  It follows a format borrowed from the Hueco Rock Rodeo.  Participants will be provided with a score sheet with a list of ~70 hand-picked problems in one area of the Slide, with difficulty ranging from V0- to V8+ (including three unclimbed projects!).  They will then have five hours (from 10:00 - 3:00) to climb as many problems as they wish.  The six hardest problems climbed by each climber will be used to calculate their score for the day.  The focus is on fun, so if you are a novice or a serious boulderer, we'll have problems selected to ensure you have a great time!

We're working to get some of the typical perks associated with an outdoor bouldering event in place; coffee and muffins in the morning, juice and water during the day, and a BBQ after the event is over.  With a little luck we'll have a slackline set up as well.  We are hoping to run a trash pickup event before and during the comp to help keep the area clean. 

Bring your bouldering mat, chalk, coffee cup, friends, and your excitement for bouldering to Frank Slide on Sept. 20!  We will have copies of the new bouldering guide available for people to use, and knowledgeable locals will also be on hand to steer people to the problems.

The autumn is usually quite dry in Southern Alberta, so we're not expecting rain.  If, however, the forecast two days before the event indicates that heavy rain is expected, we will post online that the event is cancelled/postponed.  Cross your fingers that it's not necessary!

More details to come soon!  Mark the day on  your calendar!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Priest Lake Mini-Guide!

Here's a mini-guide I put together for the boulders at Priest Lake, Idaho.  Obviously there are MANY more boulders than the ones evident in this guide, but there weren't any problems cleaned on them, so I didn't include them.

How to get to the Priest Lake Boulders?  Drive to the far northeast corner of Priest Lake (the Lionhead Unit of the park); it's about an hour (maybe a bit less) from Priest River.  Turn right immediately after crossing Lion Creek up a gravel road; it starts a bit rough, but then gets rougher.  Drive up approximately 7km, passing a few good camping spots, and carefully navigating around boulders jutting from the road.  Eventually you'll see a gravel pit / camping area on your right, park here.  You'll see boulders in the trees across from the camping area.

One of the other big attractions in the area is the natural rock water slides.  They're a bit further up the valley, and there always seems to be a stream of people driving up the road to visit them.  We didn't go there, of course, but they must be fun!

At any rate, you can get the PDF of the mini-guide HERE.  Enjoy!

Other than that, there isn't much in the way of news.  I went to Frank Slide last weekend and bouldered with Ashlee and Ryan, who are moving to Edmonton :(.  They will be sorely missed by the climbing community of Lethbridge!  We mostly did a moderate circuit in the areas near the river, including The Neighbor (V2), Dance Dance Revolution (V4), Paranoia (V2), Cottonwood Road (V1), and a handful of problems on the Lipsmacker Boulder. 

What's next?  Since my knee isn't getting better as quickly as I would like, I'm thinking my drill and I might go exploring in the mountains this weekend; I've got my eye on a little sport crag...

Until next time!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Priest Lake, Idaho!

I spend a lot of time cruising the earth on Google Maps.  Not looking at exotic vacation locales, but looking for untapped bouldering potential.  For the last year, I have been looking for the closest possible granite bouldering area to Lethbridge; Squamish and Leavenworth are simply too far away for a short trip.  After a great deal of time looking at geological maps and comparing them to satellite images, I 'found' an expansive area of large granite boulders beneath granite walls in northern Idaho, only about seven hours drive from Lethbridge.

Pretty mountain scenery, and lots of blank-looking blocks of granite.

In May, Kyle and I visited Leavenworth WA to boulder for a week, and on the drive back to Lethbridge I convinced Kyle that we should take a short drive out of our way to visit the (potential) boulders of Priest Lake.  To make a long story short, the drive wasn't that 'short', and we ended up looking for boulders on a mountain side in the dying light of a spring day.  We saw a couple of amazing problems and climbed one, enough to pique our curiousity and fund a return trip.

Last weekend everything fell into place for a drive to Idaho, and Kyle and I headed to Priest Lake Friday evening, arriving there well after midnight.  Luckily, we knew exactly where the camping area was (right beside the boulders!), so we pitched our tents and crashed for the night.

If multipitch slabs are your thing, Priest Lake might be a great hunting ground for FAs.  We scrambled up a few of the lower-angle slabs (not these ones!), and they were solid, fun, and pleasantly dished.  If you're comfortable with either long runouts or with bolting on lead, give them a try!

The next morning we decided to start our trip with a hunting expedition.  Satellite images showed that there were many large boulders on the slope above the campground (below and somewhat down-valley from the multipitch slabs), so we packed some water and started hiking.  After an hour or so of hiking and exploring the boulders, five things became evident.

(1) Hiking through Priest Lake is a lot like hiking through west coast forest (e.g. Squamish).  In some places it was hard to see the boulders, though as we hiked a bit higher the trees thinned out a lot, and we were hiking through open piles of granite blocks.  Anyone wanting to develop the area should be prepared to make trails / bring a saw.  However, the area is pretty densely populated with boulders, so huge amounts of trail-building may not be necessary.

(2) There are a lot of boulders at Priest Lake, and lots of them are big (!). In an hour or two of hiking, we saw hundreds of big granite blocks. However...

(3) The boulders are relatively blank.  The granite here has a lot of mica in it, and seems more susceptible to spalling than the more cohesive boulders of Squamish.  As a result, most of the holds have long since departed from the boulders.  The density of problems in the area will be a lot lower than in Squamish or Leavenworth, with only one or two problems on each boulder; many of the problems at Priest Lake will feature lots of squeezing and slopers.  Even finding starting holds was difficult for most potential lines.  The area would be HUGE if there were more holds, but alas...

(4) The rock quality is decent, but not amazing.  While some of the boulders are absolutely bombproof, some have lots of exfoliating microflakes and crystals.  At its best, the rock resembles that found in the North Walls in Squamish, but many boulders seemed to have a less cohesive crystalline structure.

(5) The area is beautiful!  Amazing mountain scenery, a beautiful little river, natural rock slides in the river for sliding around in.  Lots to look at, and a great place to spend some time.

One of the most amazing lines I've ever seen, a HUGE cave with a seam/rail that runs all the way out to the lip.  Only serious boulderers need apply. (We didn't try it.)

After our hike, we settled down to the dirty business of scrubbing boulders.  Much like Squamish, the boulders are covered with lichen (where exposed to full sun), moss (where exposed to some sun) and moldy munge (under overhangs).  There were sections of perfectly clean rock, but mostly we committed to the serious amount of scrubbing with a wire brush needed to make the problems pleasantly clean.

On our previous recon mission (in May) we had found a huge boulder with two amazing-looking side-by-side lines.  The first was an arching rail through an overhanging scoop that connected to two vertical rails/fins up a high vertical face, and the second was a powerful-looking line with underclings and a powerful lip move to better holds above.  We were surprised to find that someone else had been to the area in the last month and had partially cleaned the tall "fin" line and a few shorter problems on an adjacent boulder. 

Kyle under the giant mushroom roof of what would become Black Robe (V3/4ish).  Great rain and fin features!

After a few hours of cleaning, we had a handful of problems ready to climb.  We did two short-ish crimpy problems, then turned our attention to the two tall side-by-side lines.  We did the bottom half of the tall rail/fin problem easily enough, but couldn't muster the courage to head up to the top of the boulder.  Kyle had used a ladder to clean the problem, and his 16-foot ladder didn't reach the top of the boulder!  We then turned our attention to the much harder problem to the right.  The problem is very cool with great features, and is broken into three sections, each with about four moves.  The first section moves through a series of good underclings with poor feet, the middle section (the hardest) moves through powerful underclings on a huge block to a hard move to the lip, and the third section moves through the bad lip holds to better incut mini-jugs and a very funky topout move.  We quickly worked out the first section, and found that the underclings on the big block of the second section were powerful, but doable (at least individual moves were!).  The final section took us a little while to figure out, but ultimately turned out to be not too difficult.  The hard move to the lip, though, stumped me again and again.  I simply could not muster the power to do the hard diagonal move from a bad undercling to a crystalline sloper above the lip.  Kyle managed to do the move after only several tries. but I tried it repeatedly for an hour without success.  By this time, it was getting late, so we headed back to camp, made a fire, and cooked hotdogs.

Squeezing the block on what would become Keep The Faith.  Tricky!

The second day, we again 'warmed up' by hiking though the forest looking for boulders (slightly down-valley this time).  We found some decent boulders, but again most of them didn't have many problems on them, due primarily to a lack of useable holds.  We headed back to the camp for some lunch, then packed our pads back up to the project.  We cleaned and climbed another handful of  problems to warm up, including the fun Kyle's Pinch Problem (V3/4, which featured some very cool fin holds) and a nice lip traverse I called Flipper (V2ish).  I also climbed the first half of a VERY tall problem I had cleaned on toprope the day before; the bottom half of the problem (ending on a jug) ascends a HUGE fin feature, and is an amazing V1 in itself.  The second half of the problem is about V7 or V8 though, and since the boulder is 20+ feet high I didn't make much of an effort to work it.

Crux! Big move to a bad hold!  Left hand is way back squeezing/underclinging/sidepulling the edge of the block to create compression.

We then turned our attention back to the tall line with the two fin features.  This time we mustered the courage to head up onto the face, and found that the moves were easier than we thought they might be.  However, the mantle looked a bit spooky (the top of the boulder is somewhat of an angled plane without features, though there is a huge foothold to make the press more straightforward).  After staring at the boulder for awhile, and discussing how we really didn't want to fall off the mantle, we arranged the mats carefully and both sent the line.  The mantle turned out to be quite easy, in the end, and the problem fantastic.  We're not certain if the problem has previously seen as ascent, so I am tentatively calling it Black Robe (V3? V4?).  If anyone knows if it's been done previously, let me know!

Kyle and I then shuffled the mats over and started working the moves of the undercling/block project.  Gradually we started to link sections together, and eventually I could do it from the start to the crux move (where I would fall), and from the crux move to the end (using a very funky kneebar).  Finally, in the fading light, I managed to do all the moves perfectly, and I sent the entire problem.  I was pretty excited to climb such a great line; a long and powerful problem that nonetheless demands a great deal of subtlety.  After a great deal of consideration, I decided to call it Keep The Faith (V8ish).   

Kyle going big on the crux move of Keep The Faith. Hard!

Kyle was very close to sending as well, but as the sun set the holds started to disappear into the shadows so we called it a day.

The next morning we trooped back up the hill, and I started to scrub some new problems.  I cleaned and sent a very fun sloper problem that I called Metric (V4ish), and a very tall (!) slab problem that I didn't climb (too tall for a hot day!).  If anyone wants to head up to Priest Lake, there's a freshly scrubbed slab highball awaiting a first ascent!

The fun slopers of Metric (V4ish).  A hard low start awaits someone with immensely long arms.

Kyle warmed up and got back on Keep The Faith.  He was incredibly close to sending, but by midday it was simply getting too hot for hard slopers.  It was time to head back to Canada, so we packed our mats, shoes, brushes, ropes, and a ladder into the van and headed down the long road back to Lethbridge.

Tall slab problem!  Scrubbed and waiting for a first ascent!

So what did I learn on the exploratory mission to Priest Lake, Idaho?  Priest Lake isn't a huge bouldering destination, but with a little work it will be a very fun local area, with hundreds of problems.  The scenery can't be beat, and the free camping is great (and right beside the bouldering).  With Spokane and Coeur D'Alene just a few hours away, I hope that the boulderers of those cities will load up on wire brushes (and maybe a saw) and develop the area more.  The Lion Creek valley would be a great escape from the summer heat of the desert.  I may be back there someday, but hopefully when more of the boulders have been scrubbed!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Continues!

Summer continues, unabated!  Luckily for the boulderers in Southern Alberta, temperatures cooled off a bit this weekend, offering a respite from the hot sunny weather of the previous week.  Projects at Frank Slide are falling, with Josh B sending the long-time project The Shield (V9, but likely much harder for shorter folks) as well as Fully Fed (V7).  Combined with recent first ascents of The Cure (V6), The Blessing (V7), and The Right Right (V8) in the City of Giants in the last few weeks, it's shaping up as a banner year in Frank Slide, especially in the City of Giants!

Screen grab from video of Josh B working The Shield prior to sending it.  Solid effort by Josh!

This past weekend Kyle and I headed out to the Slide where we spent the day exploring the City of Giants with Kristal and Jason (of the Ropeless Blog fame!).  Arriving in the parking lot, we met Josh B who was on his way out from the Slide after a morning session, and was heading back home.  We quizzed him about his new problems in the City (especially his ascent of The Shield!), before packing up and hiking into the blocks ourselves.  Shortly after arriving in the City, we were joined by Morgan from Fernie, resulting in a fun group to climb with for the day! 

We warmed up by climbing a handful of new slabs just east of the Split Boulder, as well as a fun but unfortunately cramped V3ish arete that climbs out of a pit.  We shuffled our mats over to the Split Boulder, then went on an exploration mission in the City, looking at the blocks and speculatively feeling the holds of future problems.  After an hour or so, we ended up back at the Split Boulder.  Morgan and Kyle set to work on the Split Left project.  So far, I have been unable to manage three of the moves on the Split Left Project - even in isolation - and so I am incredibly impressed by how much progress Kyle is making.  He's done all of the moves, in three overlapping sections, and it's starting to look like it might be possible after all.

Kyle sticking the fifth - and final - hard move of the seven-move Split Left Project.  Hard!

I headed over a rise into a cluster of boulders just south of the Feed the Need Boulder to try an easy-ish line I had partially cleaned and built a patio for last week.  There ended up being three fun lines on the boulder, all starting on the same long edge below the rounded lip of the boulder; The White Album (a V0+ line that climbed directly up the tall slab after a punchy move to a jug), Snow White (a V2ish problem that traversed left to finish up some anglar slopers), and Great White (a V2+ line that traversed all the way left around a prow to finish up fun edges).  Great moderate lines, though a little off the beaten track.

Wrapping up those three problems, I headed back to watch Kyle and Morgan work on the Split Boulder projects.  I put on my shoes to try the Split Left project, but was completely shut down.  Kyle, on the other hand, was making good progress, linking pairs of moves.  After an hour or work, he had linked all the moves in pairs, a pretty solid accomplishment for the session.  Jason and Kristal returned to the Split Boulder as well, after trying Paleofit (V7) and Trent's Cave (V6)  We spent a little time trying a new crimpy line to the left of the Split Left project, but after finding the moves simply too difficult, we packed up to try Sandman (V7ish) on the next boulder over.

End of the day at Frank Slide!  Morgan, Kyle, Kristal, and Jason hanging out with stacks of mats at Sandman.

Sandman is a angled prow/arete problem established by Mark D earlier this year.  It has a very awkward and cramped start, though we improved it somewhat by moving a couple of large rocks out of the way.  From what we could gather, the problem started on a small crescent-shaped edge for the left hand, and a tiny (!) horizontal edge near the arete for the right hand.  Morgan sent the problem fairly quickly, but it took me many more tries to figure out the foot positioning for the first move.  With new beta in hand, I did the problem in just a few attempts.  A very cool problem, which unfortunately climbs somewhat oddly to climb due to its cramped start.

Late in the day in the City of Giants, photo taken from the Split Boulder. Just right of center on the skyline is the huge Shield Boulder.  

Jason and Kristal had also added a new crimpy problem to the left of Sandman, but by this time it was getting late, so we packed up and headed back to the parking lot.  Another fun day of bouldering in the Slide, with some really fun people.  Thanks to Kristal, Jason, Morgan, and Kyle for a great day of climbing!

Until next time!

PS> If Jason and Kristal don't get back to me with names for new problems, I am going to call the tallish slab we did at the beginning of the day The Kristal Method... just saying. ;)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hat Trick!

We are deep into summer in Southern Alberta.  Although there are occasional thunderstorms, virtually every day is hot and sunny.  While this is great weather for swimming at the lake, it is less than ideal for bouldering.  Nevertheless, who am I to pass up a day of bouldering on a sunny day in the Canadian Rockies, regardless of temperature?  As usual, Saturday morning I was on my way to Frank Slide with a van full of bouldering mats.  Not surprisingly, Kyle was in the passenger seat, and we were excited by what the day might hold.

Lots of exciting things have been getting done at Frank Slide, principally by Josh B., who has sent a number of the Slide's hardest problems including Railway (V10), The Prism (V8), Nintendo 69 (V8), The Socialist (V7/8), and The Communist (V7), as well as adding his own hard problem Dantle Procedure (V6).  On Saturday, I was keen to get back to the City of Giants and Karst Valley, so I could get back on the Split Right project, which I had come very clost to sending last week.  I was also psyched to try The Cure (Kyle brand-new V6ish problem on the Porcelain Boulder) again, after essentially getting shut down on it during my first session on it.  Futhermore, I wanted to get back on the very cool Addiction Cave project on the back of the Feed the Need boulder, which I hadn't tried for a few weeks.  So much to do, so little time!

Arriving at The Slide, we headed up into the blocks.  Arriving at the Split boulder, we warmed up on the highball arete Deadline (V1), and then briefly by trying a long problem that would link the first moves of Overdue into a long traverse into Deadline, for a really cool resistance problem of about 23 moves.  I gave it a half-serious attempt, only to realise a year of bouldering hasn't done much for my endurance.  Not wanting to exhaust myself by dialing such a long problem, we packed up and moved over to the Feed the Need boulder to try the Addiction Cave project.

The Addiction Cave project is very cool, a half-dozen stout moves on fingertip slopers lead to a long rail at mid-height, and a much easier finish up a slab.  The problem is actually quite tall (15 or 16 feet), but all of the hard moves are in the first seven or eight feet.  It turned out to be a less-than-ideal project for the day, as it faces southeast (in full morning sun) and starts in a pit, so its protected from the wind.  Working it was a bit of ordeal, but fortunately I don't really mind climbing in the heat; my hands don't really sweat much, and the heat keeps me warmed up.

Not an action shot.  The tall bulge-to-slab face of The Blessing (V7).  Hot and sunny!  We had propped up the black mat (on top of the adjacent boulder) against the face to shade the holds of the crux.

The steep start of the problem features a critical left heel hook on a long sloping rail underneath the belly of the boulder which acts to keep the right start hand - a sloper - in compression.  I had originally started with my right hand on a good sidepull, but Kyle pointed out that if we started with our hand on the sloper beside the sidepull, it would allow for easier upward movement.  I was skeptical, but quickly became conveted when I found out how much smoother the next three moves became with the small change in hand position.

We quickly figured out how to link the first four moves, but it took us another solid half-hour of work to decipher the foot movement needed to escape the heel hook and set up for the big move to the long juggy edge that marks the end of the hard climbing.  We were getting cooked down in the hot pit, but worked to polish the beta.  Finally I was linking right to the big move, but still falling reaching for the edge.  A little more work to perfect the foot movement paid off, and soon I had my hand on the long edge, and I followed the line of juggy edges and rails to the top of the boulder.  So stoked to send this thing at last!  Such a great new problem!  I decided to call it The Blessing (V7).

Navigating the blocks of the City of Giants / Karst Valley, looking for shade.

Kyle was also getting very close, but by this time it was getting unbearably hot in the pit, so we decided to dash over to the Split Boulder projects which are shaded almost all day long.  Arriving at the boulder, we drank some water and sat in the shade for a half-hour to recover.  Feeling better, we set up the mats beneath the Split Right Project and set to work.  My first two attempts were miserable; I felt sluggish and sleepy.  On my next try I think I fell at the third move - a blunt pinch - but I felt better.  I rested for a few minutes, and pulled on to give it another try.  I moved smoothly through the first two moves - a good edge, and a hard right-hand crossover to a very sloping edge - and then pulled to the blunt pinch with my left,  Resetting my heel carefully, I reached up to the tiny right-hand crimp, and got it almost perfectly.  I shifted my right had a bit to reset it, and then looked up at the last hard move - a strange short leftward deadpoint to a good gaston. I set up, and popped to the hold, and stuck it!  Adrenaline surging, I did the last three moves, and topped out.  Exciting to send such an amazing problem!  After a lot of reflection, I decided to call it The Right Right (V8), since its the better (i.e. the 'right') version of what had been called the Split Right Project.

Now in the hottest part of the day, we decided to stay in the shade and try the Split Left Project.  The Split Left Project is one of the most difficult in the Slide, with five very hard moves in a row leading to two somewhat easier finishing moves.  I set myself a tiny goal - the first move.  After a few tries I could do the first move, and I was reasonably satisfied, especially since the second move - a crossover from one small edge to another - seemed virtually impossible.  The third move - a big reach left to an incut slot - also seemed almost impossible.  I kept trying the moves, but couldn't muster the power required for the second, third, or fifth (a huge jump to a sidepull) moves.  Kyle was determined, though, and kept working to decipher the moves.  I was skeptical, but Kyle began to make progress on the line.  One by one, the moves fell, and after an hour or so, Kyle had done all of the moves individually, and had linked several of the sequences.  An amazing effort, on a problem that feels impossible to me!  It seems likely that the Split Left Project will fall this summer as well!

Kyle bearing down on the small holds of the Split Left Project.  Small holds, tricky feet!

By now it was late in the day, and instead of packing it in (the sensible choice) we headed over to The Cure.  Arranging the mats carefully (The Cure has a somewhat risky fall zone), I tried to muster the energy to bear down on the smooth holds of the Porcelain boulder.  It took me several tries, but eventually I managed to pull through the blunt pinch crux and head up to the fun topout of The Cure.  Another problem sent in the City of Giants!

Now thoroughly beat, we packed up in the setting sun and headed to Tim Hortons for cold drinks.  A great day of bouldering at Frank Slide, and I felt lucky to have sent such a great 'hat trick' of hard new problems in the City of Giants: The Blessing, The Right Right, and The Cure.