Sunday, January 19, 2014

The 2014 Bouldering Season Begins!

Last week, the weather forecast for the upcoming Saturday indicated unseasonably warm (+10C) weather in southern Alberta.  This, of course, had the boulderers of Lethbridge eagerly anticipating a day of bouldering at Frank Slide!  When Saturday arrived, the weather wasn't quite as warm as forecast (probably only about +4C), but in January you take what you can get, and a handful of Lethbian climbers headed out to Frank Slide for a sunny, mid-winter day of bouldering!

Arriving at Frank Slide, Kyle, Calvin, Ryan, Amanda, Ashley, and I were joined by Evan from Calgary.  I really wanted to head in to the City of Giants, in part because I wanted to clean some new problems on the Shield Boulder.  Several boulders in the City of Giants and Karst Valley sectors are much too tall to clean properly from the ground, so I brought a sling, harness, and short rope along to make the process easier and safer.  Chatting in the parking lot, we agreed that The City would both offer some protection from the wind and be a lot of fun, so we packed up and headed off into the talus.

Arriving in The City, I set up a rope on the tall half of the Split Boulder.  The Split Boulder has a handful of problems from V0 to V3, but has potential for several more lines.  One face of the Split boulder is tall, covered with flat edges, and is slightly overhanging; this would make for beautiful climbing if it wasn't for the fact that the landing is largely dominated by a huge boulder at the base.  Despite this I cleaned three lines on this tall face; two of these these lines are about 16 - 18 feet tall, while the third is a bit shorter.  I was psyched to try them, all three are beautiful moderate lines on a perfect grey limestone face.

Ashley, Kyle, Evan, Calvin, and Amanda hunting the sun the City of Giants. Evan and Kyle are looking down into the Feed The Need cave; is Ryan down there?  Possibly, he did work Bananarama (V4ish) for a bit... 

I then went and grabbed my shoes and joined the rest of the group who were warming up on a boulder nearby.  I had a fun time working a short rail problem in the sun with Amanda, Calvin, and Ashley.

Evan on Feed the Need (V6ish).  LOTS of great holds and great movement on this problem, lots of funky body positioning.  

Me on Feed the Need; its a longish problem (especially for me), probably 12 moves long.  Looking forward to sending it once my arm feels better!

Evan and Kyle wanted to try the Feed The Need Project, a very cool long(ish) line with an amazing kneebar that makes the moves up a blunt prow at the end of the problem feel easy.  The first move on the project is the hardest; a tricky heel-toe lock in a prominent notch allows a long move to a good crimp.  This hard move is followed by an easy traverse, then a well-planted kneebar is followed by some tricky moves up a steep prow.  Kyle made short work of the problem, perhaps taking only 6 - 10 tries to send the line for its first ascent.  His ascent was immediately followed by one by Evan.  Kyle agreed to officially name the problem Feed the Need (V6ish), which made me happy.  A half-hour later, Evan added a direct start to the end of the problem, which he decided to call Need for Speed (V7ish?).

I cleaned up a problem around the arete to the left, and gave it a few tries before giving up and whining about my injured left bicep/forearm.  Evan started working it, and sent it after spending a little time figuring out the beta.  Evan had made it look very cool, so after warming up my toes I jumped back on it and sent it quickly.  Bananarama (hard V4ish) has very cool moves through edges above a small roof, and involves some very technical and tricky footwork.   Kyle sent it soon thereafter, and Ryan also jumped on the line and gave it a few solid tries.  A great addition to the sector!

Kyle about to deadpoint the second move on Bananarama (hard V4ish).  The sequence on this problem looks obvious, but the lower body movement is tricky, tricky, tricky!  There are probably 4 moves to the lip, then about 4 more lip moves before you mantle.  Bananarama and Feed the Need are two of the best problems in the sector, for sure.

Several people had also tried the two established problems to the right of Feed the Need, namely Peachy Pinch and Mark Derksen's Mango Tango.  I had originally graded Peachy Pinch V1, but everyone seemed to think that was a bit of a sandbag, and that V3 seemed more reasonable for the line.  Ryan and Ashley spent some time working Peachy Pinch; Ryan sent it with a solid effort, and Ashely fell off the VERY last move, and was denied the send.  Next time!  I tried Cherry Pit (V4) to the right of Mango Tango for a bit, but my arm was bothering me so I had to stop, though Evan sent it after only a handful of tries.

The sun slipped behing Turtle Mountain, so people started packing up to head back to the parking lot.  I was still really keen to try one of the tall problems I had cleaned on toprope, so I nagged the posse enough that they stopped for a bit at the Split Boulder on the way out.  I put down three mats and put on my moccasyms; a minute later I was topping out on a very cool, very tall V0ish arete.  Evan and Ashley both wanted to try it as well.  After Evan climbed the arete, Ashley tried it twice, but bailed left around to the arete both times, balking at a committing lie-back move half way up the arete.  She'll be back for it, I'm sure! It's a fun highball, and because the final six feet (and the topout) are fairly easy it is a great problem for the aspiring highballer (though the landing is pretty rough, would be nice to have at least six pads to smooth things out).

I love this photo!  Evan high on a V0 arete (no name yet, might call it Strength in Numbers) in the City of Giants.  Great line, had a fun time climbing it with good people! (all the credit for this photo goes to Amanda and her amazing phone camera).

Ashley highballing in the City of Giants! 

We wrapped up the day with a quick visit to Tim Hortons for coffee and doughnuts.  It was still sunny when we headed east towards Lethbridge, and we were treated to an amazing sunset as we coasted into the city.  A great way to end a great day!

Until next time, happy climbing!

[Note: avid followers of the southern alberta bouldering scene will note that Mark Derksen was not mentioned in this posting.  Mark was unfortunately injured in a domestic accident that involved a pile of tools and a trip to the hospital.  Get better soon, Mark!  Shuffling piles of rocks around wasn't the same without you.]

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