Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring! Frank Slide! New Problems!

"In the spring / a young man's fancy / lightly turns to thoughts of bouldering..."

I know what you're thinking.  "Trent," you say to yourself, "you are scarcely what I would call a 'young man', though quoting Tennyson is laudable."

At any rate, spring has finally arrived (I hope!) in southern Alberta.  It was 8C on the weekend, and temperatures as high as 20C have been forecast for the upcoming week.  After weeks of unseasonably cold weather 8C seemed positively balmy, and with most people seemingly occupied in Lethbridge Kyle and I headed off to Frank Slide for a day of bouldering.  Though there was still some snow in the Slide, it was melting quickly in the warm weather, and hopefully it will be largely gone by next weekend.

I was keen to check out a few potential lines I had seen during my last trip to Frank, and since Kyle didn`t have particular destination in mind, we agreed to do a little hunting for problems in the jumble of boulders on the ridge above the Triangle Pinch Boulder.  Though short, the walk in to the Triangle Pinch Boulder seems awkward to me, with relatively unstable footing.  Arriving on the ridge, we went for a bit of a walk to scout for likely problems, and then opened our mats to warm up on a smallish boulder with an unusual open-book feature. 

I spent a few minutes cleaning the holds, and then Kyle sent the problem easily on his first try.  I pulled on my moccasyms and repeated the problem to warm up, but it certainly felt harder to me than Kyle had made it look!  We both did the problem again (V1ish), and then added a sit-start to the line which felt a bit harder (V2ish).  Starting on a small right-hand pinch on the arete and a thin left-hand crimp, the problem pulls to a very cool dish-shaped hold, then traverses across a sloping lip to an interesting topout on yellow-speckled rock. I think Sun Trap would be a great name for the problem, as it faces directly into the winter sun and is well-protected from the wind!  We then added a right exit to the problem, and a right-traverse exit as well.  To wrap up the boulder we did another really easy (V0-) problem on the left side of the face as well.  A great cold-weather warm-up boulder! 

Kyle warming up on the fun V2 on the Sun Trap boulder, in the spring sunshine!  A short problem (six moves), it nonetheless has some interesting movement and some great holds.

Warmed up, we looked around for another boulder to climb in the immediate area.  Just a few steps to the north we found a hanging boulder - a fat blade of rock perched upon two other boulders.  Kyle thought the hanging arete on the east face of the boulder looked fun, and he was right!  We swept the holds, fixed the landing a bit, then pulled over the mats;  Kyle sent the problem quickly; from a sit-start on two incut edges, using a toe-hook allowed movement up a series of large flat edges along the arete to a very cool rock-over topout. Probably in the V3 range, and one of the best V3s in Frank Slide.  Good vision on Kyle's part to spy the line!

Kyle on the middle and end of his new V3ish / V4ish problem on a fat blade-shaped boulder below the Mushroom Boulder.  It sit-starts underneath the bottom of the blade on two opposing edges.  Very fun!

Sitting around after sending the problem, I started to look more carefully at the long block that was holding up the left side of the 'fat blade' boulder.  It was certainly large enough to have problems on it, and it was composed of the strange shelly-sandstone sometimes found at Frank Slide.  Usually that type of rock is not compact enough for bouldering (often the boulders are too small, or the rock too friable), but when solid enough and the boulders big enough, it can hold fantastic problems!  This block was no exception, and we opened a handful of problems from V0- to V2ish, including (from left to right) Sandbox (VB), The Sandstone Traverse (V0ish), Trent's Dyno (V1, a Kyle FA due to the fact that I can't dyno...), and Crafty (V2).  All the problems on this boulder have fantastic sandstone holds - mostly rounded rails - and are great moderate lines though somewhat marred by rough landings. 

There appeared to be another, much harder line that traversed right-ward around the boulder, starting on the positive rail of Trent's Dyno.  Thinking that the problem looked too hard for a spring day, I contented myself with cleaning the holds and imaging the moves.  Becoming more and more intrigued, I decided to put on my shoes and try a few moves.  Then I thought I needed better heel-hooking shoes, then I worked a few sequences... Soon enough I had pieced together all the moves, and I decided to try the entire problem.  After a couple of tries I managed to send the whole problem (13+ moves!) quite nicely, calling it The Orange Traverse (V4/5) after it's substantial resemblance to The Green Traverse (V6) in Squamish (and the speckles of orange lichen, of course!).

The Sandstone Boulder!  Five fun problems on this face, including the very fun Sandstone Traverse (V0ish, starts on lower left corner of the block, then climbs up and across the sloping lip to finish just right of the peak on fantastic juggy holds), and The Orange Traverse (V4/5ish) that starts on a rail just above my chalk bag, and traverses right and around the corner.  

To wrap up the day, we decided to walk a short distance further and try a short rail problem I had spied a few weeks ago.  The boulder, although short, featured a sharp rail that angled up and across an overhanging face.  I swept the holds, and then Kyle and I both sent the problem easily.  I was a little disappointed by the line; perhaps I simply wished it had a few more moves.  Calling the problem Moss Rail (V2ish), we packed the mats and picked our way back to the van through the field of snow-covered boulders.

A fun - albeit short - day of bouldering in the Crowsnest Pass!  Weather is getting warmer, days are getting longer; soon we'll be fully immersed in the Spring Bouldering Season, one of the nicest times of the year in Frank Slide.  I've got lots of projects to send this year, and I'm looking forward to working through my 'to-do' list!

Until next time, take care! 

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