This past (Easter) weekend my family played host to my brother and his family. Luckily, they had beautiful weather for their entire visit; Lethbridge is beautiful in the spring after a long winter. After they left on Monday, though, my thoughts turned to bouldering. It was a warm (20C) and sunny spring day, and I still had lots of daylight left; why not take a trip out to Frank Slide? I could be there by 3:00, and since the sun didn't set until after 9:00, I could get in several hours of climbing in perfect spring conditions. So I quickly loaded up the van, and headed west.
On the drive out, I debated which sector I should visit. I am looking forward to spending the spring and summer working through the problems on the two lists that I maintain. The first is a list of the projects I am currently working on (at the moment, 16 problems), while the second list is the 'Missing Problems' list, which contains 37 unopened problems that represent an inventory of hard potential problems. I finally decided that perhaps a systematic approach would be best - I would start at the south edge of the Slide and work my way north. With this plan in mind, I arrived at the Slide and headed to the Healing Area.
I was hoping to be able to cross the river and look at some of the projects there, but the river was roaring through the rapids making that destination too dangerous to consider. I packed up my mats and headed in towards the Foxhole and Relentless Boulders. On the way, I stopped to warm up at a boulder I had walked past several times and had always wanted to climb on, a distinctive white-striped boulder at the junction of the two gravel tracks that run through the southern edge of the boulderfield. The problems all looked easy, but weren't. Three easy V0- problems on one face contrasted with three steep slab problems on the face that faced the gravel track. Both took me several tries and I had to really bear down to send them; Emerald City (V3ish) on the left, and White Lines (V3ish) on the right. They were too crimpy for warmups, really. Ouch.
Warmed up, I headed into the Foxhole Boulders where one of the problems on the 'Missing Problems' list waited; the so-called Ice Cave project in the Foxhole itself. The Foxhole is a gap between two large boulders, and deep in the Foxhole is a line of edges climbing out a bulge. Arriving at the area, I climbed three more warmups (Foxhole Right (V0), Foxhole Left (V0+), and Foxhole Center (V1)). I shuffled the mats into the cave, being careful to arrange the pads over the slab of ice that can linger in the cave well into spring. I cleaned the holds and set to work.
The moves felt harder than I anticipated. A long move to an edge was followed by a couple of tenuous but easier moves on sloping pinches. After that, though, was a very hard move to a sloper with a finger-tip catch; this move was hard, and I couldn't see a way to use trickery to do it. That was followed by another seemingly-impossible move to good lip holds.
With a bit of work, the powerful moves started to yield. I simply had to bear down on the first move, but the crux moves above became possible if I shifted my weight carefully and bumped my hands to better positions. Soon I was linking the first three moves, and the last three, leaving only three moves in the middle. Soon enough, though, I unlocked the sequence for the middle three moves, and after a handful of attempts I managed to link smoothly through the entire problem. Strange how ten moves up a piece of limestone can create such feelings of elation! I was psyched to send The Ice Cave (V6?7?8?), but I still had lots of time left in my day.
I turned my attention to The Hand Sponge, a Mark Derksen FA from last year, located on the opposite side of the boulder from The Ice Cave. I had tried it to no avail, having no problem with the initial sloping lip traverse but getting shut down on the final highstep / mantle move. I set the mats up, took a look at the holds, and was surprised when I almost sent the problem, falling off midway through the mantle. I refined my beta a bit, then sent it quickly after that. The Hand Sponge was originally graded V7, but given that I did it so quickly perhaps low-end V6 seems more likely.
Re-arranging the pads, I added an extension to The Hand Sponge that I had looked at last year. Starting on The Hand Sponge, my new problem continues along the lip ending on the jugs of Dave's Arete (V3). Sponge Bath (V5ish) is a great new line, with really fun lower body movement.
With a couple of hours of light left, I headed over to the Serial Killer boulder. I have always wanted to do Serial Killer (V5), but was skeptical that I could do it quickly as the first move looked really powerful. Arriving at the boulder, I cleaned and felt the holds, visualised the moves, then pulled on and flashed the problem! Happy to send it!
It was getting late, but I thought I would end my day with a bit of a session on the slopey Energitus (V8). I`d tried it before, but couldn`t unlock the sequence for the last third of the problem. This time I had a lot more luck, and fell on the last hard move (going to the left arete). I did it in two overlapping sections, though, so given that I was completely thrashed I`m hopeful that I can send it sometime soon.
All things considered, an amazing half-day of bouldering in the Rockies!
My perfect ending to the day was ruined, though. The interac machine at Tim Hortons wasn't working, and I had no cash.
Until next time, happy climbing!