Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Missing Problems

The traveling boulderer, upon visiting Frank Slide, will be struck by a statistical oddity.  While there are hundreds of easy and moderate problems, there are surprisingly few 'hard' problems (let's somewhat arbitrarily label problems V7 and up as being 'hard').  To date, there are only 35 (or so) problems V7 and harder, not a huge number given that Frank Slide has approximately 600 established problems.  It seems that the difficult problems of Frank Slide are missing. 

"Curious." you say.  "What might be the reason?"

I am simply speculating, but I think there are at least three processes that have produced this pattern.  First, it may be that the geology of the area (Livingstone Limestone and adjacent formations) creates boulders that are either heavily featured (and thus easy) or are relatively blank (and thus unclimbable).  However, while it is true that some boulders are relatively blank, most faces are replete with holds - especially the ubiquitous "Frank edge".  Secondly, the nature of the slide itself (where larger boulders 'floated' upon a moving relatively coherent moving mass rather than tumbling) produced relatively few overhanging faces and caves.  The third reason is a historical one.  In general, the climbing community of Southern Alberta (especially those interested in climbing outdoors) is small.  The development of an entire bouldering area is a herculean task for a half-dozen individuals, no matter how motivated.  From that perspective, the efforts of boulderers such as Kyle Marco and Evan Erickson is impressive.

Once a 'Missing Problem', but no more.  The final hold of the sloping rail of The Ice Cave (V7).

To satisfy my own curiosity, I've compiled a list (first mentally from memory, then scribbled on paper, and finally transcribed here) of all of the potential 'hard' problems that I've seen scattered across Frank Slide in the past year or so. It seems the 'hard' problems of Frank Slide may not be missing, they may simply be misplaced.

Since they are only potential boulder problems, I am very reluctant to attempt to estimate their difficulty.  Looking at them, though, I would guess they range from about V6 to V12+.  The asterisks denote lines I have actually attempted, while the remainder are simply faces that I have looked at and said "Yep, that looks fun! Yep, I think it'll go... not by me, maybe, but by someone!"  I have only included problems that look aesthetic and fun, are reasonably tall, and feature solid holds.  While I am sure there are scores of one-move mini-caves at the Slide, I am not interested in them.

This list is, of course, intentionally vague.  No, it is not a "secret list"; if it were, I would not be posting it on a publicly accessibly website.  However, if asked, I will not attempt to describe where individual problems are, as this process quickly becomes absurdly comical.  "It's that problem, with those edges on that grey streaked face, on that grey block, which is behind that cluster of grey boulders, after you walk over that area of smaller grey boulders and past that quite cubical grey rock..."  I will gladly take anyone to any of the problems on this list - I am keen to try to them all!

I'm posting this list for two reasons.  First, to demonstrate to visiting climbers that if they want to climb something new and exciting, the potential exists at Frank Slide! Second, I've posted this list as a point of reference for myself.  It's like a stack of Christmas presents, each waiting to be opened, to reveal their particular secrets of movement, power, and technique.  As each problem gets opened, I'll amend this list.  Likewise, as new projects get discovered, I will append them to the end of the list.

So here is The List, with the problems in no particular order...

1. Rum-Runner Arete
2. Floodwater*
3. Mark of the Beast*
4. Karst Right Side
5. Wizard Prow*
6. Old Man and the Sea
7. March of Time*
8. Seaworld Arete
9. Black Slot
10. Rail Arete*
11. Left Rail
12. Junk Arete*
13. House Super-Project*
14. Triangle Pinch
15. Giant Left
16. Giant Right
17. Baby Giant
18. The Shield (V9+, FA by JB: July 19 2014, big moves, lots of compression)
19. Sunny Corner
20. Fully Fed (V7, FA by JB: July 20 2104, slopey extension to Feed the Need)
21. Evan's Cave
22. The Right Right (V8, FA: July 13 2014. Powerful and subtle with a solid heel hook)
23. Split Left (V9, FA: July 2013 by Morgan D. Powerful moves on edges)
24. Split Boulder Prow
25. Seventy Arete*
26. The Ice Cave (V7, FA: April 21 2014. Amazingly subtle movement on edges and pinches.)
27. New Zombotron*
28. The Slash Face*
29. White Bulge
30. Beaver Prow
31. Dan's Project*
32. Flying Squirrel*
33. Perestroika Project*
34. Long Wall Center
35. Long Wall Right
36. Zeus Cube Right
37. Zeus Cube Left
38. The Blessing (V7, FA: July 13 2014. Great slopers with techy footwork)
39. Sherlock (V7, FA: April 30 2014. Funky prow problem with techy movement)  
40. Graveyard Shift (V6, FA: June 15 2014. Tricky sequential moves on flat edges) 
41. Bone China Project

33 of 41 projects left to send!

Let me know if you want to go bouldering!  Cheers!


Owen said...

Love your scientific approach to establishing problems. It is truly effective... like a surgeon ready to whip out that scalpel!

lovin the blog too right now!


Trent Hoover said...

Thanks Owen! Usually I am a bit more random, but I think this is proving to be an effective way to hunt for new problems. A little less "I don't really have anything I want to get on today" and a little more "Yes, I've got a couple projects in this sector I want to work on." Hopefully by the end of the summer I will have knocked off a handful of these problems! Some are really hard, though...