Monday, June 2, 2014

Leavenworth Bouldering! (Part 2)

After a day of rest, our fingers had recovered enough to get back to bouldering.  After breakfast, we packed up and headed to the Mad Meadows area (despite getting a bit lost on the approach).  The main cluster of boulders features two 'rooms' formed by closely piled boulders.  We warmed up by climbing the edgy Barnacles (V1) in one 'room', and the extremely fun (and unique) Hueco Route (V1) in the second 'room'.  The Hueco Route follows a series of initally huge but increasingly small huecos up a steep wall, ending in a drop-off from the highest hueco.  Everyone enjoyed the skin-friendly and highly-sculptured holds!  Kyle, Colin, and I then jumped on the steep and juggy Drugstore Cowboy (V3).  I wanted to try a harder problem around the corner, Occam's Razor (V5).  It looked straightforward, but wasn't!  It took Colin and I about 20 minutes to get it figured out and send it, using some unexpectedly funky beta (and some very high footholds!).  Since I've been back, a little internet digging shows that our experience with having to explore different techniques to send was not an atypical one.  It climbs through two steeply angled rail holds, and it is difficult to keep your feet engaged enough to pull smoothly to the next holds.  Very fun!

Colin hiding in one of the huge huecos of The Hueco Route (V1).

After we had finished that, we had to say goodbye to Colin, Caitlin, and Chris; they were heading back to Vancouver, leaving Kyle and I to the boulders of Leavenworth.  It was great having them around, hopefully I will get to climb with them again soon!  Kyle and I worked The Sail (V9) briefly, but were confused by the extreme tension needed for the first move.  More training, I guess!  We then hiked up the hill to try the famous Pimpsqueak (V9).  We made good progress on it (I made it all the way to the second lip) fairly quickly, but we decided that it was a little too spooky for one spotter and the limited number of mats we had.  On the way out, we stopped and did The Amphitheatre (V4), and Kyle tried Amphitheatre Dyno, which the guidebook implies is in the V8++ range.  It is a truly huge dyno (probably at least five feet, from two pockets); Kyle was only a few inches short.  Impressive!

Colin and Kyle beneath the cave of Drugstore Cowboy (V3).

From here we headed down the trail a bit, where we both flashed the very fun The Undercling (V5), and I did the The Hole (V6).  Kyle linked through to the mantle of The Hole really quickly, but since he can't mantle that well...  The Hole is a really cool problem; it starts matched underclinging a HUGE hueco (probably a meter across) in a steep and otherwise blank wall.  A huge move to good lip holds allows for a toehook in the huge hueco, and then two easy crimp moves lead to a tricky mantle.  Very cool, try it when you see it!  With increasingly tender tips, we headed back to camp and another relaxing evening of fire-watching and incredible night stars.

Colin and I on the aptly named Occam's Razor (V5).

The next morning, we headed into town for breakfast at The Renaissance Cafe (listed in the Guidebook as having the best breakfast in town).  I had a huge breakfast (complete with a fat sausage, of course!), then we headed out to the JY Boulders.  We warmed up on a few fun problems, but were disappointed to see that Mad Max (V7), a problem we had come to do, had at least two broken holds, rendering it MUCH harder.  As consolation, I did Yosemite Highball (V3, tall but not THAT tall), and we worked the beautiful Right Angles (V8).  We were close, but couldn't quite reach the key crux hold.  This would prove to be a theme in Leaveworth, actually; many of the hard problems in the area are difficult solely because of  huge reaches and small footholds.  I even coined a saying; "Leavenworth V8s are Leavenworth V4s with all the footholds removed".  Feel free to use it!

Kyle looking good on Right Angles (V8).

We did head up the hill to do Donkey Kong (V4), but if you ever go to the JY boulders, don't follow our example.  There are very few problems up the hill at the JY Boulders, and it is a bit of a bushwhack.  A bit disgruntled, we headed down the hill, packed up, and headed to the Straightaway Boulders.  An incredibly (!) shoert approach (about 15m) put us at the base of the famous WAS (V8).  It was something we really wanted to try, and is one of the best-known problems in the American Northwest.  A jump to a big egg-shaped hueco in the middle of a smooth and mostly-blank wall enables a reach to a steeply angled arete, the only feature that links the hueco directly to the top of the boulder.  I tried it for perhaps a half-hour; I slowly made progress, but was falling with my hand still several inches below the lip.

I turned my attention to the neighboring problems, Is (V7, starts with jump to the WAS hueco but traverses rightward before mantling into a huge dish) and Maybe (V4, which climbs the face left of WAS).  I flashed Maybe, but couldn't manage the huge reach on Is despite putting several serious attempts into trying to make the move statically.  Having climbed in Squamish, I was a bit disappointed that Maybe - a perfectly fun problem - had never been cleaned, and was both dirty and mossy.  I gave it a good brushing, making the problem a lot more fun.  After it was cleaned, I started to wonder if it was possible to jump to the Hueco on WAS, but reach left, and finish up the last moves of Maybe.  I tried it, and it went off smoothly, a fun problem, maybe a first ascent (although in Leavenworth, I doubt it!).  It climbed like an easier mirror-version of Is, so I called it Be (V4). 

The volleyball-sized hueco of WAS (V8). Beautiful hold!

By now, our tips were thrashed.  The next day was a rest day, for sure!  We had breakfast in town (Verona Cafe this time, big but a bit greasy), hiked through the boulders in Tumwater Canyon, walked around town, drank iced coffee (well I did, Kyle at ice cream), searched for and bought a Leavenworth Tourist shirt, went to the Fish Hatchery, and hunted for and then enjoyed a $4.00 shower at the small RV campground across the road from the Safeway.  Feeling clean, we grabbed a few groceries and headed back to camp for dinner.

By the next morning, our fingers had recovered... somewhat.  Though my skin was fine, I could see (and feel) bruising of my pads beneath the skin.  Still, the forecast was for slightly cooler temperatures (in the low 20s) and for some cloud, so we were hoping for a solid day of bouldering.  We headed to Forestland, the area with the largest collection of problems.  The boulders in Forestland also feature interesting holds and lots of steep faces; a great recipe for a fun day of climbing!  We warmed up on Breadline (V1, one of my favorite problems on the trip) and The Real Thing (V4), two classics on the same boulder.  I wanted to try Cruise Control (V6), a techy problem that Colin had tried earlier in the week.  The guidebook says "it's all about the feet", and this is accurate!  After a fumbling first attempt, I spent 15 minutes trying different body positions and foot placements.  After I was satisfied that I could actually hang onto the holds in the necessary positions, I got back on and did the problem.  Very fun, and really my style!

Kyle about to launch to the good edge on The Shield (V7).

In the meantime, Kyle had sent the famously dynamic The Shield (V7).  I wanted to get a photo of him on it, so he graciously threw a casual lap on it while I took pictures!  We then shuffled our mats around the rear of the boulder to try Busted. While the start hold of the original Busted (V8) is broken (though it goes at the same grade), new start holds permit an easier version of the problem that avoids the crux move.  After spending some time trying to get my heelhook to stick, I sent the 'lite' version of Busted (which is about V6), followed quickly by Kyle.  We also had the pleasure of watching another climber do the original V8 problem in a few tries, which was humbling. 

Me about to hop off of an attempt on Backdoor Ass Attack (V7).  Very fun slopers, cool mantle!

We were itching to leave and head back to WAS, but before we left I stopped to try Backdoor Ass Attack (V7), a very cool sloper problem with a bad name.  Even though it was a little hot for slopers, I was keen to try BAA as it is one of the very few pure sloper problems in Leavenworth.  I was skeptical I could pull off the VERY sloping holds, but due to the exceptional texture of the rock at Forestland I was able to send it in a relatively short time.  It is a funky (read: Trent-style) problem; both hands and one heel start on a positive rail, then a tricky pull to a sloping sidepull leads to a reach to a perfect boss-like sloper (points to you if you know what a 'boss' sloper is).  Very fun line!

Kyle staring down WAS (V8).  Classic problem!  Maybe (V4) climbs the (newly cleaned!) face left of the arete, Be (V4) jumps to the hueco, then reaches left to the arete, then finishes up Maybe, and Is (V7) starts in the hueco, but traverses right on crimps to a fun mantle onto a dished slab.

Kyle and I stacked the pads back in the van and headed down the road to WAS, hoping to make some progress on the line despite the heat.  We brought a few extra mats down (WAS is tall!), and started trading burns on the problem.  My right hand kept creeping higher and closer to the lip, but I didn't start making real progress until I started underclinging the hueco after the initial jump, which allowed me to pull in subtly as I stood up in the hueco.  I was still a few inches short, but then decided that a slightly more dynamic pull-in-shift-weight-to-the-rightwhileleaningabit approach was needed, along with a slightly higher grip on the arete.  Two more tries, and I was shocked to be holding the small sloper at the lip!  A tiny jump to a jug, a quick mantle, and I was on top the boulder!  Success!

Kyle wanted to try Is before we packed up, but I wasn't keen to try it again having fallen on the crux 'iron-cross' reach several times during our previous visit to the boulder.  Kyle, however, made the crux reach easily by dynamically pushing off his left foot and pivoting around his right.  With better beta, I put my shoes back on and sent Is in just a few tries, relieved to find that the finishing mantle was actually quite easy despite it's reputation.  All things considered, a great day of bouldering!  It has been awhile since I've send a decent number of hard-ish problems in a single day, it seems that a winter of bouldering in Kyle's garage paid off!

More to follow!  Cheers!

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