Thursday, June 12, 2014

Posse at Frank!

Last week, an unusually strong group of folks travelled to Frank Slide for a day of early summer bouldering; Kyle, Mark G, Mark D, Mike D, Jaydon, and I from Lethbridge, and Morgan D from Fernie.  I was psyched to get the chance to climb with Morgan, he is one of the most active boulderers at Frank Slide though he lives on the west side of the Rockies Divide.  We met out at the slide at 10:00, and it looked like a perfect day for climbing - sunny, but not too warm!

We decided to head up to the City of Giants / Karst Valley sectors.  This was certainly fine with me.  I'm working a lot of things all over the Slide, but the City of Giants has a lot of potential for new problems compared to some of the other areas.  It is one of the least accessible areas of the Slide (you have to boulder-hop for a few hundred meters to get to it), but the rock is generally really good; solid with very climbable features.  I was also keen to get in there with a big group because lots of people meant lots of mats, and that meant a chance to try the highball prow on the Karst Boulder, one of the true king lines of the Slide.  So, after a brief march through the loose blocks north of the highway, we arrived at the City of Giants.

The only slight downside - at least currently - is that because the City of Giants is relatively undeveloped, there isn't a huge selection of warmup problems.  When we arrived, we looked around a bit then started to clean and climb some moderate lines.  I cleaned / swept / prepped / fixed the landings of three good-looking short lines (shuffling rocks is a surprisingly good warmup); a rising lip traverse, a bulge starting on a perfect rail, and a little cave/arete problem.  Meanwhile, Kyle, Morgan, Mark G and Mark D had been cleaning/climbing problems on a long somewhat loose boulder just south of the Shield Boulder and a small boulder with a buried cave beside it.

Once the proverbial cleaning dust had settled, various people had climbed the various problems.  The three problems I cleaned were quite fun, I called the arete Triage (V3ish) because Morgan cut his hand badly on another problem while warming up; for awhile it seemed like it might need a stitch, but he just glued the flap down (Mark D carries Krazy Glue with him), and then taped it up!  The little bulge problem (Boneyize (V3ish)) was really entertaining; tricky start moves made it difficult to flash, with only about half the group sending it first try.  The little cave problem (MicroCave (V2)) was fun but short.  Mark D, Morgan, Kyle and I all did the short buried cave problem, with Mark naming it Animal Instinct.  Most people used a heel hook in the roof for the first two moves (it seemed hard that way, Mark felt it was V6ish), but I managed to squeak through with a flash of the problem by using a compression toe hook, definitely easier for me than the heel hook beta.

Mark G and I repeated the very fun Helping Hands (stiff V1), then we moved over to the Split Boulder, home to some of Frank Slide's hardest projects.  We didn't get around to working any of the really hard projects, but we did try the 'impossible problem'.  A little backstory... Last winter, Calvin and I had tried a problem that looked like a fun warmup; a flat juggy ledge led to a tall leaning arete. Strangely, we couldn't do this 'warmup', even after a half-hour of effort.  As such, I was keen to see what everyone made of it.  After putting the mats down, Kyle managed to do the problem in about a half-dozen tries in a very solid effort!  What resulted is one of Frank Slides coolest compression problems.  From the start holds, a reach right to the sharp arete allows one to get their foot up on the ledge (I had figured that part out previously), but then a interesting rock-over move allowed Kyle to reach waayyyy out left to a tiny sloping sidepull on the face (I hadn't seen that! Too small!); this allows more complete compression of the arete, and either a short jump or a tricky static move to a perfect angled lip.  Classic!  No name yet, though.

I briefly worked a new lip/arete with Mike and Jaydon (Jaydon's Arete (V2/3)), and we did a fun new problem I had assumed would be a dyno, but turned out to be a fun and subtle problem using a very cool tiny sloping pinch.  From here, we headed over to the Need Boulder, where my nemesis awaited...

I had already spent two solid sessions on Feed The Need, the infamous kneebar problem in Karst Valley.  The problem is 11 (or so) moves long, but only the first move is particularly hard.  Originally, the problem was started by matching on a good sloper and using a tricky heel-toe lock in a notch on the arete to do a big reach to a good crimp (Kyle and Evan).  I had tried the problem MANY times with that beta, but I couldn't never make the foot stick in the notch, and I would simply slide off the start holds... so frustrating!  When I did manage to make the foot stick somewhat, I couldn't quite reach the crimp... argh!  Later, Mark D repeated the problem by changing the start-hold beta somewhat, and putting his heel on the sloper and starting instead with his hand on the notch in the arete. 

Me FINALLY sending Feed the Need (V6+++).  I'm long past the first crux move here, you can see the crimp (that is the end of the first-move crux) below the notch in the lip to the left of my left foot.  Knee bar move = amazing! (Mark Derksen photo)

But when I arrived at the Need Boulder on Saturday, I was excited to try Feed The Need, again.  I had trained all winter in Kyle's garage, which is a great place to get strong.  We arranged the mats, and everyone who hadn`t done the problem queued up to try it.  Morgan did it on his second try (very solid!), and Mike D did it fairly quickly as well (despite a few issues with the kneebar).  Mark G did it after several tries, getting locked really well into the kneebar (hands-free climbing!).  That left me, falling again and again!  Finally, after changing my beta to the "heel-hook on the starting hold" beta, I managed to JUST reach the crimp, and then I easily lapped out the rest of the problem.  Why did it take me so long?  I don't know!  It just seems really hard to me!  Inflexible hips?  Weak fingers?

After that, we packed up and moved to the Karst Boulder, to try the Prow project.  The landing at the Karst Boulder is especially bad, even for Frank Slide - just a pile of fridge-sized blocks.  There are two obvious pure lines remaining on the Karst Boulder, the tall prow to the left, and another almost-as-tall face line in the middle of the face.  Jaydon and I started moving a few rocks to fill in the landing for the second problem, while several others started throwing rocks into a pit to fill in the landing for the prow.  Unfortunately, my earlier bout of rock-shuffling had tweaked/injured my back a bit, and I was starting feel a fair bit of back pain, so reluctantly I stopped heaving rocks.  To say warm, I did a few new easy slab problems on the Fathers Day boulder (the very cool Pinch Slab (V0) and the also good Press Slab (V0) which featured a fun mid-slab mantle) while the others continued to drop boulders into the hole beneath the prow.  Fun way to get a workout, I suppose, as long as your back can handle it!

The very cool Pinch Slab (V0) on the left (the rock between the two seams juts out, forming a four-foot long pinch!), and Push Slab (V0) on the right, above the mat (you get to mantle midslab, very funky).

Finally, the patio-building was finished and mats were arranged beneath the Karst Prow project.  The first two moves are tricky; a long reach to a funky sculpted edge leads to another long reach to a strange split-finger pinch on a hold that looks like a biscuit.  Most people were having problems with the second move, but Morgan was making the first two moves look really solid.  After watching for a bit and worrying about my sore back I decided to pull my shoes on and join the fun.  Soon Morgan and I were both sticking the second move solidly, but it took a bit of searching to uncover the next move - a long reach up and right to a very cool karstic pinch.  Soon I was linking the first four moves, but started to get a bit intimidated by the height when I considered the next move, a long and slightly dynamic reach to an incut sidepull.  By this time it was getting late, and everyone was hungry/thirsty from a day in the Slide.  We packed it in, headed back to the car, and then made a welcome visit to A&W for burgers.  I am definitely looking back to getting back on the Karst Prow; it's such an amazing line, so if you're interested in packing a stack of mats into the talus with me, let me know!

Mark D on - and off - the first two moves of the Karst Prow Project.  Such an incredibly cool piece of rock!  Kyle and Morgan D spotting. I included the second photo because it is a textbook how-to-spot picture; hands open, perfect catch in the lats.  Maybe he should have his thumbs closed, though, but its a personal preference (better control, but increased risk of thumb injury in big fall).  Very fun problem, though!

It was nice to get back to the City of Giants.  Every time I go there, I see more and more potential for hard problems on really solid rock.  I'll be back, and soon!

Until next time!

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