Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Continues!

Summer continues, unabated!  Luckily for the boulderers in Southern Alberta, temperatures cooled off a bit this weekend, offering a respite from the hot sunny weather of the previous week.  Projects at Frank Slide are falling, with Josh B sending the long-time project The Shield (V9, but likely much harder for shorter folks) as well as Fully Fed (V7).  Combined with recent first ascents of The Cure (V6), The Blessing (V7), and The Right Right (V8) in the City of Giants in the last few weeks, it's shaping up as a banner year in Frank Slide, especially in the City of Giants!

Screen grab from video of Josh B working The Shield prior to sending it.  Solid effort by Josh!

This past weekend Kyle and I headed out to the Slide where we spent the day exploring the City of Giants with Kristal and Jason (of the Ropeless Blog fame!).  Arriving in the parking lot, we met Josh B who was on his way out from the Slide after a morning session, and was heading back home.  We quizzed him about his new problems in the City (especially his ascent of The Shield!), before packing up and hiking into the blocks ourselves.  Shortly after arriving in the City, we were joined by Morgan from Fernie, resulting in a fun group to climb with for the day! 

We warmed up by climbing a handful of new slabs just east of the Split Boulder, as well as a fun but unfortunately cramped V3ish arete that climbs out of a pit.  We shuffled our mats over to the Split Boulder, then went on an exploration mission in the City, looking at the blocks and speculatively feeling the holds of future problems.  After an hour or so, we ended up back at the Split Boulder.  Morgan and Kyle set to work on the Split Left project.  So far, I have been unable to manage three of the moves on the Split Left Project - even in isolation - and so I am incredibly impressed by how much progress Kyle is making.  He's done all of the moves, in three overlapping sections, and it's starting to look like it might be possible after all.

Kyle sticking the fifth - and final - hard move of the seven-move Split Left Project.  Hard!

I headed over a rise into a cluster of boulders just south of the Feed the Need Boulder to try an easy-ish line I had partially cleaned and built a patio for last week.  There ended up being three fun lines on the boulder, all starting on the same long edge below the rounded lip of the boulder; The White Album (a V0+ line that climbed directly up the tall slab after a punchy move to a jug), Snow White (a V2ish problem that traversed left to finish up some anglar slopers), and Great White (a V2+ line that traversed all the way left around a prow to finish up fun edges).  Great moderate lines, though a little off the beaten track.

Wrapping up those three problems, I headed back to watch Kyle and Morgan work on the Split Boulder projects.  I put on my shoes to try the Split Left project, but was completely shut down.  Kyle, on the other hand, was making good progress, linking pairs of moves.  After an hour or work, he had linked all the moves in pairs, a pretty solid accomplishment for the session.  Jason and Kristal returned to the Split Boulder as well, after trying Paleofit (V7) and Trent's Cave (V6)  We spent a little time trying a new crimpy line to the left of the Split Left project, but after finding the moves simply too difficult, we packed up to try Sandman (V7ish) on the next boulder over.

End of the day at Frank Slide!  Morgan, Kyle, Kristal, and Jason hanging out with stacks of mats at Sandman.

Sandman is a angled prow/arete problem established by Mark D earlier this year.  It has a very awkward and cramped start, though we improved it somewhat by moving a couple of large rocks out of the way.  From what we could gather, the problem started on a small crescent-shaped edge for the left hand, and a tiny (!) horizontal edge near the arete for the right hand.  Morgan sent the problem fairly quickly, but it took me many more tries to figure out the foot positioning for the first move.  With new beta in hand, I did the problem in just a few attempts.  A very cool problem, which unfortunately climbs somewhat oddly to climb due to its cramped start.

Late in the day in the City of Giants, photo taken from the Split Boulder. Just right of center on the skyline is the huge Shield Boulder.  

Jason and Kristal had also added a new crimpy problem to the left of Sandman, but by this time it was getting late, so we packed up and headed back to the parking lot.  Another fun day of bouldering in the Slide, with some really fun people.  Thanks to Kristal, Jason, Morgan, and Kyle for a great day of climbing!

Until next time!

PS> If Jason and Kristal don't get back to me with names for new problems, I am going to call the tallish slab we did at the beginning of the day The Kristal Method... just saying. ;)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hat Trick!

We are deep into summer in Southern Alberta.  Although there are occasional thunderstorms, virtually every day is hot and sunny.  While this is great weather for swimming at the lake, it is less than ideal for bouldering.  Nevertheless, who am I to pass up a day of bouldering on a sunny day in the Canadian Rockies, regardless of temperature?  As usual, Saturday morning I was on my way to Frank Slide with a van full of bouldering mats.  Not surprisingly, Kyle was in the passenger seat, and we were excited by what the day might hold.

Lots of exciting things have been getting done at Frank Slide, principally by Josh B., who has sent a number of the Slide's hardest problems including Railway (V10), The Prism (V8), Nintendo 69 (V8), The Socialist (V7/8), and The Communist (V7), as well as adding his own hard problem Dantle Procedure (V6).  On Saturday, I was keen to get back to the City of Giants and Karst Valley, so I could get back on the Split Right project, which I had come very clost to sending last week.  I was also psyched to try The Cure (Kyle brand-new V6ish problem on the Porcelain Boulder) again, after essentially getting shut down on it during my first session on it.  Futhermore, I wanted to get back on the very cool Addiction Cave project on the back of the Feed the Need boulder, which I hadn't tried for a few weeks.  So much to do, so little time!

Arriving at The Slide, we headed up into the blocks.  Arriving at the Split boulder, we warmed up on the highball arete Deadline (V1), and then briefly by trying a long problem that would link the first moves of Overdue into a long traverse into Deadline, for a really cool resistance problem of about 23 moves.  I gave it a half-serious attempt, only to realise a year of bouldering hasn't done much for my endurance.  Not wanting to exhaust myself by dialing such a long problem, we packed up and moved over to the Feed the Need boulder to try the Addiction Cave project.

The Addiction Cave project is very cool, a half-dozen stout moves on fingertip slopers lead to a long rail at mid-height, and a much easier finish up a slab.  The problem is actually quite tall (15 or 16 feet), but all of the hard moves are in the first seven or eight feet.  It turned out to be a less-than-ideal project for the day, as it faces southeast (in full morning sun) and starts in a pit, so its protected from the wind.  Working it was a bit of ordeal, but fortunately I don't really mind climbing in the heat; my hands don't really sweat much, and the heat keeps me warmed up.

Not an action shot.  The tall bulge-to-slab face of The Blessing (V7).  Hot and sunny!  We had propped up the black mat (on top of the adjacent boulder) against the face to shade the holds of the crux.

The steep start of the problem features a critical left heel hook on a long sloping rail underneath the belly of the boulder which acts to keep the right start hand - a sloper - in compression.  I had originally started with my right hand on a good sidepull, but Kyle pointed out that if we started with our hand on the sloper beside the sidepull, it would allow for easier upward movement.  I was skeptical, but quickly became conveted when I found out how much smoother the next three moves became with the small change in hand position.

We quickly figured out how to link the first four moves, but it took us another solid half-hour of work to decipher the foot movement needed to escape the heel hook and set up for the big move to the long juggy edge that marks the end of the hard climbing.  We were getting cooked down in the hot pit, but worked to polish the beta.  Finally I was linking right to the big move, but still falling reaching for the edge.  A little more work to perfect the foot movement paid off, and soon I had my hand on the long edge, and I followed the line of juggy edges and rails to the top of the boulder.  So stoked to send this thing at last!  Such a great new problem!  I decided to call it The Blessing (V7).

Navigating the blocks of the City of Giants / Karst Valley, looking for shade.

Kyle was also getting very close, but by this time it was getting unbearably hot in the pit, so we decided to dash over to the Split Boulder projects which are shaded almost all day long.  Arriving at the boulder, we drank some water and sat in the shade for a half-hour to recover.  Feeling better, we set up the mats beneath the Split Right Project and set to work.  My first two attempts were miserable; I felt sluggish and sleepy.  On my next try I think I fell at the third move - a blunt pinch - but I felt better.  I rested for a few minutes, and pulled on to give it another try.  I moved smoothly through the first two moves - a good edge, and a hard right-hand crossover to a very sloping edge - and then pulled to the blunt pinch with my left,  Resetting my heel carefully, I reached up to the tiny right-hand crimp, and got it almost perfectly.  I shifted my right had a bit to reset it, and then looked up at the last hard move - a strange short leftward deadpoint to a good gaston. I set up, and popped to the hold, and stuck it!  Adrenaline surging, I did the last three moves, and topped out.  Exciting to send such an amazing problem!  After a lot of reflection, I decided to call it The Right Right (V8), since its the better (i.e. the 'right') version of what had been called the Split Right Project.

Now in the hottest part of the day, we decided to stay in the shade and try the Split Left Project.  The Split Left Project is one of the most difficult in the Slide, with five very hard moves in a row leading to two somewhat easier finishing moves.  I set myself a tiny goal - the first move.  After a few tries I could do the first move, and I was reasonably satisfied, especially since the second move - a crossover from one small edge to another - seemed virtually impossible.  The third move - a big reach left to an incut slot - also seemed almost impossible.  I kept trying the moves, but couldn't muster the power required for the second, third, or fifth (a huge jump to a sidepull) moves.  Kyle was determined, though, and kept working to decipher the moves.  I was skeptical, but Kyle began to make progress on the line.  One by one, the moves fell, and after an hour or so, Kyle had done all of the moves individually, and had linked several of the sequences.  An amazing effort, on a problem that feels impossible to me!  It seems likely that the Split Left Project will fall this summer as well!

Kyle bearing down on the small holds of the Split Left Project.  Small holds, tricky feet!

By now it was late in the day, and instead of packing it in (the sensible choice) we headed over to The Cure.  Arranging the mats carefully (The Cure has a somewhat risky fall zone), I tried to muster the energy to bear down on the smooth holds of the Porcelain boulder.  It took me several tries, but eventually I managed to pull through the blunt pinch crux and head up to the fun topout of The Cure.  Another problem sent in the City of Giants!

Now thoroughly beat, we packed up in the setting sun and headed to Tim Hortons for cold drinks.  A great day of bouldering at Frank Slide, and I felt lucky to have sent such a great 'hat trick' of hard new problems in the City of Giants: The Blessing, The Right Right, and The Cure.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Summer Continues!

Every summer, in late June, I drive north to visit my parents in northern Alberta.  Aside from the obvious pleasure I take in seeing my family, I am also motivated to drive north by the opportunity to climb on the sandstone of northeastern BC.  This summer, I managed to get out for a day to Hasler Bluffs just outside of Chetwynd BC.  There are two projects at Hasler I'd like to do; the first is an open project just right of Armageddon, and the other is the 'Orange Crush' Project I bolted a few years ago.  Both are in the .12+ range, and since hard routes at Hasler are usually really sequential and interesting, I was excited to get on them.

I met up with Chris Dart in Dawson Creek, and we headed out to Hasler.  To make a long story quite short, we arrived at the crag, we both did Self-Service Pump (.10+) to warm up, then we put the draws on the project right of Armageddon.  The second half of the route proved to be both hard and cryptic, and it took us a couple of hours to decipher the sequence and techniques needed to link all the moves.  At the end of the day, we were both linking the route in long sections on toprope, but it was simply too hard for a quick send.  I did it with one fall on toprope, though, so hopefully I'll get it next time I'm in the Peace Country!  While some of the holds are a bit sharp, the sequence is incredibly intricate and quite cool, a great project!

Once back in Southern Alberta, I headed out to Frank Slide for a day of bouldering with Kyle and Josh B. from Red Deer.  Josh is (as far as I know) the first boulderer to do a extended road trip to Frank Slide, and is quickly racking up an impressive list of sends, including The Prism (V8), The Communist (V7-), and The Socialist (V7/8).

Perfect 'Frank edges' on Overdue (V2ish).

Arriving at the Slide, Kyle and I headed to the City of Giants, which we hoped would be mosquito-free (it was).  We warmed up on a few of the easy highballs on the Split Boulder, then decided to do the two high problems I had cleaned on the roadside face of the boulder a few months ago.  This face features really amazing flat edges of all sizes, from thin crimps to big ledges, all roughly facing the same direction.  First, we did the taller of the two lines (about 15 feet), a bit right of the tall arete problem Deadline.  A tricky start led to much easier moves on cool holds; though the landing is less than ideal (a weird fall would end up with the climber hitting the boulder behind them instead of the mats) it is a great easy problem.  Then we headed a few meters right and did the second problem, a slightly harder line I called Overdue (V2ish).  A low start on flat edges leads up and left on more flat edges, then back right to a huge jug and a big move to the lip.  Luckily the topout was easier than it looked!

 Kyle getting ready to get high on Past Time (V1).

Warmed up, we headed around to the back of the boulder to try the Split Right project - or at least a variant of it.  Instead of the usual low start, we instead opted to start on the first hold of The Possiblizer (V4ish?) then head straight left into the project.  This turned out to be a great idea; it avoids the first reachy (!) move of the direct start, but climbs through the rest of the problem.  We were making great progress - I even fell from the last move - but we decided to move on to other, easier, lines after Josh made quick work of The Possiblizer.

Kyle getting higher and higher on the tall, fun, and slightly spooky Past Time (V1).

We walked around the City of Giants for awhile, scoping new problems, and ended up at a large white block near the Karst Boulder.  We managed to put up a new tricky arete problem on really solid rock; the boulder is composed of what I call 'porcelain stone' (very hard, very white, and dropped pieces make a ringing sound like pieces of broken ceramic), so I called the new line Porcelain (V4ish).  Josh nearly send a great-looking eliminate on the face, then we then moved around to the back of the boulder where a handful of new lines waited for us.  First we cleaned and send a quirky line that proved to be a lot of fun.  A powerful first move to a huge ledge hold was followed by a strange (and strangely difficult) mantle-esque move to a good rail hold.  I called it Mantle Master (V1?2?) after nearly falling from the weird mantle move... Josh did it much more easily than I did!

Josh B. crushing a lap on Porcelain (hard V4ish).

Josh added another problem to the right of Mantle Master he called Mantle Asylum (V1), and then cleaned a line up the sloping left-hand arete.  It looked like an obvious crimp-and-pinch problem, but in my experience the smooth texture of the 'porcelain stone' at Frank Slide can become a real factor in hard problems!  Josh's fingers were beat up (his third day on!), and it was getting late, so he bailed, leaving the arete to Kyle and I.  I tried it for a half-hour or so, but a tricky short dyno to a blunt pinch was shutting me down, so I settled into the role of spotter and pad-caddy.  Kyle linked the first five moves fairly quickly, but then realized that the mantle wasn't going to be easy.  Kyle's "Frank experience" paid off in the end, though, and he managed an absolute end-of-the-day (9:00 or so!) send of a great new line!  A brilliant effort to end the session!  After some discussion, Kyle decided to call it The Cure (V6? Maybe harder?).

Kyle contemplating life and mantle moves amidst the blocks of Frank Slide.

We trudged back to the van, packed up, and then headed to Tim Hortons for something to eat and coffee to drink for the long drive back to Lethbridge.  Another great day of bouldering in the Rockies!