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.

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