Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Projects in the Spring!

The May Long Weekend!  That precariously balanced three-day period that sits atop the divide between spring and summer!  Some years, it tips decidedly back into springtime weather, with cold rain, clouds, or snow.  Other years - seemingly in the minority - the May Long Weekend leaps forward into the sun and heat of summer.  This year, the ides of May leaned back into spring, and the weather was rainy (Saturday and part of Sunday), and coldly sunny on Monday.

"Aha!"  you say to yourself.  "But aren't cool and sunny days perfect for bouldering?"

They are.

As such, Monday morning saw Kyle and I heading west on the Crowsnest Highway, sun at our backs on the way to Frank Slide.  The number of problems at Frank Slide has grown steadily in the last few years, and now there are at least 650 problems (as logged on; likely there are as many as 750, possibly more).  Arriving at the Slide, Kyle and I decided to head into the Spiderweb sector.  Spiderweb doesn't have that many problems - large blocks are relatively sparsely distributed there - but it does hold some of Frank's classic hard lines, including the hard one-move line The Dyno That Made Baby Jesus Cry aka the Baby Jesus Dyno (V8), and Josh B.'s new steep bulge problem The Renaissance (V8/9). 

We headed into Spiderweb Right, where we warmed up on a short slab problem, and then tried a new-ish Kyle M. problem, The Wind and The Wizard (V5?).  It starts on a good edge in an overhang, then reaches up to a good sloper at the base of the hanging slab above.  From there, the difficulties start; tiny edges above aren't really quite enough to stand up on the sloper.  After many tries I did the problem from the second hold (urgh!), but decided that I had had enough crimping hard on tiny holds and moved on, leaving an ascent of the full problem for another day.

We moved around to the other side of the boulder, where I wanted to work on a new line that I had tried - and failed on - during my previous trip to the Spiderweb sector.  It starts at the lip of a large (but unfortunately blank) cave, with a good incut sidepull at the lip for the right hand, and a good flat edge for the left.  The difficulty in the problem lies in using a tenuous left heel hook, with absolutely nothing for the right foot to press against.  After 45 minutes or so, we had worked out the best way to do the problem; a very cool sequence which in its use heel hooks and slopers seemed much more like a problem from Squamish than from Frank Slide.  I think I am going to call it either Collateral Damage (my wrist, which has been injured for several days now, was pretty tweaked by the end) or Windigo (keeping with the magical / wind theme of the boulder).  Funky and powerful (V6ish?), I think the line is fantastic, a great addition to the Spiderweb.

Kyle sticking the first, fourth, and sixth moves of Windigo (V6). Or is it Collateral Damage (V6)?

We also tried a new project that looked improbable at first, a fairly involved line following an intricate series of long traversing moves on small edges above a lip. By the end of a long session on the line, we had worked out a feasible sequence of moves, but without managing to link the problem.  To make the problem as user-friendly as possible, Kyle and I put some effort into prepping the landing, so hopefully some of the strong lads who climb at the Slide will give us a few weeks to work the line; I'm always motivated a bit more, and try a bit harder, if a problem hasn't been climbed yet.  The mystery - the riddle - of climbing is important to me; a potential problem or route is always more interesting if I'm not quite sure how - or if - it can be done.

On the way back to the van, we stopped and climbed one more problem, an angled arete on a very cubical boulder very close to the parking lot.  Kyle flashed the problem with ease, while I had to bear down and try hard to send it.  Given the proximity of the problem to the highway, I think I will call it White Noise (V3?). I know what you're thinking... and you're correct.  Kyle DID do it first.  But I'm sure he won't mind.

Fully thrashed by this time, we went to the A&W for hamburgers, and settled back into the van for the long drive back to Lethbridge.  Even after almost three years of climbing in the Slide, there is STILL so much to do!

Until next time!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Family Day in Frank!

In Southern Alberta, springtime has been fantastic!  Flowers are everywhere, and the weather for climbing is almost perfect.  Rowan (who is now 7) has been itching to get out to Frank Slide for some bouldering, so on Saturday we packed everyone up and headed to the Slide for a day of springtime adventure.  Aya isn't really that keen on climbing these days, but she still likes to get out to the Pass for a little hiking and to spend some time by a campfire.

On the drive out to the Pass (which is always too long for Aya and Rowan), I decided that we would go to the Spiderweb area, for two reasons.  First, and most importantly, it has a number of smallish boulders close to the parking lot, which means easy access to kid-sized boulder problems.  Second, the Spiderweb area has a handful of projects I am working.  We arrived at the area, packed up, and strolled down the maze of grassy paths that give the Spiderweb area its name.  We stopped at a smallish boulder beside the path, and I cleaned and climbed three short-ish problems that were all surprisingly good; a short cave problem on the front of the boulder (Orange Crush (V2), a very fun line named for our new provincial government), a left-to-right lip traverse on that same face (V3 or V4), and a short cave problem on the back of that same boulder (V2ish).

I found a fun juggy face for Rowan and Aya to climb, and they had a blast doing a first ascent!  Rowan did it first, and called it The Titan's Head (V0-), as he's on a Greco-Roman mythology kick these days.  Rowan managed to climb a half-dozen other problems in the area, mostly slabs, and had a great day of sending!  After three hours of climbing, we agreed that it was time for pastries and headed to one of the best cafe-bakeries in Alberta - the Cinnamon Bear!

Aya and Rowan, in the mountains!

After we finished our coffee and pastries (amazing, as always!), Shelley, Aya, and Rowan headed over to the river to enjoy a fire and hot dogs, and I headed back into the Spiderweb area to session on Josh B.'s new problem, The Renaissance (V8 or V9).  It is a stout line; essentially seven continuously hard moves that lead to a juggy slab high on the boulder.  I find all seven moves to be quite hard - the problem is obviously close to my limit - but I find the first move (a hard pull to a sloping shelf) to be especially grim. 

Rowan sending the FA of The Titan's Head (V0-)!  He looks like a miniature Nalle H., it's hilarious!

The difficulty of The Renaissance lies, primarily, in a noticeable lack of footholds.  The problem starts matched in a sloping dish under the belly of the boulder, but without any holds to engage your feet, I find it very hard just to pull onto the start holds.  To engage my feet (one pasted on a little nub, and the other smeared hard against the blank face of the roof) I have to really try hard to generate ANY momentum.  As I get older, the "try hard" part of climbing is definitely something that takes more focus than it used to!

Couple photos of me trying (mostly posing on) The Renaissance (V8 or V9).  I think I can mayyyybe do it if I can make the first move happen. Somehow.

Regardless, after some work I managed to slap at the second hold a few times.  Satisfied with even that much progress, I then set to work on the rest of the problem.  The Renaissance is odd for Frank Slide in that almost every hold is sloping (not an edge), and it requires a lot of body tension throughout.  I know that to do the problem I will have to discover the most efficient sequence, and so I spent a half-hour just trying individual moves, learning how the individual moves fit together.  I'm pretty satisfied with the progress I made (I linked moves 2-7 in a few blocks), and left the problem with the feeling that more training is needed to punch through the first move.

I spent a little more time trying a few more projects in the Spiderweb sector, but then packed it in and headed over to the river for hot dogs and some 'adventure time' with Aya and Rowan.  All things considered, a good day in the mountains!

Me on the end of the short cave problem Orange Crush (V2ish).  A harder lip traverse thing comes in from the left.  Also fun.