Monday, July 27, 2015

Mysterious Events!

Midsummer is a bittersweet time for a boulderer, or for any outdoor enthusiast.  While there is lots of time yet to climb and to work on projects, there isn't as much time as there was a month ago.  As such, I always feel a sense of urgency at this time of year; a need to try harder, to get out more, and to be a little more determined.

With a forecast for cool and overcast weather, Kyle and I packed up our mats and headed out to the Slide on Saturday morning.  We had been into the Heart of Frank sector on a trip a few weeks ago, and were keen to go back to try a few more lines that had looked intriguing.  The Heart of Frank sector is (not surprisingly, given its name) deep in the Slide; so deep, in fact, that it is actually relatively close to the Interpretive Center.  

We knew that Peter Kwan (as well as his fun (and amazingly funny!) kids Will and Lauren) were going to be bouldering in the House Area with a number of the other Ascent Juniors, so when we arrived at the Slide we walked into the Slide via the House trail to see them.  We chatted for a bit (Peter wanted to come into the Slide later in the day to climb with us and take some photos), then headed up into the maze of blocks that is the Heart of Frank.

The Heart of Frank doesn't have huge numbers of established problems, and we were keen to find and put up some new lines.  I was also excited to try the 'Slippery Pete' project, a VERY technical compression/arete line on absolutely perfect porcelain stone.  The notable quality about the Slippery Pete project is that the rock is so fine-grained it is incredibly smooth, which means that all the holds have be taken (and used) very carefully. 

Trent versus Slippery Pete.  Thanks to Peter Kwan for the great photos! 

Kyle and I spent an hour or so cleaning a few new lines and building landings (the talus is especially coarse in the HoF sector).  I built patios below two tall and intimidating lines (that I wouldn't actually get around to attempting!), and Kyle and I cleaned up two more projects on a nicely-featured face in an alcove quite close to the Heart Boulder.  We pried off a few loose holds to make the line solid and safe.  Unfortunately, this included a large angled edge which we thought would be necessary, which bummed us out a bit at first, but would eventually prove to make the problem more interesting.

We warmed up by climbing what we thought would be a fun warmup arete in the alcove; a half-hour later we finally figured out the beta required to do the first move, and the rest of the problem followed immediately.  As we finished that line, however, it started raining and blowing.  Luckily, the problem we were on was protected from both (being overhanging and east-facing), so we kept climbing happily through the blustery weather.  After another hour, we finally figured out how to climb the second problem, and we both sent it quickly once we had the sequence dialed.  it ended up being a very fun and sequential line on smooth angled edges, a sequence of moves that took some time to decipher.  This is, in fact, a good example of what I enjoy the most about Frank Slide; the key to the problem was (quite literally) about how your pointer finger of your right hand was placed on an edge; that small subtlety unlocked the entire problem.  If you enjoy problem-solving, then Frank Slide is for you!

When we were working the problem, however, a very strange (!) event occurred.  I went to get my two coaster mats ((a coaster mat being a small 'extra' mat) since the landing for the problem in the alcove was quite rough), only to find that one of them (which I had set down only a few meters away) had completely vanished.  We assumed that the wind had blown it away, but despite a very dedicated search effort we never found it.  Maybe an intense gust of turbulence had swept it up, and carried it deep into the Slide?  Maybe a curious tourist had strayed from the trail and picked up what they thought was an odd artifact?  Hopefully I'll find out someday!  If you manage to find a grey and yellow coaster mat in the Heart of Frank / Mushroom area, pick it up and feel free to use it!

Kyle has some kind of mad-skills-virtual-wizardry backstep in to do this move.  I simply CAN. NOT. do this...

As we finished up the second project, Peter, Lauren, and Will joined us.  Peter was keen to take some photos, so we shuffled the mats over to try Slippery Pete.  The problem starts low on a good right-hand edge and a smooth angled left-hand rail.  Kyle and I set to work, trying and abandoning a number of sequences in an attempt to find a way to ascend a smooth white overhanging face with a limited number of holds.  After many attempts, we managed to use foot trickery to reach from the start hold, through a smooth rail, to the arete.  It seemed (to me!) to be very hard, taking pretty much all my power and reach to execute.  The move to the arete always seemed to leave me over-extended, so I started to opt for a crimpier sequence that would allow me to reach the arete without becoming so extended (though the move itself became more difficult... argh). 

Me sticking the second (or third for me) move of Slippery Pete.  Can you say Iron Cross?  I can!

All the while, Peter Kwan was taking photos, which was fascinating!  His skills (and camera) clearly exceed my usual 'point and shoot' efforts, and it was great to have him there taking photos.  It was also interesting from the point of view of a 'consumer' of climbing photography; it is strange to think that all those professional climbers whose photos populate magazines and websites are climbing whilst cameras are clicking away!

After much effort (and almost two hours of projecting), Kyle managed to link through the crux first-half of the problem (6 moves), and pulled smoothly through the second half of the problem (another 5 or 6 moves) for the first ascent!  Congrats to Kyle for opening such a fun and technical problem; I definitely look forward to coming back to finish off the problem.  In my opinion, the problem (which will likely be called Slippery Pete, since Kyle likes the name) is about V8, which is great since there aren't that many problems in that grade range at the Slide.  Certainly one of the best hard problems at the Slide!

Toe tricks on Slippery Pete (V8).  I don't know why I was starting low here, usually I started with my left hand on the angling rail.  [BETA SPOILER ALERT] That toe hook is pretty key, though...

By this time, we were pretty beat (it was probably after 7:00), and we headed back to the van.  Ravenous, we popped into A&W for burgers, and started the long drive back to Lethbridge.  We were happy to have added another problem to the growing list of 'hard' lines at the Slide... though I was a little sad about my vanished coaster pad!

There has been some discussion lately about creating a list of tricky/bizarre/unexpectedly hard problems at the Slide, akin to Squamish's 'Seven Terrors'.  So far, the list seems to include the following problems...

1. The Possiblizer (V4) Karst Valley
2. Mono Slab (V4?) House Sector
3. The Wind and the Wizard (V5?)

What else belongs on the Frank Slide version of 'The Seven Terrors'?  Let me know!

Until next time!

PS> Huge thanks (once again) to Peter Kwan for the photos!  Nice to have great pictures of the Slide!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Frank Slide's Top 50!

The last twelve months have been busy at Frank Slide!  Over 100 new problems have been opened at the area, landings have improved, and new areas have seen substantial development.  As such, it is time to update the Top 50 Problems in Frank Slide list!  This list is based on my experiences, the experiences of other 'Frank Slide locals', and the consensus ratings on  I have made an effort to include problems that have had multiple ascents (to avoid the biases of individuals), and I have avoided including any problems that are absurdly tall (e.g. Jolly Green Giant (V0+)), are contrived or are eliminates, or are very hard to locate.  With over 700 problems to choose from, this list was difficult to compile, but I think the effort was worth it; all 50 problems on this list are fantastic, and well worth the effort to find and send.  I hope you enjoy the problems on this list!

If you disagree with any of the problems on this list, or want to propose a more worthwhile problem at any of the grade ranges, feel free to contact me.  If you can provide a strong enough argument for a substitution, I am willing to make the change!

Me on the fantastic Pamela Anderson (V4), one of the several new problems to make the list.

The best easy problems in Frank Slide are often slabs, although two of the top five easy problems are vertical to slightly overhanging.  Railway Slab (V0) is a standout line, with a nice height and interesting features.

1. Railway Slab (House) Absolutely fun (and tall) slab with great features.
2. Crack Attack (Healing) Easy and fun arete.
3. Gold Leaf Slab (Healing) Cool slab on great rock.
4. Coalbanks Revolution (The Prow) Fun!
5. Easy Healing (Healing) Nice and high, with a slightly tricky crux.

Generally speaking, Frank Slide limestone produces very technical problems.  Even the relatively easy problems are somewhat tricky, but very rewarding to climb. Enjoy!

6. Helping Hands (Karst) Techy, but amazing movement once you figure it out.
7. Scarleg (Healing) A very fun arete.
8. Cottonwood Road (Healing) Steep rails.
9. Killer Ss (Healing) A fun technical line, with a great landing.
10 High Noon (Healing) Great easy highball with amazing movement.

The technically-demanding features of Frank Slide limestone really start to shine at this grade.  All five of these lines are worth tracking down!

11. Bearhug (Riverside) A great-looking compression feature, not to be underestimated!
12. Overdue (Karst) Highball on flat (but hard to read) edges.
13. Little Hulkamaniac (Hulkamaniac) Another great highball!
14. Four-Inch Pinch (House) Steep, with fun holds.
15. Monorail (Spiderweb Left) Tricky, and powerful for a slab.

Getting harder!  There are many fantastic lines at this grade, you won't be disappointed with these!

16. Evil Eye (House) Techy highball arete.
17. Phantom (Hulkamaniac) Amazing movement, very cool holds, dabby landing.
18. Chicken Little Arete (Riverside) A great, technical arete.
19. Gunslinger (House) Steep crack/rail climbing on the infamous Railway Boulder. 
20. Tonic (Healing) Fun compression line in a shady forested setting.

It was a bit tough reducing this category to just five problems, as there are many great problems at this grade.  It is fortunate that Frank Slide has so many moderate problems; V4 is a very accessible 'project grade' for many climbers, and a nice grade for experienced climbers to onsight!

21. Tesseract (The Farm) Great movement, and a bit unusual for Frank.  Low in the grade.
22. Shutdown (Albatross) Classic mini-cave problem, also a bit low in the grade.
23. Black Peter (The Farm) Nice height, nice moves, hard first two moves.
24. Pamela Anderson (Heart of Frank) New line, tall and crimpy, very cool.
25. Killer Bees (Healing) Fun and balancy, on great rock.

Frank Slide really starts to produce some amazing problems in this part of the grade range.  V5-V7 are likely the best grades in terms of quality of movement at the Slide, and these five problems are no exception; all of these problems would be standouts at any area in Canada.  Problems that should be included on this list are the amazing slab Frankenstein (V5), the tall Snare of the Fowler (V4/5), and the lip-to-prow problem Feed the Need (V5).

26. Sunspot (House) Great compression line on good rock.
27. Wild West (House) Steep start, hard lip encounter, techy finish.
28. Aftermath (House) Great holds, nice height!
29. Flexion (City of Giants) Great start, great finish, steep angled arete.
30. Healing Arete (Healing) A classic roof, with a tricky arete finish.

This grade range is fantastic at Frank Slide, so if you are looking for quality V6ish projects, you won't be disappointed.  All five of these problems are incredibly fun, and satisfying.  The steep and powerful Tomb Raider (V6) isn't on this list, or the tricky Prodigal Son (V6), but they could be!

31. The Communist (House) One of Frank Slide's best.  Maybe a bit of a sandbag at V6.
32. Submarine (Riverside) Fun arete in an amazing setting.
33. Indian Tacos (Olympus) Very technical lip problem high above the Slide.
34. Man of Science, Man of Faith (The Farm) Fun powerful line, easy for the grade.
35. Relentless (Healing) Long, powerful moves.

On of the best grades to climb at Frank Slide.  There are many amazing V7s in Frank Slide to choose from (36+), especially compared to the number of harder problems (22 V8s, 10 V9s, and 11 V10s).  The very cool Breathing Underwater (V7), Evan's Seven (V7), and Paleofit (V7) all could have been included here.

36. The Evangelist (House) Very technical climbing on perfect rock.
37. Lord of the Flies (Olympus) Way (!) up the mountain, one of the highest.
38. The Blessing (Karst) Slopers on perfect rock.
39. The Ice Cave (Healing) Crimps to a tricky arete.
40. Fender (Snakebite) Cryptic! Figure it out if you can.

Getting stiffer!  All five of these lines are fantastic.  There is a great diversity of V8s in Frank Slide; these five problems include steep crimpy lines, sloping rising traverses, roof problems, and techy highballs.  Enjoy!

41. Nintendo 69 (Healing) Frankly, a sandbag at V8, but one of Frank's steepest lines.
42. The Right Right (Karst) Crisp movement on edges, a great testpiece in the Karst area.
43. King in the North (Karst) Highball!  Amazingly sculpted rock.
44. Rising Tithes (Wind War) The classic lip of the area!
45. Energitus (Healing) Great holds, resistance-oriented rising traverse.

V9 and Harder
There is a growing number of hard lines at Frank Slide, and these five problems represent some of the area's hardest and best.  All are worthy projects!

46. The Renaissance (V9, Spiderweb) A savage first move leads to a techy finish.
47. Split Left (V9, Karst) Devious climbing on small edges,
48. Railway (V10, House) Frank's original testpiece, steep climbing on edges.
49. Apollo 11 (V10, Frictionary) Jump!
50. The Shield (V10, City of Giants) Reachy and powerful!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Slide that Keeps on Giving

On Saturday, Kyle and I headed out to the Slide, with the goal of exploring the western-most end of the area; namely, the Railway and Heart of Frank sectors.  I thought that perhaps we would have time to hit up a couple of areas, try a handful of projects.  Kyle thought otherwise, noting that the best-laid plans at Frank often go awry when the exploration bug sets in.  His words would prove prophetic.

We hiked up to the ridge above Railway, where a small collection of boulders sit atop a relatively sharp ridge of talus.  We wanted to try the problems on one boulder in particular, a nice-sized block with a long overhanging face, and good landings.  The catch?  The boulder is topped by gravel, which had made topping out on the block unpleasant.  Kyle had put some effort in years ago to clean off the topout, and I contributed another hour or so to cleaning up the mantle on the boulder.  It eventually became a lot better (though still not ideal), and so if you are in the area feel free to bring a brush (or broom) and do a little sweeping!

We spent some time cleaning up the boulder (and working on the landing a bit), then proceeded to climb all the lines on the boulder.  Coincidentally, the easiest line was on the right side of the face, and every problem that we encountered as we moved left across the face was a bit harder, with the two most difficult lines on the far left (and steepest) prow.  Approximately, the lines were V1, V1/2, V2, V3, with the final two lines in the V5(ish) range.  The final two problems - a line that climbed out a short roof to a hanging dihedral (likely calling it Eclipse) and another that compressed up a great double-arete feature - were both stellar!  It seems likely that the first line hadn't been done before, and likely that second one had (it is a very obvious line, and Kyle remembers seeing chalk on it years ago).

I am always impressed that there are still new lines to climb, even though I have climbed at the Slide for well over a hundred days since moving to Southern Alberta three years ago. Just when I start to think I've climbed and/or seen everything, I jump on a line that is new to me, and find a fantastic gem.  The V5ish compression line that we climbed is a good case in point; I've looked at the boulder before but never tried anything on it.  When I finally climbed the problem, I was surprised to find one of the best V5s in the entire area!     

Kyle on the third move of the amazing squeeze/arete problem on the ridge above the Railway Cave.  If you are an aspiring V5 or V6 climber, it is well worth the trip up to the ridge; the problem is one of Frank Slide's best at that level of difficulty!

Just as we finished all the lines, Mark D came up to the ridge to climb with us for the remainder of the day.  He warmed up on the easier lines on the face, and almost onsighted both of the V5s in an impressive effort.  We then moved on to the next cluster of boulders on the ridge, but were disappointed to find that the problems there were of low quality.

Kyle setting up for the punchy last move of the compression/arete line.  Allez!

By this time it was very late in the afternoon, and we decided to head down to the Railway Cave to try the long left-hand arete that forms the lip of the cave.  Starting on the farthest left side of the cave, we tried to climb the long and undulating arete all the way to the finishing jugs of Railway - a distance of probably 15+ feet!  After four tries, I managed to link the entire problem (getting savagely pumped each attempt), and although he put in a valiant effort over an hour or so, Mark was unable to send the problem.  Kyle almost tried the problem, but was feeling too sleepy... :)  Regardless, another brilliant, fun line (with the bonus of being nice and high) probably in the V5 or low-end V6 range.  I'm planning on calling it Hang 'Em High.  The real prize (and enduro-fest) remains, however, which is a possible linkup of Wild West (V5) into Hang 'Em High, a problem with almost 20 feet of climbing, and more than 15 moves.  Yikes! 

I have finally made a dent in my 'Summer 2015' project list, since both the compression problem and Hang 'Em High were on the list of 10 problems.  Lots of climbing left, though - time to get busy!

Until next time!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Tesseract

Summer continues apace here in Southern Alberta.  The weather has been hot and dry (perhaps more suited for water sports), and last Sunday was no exception (though it was perhaps only 25C).  Excited to get out bouldering, I bought a coffee and drove out to Frank Slide to find some boulders to put some chalk on.

I met up with Mark D, who was staying in the Crowsnest Pass, and after some discussion we headed into the Hulkamaniac Area to find some problems to climb.  I really wanted to try Leviathan (V9), but Mark D was more interested in finding new problems, so we cleaned and put up a half-dozen problems on the vertical sides of the Leviathan Boulder, including the fun Hippopotamus (V1) and a fun V2ish (harder?) dyno called Kmart Special.

I wanted to try Rise of The Pheonix (V5), a very cool problem I had failed on (badly!) in the past.  It pulls out of a little roof and uses leg compression to move up an overhanging face on good incut holds.  I was happy that it only took me a few tries to wrap up.  I added another line to the left of it (starting on a low right-hand edge and an incut sloper on the lip of the boulder) that I called Ash of the Pheonix (V4), which was very fun.

New, fun, but somewhat short new Mark D arete problem in the Hullkamaniac Area.  Look at the landing that Mark filled in with rocks, then mats... (Thanks to Mark D for the photos!)

We really wanted to do something new, and it was starting to get a bit late, so I suggested that we drive over and try the 'cube' project in the Farm Sector.  It sits right above the road, and looks a lot like a huge slightly tilted cube. Even though it looks fierce, it went surprisingly quickly, and was only about V4. It is an amazing (!) problem though (I called it Tesseract), with fun arete-wrapping moves and nice holds.  One of my favorite V4s at the Slide!

The amazingly fun Tesseract (V4ish) on the east end of the Slide.  Very cool movement!

On the way home, I stopped for an hour and walked into a canyon I was always curious about; I hope it will hold ice climbs in the winter.  I did find a nicely sized waterfall, though I suspect that when it freezes it will be fairly slabby / highly featured.  Still worth checking out come winter, though!

Time to get back to projects, though!  I haven't really made any progress on my list of summer projects, and it is time to bear down and get serious! 

A photo of the very fun Pamela Anderson (V4) from last weekend!  It is interesting that three of the best V4s in the Slide were put up in the last several months; Black Peter, Tesseract, and Pamela Anderson.  Would be a fun trifecta of problems to do in a day; or maybe as part of a 'Top 10 V4s in Frank Slide in a Day' day of climbing. 

Finally, I would like to tell everyone that Awesome Adventures (in Lethbridge) is now carrying Lapis Brushes, which are pretty much the best bouldering/climbing brush you can buy.  If you need a brush, swing in and pick one up!

Until next time!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Back in the (Frank) Saddle!

I have to confess; my first week back at home after my trip to the Boulderfields wasn't pretty.  My skin was a bit thrashed, but my knees had taken a beating and were very sore for several days.  More importantly, though, I was really hungry... all the time.  I ate (a lot), and an unfortunately large proportion of what I was eating seemed to be ice cream and potato chips.  I seem to have reined in  my binge, though, and now it is time to get back to climbing and training!

Yesterday, Mark, Kyle, and I headed out to Frank Slide.  As always, choosing a sector to climb in created a bit of discussion, but I was keen to head into and climb in the Heart of Frank Sector.  Beyond a handful of sessions on and around the Mushroom Boulder, I have never climbed much in the HoF, and I felt that a little exploration was overdue.

Arriving at the Slide, we packed up and marched into the Slide.  The HoF is fairly close to the Interpretive Center, and as we walked in (and throughout the day) we could hear people (especially children) talking and laughing at the Interpretive Center.  Sound carries well down the hill from the viewing platform there, it seems.

What is better than a cool summer day and new projects?  New lines in the Heart of Frank.

We spend some time looking at new lines, then settled into the business of cleaning new problems and warming up (two activities which seem to go very well together, in my opinion).  We also wanted to try the David Hasselhof Project, a tall bulging wall above a deep cave near the Mushroom Boulder; Mark and I had spent a lot of time cleaning it last year, but had never come back to try it.  We warmed up by climbing four short slab problems (one of which seemed quite hard to me!), and then briefly worked and climbed two new arete problems on the backside of a nice block of very smooth (and very white!) 'porcelain stone'.  We don't have names for the new problems yet, but I'll post them when I have them.

Me on a new V6ish arete in the Heart of Frank.  No name yet, but a very cool line!

Kyle then came over and showed off his skill (skillz?) in an impressive flash of the harder of the two arete problems.  Sufficiently warm, we moved over to try a steep arete/prow problem I had spotted and cleaned earlier; a sit-start on an opposing sloper and edge led to a very cool sequence of slopers and pinches up a short prow.  For the first 20 minutes (or so) I was fairly perplexed by the line, but once I had figured out how to keep my feet engaged while moving my hands between the blunt holds, I managed to do it quickly.  I was curious to see  how Mark and Kyle would do on it, and wondered if they could flash it, but while they both had great first attempts on the line it took them several attempts to do it.  The problem is about V6, has great movement, and is a great addition to the HoF area.

Mark D. on the new V6ish sloper/arete line in the Heart of Frank.  Reminded me a lot of the first half of Wormworld Low in Squamish.

After that, we moved on to the 'David Hasselhoff' Project.  I *think* we originally started calling it that because the bulging cave is situated above a huge flat boulder which I once compared to a beach; this lead to discussions of beaches, then to Baywatch, and inevitably to David Hasselhoff.  Jokingly I started referring to the best-looking line on the face as the David Hasselhoff Project.  Although the face looks amazing at first glance, the rock quality to the left and right of the project (which has solid rock) isn't that great.  In the end, we found that the 'Project' in fact was two lines, starting on the same holds; a version that goes up and right, the other going up and left.  The left version is a bit harder, but both feature good edges up through a tall bulging wall.  Very fun!  We spent some time working on the low start to the 'Projects', but the low start will add several very hard moves to the problem, and as such will take a lot of work.

Me on the fun and edgy Hasselhoff Left problem (V4ish).  If the one line is called David Hasselhoff, shouldn't this line be called Pamela Anderson?  Regardless, a very cool line up on good edges through a bulge, like a slightly easier version of Aftermath (V5) lower in the Slide.

We did a handful of other lines on the wall as well; Mark and Kyle did a line that involves a long move to a jug at the lip, and I did a problem that started on the same holds but veered right to the end of The Hoff.  Satisfied with our work in the 'Beach Cave', we shuffled the mats to try one more project at the end of the day.  I had tried the problem - a series of angled rails that lead to an arete - last year, but was baffled by the incredibly smooth rock (!) on the problem and a very cryptic sequence.  This time, I was able to work the line with Mark and Kyle, and although we made progress, the problem didn't get sent.  In fact, I'm not even sure that we deciphered a workable sequence, although not long before we left I managed to do a couple of the moves that I had previously been unable to manage.  Maybe there is hope yet!

Kyle on the new Derksen/Marco dynamic problem at The Beach Cave Boulder; might be called Decay (V4 or 5).

By this point, our skin was getting thin, so we packed up and headed out of the Slide.  I grabbed a coffee and an ice cream at the gas station, and turned the van eastward, our backs to the setting sun.  Another satisfying day at the Slide! 

POST SCRIPT:  The drive to the Crowsnest Pass provides time for a lot of discussion of many issues, and as you might imagine, many of the topics are climbing-themed.  On the drive back, we contrasted the climbing in The Boulderfields with that of Frank Slide.  It seems to me that the climbing in the Boulderfields is incredibly fun, with lots of big holds and steep faces.  However, I admit that I am drawn to the technical and cryptic climbing of Frank Slide, and especially enjoy the challenge of deciphering the sequences needed to succeed at the Slide.  Both areas are a lot of fun, but you can certainly learn a lot about climbing at The Slide!

Until next time!