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.
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!
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).
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!
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!