Friday, August 14, 2015

Telekinesis and an update of The List!

Frank in the summer!  When it's too windy or too hot it can be a bit full-on, but much of the time it's a great place to spend a warm day of bouldering!  The scenery is beautiful, and the climbing is great as long as the temperatures stay below 30C.  Two weeks ago I headed to Frank for a half-day of bouldering with my family, and met up with Kyle to work a few problems in the Farm Sector.  Mostly we climbed moderate lines (actually, seven new problems from V0 to V5ish), and repeated Tesseract (V4) and Black Peter (V4).  Kyle wasn't too enthusiastic about Tesseract, but clearly his 'fun problems compass' needs to be calibrated... :)  We had a good time, and ended the day with a fire, hotdogs and marshmallows by the river with Shelley, Aya, and Rowan.  Great times in the mountains!

Last weekend, Kyle and I headed back to the Slide (not surprisingly!) to jump on a few harder projects.  We "warmed up" by hiking around in Spiderweb Left (which is, strictly speaking, a terrible way to warm up in Frank Slide, as hiking in talus is brutal for my knees), and then (more realistically) warmed up on four new moderate problems on a smallish boulder about 60m east of the Wind Boulder (probably V0, V1, V2, and V3).  After doing them several times, we headed over to work Telekinesis (V8ish) on the Wind Boulder.  I have so far put a couple of sessions into the problem, and was hopeful that this time I would manage to string the problem together.  Unfortunately, the problem resisted my best attempts; although I fell from the final hold more than once, I couldn't quite manage the essentially blind footmatch that allows me to match the final hold and then reach up to the lip.  Ugh!  I'm pretty certain that the problem will go down eventually (likely my next trip to Frank Slide), and then I'll move back on to my other summer projects, The Renaissance (V9) and The Prism (V8/9).

Kyle on Telekinesis (V8ish); many powerful moves from the start to this point at the lip!

Feeling a little beat (since it was probably 6:00 or so), we nonetheless headed over to try the Rumrunner Project in the Zombotron area.  The river is finally low enough to cross without difficulty, so we were able to get up to the project for the first time in many months.  The line had more loose rock than I remembered, so I spend a half-hour cleaning it up and building a bit of a landing.  Due to an awkward dab-block, I started the problem one move higher than I really wanted to (LH on a good undercling, and RH on an angled edge instead of a slightly lower incut slot), but it ended up being a fun line, with a long deadpoint to a sloper, and then a few tricky moves before tipping onto a slab and climbing to the top.  Kyle grew very interested in following the arete all the way to the top of the boulder, which would certainly be more exciting (and a LOT more dangerous, since the landing becomes very bad as you climb up the angled arete).  It was nice to tick another one of the projects off the original "List",  with a send of Rumrunner Arete (V5ish), with the prospect of taking the line further up the arete.

Now thoroughly thrashed, we drove to A&W for hamburgers, and headed back to Lethbridge.


It has been over a year since I posted the original "List of Missing Problems", a list of (at last count) approximately 40 unopened problems of evidently high quality at the Slide.  There has been additions and deletions to the List, but here is the List again, with those problems that have since been sent annotated with First Ascent information.

Josh B getting high on his committing highball The King in the North (V8), one of the original problems on The Missing Problems List.  Tim Banfield photo.

1. Rumrunner Arete (V5, FA by me, August 2015)
2. Floodwater*
3. Mark of the Beast*
4. In Karst We Trust (V2, FA by JB, which means it is likely a sandbag... )
5. The King in the North (V8, FA by JB, originally called the Wizard Prow Project)
6. Old Man and the Sea
7. March of Time (V9, FA by JB, I've tried it, its brutally hard!)
8. Leviathan (V9+ish, FA by JB, originally called the Seaworld Arete Project)
9. Black Slot
10. Hang 'Em High (V6ish, FA by me, highball that can likely be linked into Wild West)
11. Derailed (V10, FA by JB.  Tough!)
12. Junk Arete* (not sure if this will go anymore after breakage)
13. House Super-Project*
14. Apollo 11 (V10, FA by JB, Frank's hardest dyno!)
15. Giant Left
16. Giant Right
17. Baby Giant
18. The Shield (V9+, FA by JB: July 19 2014, big moves, lots of compression)
19. Sunny Corner
20. Fully Fed (V7, FA by JB: July 20 2104, slopey extension to Feed the Need)
21. Evan's Cave
22. The Right Right (V8, FA: July 13 2014. Powerful and subtle with a solid heel hook)
23. Split Left (V9, FA: July 2013 by Morgan D. Powerful moves on edges)
24. Split Boulder Prow
25. Seventy Arete*
26. The Ice Cave (V7, FA: April 21 2014. Amazingly subtle movement on edges and pinches.)
27. Zombotron (V7, first ascent since break by JB)
28. Lupa (V5, FA by JB, but looks really morpho, and much harder for shorter people)
29. White Bulge
30. Beaver Prow
31. Dan's Project*
32. Flying Squirrel* (JB did an easier version of this line)
33. The Bolshevik (V8, FA by JB, has a handful of VERY stout moves)
34. Long Wall Center
35. Long Wall Right (this was done by Mark and Kyle, I think, not sure of the name)
36. Zeus Cube Right
37. Zeus Cube Left
38. The Blessing (V7, FA: July 13 2014. Great slopers with techy footwork)
39. Sherlock (V7, FA: April 30 2014. Funky prow problem with techy movement)  
40. Graveyard Shift (V6, FA: June 15 2014. Tricky sequential moves on flat edges)
41. The Disease (V5, FA by Evan, I think)

Only about 16 of the original problems remain!  Of course, there are always new problems (projects!) being found in the Slide.  New problems worthy of being added to The List include...

42. The Vanishing
43. White Scar Face
44. Swan Song Project
45. Salty Wind Slab
46. No-Pocket Slab
47. PAL Project
48. Ranch Boulder Projects
49. Stampede Project
50. Trail of Broken Dreams

Until next time!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere!

Despite the fact that Josh Bylsma lives in Red Deer, he is one of Frank Slide's most dedicated locals.  In shoulder seasons when temperatures aren't too hot, he often makes the drive down to the Slide every weekend.  He has established many (perhaps even most!) of Frank Slide's hardest lines, including Deliverance (V8), March of Time (V9), The Shield (V10), and Apollo 11 (V10).  This is his first guest column here at the The Climbing Life.  The photos that accompany the article are by the talented Tim Banfield (click HERE to see more of his fantastic work).  So read on, and enjoy Josh's tongue-in-cheek reflections on bouldering at The Slide!


Everybody Knows This is Nowhere by Josh Bylsma

Josh Bylsma atop the Baby Giant Boulder in the City of Giants Sector, after climbing the highball Maniac MacGee (V1).  Tim Banfield photo.
Everybody seems to wonder what it’s like down here.  Well . . . stop.  And don’t.  Stop wondering. And don’t come here.


It’s awful.  I mean . . . okay, so this one time, when I was in grade 1 or 2, I told my friend I had this awesome new flavor of beef jerky.  So he wolfed down a handful.  Except they were dog treats.  A few days later, he got me back.  We were running around on the playground on a hot day after school.  I got real thirsty.  He offered me a thermos full of delicious “juice”.  I took a massive gulp.  He had been soaking a hot dog in that water since I fed him the dog treats.  Anyways, getting tricked into bouldering at Frank Slide would be a similarly nasty surprise, leaving a similarly bad taste in your mouth.

Where do I even begin?  

The Slide itself.  It’s like when you empty your pockets at the end of the day.  Just a mishmash of coins, lint, chewing gum wrappers . . .  a collection of random rubbish, all different shapes, sizes, colors, and textures.  That’s what The Slide is like.  The boulders are hideous.  They don’t even match!  That one has stripes, that one is dark-gray cement or something . . . I think that one is just a pile of dirt.  Sure, there’re some nice ones.  I suppose.  But you have to find those.  

The holds?  You’ll rip them off everywhere.  Hell . . . holds break off when nobody’s even been climbing on them.  Don’t be surprised to arrive at your project and find that holds have magically disappeared.  Popped off from freezing, or thawing.  Or the wind.  Sure, you could clean the rock before you climb it.  But that’s like . . . work.  And sometimes you even need a rope for that!  All the boulders here are really just broken holds off of a mountain anyways.  So what do you expect?

Mark Derksen working through life's possibilities on The Possiblizer (V4), Karst Valley Sector.  Tim Banfield photo.

The landings?  Just a jagged jumble of razor-edged, poison-tipped spikes, somewhere between a Burmese tiger trap and the Great Pit of Carkoon.  Sure, you could shuffle some rocks and make a landing.  But who has time for that?

The approaches?  Remember the “Word of God” challenge that almost killed Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade?  We should be so lucky in Frank!  You can’t afford one false step in that talus minefield.  Not to mention it swallows chalk bags, brushes, keys, wallets, children, and small dogs, all never to be seen again.

The climbing season?  Well, you can climb basically year-round.  But the summer’s too hot.  The winter’s too cold.  The spring’s too wet.  And the fall?  Shouldn’t you be on a road-trip, or at least sport-climbing in the Bow Valley?

The locals?  Lying, sandbagging pirates.  Won’t share projects.  Won’t show you the good stuff.  Won’t give beta.  You’ll be lucky if they don’t steal the crashpad from off your back or under your climb.

Josh Bylsma squeezing the gold-streaked rock of The Shield (V10), City of Giants.  Tim Banfield photo.
Besides . . . none of that stuff matters anyways, because there’s no guidebook.  And the problems are all contrived, reachy, lowballs.

So, seriously.  Don’t come here.  Everybody knows this is nowhere.

But that’s just what a lying, sandbagging pirate would tell you.

Frank Slide is currently Alberta’s largest developed bouldering area, with approximately 700 problems from V0 to V11, and scope for much more.  There is a small, but very active, core group of developers putting up new problems on a weekly basis,  They’re all glad to introduce new climbers to The Slide and share the existing and potential boulder problems it has to offer.  The best conditions are found in early spring and late fall, but there are sectors suited to any day between a sunny subzero and a breezy thirty-above.  Three pads will do you good for the vast majority of problems, and while there are some contrived, reachy lowballs, there are plenty of proud, aesthetic highballs, too.  And everything in between.  The rock on well-traveled problems, and on newly developed problems, is generally very solid, offering all of your favorite holds and features, although sloping edges and rails are most prevalent.  There is no official guidebook at this time, but you can visit the “Southern Alberta/Rockies Bouldering” Facebook page for the most current news and updates, and to connect with local climbers.