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.   

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