Sunday, October 4, 2015

What Happened at the 2015 Tour de Frank!

Another year of Tour de Frank has come and gone!  While we didn't have great weather (argh!), everyone had a lot of fun, with LOTS of problems getting sent.  It was especially great to see climbers of all ages and skill levels out there, which is really what the Tour de Frank is all about!  Once more, I would like to thank all our sponsors for the event: Awesome Adventures (in Lethbridge), Friction Labs (makers of the finest climbing chalk available), Petzl, Black Diamond, and Flashed Climbing.  A huge shout out goes to Awesome Adventures, they acted as our sponsor coordinator, and did a great job.  If you are shopping for new climbing gear, swing by and talk to them!

The event went very well, and there will be an article describing the TdF appearing in Squamish Climbing Magazine (click HERE to check them out!).  For those of you who don't regularly read SCM, here's an advance version of the article.  Enjoy, and we'll see  you next year at the 2016 TdF!

I moved to Lethbridge just over three years ago.  In that time I have spent well over 100 days bouldering at the sprawl of limestone blocks that is Frank Slide.  The proximity of Lethbridge to the boulders of the Crowsnest Pass is, in fact, one of the reasons I moved to the area, and the days I have spent there have had three important effects.  First, I’m fairly certain that I now qualify as a Frank Slide “local”; in fact, none of the “locals” of the area actually live in the Crowsnest Pass.  Second, it has allowed me to appreciate the unique attributes of bouldering at The Slide, namely crisp movement across smooth and ever-so-slightly sloping edges, relentlessly technical footwork, cryptic sequences, and appreciating the severe and zen-like beauty of the endless expanse of boulders strewn across the Crowsnest Pass.  Third, given that Frank Slide is separated from Lethbridge by 85 minutes of asphalt, I have spent a lot of time piloting my trusty van across the grasslands of Southern Alberta.

Justin pulling on the devious slopers of Energitus (V8), on the Killer Boulder.

Conversations during the drive to the Slide and back are predictably lively.  “What problems should we try? Which sector should we visit?  How much time should we spend on that project from last week?”  One topic of conversation that crops up regularly is ways that we can promote the climbing at The Slide.   Out of one of these discussions was born the Tour de Frank.  Kyle Marco and I envisioned the TdF as a fun-centric bouldering event that would get people out to the Slide for a day of climbing and exploration.  2015 is the second year of the TdF, and this year the event expanded substantially with great support from a number of sponsors (including Awesome Adventures in Lethbridge, as well as Friction Labs, Petzl, Black Diamond, and Flashed Climbing), and a more experienced organisational team.

Dan Archambault from Edmonton above the crowd on Tombstone Right (V5).

The autumn is usually a beautiful time of the year to climb at the Slide, with cottonwood trees blazing yellow and predictably dry and sunny weather.  The day of the Tour de Frank would, unfortunately, be the exception that proves the rule, with intermittent showers and sunny periods throughout the day.  Fortunately, we had free coffee and pastries available for all the competitors, and by 10:45 the crowd had swelled to about 50 visitors eager to see the event start.  After a brief orientation – which included an introduction to the scoring system and handing out of free guides to the area – the horn blew at 11:00 to send everyone out into the Slide for six hours of bouldering!

Kyle delivering the gospel at the 2015 Tour De Frank.

Several climbers took advantage of Kyle’s workshop on ‘Frank Slide Bouldering for Newcomers’, while the rest of the competitors filtered out into the clusters of boulders that comprise the Healing, Riverside, Albatross, Lipsmacker, and Prow Sectors.  Climbers from Lethbridge, Fernie, Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton had made the trip down to the Slide, and it soon became apparent that even occasional showers couldn’t keep them from having a great time.  The usually rough landings of the Slide were subdued by a profusion of bouldering mats, as many of the area’s classic lines fell one by one.  Gold Leaf Slab (V0+), Chicken Little Arete (V2), Healing Arete (V5), Graveyard Shift (V6), Energitus (V8), and Nintendo 69 (V9) all saw many ascents by enthusiastic groups of boulderers.  The late arrival of Josh Bylsma to the event resulted in the first ascent of one of the open projects, the so-called ‘Powerline Project’, for the first time in the two years of the TdF.  Several young climbers from the Lethbridge Junior Climbing Team came to the event, and sent several classic lines with style and authority.

I did a little climbing; here I am reaching for the final hold on Healing Arete (V5).  Thanks Evan E. for the photos!

At 5:00, the horn blew, and climbers converged once again at the main desk to swap stories of the day and await announcements of the winners of each category.  Boxes of draw prizes from our sponsors were handed out to the climbers as the results were tallied, and many climbers were sent home with samples of Friction Labs Chalk to enjoy.  In an impressive effort, Michelle Lee of Calgary won the Women’s Open category, while Dan Archambault (of Edmonton) and Mark Derksen (of Lethbridge) tied to win the Men’s Open.  With the day winding down, Kyle and I thanked everyone for coming out, and watched as tired but satisfied climbers headed back to their cars.  We hope to see everyone back next year for the 2016 Tour de Frank, which will once again challenge climbers… but in an entirely different area of the Slide! 

Youth Male (11 and under): Kolven Cook
Youth Female (11 and under): Ciara Meadows

Junior Male (12-17): Will Kwan
Junior Female (12-17): Aspen Cook, Lauren Kwan, Myla Sept (tie)

Beginner Male: Dain Galts
Beginner Female: Morgan Lupka

Intermediate Male: Dan Anhorn
Intermediate Female: n/a

Open Male: Dan Archambault, Mark Derksen (tie)
Open Female: Michelle Lee

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