Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2015: The Year in Review

Another year of bouldering has come and gone!  With the exception of the few times I used a rope to clean highballs, 2015 was yet another year of unroped climbing.  I started the year in less-than-ideal shape (courtesy of a semester of University teaching), managed to clean up my act by spring with a couple months of semi-regimented semi-training (which put me back in decent climbing shape that paid off with a great spring season), spent the summer climbing a lot without actually climbing anything very hard, and with the resumption of my winter teaching load, I finished the year essentially where I started; in less than ideal shape.

The vast majority of my climbing days were spent at Frank Slide in southern Alberta, an area which features an ever-increasing number of boulder problems (now 817!) in a vast expanse of limestone blocks.  Over the years, Frank Slide has grown into one of Canada's largest bouldering areas, and is certainly Canada's most expansive limestone bouldering area.  While it lacks the comfortable landings and 'scene' of other more well-established areas, it provides a wide variety of fun technical problems on interesting rock.

I turned 45 in January this year, which would seem to be a milestone (It's my Oldest! Age! Ever!), but I seem to keep plugging along.  My knees have taken a beating over the years, and it takes absolutely forever to warm up, but I'm still having a lot of fun.  In fact, I had one of my best single days of climbing ever this year, so I certainly can't complain!

Since this is a review article, it seems appropriate to hash out the year that has passed in the form of a list.  So, in no particular order, here are the TOP SEVEN happenings in Trent Hoover's Bouldering Universe in 2015!  (Why seven? Not ten?  Tradition, I suppose - it's how things roll here at the Climbing Life!)

1) Being witness to the ongoing rampage of Josh Bylsma!  In terms of resetting the benchmarks for difficulty in Alberta Bouldering, Josh has likely done more than any other single person in the last decade.  In 2015 he sent SWADF Extension (V11 FA), Derailed (V10 FA), The Renaissance (V9 FA), Morgan Dunnet's testpiece Cognitive Dissonance (V10) as well as a multitude of other hard lines that have thwarted almost all other attempts.  Josh also sent the brutally powerful Chain Gang (V11, possibly for the first ascent), a line which is a candidate for the hardest in the province.  When Josh sets his sights on something, it generally gets done; this dedication has transformed Frank Slide from a hard-ish area to one with a number of stout testpieces.  Good luck this year to Josh as he works the Baby Jesus Sit project, which, when completed, will really raise the bar yet again.

Josh B. on the gold-streaked Frank Slide testpiece The Shield (V10).

2) 54 First Ascents this year.  Every year I think the Slide is tapped out, but every year we stumble on new lines that turn out to be a lot of fun.  The Slide continued to provide me with challenges, some of which were amazing lines; problems like The Opposite of Walking (V3), Casper (V3), and Tonic (V3).  Also of importance are the many problems that had first ascents this year by the regular denizens of Frank Slide; Kyle Marco, Mark Derksen, Josh Bylsma, Morgan Dunnet, and Jonas Gagnon.  So many new lines to try in 2016!

3) The problems I almost did, but didn't go back to for one more session to finish... Two problems in particular fall into this category; Slippery Pete (V7/8 in the Heart of Frank Sector) and Telekinesis (V8 in Spiderweb).  Both of these lines are really fun, but really morpho (or so I like to tell myself!).  There's definitely a lesson to be learned here - an important lesson about perseverance and trying your hardest (and also a lesson about getting older and worrying you may never get back to working on your hard project again if you don't get back in shape!).  With a little (lot of?) luck, I'll wrap these lines up in 2016.

Me trying to come to grips with the porcelain-textured rock of Slippery Pete (V7/8).  Next year!

4) Windigo (V5/6), Flexion (V5), and all the 'new school' problems I got on this year.  Like other climbers, I love to pull on a line of holds that head straight up a tall proud rock face.  However, I have a particular affinity for problems that are decidedly non-linear, which require additional problem-solving skills to navigate a line that links a sequence of features that - though weaving across a face in a less-than-obvious manner - permits a successful ascent.  I got on some of these 'new school' problems this year in Frank and was excited by their quality. 'New-school' lines got sent by other climbers as well, including The Purest Line (V7) by Josh Bylsma, and Slippery Pete (V7/8) by Kyle Marco.

Kyle Marco midway through the tricky Windigo (V6), one of many new problems this year!

5) All the fantastic climbers I got to climb with in 2015!  Climbing - especially bouldering - can be a very social activity, and a day of climbing is made that much better when you are with fun people. I climb more with Kyle Marco than anyone else; despite his overly-realistic ;) approach to climbing, he is an amazing guy to climb with, whether for an hour or a week.  My thanks also go out to all the other climbers (new and old!) I climbed a lot with in 2015: Mark Derksen, Jonas Gagnon, Josh Bylsma, Morgan Dunnet, Dan Anhorn, and Mike Donnelly. The climbing world is a lot more interesting when filled with climbers like these!

6) The 2015 Tour de Frank!  The TdF was a success again this year, with about 50 people coming out to enjoy a day of bouldering at Frank Slide (despite less than ideal weather).  The event was held in the Healing / Riverside / Prow area, with the open categories won by Michelle Lee (Women's Open) and Dan Archambault / Mark Derksen (tie for Men's Open).  Everyone seemed to have a great time, and we are planning on another event in fall 2016, this time moving to another sector (likely House / Railway / Frictionary).  Read all about the 2015 TdF here!

Michelle Lee feeling stretched on the reachy Albatross (V5), a Frank Slide classic.  Michelle went on to win the Women's Open in the 2015 TdF.

7) And last, but absolutely not least, is my trip to the Boulderfields!  I've wanted to go the Boulderfields for many years, but it usually takes a lot of incentive to make me drive for longer than 4 hours. This year, Evan's bachelor party / bouldering trip was heading to the Boulderfields with a handful of climbers for a long weekend of climbing, so Kyle and I decided to extend our trip into a week of climbing on the fantastic gneiss blocks of The Boulderfields.  I am incredibly glad that I decided to head west; the BF is one of the best areas in the entire country (and certainly has the best steep bouldering in the country, hands-down!), and I had an amazing time!  Improving my experience even more was the 2015 Rock The Blocks bouldering festival that went off when we were there. This event is largely spearheaded by the energetic Andy White (one of the nicest climbers I've met in the 20+ years I've been bouldering), and involves several of Kelowna's dedicated boulderers (including Jay Duris, another linchpin of Interior BC bouldering and all-round great guy, who took the time to tour me around some of the projects deep in the heart of the Boulderfields Basin).  I climbed many amazing lines in the Boulderfields during my stay, and during the day of RtB I had one of my best days of sending ever, wrapping up a list of problems that included Surf Arete (V7), Ribrageous (V4/5, flash), Full Chub Morning Weezer (V6, flash), Firefly (V5, flash), and Heart of Darkness (V8).  During my trip I also climbed a number of FAs, including the amazing Exhale (V3) and The Bachelor (V3).  So much potential in the area, I'm excited to go back again!

(Top Photo) Hanging out at the amazing Driven Wall at the Boulderfields with Andy White and climbers from across BC at the 2015 RtB, (Bottom photo) Me out of the cave but not yet at the lip on a Boulderfields project.  Such an amazing place for steep climbing, rock with incredible features, seemingly made for climbing!

So that's it!  Here's looking forward to another year of climbing!  What will happen in The Bouldering Life Universe in 2016? I'm looking forward to at least two trips, including one to Red Rocks (in February), and one to the Boulderfields (in June, I hope).  I'd love to go to the Spiral Tunnels Boulders this year as well, and to wrap up some of my projects in The Slide (The Renaissance? Slippery Pete? Deep Six? So many projects!).

I am also definitely looking forward to climbing with my family again this year; Rowan is enjoying climbing more and more each year, and it is exciting to see them experience climbing for the first time(s).

Take care!

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