Monday, July 18, 2016

Rock the Blocs 2016!

Last June, driven by curiosity about the bouldering in the Okanagan, Kyle and I travelled to The Boulderfields in the mountains above Kelowna for ten days of climbing.  We had planned our trip such that our final days in the area would coincide with the 2015 Rock the Blocs, perhaps Canada's greatest outdoor bouldering festival.  We were blown away not only by how amazing the solid gneiss blocks of the area were, but also by how much fun we had at RtB (check out my previous posts about the Boulderfields here and here). 

This June, now thoroughly convinced that The Boulderfields are one of Canada's greatest bouldering areas, I was keen to head back to the Okanagan for another week of climbing on quality gneiss.  The boulders there are big, steep, and feature amazing beautifully-textured holds.  Once again, my plan was to participate in Rock the Blocs at the end of the trip, and this year I had convinced Andy White (RtB's eternally-energetic organizer and all-round great guy) to add a Master's Category to this year's event.  Though I had been very pleased with my performance in the Men's Open category last year, I assumed that I must not be the only climber of 40+ years who couldn't quite keep up with all the lads in the Open category (it turns out that knees, fingers, and elbows don't last forever...).

Not exactly an action shot... one of the new problems I added during my trip, The Golden Rule (V4ish) starts sitting at the arete, reaches up into and traverses left through the slot, then heads up again via the positive sloper on the arete.  Always great to find new fun lines!

None of the usual suspects of the Lethbridge climbing community could be convinced to join me for a weeklong trip to Kelowna, so I packed up the van and headed west.  I generally don't like to drive (or go on trips) by myself, but I managed to survive the drive west, stopping overnight in Canmore before heading west through Golden, Revelstoke, and then down through lake country to Kelowna.  I grabbed a coffee and pastry at The Bread Company Cafe on Pandosy Street, bought some groceries, and headed up to the Boulderfields.  The rutted and worn logging road that allows climbers to reach The Boulderfields isn't a pleasure to drive, and was just as rough as I remembered.  I knew that the Frank Slide locals Stephan and Aletha were also making the trip out, and as such I wasn't surprised to find them already setting up camp at the Boulderfields when I finally eked my van down the last few meters into the parking lot.

Stephan on the soon-to-be-classic Memento (V0/1).

Knowing that I would likely be climbing alone for some of the trip, I had come armed with brushes, chalk, rope, and harness to put up some new problems. Perhaps more than most climbers, the hunt for new lines keeps me motivated, and I had my heart set on opening several new problems.  On my first morning in the area, after some work to remove some dead branches on a downed tree, I cleaned and sent a brilliant new slopers-to-arete line near the Nerf Boulder that I called The Golden Rule (V4ish).  I'm certain it will be a classic in the area, being a somewhat similar to Squamish's Easy in an Easy Chair (V4).  I then set to cleaning the TALL featured slab on the far end of the Nerf Boulder (the end opposite Terry Paholek's testpiece Nerf Roof (V12); check out video of that send here).  I had to spend a lot of time on a toprope to get it ready, but it was definitely worth it; the line that emerged was amazing; a 21 foot tall beautifully-featured slab with a few tricky moves and a lot of great holds. A moderately tricky move off the ground leads to better holds, which permit a relatively easy route up the face.  Edges on the first half of the problem lead to two positive horizontal slots and an interesting mantle. I called it Memento (V0), as I am certain that it provide a memorable experience for aspiring highball boulderers. Noting that the were interesting start holds much lower - a beautiful right-hand letterbox slot and a funky left-hand sidepull/knob - I set about to adding a low sit-start to the problem.  I had adjust my beta a bit, but I quickly sent Memento Low (V3/4) as well, a start which adds two stout moves to the line. 

During my trip to the Boulderfields, I did Memento many times.  Many times.  An amazing line, and a great way to get high off the ground!  Stephan spotting, and Sam W. spectating.  Thanks for the photos Aletha!

As I sat and ate lunch, however, I studied the arete and face to the right of Memento.  It appeared that if I started on the opening holds of Memento Low, I could take the arete with my left hand, while using a series of widely-spaced but good holds right of the arete to maintain compression. I quickly scrubbed these holds as well, and set to work deciphering the line.  It seemed apparent that the problem would reach a huge arete-jug two-thirds of the way up the boulder; from here a climber could roll over the arete to join the last moves of Memento.  Chalking up, I found that the first seven moves that led to the juggy hold demanded a fair bit of subtlety and power.  After 45 minutes of trying the line I could do all the moves, but couldn't quite link the moves from the start to the jug. Slightly disappointed but not discouraged, I packed up my gear and headed up out of the basin to find dinner.

The following morning I made the hike down into the basin, once again determined to send the arete.  I warmed up with Aletha and Stephan, feeling strong with flashes of Hit the Lights (V4) and Four Horsemen (V5).  A little nervous, I walked back over to arete, laced up my shoes, and pulled on to the starting moves of the project. I floated right past my highpoint, only to fall unexpectedly on the last hard move.  The line would not fall that easily!  I sat on my mat in the sunshine for a few minutes, then tried again, only to fall on the last hard moves of the problem. Not particularly worried, I rested few more minutes, moved my mats around, chalked up, and smoothly compressed my way up the arete, grabbing the jug.  Elated, I rolled over the arete, and kept climbing until I was standing on top of the Nerf Boulder.

The amazing compression line Bushido (V7ish).  The top photo shows the bottom of the line, while the bottom photo is of some of the key sloping 'ball' holds on the arete.  Hard to take action shots on a solo trip...

It is strange how completing a project (especially a first ascent) fills me with such a sense of happiness, success, and reward.  I'm never certain if all climbers feel the same emotions when they finally stand atop a problem they've put a lot of effort into, but I can't help but suspect that this is the case. From one point of view, it seems strange (pointless?) to drive across western Canada, then hike up into the mountains, find a big rock, spend time scrubbing off moss and lichen, then spend hours trying to climb seven hard moves.  From another point of view, though, it doesn't seem strange at all, given the enormous emotional, spiritual, (and undoubtedly chemical) rewards to be had!  As I reflected on the 'code' that drives the itinerant first ascentionist (and in part because I had cleaned and climbed the line by myself), I decided to call the problem Bushido (V7ish).

I spent the next few days climbing and hiking around the boulderfields, enjoying the quality problems to be found there.  I took a half rest day down in the city of Kelowna, swimming, visiting the fine cafes the city offers, and enjoying the art galleries and public art in the downtown area. By Friday afternoon, dozens of climbers began arriving at the Boulderfields, pitching tents, setting up portable kitchens beside their vans, and waxing poetic in conversation well-lubricated by beer and the glow of a bonfire.

The morning of Rock the Blocs 2016 dawned warm and sunny, but everyone was aware that the weather forecast called for a rainy afternoon.  To accommodate this, the organisers had made the decision to move up the start time by a few hours, to give everyone as much time as possible to climb before the rain started.

Morning of RtB 2016!  Photo courtesy of Caillum Smith, Preserved Light Photography (check out their website for more amazing photography!)

The morning of Rock the Blocs is, in many ways, as exciting as the competition itself.  It is always great to see climbers streaming in from across North America.  This year, there were strong contingents from Mexico and the USA, giving the event a great international vibe.  While RtB does attract many strong climbers seeking to test themselves against their peers, it has perhaps even greater appeal to climbers who simply want to come to the area, enjoy the fantastic lines the Boulderfields has to offer, and to have fun spending time climbing with their friends.  I was excited to see several climbers I had met previously or knew from Alberta or the west coast, including the Fraser Valley bouldering legend (and old friend) Marco Lefebvre. 

Air horn in hand, Andy White went over the rules for the event, and with a blast of the horn climbers started streaming down into the basin, scorecards in hand.  Men and women in the Open categories would count only their three hardest problems toward their scores (a 2016 rule change that would encourage the top climbers to try harder problems), while the remainder of the categories would tally their five hardest problems to come up with a score. 

The morning of RtB 2016 went beautifully.  While everyone had seen the forecast, it was difficult to believe that rain was on its way as hundreds of climbers settled down to the business of bouldering in the warm sunshine.  Marco was more keen to see the area than to win the competition, so we spent some time working projects rather than trying problems on the scorecard.  Eventually, we wandered over to the Dark Prince Boulder where I quickly repeated Dark Prince (V5), then we headed down to the Serenity Sector where we tried (and came very close to doing) a new V7 roof line called Pumping Iron.  After several attempts, we clambered over to the Serenity Boulder itself, where I managed to do Firefly (V5) in a handful of tries. Marco wanted to head up the hill to check out the amazing Driven face, so I headed over and tried Out of the Shadows (V7), again coming close but failing to finish the problem.  By this time, it was raining lightly, and I found Loic Markley (Kelowna local and RtB guide) to ask him exactly where I could find the rising traverse Blue Pill (V6), in hopes of doing one more line before the rain started in earnest. Locating the problem, I was just settling in to try it (despite the drizzle) when I heard the air horn blast - the organisers had called a finish to the event on account of the rain. 

 (top) The amazing Tie My Rope (V1) on the Dominator Boulder, and (below) the legend Marco L. and I putting some chalk on some rocks. Photos by Caillum Smith, Preserved Light Photography.

Despite the rain, everyone had an amazingly social time clustered under the tarps provided, waiting for the scorecards to be tallied.  Climbers joked and laughed, shared stories and umbrellas, and discussed what problems they had climbed and plans they were making for the summer ahead.  After a short while, Andy blew the air horn again to pull names for all the generous draw prizes provided by sponsors (including Outside All Day, Flashed, Redpoint Holds, and Friction Labs, among others), and to announce the winners of the event.  At the beginning of the day, I had bought raffle tickets to support the event, and was (very!) happy to win two sets of Redpoint Holds.  Everyone cheered as the winners were announced, with Eric Sethna (Toronto) and Alannah Yip (Vancouver) winning the Men's and Women's Open categories (go here to see all the results).  Mark Derksen (from Lethbridge, and a Frank Slide 'local') won third in Men's Open, while Staci White (defending champion and Boulderfields local) took the bronze in Women's Open. I was happy to win the Men's Masters category (!), and was glad to have had the chance to participate in such a social, fun, and well-organised event.  Huge thanks to Andy and the rest of the organisational team and guides, including Jay, Loic, Garret, Braden, and everyone else involved!

After the event, the rain continued for several hours.  The next morning I headed back into the basin, humping three mats all way down to the Serenity Sector to try some problems I wanted to try, only to find that a disappointingly large number of the holds in the area seep after a  heavy rain.  It seemed that while most of the holds were dry, many problems had one or two wet holds. I headed back to up the Surf Boulder, where I did some (thankfully dry!) moderates including the amazing arete The Chipper (V1).  I sessioned on the rails-through-a-roof classic No Guts No Glory (V7/8), but found the flexing lip hold too spooky for a solo session, especially since a fall at that point high on the problem would almost certainly result in a fairly serious injury.  By this point in the trip, my fingers were completely thrashed (I had climbed every day since I had arrived, with only a half rest-day on Friday). Knowing it would take at least a full day to recover - a day I didn't really have the luxury of spending away from home - I decided to pack it in, and begin the long drive back to Lethbridge. 

Once again, The Boulderfields (and Rock the Blocs) did not fail to produce a great climbing experience!  Not only does the area hold over 1000 problems on absolutely amazing gneiss blocks, it holds vast potential for thousands more.  Already, I can't wait to return to the Okanagan!  Maybe a fall trip is in order...?

Back in Lethbridge, the hot and dry summer weather has arrived, which means sunny days bouldering in Frank Slide!  Lots on the go in the Slide, including new projects, work on my loop trail project (trail work!), and planning for the 2016 Tour de Frank!  

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Frank Slide Spring Training!

Frank Slide's (growing) reputation as a "virtually-year-round" bouldering area got a boost this year, as not only did we get out climbing to the Slide every month this winter, but also that 'spring' arrived in late February.  February, March, and April provided great climbing weather, and as a result a lot of climbing days were logged, and many projects got sent.

While I have avoided serious injury this year, I've been dealing with a few problems that have prevented me from training the way I've wanted to.  First, I tweaked my groin tendon (from open-hip heel hooks at The Karage, mostly likely), then I developed distal bicep tendonitis (during a bout of training in May, an issue which I suspect I will be plagued with for some time), and finally I've been quite lazy. ;)  Nonetheless, I've managed to have a lot of fun at the Slide this spring!  Just last Satuday I was out at the Slide, and had a blast; I did some community service by cleaning the loose rock off the classic slab Splinter (V0), and climbing some of the beautiful lines on the Aftermath Boulder with Ernie and Adam from Calgary, including the highballs Evil Eye (V3) and Ghost Horse (V4).

Though there have been a few wet spells this spring, generally the weather has been amazing.  Jonas, Kyle, and I got in a great session in the City of Giants on a warm day at the end of January, and added a handful of new lines directly below the Giant itself, including the funky Alberta Meat Market (V4, which I was very happy to flash for the FA), Deadpool (V4, with Kyle making it look easy), Charcuterie (V3), and the weird-but-fun-how-do-I-start-this-thing Old Testament (V3).  Jonas has (at last!) pushed firmly into the V4 grade with his solid send of Deadpool, a techy vertical line with sloping (!) holds.

(top) Jonas G. solving the riddle of Deadpool (V4) in the City of Giants, (bottom) Kyle on his way to sending the funky notched arete of Alberta Meat Market (V4), using beta I did not approve of...

Throughout the spring, we continued to explore new lines in the City of Giants (the area that keeps on giving!), with a handful of new first ascents including Skyward Sword (V6), Wind Waker (V4), The Poetry of Material Things (V4), Twilight (V3), and the very fun slab Ocarina (V1).  Dan Anhorn and I spent some time building a landing on the right side of the Baby Giant, which permitted the first ascent of a handful of lines, including Kiai High (V3), Kiai (V5), Chi Sao (V9), and Chi Sao Left (V10).

In Frictionary, we also added a handful of quality new slab lines on the Mel Gibson Boulder, including Braveheart (V2) and William Wallace (V1).  Later, in May, another fun group coalesced in the City of Giants to add more moderates to the left side of the Baby Giant, in the now-named Hobo Cave, including Hobo Safety Meat (V2/3) and The Littlest Hobo (V2/3).  We also re-discovered how rewarding and fun it is to climb with a group, when a handful of Frank Slide's regulars spent some time working through an old project of mine, finishing a new line that Mark D. named Force of Will (V5/6).

Kyle Marco successfully using the less-than-obvious and crowd-sourced beta to stylishly send Force of Will (V5/6). Mark Guckert showed us all that finger-jams may be more useful at Frank Slide than we thought...

The big story this spring, however, has been the continuing rampage of Josh Bylsma through the boulders of Frank Slide.  Not content simply repeating old testpieces, Josh has added dozens of hard new lines to the Slide this spring, including Deliverance Sit (V9), Cocoon (V8), Dark Age Low (V11), and the world-class line (and long-term project of mine) Mark of the Beast (V9).  Most impressively, Josh finally nailed down the first ascent of the power-endurance-yet-powerful project on the Mushroom Boulder which he named Quantum Leap (V12), which is (as far as I am aware) the hardest problem in the province.  Congrats to Josh!

 Mark D. trying to overcome gravity on the gold-streaked and  powerfully dynamic Apollo 11 (V10).

Josh B. packing up after an unsuccessful session on Mark of the Beast (V9).  It was just a matter of time before he sent, though!

Several of Josh's notable first ascents this spring aren't impressive due to their difficulty, but rather their height.  Though he climbed several high lines, his most notable are (after top-rope cleaning / examination / rehearsal, a wise idea due to Frank's friable rock) the delicate and ridiculously high The Hoover Effect (V1/2 X, with a crux about 20 feet of the deck), and the powerful and monstrously high Colossus (V8) on the House Boulder itself (probably almost 30 feet high, with a tricky mantle at the end...).  Needless to say, none of Josh's highballs have yet been repeated. Erp.

Mark Derksen has also been hard at work in the Slide.  In an impressive one-session effort he repeated Crowded House (V10), repeated Morgan Dunnet's Cognitive Dissonance (V10), and after a lot of work finally wrapped up Frank Slide's classic cave line Railway (V10).  Mark also got the first ascent of the thin and dynamic project to the right of Baby Jesus Dyno, a line he called Crucifix (V10).

(top) Kyle starting up Ocarina (V1), and (bottom), pulling into the crux of Wind Waker (V4) in the City of Giants.

The rest of the Frank Slide 'locals' (can I call them "The Frank Pack"?) have been very active this spring as well.  Kyle Marco (aka The Wizard of Frank, aka Red Beard, aka Obi Wan Kyle-obi (I just made that last one up)) added a brilliant new line in Frictionary, which we called Cherry Pepsi (V7, Frank's most kneebar-laden line).  Davin Simmons, a new transplant to the area, has been hard at work, repeating old lines and finding new ones that have been long-overlooked.  Stephan and Aletha have also been VERY evident at the Slide, and have steadily worked through many of Frank Slide's classic lines, including Killer Bees (V4) and Sunspot (V5).

On a final note, I would like to remind everyone that the Tour de Frank, Alberta's greatest outdoor bouldering event, is coming up in late September.  We'll post the date in a few weeks, but it should be a great event again this year, with an entirely NEW list of problems (yes, we're moving the event to a new area!).  Keep it in mind when you are planning your autumn climbing trips!

Me on the nicest highball slab in Frictionary, Tomb With A View (V0).

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Las Vegas! (Part 2)

Kraft Rocks is certainly the spiritual center of the bouldering in Las Vegas, but it is far from being the only area.  Smaller areas exist in every one of the huge canyons that split the sandstone walls north of Las Vegas, and numerous blocks sprawl at the foot of every escarpment.  Oak Creek, Willow Springs, Red Spring, Pine Creek Canyon, and Juniper Canyon are just a few of the many areas to be found near Las Vegas.  After a few days of climbing at Kraft Rocks, we were keen to explore and see what some of the other areas offered.

I love the desert!  The colors, the shapes, and the plants!  Yucca and cholla cactus in the desert below Black Velvet Canyon.

The next day, we packed a handful of boulderers, shoes, mats, and several gallons of water into the van and headed up into Black Velvet Canyon.  Turning off the pavement, we slowly negotiated the horrific road that wound for several miles through the desert, inching toward the huge dark chasm of Black Velvet Canyon. As I felt the chassis of the van of the wobble and creak over rocks and gullies, I wondered about the wisdom of taking my aging van up a desert track like this one.  Nonetheless, when we finally arrived at the parking lot and started the hike up into the mountains, the reason for the trip became apparent.  While not the biggest climbing area in the region, Black Velvet Canyon is an amazing bouldering venue for two reasons; first, it is amazingly beautiful, with great views of the huge walls that loom over the desert, with mule deer wandering through the cholla and barrel cactus.  Second, the rock quality is better than most of the other areas, with streaked blocks of yellow-orange sandstone scattered along the bottom of the canyon.  The rock also tends to form long edges, crisp rails, and sloping shelves, which is a bit of change from the other areas.

The infamous Black Velvet Canyon.  Beware the road that guards the canyon, though!

We warmed up at the Twin Towers boulders, which host a large handful of pleasantly high problems that feature nicely incut flakes.  After cruising several easy lines, I was pleasantly surprised to flash Freedom Fighter (V5/6), a bulging line with long moves and high feet. Mark D. quickly climbed several of the lines as well, and was keen to move on to his project for the day, the uber-classic compression problem The Fountainhead (V9).  Kyle had injured his knee a bit, but soon enough we found The Fountainhead and Mark set to work.  The Fountainhead is an amazing-looking line which follows a series of slopers and rails up to a committing 'full-value' (read: high and tricky) mantle. Though it took him several tries to find a sequence that worked well, in less than an hour Mark had pressed out the mantle and was standing on top the boulder.    

Mark D working out the bugs of the classic The Fountainhead (V9).

We packed up, and headed further up-canyon to see what other blocks the area offered.  I really wanted to try In Our Time (V8), but it seemed too far away given the amount of daylight we had left, so we stopped and looked at the world-class cave problem Wet Dream (V12), an Ethan Pringle problem from 2004.  Ernie and I jumped on Red Dragon (V7), a short brick-red arete line nearby, but with daylight fading, we ran out of time and motivation to send the problem.  Hoisting our pads, we walked through a huge herd of deer on the way out, a magical scene in the orange glow of sunset with the far-off lights of Las Vegas twinkling in the distance.

I love this photo.  Mark D wandering through the evening light on the walk out from Black Velvet Canyon, with Vegas in the distance.

Packing mats back into the van, we bombed back into the city to grab something to eat and head to the airport to pick up Morgan D. at the airport.  Morgan, one of the few Frank Slide 'locals', was flying down to join us for the remainder of the trip.  We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare, and proceeded to wait... and wait... and wait.  The digital Arrivals screen initially said that his flight would arrive on time, but then his flight disappeared from the screen altogether.  No one at the airport could give us any more information, so we kept waiting... and waiting. The Las Vegas airport is a surprisingly boring and lonely place to wait, with no lounges, coffee shops, or restaurants, just a long empty corridor.  Hours later, Morgan finally arrived in Vegas (his flight had been extensively delayed; we never did find out why no one at the airport seemed to realize it), and we found our way back to the van and careened off down the freeway.

The next day dawned not with the usual brilliant sunshine and heat, but with dark skies and intermittent rain - the first bad weather of the trip.  Ordinarily, we wouldn't have minded since we were due for a rest day, but with Morgan on board we were hoping to be able to get out to do some bouldering.  Finally, the rain stopped, and though it was still felt cold out we decided to head to Kraft Rocks to see if we could find some dry rock.  We wandered around for a bit, then decided to warm up on Jones'n (V4), which proved to be a brutal and painful warmup (because my hands were sore and I needed a rest day, not because the problem is bad; it's actually a great techy line).  I hiked around Kraft Rocks with Morgan, Kyle, and Ernie; I tried a few things, but mostly I was trying not to climb too much in a sadly belated effort to have a 'rest day'.  Eventually we ended up at the Monkey Bars Boulder, where we watched Morgan dispatch Monkey Bars Direct (V8) in a very solid 20-minute effort.  Ernie really wanted to try the classic Red Rocks traverse problem The Alexisizer (V7), so we wandered back over to cluster of boulders where the problem was found.  I did reasonably well on my first few tries, but couldn't unlock the last few moves.  Ernie did well on it, getting closer and closer with each attempt, but couldn't quite finish the line.  Morgan came similarly close to doing the nearby steep arete of Timmy's Problem (V9), but had to walk away with the NTO (*no top out).

(top) Morgan and Ernie 'spotting' an American climber on Alexisizer (V7), and (bottom) Morgan warming up on Poker Chips (V1), Kraft Rocks.

We started the next day with an argument.  Mark D. really wanted to go to Willow Springs, but I had my sights set on Oak Creek Canyon.  I eventually won (perhaps because I was driving), and we headed back up the Red Rock Parkway.  We found the parking lot easily enough, and marched uphill toward the mouth of the canyon in the growing heat of the morning.  After meandering through the scrub, we headed up onto the shoulder of the canyon toward the American Dream boulder.  Though some of the problems seemed a bit high to warm up on, I nonetheless had a great time stretching my joints on some high moderate lines, including West Face (a quite tall V1) and Backside Slab Left (V1/2, which was the best slab I was to climb all trip).  Kyle, Morgan, and Mark eventually headed downslope to look for some shorter problems, but I kept climbing, keen to try some of the harder lines on the boulder.  Though not in the guidebook, I added a long arete-wrapping traverse from the start of American Warm-up into West Face (probably V4), and then started trying the tall leaning arete just left of American Warmup. As I worked out the moves, I was surprised that it wasn't featured in the guidebook; a sit-start on a huge jug led to thoughtful, balancey moves on sculpted holds. Soon enough I had discovered a great sequence up the arete, and I mustered the cajones to follow the arete to the top of the boulder.  It was a great problem, probably V5 or V6, one of the nicest lines I would climb during my trip.

Lizards! Red rocks! Cacti! Huzzah!

Down the hill, Kyle, Morgan, and Mark had been productive.  They had all sent Get Burnt (V7/8), and Mark had also added Nut Dragger (V9) to his tick list.  They were ready to move on, and we moved across the hillside a few hundred meters to try the bizarre Carapace (V7).  It was far to hot for serious attempts on this notoriously slopey problem, but Morgan and then Mark eventually squeaked out ascents of the line. I wanted to spend some time climbing with some good friends who I had met (and climbed with) years ago in northern Alberta, the perpetually-enthusiastic Renee and Steven Little (thanks for bringing my 'extra' mat down!), and the quasi-legendary (or even legendary!) Michelle and Andrew Neis.  They had traveled to Red Rocks primarily (I suspect) to climb multipitch gear routes, but I had convinced them to boulder for a day in Oak Creek.  We finally found them at the deceptively hard Blood Trails (V5, but seemed way harder than that in the heat!). It was great to see them again, as I hadn't had much opportunity to hang out with them since I had moved away from northern Alberta.

Though it was getting dark, we hiked up a little wash to try All Nightmare Long (V6). After one attempt, I decided my throbbing fingers wanted to rest more than I wanted to send, so I watched while Mark D worked and sent the line.  I did get excited enough to flash Pop Goes My Heart (V4), which felt easy for me as it is bears a strong resemblance to many Squamish problems.  In the dying light, we packed up the mats, headed back to the van, and drove down into Las Vegas.

The Cube, one of the first boulders you encounter at Kraft Rocks, and home to several notorious hard highballs...

We had originally wanted to leave mid-day Saturday to begin the long drive back to Canada, but decided to cram in as much climbing as we could manage on our last day.  We headed back to Kraft Rocks, determined to explore more problems before we headed back.  I climbed a stack of classic moderates in the area, including Poker Chips (V1) and Potato Chips (V2).  I hoped to get back on (and finish) The Alexisizer (V7, Ernie was coming close!), but after sliding off the end of the problem a few times I lost heart, and meandered over to the Monkey Bars boulder to enjoy the internationally social scene there. Since there were many mats arrayed beneath the boulder, I decided to try Monkey Bar Traverse (V7ish) with Morgan and Kyle.  To my surprise, we all did it in quick succession (*a point of clarification; I was surprised to do it my first try, but was not surprised that Morgan and Kyle did it quickly). All week I had also been keen to try the highball Hyperglide (V4/5), and since there were plenty of mats about I decided to jump on it - and was glad I did!  Though it took me a few tries, I eventually pulled through the high-step-and-REACH move, and climbed through the jugs all the way to the (high!) peak of the boulder. Another fantastic line!

One of the most social boulders in the United States, the Monkey Bars Boulder at Kraft Rocks. Hyperglide (V4/5) is the line of VERY chalked holds above the man in the blue shirt.

Kyle, Ernie and I were curious to find the Outback Boulder before we left Red Rocks, knowing that it was supposed to hold several high-quality lines.  Tucked away in a little valley in the far corner of Kraft Rocks, it is hard to locate - but is worth the extra effort.  It is home to two of the most ridiculously fun highballs in the area; Didgeridoo and Outback Right (both V1).  Kyle and I both had a blast climbing them, and managed to both flash the steep and featured Dead Heart (V4) without too much problem.  By now our skin was getting thin, and we packed up to start the walk back to the van.

Kyle on his way to getting really high on Outback Right (V1).

On the way out, we stopped to take a look at the classic jump-and-crimp line Vino Rojo (V6).  There was a handful of young Californians working it, and they invited us to jump on the line with them.  Kyle had tried it years ago, but I had not, so we set to work.  I could do the first half of the problem, but didn't have the gas left to reach the cruxy mantle. Nonetheless, Kyle, Morgan, and I had fun trying the distinctly dynamic movement the problem demanded.  As we packed up for the last time, one of the young women asked if we wanted her to take a Polaroid photo portrait of us; she explained that she always took her Polaroid camera with her when climbing to take photos of the climbers.  Grinning, I replied that we would love a photo, and so Morgan, Kyle, and I lined up, arms crossed in the classic Stonemasters pose, and had our portrait taken against the darkening skyline of Kraft Mountain.

The not-so-original Stonemasters!

Spent, we trudged out to the parking lot, said goodbye to friends old and new, and turned the van north to find some coffee and start the 18 hour drive back to Lethbridge.

Next Time: Back to Frank Slide!