Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Tour (de Frank) in Review

Last week I would turn on my phone every morning, and flip to the Crowsnest Pass weather report.  As the week passed, and the forecast for Saturday remained 'warm and dry', my sense of relief became palpable.  Because regardless of how much planning you've put into an event, how great your sponsors have been, how enthusiastic your volunteers are, and how keen the participants might be, the success of an outdoor event really comes down to the weather.

Saturday morning, the day of the Tour de Frank, I woke up to the sound of the wind.  In southern Alberta, the sound of wind isn't unusual, but roaring early-morning blasts can mean intense windstorms later in the day.  As Kyle and I packed up extra bouldering mats, water, scorecards, and a table into the van, the wind kept blowing. We stopped to pick up coffee and muffins for the competitors... and the wind kept blowing.  But as we headed west down the Crowsnest Highway, with the Canadian Rockies looming large in the windshield, the wind slowly faded.  I took it as an omen; a sign that the 2016 Tour de Frank would be amazing.

Mark Fraser reaching for the end on the funky and powerful Marked for Life (V5), House Sector. (Photo: Peter Kwan)

Because there are no pre-registrations for Tour de Frank, Kyle and I are always uncertain about how many climbers will show up for the event.  I had advertised fairly widely on social media, and as we pulled up to the parking lot at 10:00, the event's popularity became evident.  The parking lot was already half full, with more cars in pulling in.  Unloading the van, we were surrounded by scenes that are certain to warm any climber's heart; teetering stacks of bouldering mats, propped up by brushes taped to poles; loose clusters of climbers, coffees in hand, shaking hands, slapping each other on the back.  As we watched, forearms were stretched and packs shouldered as scores of climbers of all ages crossed the highway and began the short walk into the House Boulder, the mansion-sized block of limestone where we were setting up the staging area for the 2016 Tour de Frank.

Will Kwan looking cool and collected as he warms up on Don't Kill Kyle (V1). (Photo: Peter Kwan)

As more and more climbers arrived, we finished setting up the staging area beneath the massive overhang at the front of the House Boulder.  We handed out registration cards, and free mini-guides to the House, Commodore, Frictionary, and Heart of Frank Sectors where the 2016 TdF would be taking place.  At 10:45, with the sun shining through the golden leaves of the cottonwood trees, we welcomed everyone to the event, briefly went over the rules (mostly that we would be counting the hardest five problems each person climbed toward their total score), and with a final reminder to spot carefully, we released the waiting throng into the boulders of Frank Slide for six hours of climbing in North America's largest limestone bouldering area!  About 80 climbers participated in this year's TdF, which is undoubtedly the largest number of climbers the Slide has ever seen in a single day.

More climbers than the Black Slot Boulder had ever seen at one time!   (Photo: Peter Kwan)

In addition to the free guides we handed out, we also had a number of volunteers (all clad in red t-shirts) to help climbers locate individual problems they were keen to find and try.  As climbers streamed out into the boulders, the other 'red shirts' and I walked through the boulders to offer our assistance, if needed.  Climbers were clustered on many of the sectors' best blocks; several people were enjoying the highball slabs of the Railway Boulder, a posse was throwing themselves up the heady arete of Evil Eye (V3) and it's more moderate neighbor Charlie the Horse (V0), and a handful of boulderers wandered down to warm up on the ever-popular Ninja Turtles Boulder.

I headed up the hill to guide a few climbers (including my wife Shelley and my son Rowan) to some moderate lines at the edge of the Heart of Frank Sector.  After warming up, Shelley and Jonas G. both climbed Beautiful Struggle (V3/4), but then got stumped on the mysteriously difficult hanging dihedral of The Oracle (V4).  I noticed a handful of climbers heading up into the City of Giants sector, and since none of those problems were included in the 2016 TdF, I surmised that maybe they had lost their way and hustled over to offer my help.

Kevin crushing one of the dozens of lines (this one on the Frictionary Boulder) he sent during the 2106 TdF!   (Photo: Peter Kwan)

When I finally caught up to Noah, Kevin, and Ian, I found that they had adopted an impressive (!) strategy for the 2016 Tour de Frank... to climb as many problems as possible - in the order they appeared on the scorecard!  This meant that they would have to cross and re-cross the western sectors of Frank Slide repeatedly in their quest, but they were clearly having a blast!  I pointed them in the direction of The Sandstone Traverse (V0), and they were off.  I later found out that they had climbed 47 problems (!) during the TdF, which probably amounts to the most problems ever climbed in a day in The Slide!

As I cruised around the Slide, I was excited to meet climbers from across Alberta and Southeastern BC.  I watched Dan Archambault and Marc Eveleigh swap burns as they vied for the second ascent of Apollo 11 (V10).  I worked on the trail to the Frictionary Boulder with Dan Anhorn (another 'red shirt') as Lethbridge's junior team streamed by on their way to work Underking (V5) and Underrated (V2).  I met with a reporter from the Pincher Creek Echo who was excited to include an article about the TdF in the next issue of the paper.  I handed out coffee, and directed people on the best way to walk to find the slabs on the Ninja Turtles Boulder.

Everyone - including myself - was having a great time enjoying the limestone blocks of Frank Slide!

(Top) Dan Anhorn, volunteer extraordinaire, grimacing but still having fun at the TdF. (Bottom) Joel White wrapping up his session with a Black Cherry Soda (V5) on his way to second place in Men's Open.  (Photos: Peter Kwan)

At 5:00, Kyle blew the horn, and climbers began to stream back to the Staging Area.  At the TdF, we have always stressed that the emphasis is on climbing and socializing with other climbers, and as a result we were not surprised to see that only about three-quarters of the climbers turned in their score cards.  As we quickly worked to rank everyone's scores, Kyle, Mark, and I started drawing names for the prizes, and handed out scores of amazing goods from our sponsors (see below).  Once that was finished, we announced the list of winners of the 2016 TdF, with Marc Eveleigh (Men's Open) and Samantha Li and Eva Thompson (tie, Women's Open) winning their respective elite categories. Huge congrats to them and all the participants of the 2106 TdF!

Corwin getting pumped at the Frictionary Boulder!  Corwin survived a near-death experience when he slid off the mantle of Mushroom Campus (V3) later in the day...  (Photo: Peter Kwan)

Female Open
(1 - tie) Samantha Li  and Eva Thompson (3) Jelisa Dunbar
Male Open
(1) Marc Eveleigh (2) Joel White
Female Experienced 
(1 - tie) Shelley Hoover and Reba Murphy
Male Experienced 
(1) Jonathan Kay (2 - tie) Stephan Pepin and Lukas Tanasiuk
Female Beginner
(1 - tie) Victoria Leske and Sophie Vielfaure  (3 - tie) Bergen Galts and Quinn Andre
Male Beginner
(1) Philip Quade  (2 - tie) Stephen Mosca and Trevor Jones
Female Youth (12 - 16)
(1 - tie) Lauren Kwan and Lauren Cook (3) Kennedy Muland
Male Youth (12 - 16)
(1) Will Kwan (2) Mark Federkiel
Female Junior (11 and under)
(1) Ciara Meadows
Make Junior (11 and under)
(1 - tie) Kolven Cook and Rowan Hoover

A HUGE thanks to everyone who made the trip down to the Crowsnest Pass to compete in the Tour de Frank!  We had people from Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Fort Macleod, Fernie, Cranbrook, and Montana attend this year's event, which makes all our work that much more gratifying.

We also want to extend our massive appreciation to all our sponsors who provided prizes for this year's event!  It is really companies like these (and not the big-box 'outdoor equipment' retailer) that provide support for outdoor climbing festivals and grassroots events like the TdF (as well as Kelowna's Rock the Blocs and Revelstoke's Rumble in the Jungle).  If you have a chance when you are considering your next purchase of climbing gear, return the favor, and show your appreciation!  Sponsors of the 2016 TdF were...

The up-and-coming climbing wear company Outside All Day, who were one of our first sponsors, and really came through with a box of OAD t-shirts!  Thanks Kiefer!

Awesome Adventures in Lethbridge, who helped us out tremendously for coordinating prize sponsorships for us with several companies.  Thanks a heap to Marni and Nathan!

Flashed, Canada's premier bouldering gear, who came through with stacks of chalk and brushes and a bouldering mat!  Thanks a bunch to all the folks at Flashed, including Mark and Keith!

The All-Canadian adventure clothing and gear company Westcomb, who really came through with two amazing light jackets and a hat!

Liberty Mountain, who donated the fantastic prize of a pair of approach shoes!  Huge props to the folks at Liberty Mountain!

Black Diamond, who were very generous with clothing and headlamps!  Much appreciated!

Fjallraven, who provided us with a great prize package, including a backpack!  Fantastic!

Sendage, whose services allow us to keep track of all the new lines in Frank Slide.  Jamie Chong of Sendage sent along a box of sweet Sendage hats (jealously guarded by those who won them).  Thanks Jamie!

Prana, who sent along a stack of hats and chalk bags!  Thanks a bunch for all the prizes!

Static Chalk Bags, who sent along a great prize as well!

So that's it for the 2016 Tour de Frank!  I'll get some more pictures online soon!  I hope to see everyone back for the 2017 Tour de Frank, and if you want to come bouldering at The Slide, don't hesitate to give me a shout.  There are over 1100 problems at the Slide, enough to keep you busy for a long time!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tour de Frank 2016: The Information Package!

The greatest outdoor bouldering event in the Canadian Rockies is back!  The Tour de Frank, the outdoor bouldering festival held in Canada’s largest limestone bouldering area, is returning again in 2016 for the third year.  The event will take place on Saturday, September 17, and is a free event and competition open to anyone interested in rock climbing in the Canadian Rockies.  Children are of course welcome, though everyone should be aware that boulderfields feature very uneven terrain.

The Information Package about the event - including a printable map of the event and information about categories - can be found HERE.

The goal of the Tour de Frank is to get people socializing – and climbing – together at Frank Slide, Alberta.  Frank Slide is one of the largest bouldering areas in Canada, with over 1100 problems from V0 to V12.  Typically, climbers from throughout Southern Alberta (including Calgary, Lethbridge, and Red Deer) and Southeastern British Columbia climb at Frank Slide, but they often don’t get a chance to meet each other and climb together.  The Tour de Frank not only provides climbers and outdoor enthusiasts with that opportunity, but also shows off some of the best boulder problems in Frank Slide to climbers who might not otherwise be familiar with the area.  Every year, the Tour de Frank moves to a new area of Frank Slide, and this year’s event will feature the House, Frictionary, Commodore, and Heart of Frank sectors.

The event starts at 10:00 Saturday morning with free coffee and pastries for everyone.  For those arriving early and want to contribute, there will be a short trash cleanup and trail maintenance work bee.  Registration for the event will open shortly after 10:00 as well, with the rules of the event being presented at 10:45 and the competition starting at 11:00.  Climbers will have six hours (until 5:00) to climb as many problems as they can (or want to!); the winners of each category will be determined based on the five most difficult problems they climb during the day.

Frank Slide can be a confusing area to navigate, so competitors will be provided with free maps and a guide to the area.  There will also be volunteers (look for the people in red shirts!) to help climbers find their way around the area and to locate specific problems.  While there is a competitive aspect of the event (there will be problems from beginner (V0) to expert (V12)), the focus of the Tour de Frank is on having fun.  In the morning, we will be running an 'Introduction to Outdoor Bouldering' workshop for beginners, and will have bouldering mats on hand to loan out to beginners or those who don’t have access to a mat.

The climbing competition part of the event runs all day Saturday (until 5:00), with category winners and draw prizes being awarded immediately afterwards.  The Tour de Frank will wrap up with an after-event for those interested (dinner and drinks at the local pub just down the road).  The goal is the TdF is to get people socializing and bouldering together at Frank Slide, and we are looking forward to seeing everyone there!

The Facebook event page is now up and running (search for ‘2016 Tour de Frank’), so check there for event updates.

HUGE thanks to all the fantastic sponsors who support the Tour de Frank!  They all provide amazing products and are supportive of the climbing community in Canada, so check them out!  When you're replacing well-worn gear, take a look online or support retailers who carry their products.  We like to thank Awesome Adventures in Lethbridge, the new climbing clothing company Outside All Day, the distributor Liberty Mountain, the made-in-Canada Westcomb clothing, Prana, Black Diamond, the Canadian bouldering manufacturer Flashed Climbing, FjallRaven, Static handmade chalk bags, and Sendage (without which a guide to Frank Slide would be impossible).

The Tour de Frank is an entirely free, volunteer-driven event!  Nonetheless, we do incur costs when we organizing the TdF, so if you are interested in a small donation to help defray costs (or are interested in sponsoring next year's event) let us know!

NOTE: If you are 17 or younger, have a parent or guardian sign a waiver, which can be found HERE.
Me on the testpiece Slippery Pete (V7/8)... it *might* be included in this year's TdF! ;)

Sendtember in Frank!

Fall has arrived!  With the cooling of the autumnal air and the shortening of the days, the cottonwood leaves are turning a brilliant yellow and crisp sending temperatures have arrived!  In the last few weeks, we've been climbing a lot in the House and Heart of Frank sectors, opening new lines and working on the trails in preparation for the 2016 Tour de Frank, which is coming on Saturday, September 17.  After a short introduction to the event, the horn will blow at 11:00 for six hours of bouldering in Canada's largest bouldering area!

The typical crew of Frank Slide Locals (Kyle, Mark, Dan, Davin, Josh, and myself) have been busy cleaning and putting up new lines... and climbing a lot in the process!  We visited the Slide twice over the long weekend (despite less-than-perfect weather), and had a blast with the new lines we've unearthed.  A lot of the new lines are moderates, which are slowly transforming the sector into a great area to circuit. We were unexpectedly joined by Michelle and Andrew Neis, who seem to be living the dream as they travel to climbing areas across North America.  Michelle and Andrew are friends with Davin, and had come out to Frank Slide to sample the boulders.

Kyle on the perfect holds of Brighter the Light, Darker the Shadows (V5/6), a brilliant end-of-the-day send on the Beautiful Struggle Boulder.

One of the highlights of the long weekend for me was my FA of a new line I named Jaws (V4ish). Lately, I've been on the search for problems that utilize knee-bars (I'm keen on learning a new technique), and was excited to find a line on the side of the Diamond Boulder in Frictionary that uses a semi-solid knee-bar to great effect.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten my kneebar pad at home, so was forced to use my bare knee to send the line (ouch!).  I returned the following weekend with the pad to repeat it in comfort!

The big weekend project, however, was the Beautiful Struggle Boulder, named after the original line on the boulder, the brilliant Beautiful Struggle (V3/4, which I managed to flash!).  After the dust had (literally and figuratively) cleared, the Beautiful Struggle Boulder is now home to 15 problems, from V0 to V5.  A great addition to the boulder is Josh Bylsma's new line The Oracle (V4), a funky compression line on perfect rock.

The next generation of the hardcore boulderers of Southern Alberta at work!  Getting serious (and seriously high!) on the fantastic Railway Slab (V0 R).

Next weekend we were back again, this time spending the day in the Railway and Commodore areas.  Walking into the area, we found a handful of the Lethbridge junior climbers at work on the Railway Boulder, and with a little encouragement we sent them up the imposing Railway Slab (V0, but high!). They all lined up for the send, and I reveled at how high it looked with junior climbers en route.

After a little work, Davin, Dan, Kyle, and I managed get the send train rolling on the techy Eclipse (V5), before we headed over to Commodore to do some trail work.  After an hour or so of pick-and-shovel fun, we managed to finish the last section of trail!  Climbers can now walk on a finished path from the highway all the way to the edge of the Heart of Frank Sector, a fantastic improvement (at least my knees think so)!

Dan Anhorn off the crux of the steep and funky Eclipse (V5).  He sent shortly after.

Before we wrapped up for the day, we did a little more climbing.  We tackled a short but intriguing line on great rock on the edge of the Commodore Area. It took a little work to figure out the strange technique required to engage the start holds, but when we finally understood what was required, we sent the first ascents of Wilderpeople (V4? 5?) in short order. A great end to the day!  We packed up, and headed to A&W for hamburgers (Teen Burgers are on sale for $3.50! Yay!).

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Frankly, It's a Lot of Fun!

Preparations for the 2016 Tour de Frank are well underway!  The Tour de Frank (which I am now billing as North America's Greatest Outdoor Limestone Bouldering Festival) is an outdoor bouldering event / competition / festival / socializing opportunity that we run every year at Frank Slide in the Crowsnest Pass.  This will be the third year of the festival, and we're expecting it to be the best event yet (as long as the weather cooperates...).  We'll be releasing specific details of the Tour de Frank over the next few weeks, but needless to say we are busy with preparations for the event!

This past weekend, Kyle, Mark D, Mark G, Dan, and I headed to the Crowsnest Pass for a day of bouldering on a (thankfully!) cool summer day.  Kyle and I also had other motives for visiting the Slide - we (and by 'we' I mostly mean Kyle) were fact-checking dozens of problems in the Slide to ensure that our new mini-guides for the House, Frictionary, and Heart of Frank sectors are as accurate as possible for the Tour de Frank!

When we arrived in the Slide, we started off our day of bouldering/fact-checking on a small block quite near the House Parking Lot.  Kyle had described it to me on the drive out, but I couldn't place it in my memory.  Walking up to the boulder, the reason for my lack of knowledge became apparent.  The boulder sits in a depression in the talus, and I had never seen it before!

A surprisingly fun line that climbs up out of a pit, the funky Painful Decision (V3).

We warmed up by working through the problems on the boulder; they were all new to me, but Kyle had climbed them years before.  Painful Decision (V3), a fun line which climbs out of a small pit and follows an arete through a bulge, gave us a few problems, but we all quickly sent the three easier face lines on the boulder, Pain for Pleasure (V1), U Dolt (V1), and Nuts and Bolts (V1).  The latter three problems climb though a face completely composed of crinoid fossils, which make for unique climbing at the Slide! 

Thoroughly warmed up, Kyle hiked off into the Slide on a fact-checking mission, while Dan starting cleaning a new slab, and Mark D, Mark G, and I headed over to the Black Slot Boulder to try some of the lines there.  Mark G and I climbed some fun (though not terribly hard) new slabs on the side of the boulder, and then watches as Mark D repeated the funky Blessings in Disguise (V8).  After a little cleaning, I realised that from the start of Black Slot Arete (V4), it would be possible to carefully climb up and right on the slab.  The line was trickier than I thought, though not truly difficult.  After falling off unexpectedly a few times, I pulled sloowwwly though a funky rock-over move to send the FA of The Oozing (V2/3).  

Mark G moving slowly and carefully on his way to the second ascent of The Oozing (V2/3).

Confident after his quick repeat of Blessings in Disguise, Mark D wondered if he could start on the unique starting hold of Blessings, but instead of following the rail out the roof, reach right and climb up and onto the slab of The Oozing.  After only a few tries, Mark sent the FA of (what I am tentatively calling) C Monster (V8?).  Very cool movement, indeed!  I briefly worked Blessings as well, but soon realized that my fitness wasn't up to the task.

Mark D nearing the end of the techy and powerful Blessings in Disguise (V8).

Having finished scrubbing his new slab lines, Dan wandered up to join us at the Black Slot. He was keen to try the fun Black Slot Arete (V4).  After watching him send it in only a handful of tries, I got excited to repeat it again, so I pulled my shoes on and did it as well (thankfully without too much problem!). 

After that, a flurry of sends wrapped up the day; Dan and Mark G did The Oozing, we all did a new (and relatively spooky!) slab on the end of the slabby face (calling it Happy Ending (V1ish)), and then we headed up a short distance into the talus where Mark D quickly sent Kyle's new dynamic line Racing the Storm (V4-7?). 

All things considered, a fun day in the Slide with fun people! To top the day off, we met up with Kyle's wife Amy, and we all headed into the pub in the town of Frank for dinner before finally driving back to Lethbridge.  Such a fantastic day - lots of climbing, new problems, lots of friends, and cool summer send-temperatures!  It really doesn't get much better than that!

Not all fun and games when you fall onto your back and miss the mat in Frank Slide!  Blunt force contusion on Mark's back... ouch!