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!

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