Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter Day In GB

Apologies for what might be the longest-ever delay between posts here on NW Granite - it's been a long month.

Here are some pictures from a fun weekend day two weeks ago in Gold Bar (after this day, I crammed for finals for two weeks and then traveled to the East coast). It was was a bit of a trek from Reiter Road up to the Clearcut, but well worth it. The woods were quiet and ORV-free, and the crisp, dry granite more than made up for the 45-minute hike. Though we can't yet benefit from it, the most encouraging part of the day was seeing that Manke Timber had re-graded the entire road; in the state we saw it, it now seems feasible to drive a Honda Civic all of the way to the top of the clearcut. As far as I know, it has been over ten years since the road was re-graded, and this is a wonderful silver lining to the DNR's winter closure. Much thanks to Manke Timber for putting money into the road and continuing to allow climbers to access and enjoy recreation on their land in the Reiter Foothills.

The Road At The (former) Spring 09 WashoutThe Road By The Scab Boulder Parking Below Fraggle RockJohnny Warming Up - Awesome Rock!
Our climbing day was relatively short, and quite cold, but the WA monkeys sill managed to send some good things. Johnny Goicoechea was able to (quickly) manage the first ascent of Positive Vibrations, a super-obvious two-move problem at the edge of the clearcut that is listed as a project in Central Washington Bouldering. Way to go Johnny! Drew Schick also sent Joel C's Funpuppet in an impressive last-ditch effort. Cortney made progress on the 5-star problem Unholy, and I... had fun playing on some nice easy climbs.

Kyle Attempting Doja DirectDrew Schick On Dave's ProblemCortney On UnholyDrew Playing Below Dave's Problem

After several months in the library, my skin was garbage, but I still had some fun climbing and got myself psyched by looking at all of the amazing lines that I have yet to do. At the top of my list is Volition, Joel Campbell's 5-star squeeze arete that has some of the most perfectly-sculpted holds in the forest. This one is on my bouldering "bucket list," and I can't wait to try it later this winter with more skin.
Volition - WOWIE!

It was a fun and encouraging day in the Clearcut for all of us, and I look forward to some more crisp Winter days in this magical area. Until then, so long Gold Bar...

A Beautiful Gold Bar Sunset

Friday, December 4, 2009

WCC + Access Fund Comment on DNR Gold Bar Plan

Sorry that I've been slow to post recently, I don't have much excuse besides the fact that I traveled to the flatlands for the Thanksgiving holiday and have been living in the library since then. However, with all the time I spent playing outside this Fall, I can hardly complain about having to crush some books for a few weeks.

I don't have any pictures to share, but thought that I would post the comment that Ryen Godwin, Jonah Harrison, and I wrote to submit to the DNR on behalf of the Washington Climbers Coalition and the Access Fund. You can find it here. It's short and sweet, but hopefully makes it known to the department that we are another responsible group of non-motorized recreationalists that use the Reiter Foothills. It seems like 90% of the comments they receive will be from ORV users, so it is important that we make our voice heard.

Hopefully I'll be able to get out to GB for a day this weekend - if so, pics will follow!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Last Leavenworth Day

Last Wednesday I decided to be irresponsible and head out to Leavenworth with Kyle for the day. It was a tad chilly, and mostly wet, but we still found plenty of things to climb on and had a wonderful day. We started in the warm sun at the Pretty Boulders, which was really all that I needed for an awesome day - clean, crisp granite, blue skies, and nobody else around.
Blue Skies Smilin' At Me
The day only got better... after the Prettys, Kyle and I headed up to the Bond Boulders to try our hand at Pierce Brosnan. While chalking the problem up, my toothbrush knocked a tiny piece of rock out of the crack next to the crux hold, and what was a terrible 1.5 finger divot became a terrible 2.5 finger divot. Needless to say, this tiny change was all that I needed, and I sent the problem in a few tries. Kyle sent in two tries, having only played on the climb on one prior day - good job Kyle! Though I wish I had been able to do the climb in its slightly harder original state, I think this "new" hold makes the problem flow better. It definitely makes it less tweaky... Either way, I had wanted to do this climb since first seeing the boulder three years ago, and it made a great last-minute send of the fall season.
Pretty GirlKyle Gettin' PsychedPierce Brosnan
After the Bond Boulders, Kyle and I headed back up canyon to the Cotton Pony Pointer, which Kyle did on his first try of the day. Nice job again Kyle! This is a short, powerful three-move climb leading to a surprisingly tenuous topout above a scary drop-off, and is another example of an obvious boulder that went unclimbed until Johnny decided to walk up to it and figure it out.

We finished our day back at the Pretty Boulders, where I sent Pretty Boy in a handful of tries. Pretty Boy is a height-dependent semi-dyno that had stymied me a few years ago, and I had never been back. This time, with Kyle's encouragement, I managed to stick the tiny crimp and complete the problem. For a short, simple one-mover, Pretty Boy sure is good. After that, we did a cool-down circuit at the Carnival Boulders, where Kyle quickly sent Joel Campbell's short and scary problem Mr. Joel's Wild Ride. Good job yet again Kyle! We finished the day at the Swiftwater Cave, where Kyle put in some 99%-close send goes on the center line, as well as logging a few funny falls. I had always bashed the black cave at Swiftwater for being musty and having a drilled hold, but it is SICK. The cave hosts four or five solid links, all of which are 20+ movers on a 60-degree wall. At some point I'll post a full write-up of all the lines in this cave - who knows, it may be this winter if it ever stops seeping...
Kyle At Swiftwater

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gold Bar Access Plan

The DNR has just made their recreation plan for the Reiter Foothills Area (encompassing the bulk of Gold Bar bouldering) available, and you can find it here. The plan is the last document referenced and covers some 61 pages. Interestingly, the only reference to climbing in the entire document is a tangential reference to climbing in Forks of the Sky State Park, home to the Index River Boulders and Hagakure.

I plan to write a short comment and submit it to the DNR by the public comment deadline on December 4, as well as attend the public meeting on November 18 in Monroe. At the very least, the DNR needs to be aware that climbers are using the area and are essentially "hikers" in terms of our environmental impact (we won't tell them about the mid-height platform rigged up to protect Johnny's 40-foot problem J-Boogie). I will post the comment on this site before I submit it, and I welcome comments. If other people want to submit comments, I think it would be more than appropriate... just keep in mind that you are representing our wily herd of kittens to a governmental agency - respect and restraint are key. I'll post further updates here as they are available.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Home Wall

Since the weather has been dismal on the West side, and was even crappy in Leavenworth this past weekend, here are some pics from our home wall. I bought some more used holds last week and installed more T-nuts, so the wall is pretty much filled-in at this point. I also spent all day Saturday installing a low-tech rain deflection system (i.e. blue tarps), which allowed us to have a nice session on Sunday despite a steady drizzle. Sadly, the tarp system had failed by Monday afternoon, rendering the wall soggy and slimy again. I'm sure I'll get it fixed in due time... and hopefully I'll be able to post some real climbing pictures, too... Pics are of John Stordahl:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Leavenworth Pics

Here are some pics from last weekend in Leavenworth... the proudest send of the weekend was Drew Schick's strong effort on Pierce Brosnan at the Bond Boulders. Nice job Drew! Hopefully the weather will hold out for a few more weekends so I can get back to this one...

Max On A Fun Upper Forestland ProblemCole Attempting The "Tornado Project"I Think Cole Hurt HimselfMe and Max on Pierce BrosnanDrew Schick Sending Pierce Brosnan

Monday, November 2, 2009


For NW Granite's 100th post, I thought that I would share some pictures from Jess Campbell's Halloween party in Peshastin. Last year's party was a blast, and this year definitely lived up to the expectations. There was fire, fun, and even a group of international visitors (well, American students from UBC in Vancouver). And just as last year, there were plenty of costumes: here are the highlights:

Cole "Ron Jeremy" Allen (AKA Professor Nonsense)Ryan "Bavarian Person" PaulsnerIssac "I Keep Getting Older, They Just Stay The Same"Drew "Ribbit" SchickMe + Cortney (Flintstones)Joel "Julio" CampbellJens "Punk Rock" Holsten (Note the Leavenworth climbing reference)Ryan "Blind Melon" OlsonJohn "Metalocalypse" StordahlAnd, last but not least, Jessica "Cruella DeVille" Campbell

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pain From Below

Here is a short video of our friend Nathaniel climbing the relatively-new problem Pain From Below in Squamish this summer. This climb is located in the woods directly above the problem This Monkey's Gone To Heaven, and climbs a few tough moves out a short, steep bulge. Enjoy!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Oktoberfest Bouldering...

I have been getting out to Leavenworth the past few weekends to enjoy the Fall scenery and nice temps. The weather has been a bit rainier than I might have hoped, but all in all the climbing has been fantastic. It has been fun climbing with all of the Leavenworth monkeys, especially my good friend Max Hasson, who has recently started a wonderful blog. Too bad it will forever live in the shadow of NWGranite, but oh well...

Leavenworth and The Icicle from Mountain Home Road

There's too much news to report, so I'm not really going to try and make a full reporting effort. Johnny has recently put up a slew of new problems, the most (only?) repeated of which is probably The Strainer, located around the back of the Green Lung project at the JY Boulders. Kyle O'Meara has also repeated Thunderdome Low for its second ascent and one of his hardest boulders yet. Cortney also just sent The Undercling at Mad Meadows for one of her hardest sends. In the hearsay department, Brian Boyko has made the second ascent of Dave Thompson's 101 Ways to Fling Poo, which has to be one of the best problem names in all of Washington.

Cortney at The Pasture
Cortney on Playback at the Carnival Boulders

The only personal news from this weekend is that I got to do the third ascent of a problem I have been really, really excited about for over two years: Angelina Jolie. This problem was a longstanding project on the Scrambled Eggs Boulder when I first moved to Washington, and over the course of trying it I named it Angelina Jolie because it bears a close resemblance to the famous British boulder problem Brad Pitt. Supposedly the two celebrities are married and are active in tabloid gossip circles. Anyhow, I made some progress on the climb roughly two years ago and became convinced that I would be the one to put it up. I would be my own hero, and my achievement would be lauded throughout the land. Unfortunately, the December snowfall came to Leavenworth before I could taste my crowning glory.

The next spring, Joel Campbell made the first ascent of the problem, which is totally expectable. Joel is a lot stronger and better than me and often does climbs before I can (if I even can). I'm always excited for him, but sometimes, as was the case with this climb, watching Joel send something before I do actually makes it harder - I look at him climbing and think "I can't do that." So I put Angelina Jolie on the back burner and tried other things. Johnny G made the second ascent this spring after an uncharacteristic amount of effort. I tried the route once or twice over the summer, and it felt hard. It is dead-vertical and the holds are poor slopers, so good temperatures and a positive attitude are crucial. This weekend, with the cold, dry weather, I decided to give it another shot. I climbed on it for about an hour on Saturday and re-sussed the beginning moves. I made it up to my previous high point, but it didn't feel good. A tiny foothold down low had broken since I had last attempted it, and it made the rest of the moves feel even harder. My skin was thrashed, and I gave up. On Sunday we returned to the boulder for some more effort, and to my surprise I did it on my fourth try of the day. It was not a very good go. I placed my foot blindly and didn't want to trust it. My skin was thin and every crystal sent a lightening bolt of pain to my brain. As I kept moving, I felt like I was in a constant state of falling off... not solid but somehow not falling either. I got to my high point, from which I was going to move my left hand, and somehow made an unplanned righthand slap for the lip. I missed, but stuck to the wall below the hold, my eyes wide with surprise that I was still on the rock. I bumped up and floated over the lip, elated. This is definitely one of the hardest climbs I've ever done, and is without a doubt the most marginal a send has ever felt. I often think that climbing hard is as much about getting stronger and better as it is about becoming more and more comfortable with climbing on the verge of falling. Climbs that are really at your limit are not going to come with that cruiser, "perfect go" type of feeling - they are going to be thrutchy and desperate and somewhat miraculous. For me, Angelina Jolie is the furthest I've gone in that direction and it felt really good. If you've read this far, I sincerely hope you've also had an experience like that, or will someday... Here are the pics (sorry there's no video - I wasn't going to even try to repeat it):

Angelina Jolie

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gold Bar Access Update

Last night, I attended an informational meeting the Department of Natural Resources held in Monroe to discuss their plan for the Reiter Foothills Area. The DNR made it known they they will be temporarily closing the Gold Bar road to all motorized vehicle access on November 2, 2009.

The DNR has decided to enact this closure in order to re-work the area into a more sustainable ORV use area with less environmental impact. The DNR's plan is to reduce the acreage accessible to ORV users from the current 10,000 acres to 2,000 acres of developed trails. They expect to re-open the area sometime during the Spring/Summer of 2010. During the interim, the Reiter Foothills area will be open to foot traffic only. There were roughly 200 ORV users at the meeting last night and, needless to say, they were livid. One woman in attendance repeatedly shouted "why don't you shut down Seattle, too!?" and another man kept interrupting the DNR representative with screams that "you're just a goddamn Democrat," an epithet that brought hisses and catcalls from the raucous crowd. There was no mention of rock climbing at the meeting, and given the crowd's open hostility to hikers and other non-motorized users of the land, I wasn't about to speak up.

It is still unclear what this temporary closure means for climbers. As a "primitive" user group, we will still be able to use the area in the manner we're accustomed to. To be sure, all climbing access to Gold Bar this winter will be via the three-plus-mile walk from Reiter Road. This drawback is somewhat offset by the fact that you will not risk getting run down by a dirt bike or rock-crawler on your way up the hill. Another benefit is that camping (albiet walk-in camping) will now be allowed. It is not clear, however, whether the DNR's plan includes restoration of the road to the clearcut or not. When the area re-opens, the road may be better, or it may quickly become worse. Because of the ORV acreage reduction, I expect that we will see more ORV use on the road to the clearcut, but less dirt bikers in the Forest areas. Whether the plan will be successful in combating the vandalism, illegal dumping, and illegal handgun use in the area is also yet to be seen. For now, the climbing community will simply have to go with the flow and take what we can get. To get involved with efforts to secure long-term climbing access in Gold Bar, contact the Washington Climbers Coalition. But for now, just get a good pair of walking shoes and enjoy the peace and quiet...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reiter Foothills Meeting

Short notice bulletin: The Washington State Department of Natural Resources is hosting an informational meeting this Thursday regarding the future of the Reiter Foothills area (AKA "the Gold Bar road"). They will be discussing upcoming resoration and trail planning as well as the long-term user plan for the area. I think it is important that some climbers go to both make our presence known and to demonstrate our commitment to sustainable recreation in the area (namely, bouldering). The meeting is in Monroe from 6-8 and I'll be driving - email me if you want to carpool, or just show up!

Here's the information from the DNR:

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting an informal meeting for interested recreationists who want to learn more about winter restoration and trail planning in Reiter Foothills Forest. The meeting is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., October 22 at the Park Place Middle School Commons, 1408 West Main, in Monroe.

At the October 22 meeting, you can learn more about what actions DNR will be taking in the coming months to restore the environmental health of the area and determine where trails, both motorized and non-motorized, will be located for long-term, sustainable use. The meeting will also provide you with an opportunity learn how you can volunteer to help restore the area and get involved in creating recreation opportunities.

You can find more information here. I hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

North Cascades

Cortney and I broke off from the monkey posse this weekend and went to the North Cascades for some hiking and exploring. It was gorgeous but cold, and we spent a lot of time enoying the scenery and avoiding climbing. We made it to Newhalem Friday for some hiking and a bit of climbing, then headed up to Washington Pass. We spent most of Saturday hiking around and trying to check out boulders, with some limited success. I will definitely return next spring/summer when it's a bit warmer... Here are some pics from hiking around, including some rare shots of undeveloped blocks. Hopefully this will provide more incentive for everyone to get out there and find new boulders - Fun stuff!