Thursday, August 27, 2009

Big Happy or Legs Go Snappy

I was out in Leavenworth this weekend and got to witness Johnny doing the FA of the longstanding roof project at the Carnival Boulders. If you've ever been to the Carnivals, you've probably noticed the huge looming roof on the largest boulder. You have also probably been disappointed to see the total dearth of holds, save for a large rail stretching sideways across the base of the overhang. Adam Healy recently rapped down and cleaned a line on the left arete that follows an incipient seam to top out at the edge of the roof. This Saturday, we brought a ton of pads up there and Johnny gunned down the FA - flash. It is clear to me that this line represents a distinctly new-school Leavenworth line. The crux moves are 20+ feet over jagged boulders, and the climb would probably not have been possible without Adam's rappel cleaning. Adam has been cleaning several other lines of equal height and quality, and I'm sure that this Fall will see the opening of more tough and committing lines like this.

I'll have some pictures to post in the next couple days, but for now, here's Scott Mitchell's video of Adam on the second ascent of Big Happy or Legs Go Snappy. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Joe's Problem


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rhode Island Rocks

I've been enjoying my vacation home to RI this week, and have been able to take some time and check out a few areas I've been thinking about since the last time I was here. First was Weetamoo Woods, where I started climbing (self-belayed on a nylon rope with a prusik cord) and have done a tiny bit of bouldering. And by tiny bit I mean a tiny bit: four problems, only one over 10 feet. Though I've been there over 50 times to run, mountain bike, or just walk around, there was a corner of the small park that I had still not seen. Walking around this weekend, I spied a hint of stone a ways off the trail, and naturally followed up. While I didn't see anything worth writing about (so to speak; here I am...), I did see a couple things that I'll remember to come back to next time. It was also just fun to be goin' boulder-huntin' in the flatlands - Weetamoo's highest point is 140 feet above sea level, and with it being less than five miles from the ocean I never thought there would be more granite to find. I'm glad I was wrong!

3 Mediocre Rocks
Walking around the rocks was fun, but the real highlight of my weekend was climbing a new deep-water solo over the Atlantic Ocean on the uninhabited seagull-habitat of West Island, about half a mile offshore of Little Compton, RI. My parents have gotten into sea kyaking recently, and I spied this climb last summer during my first 'voyage' with them. This year, I brought my climbing shoes and chalk in a ziplock bag, and was motivated to at least give it the ole college try. However, when I paddled around to get a look at the cliff from the water, the climb looked too intimidating. It's thirty-something feet tall and slightly overhung, the start was covered in seaweed, and I couldn't see below the surface the rock extended. When we landed I left my climbing stuff in the boat. After walking over, scoping the climb from above, and seeing that I could traverse in to the base, I got super-psyched. I went and grabbed my shoes and excitedly assigned my mom the role of photographer.
West Island is The Southernmost Part of Eastern Rhode Island
Traversing In
Deciding Whether to Commit
The Crux (not that hard)
The View Towards Shore
The Approach

Doing this climb was the most fun that I have had in a while. I was pretty nervous at the start, and I wore my kyaking PFD in case I bailed into the ocean. The traverse was a bit nerve-wracking, but once I started up I definitely felt like I was "in the zone." The only time I've deep-water soloed before was five years ago at Heaven in Squamish. I think I have a better head for it now, and can enjoy the feel-like-you're-soloing-but-know-you-won't-actually-die feeling more fully. As soon as I have a bunch of cash and a bunch of time (sort of an oxymoron in the legal world), I think I'll head to Mallorca. For now, let's just say that I love Washington and Rhode Island.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Hideaway

I’m in Rhode Island this week visiting family, and decided yesterday to check out a spot in Massachusetts that I hadn’t yet climbed at: The Hideaway.

The Hideaway is actually two small areas, the Hideaway and the Happy Valley, separated by a ten minute walk. Like Great Barrington and Farley, the rock is gneiss; unlike those areas, the access situation is stable. I think that Tim Kemple decided to include the Hideaway in his New England Bouldering guidebook to relieve the pressure on GB and Farley while their access situations were straightened out. The Hideaway is one of those areas that makes you wonder “how did anyone ever find this place?” It’s a ten minute walk from the car, in a flat deciduous forest completely devoid of any stone. Not surprisingly, the climbing here was discovered and developed by Ward Smith et al, the motivated members of “Team Tough” who developed much of the sport climbing at Rumney. Most of the bouldering is on small cliff bands, and though the area is pretty small, there’s a high concentration of quality hard problems.

The Lurking Blocs of the Happy Valley
I started out at the Happy Valley, which was unfortunately still damp from rain earlier in the week. It felt like déjà vu; the last time that I tried to climb in Happy Valley, the wall was seeping and soggy despite it not having rained in at least a week. Still, the boulders here are amazing. The curved, overhanging swoops of gneiss are so clean and picturesque they look like fancy new gym walls. There were several problems I wanted to try, especially one called Sleeping Giant. Twenty feet tall, twenty degrees overhung, with beautifully sculpted incuts the whole way to a blank mantle over a perfect landing. It would definitely be five stars anywhere.

Sleeping Giant Climbs the Far Side of This Wall

I tried Sleeping Giant about ten times before my hand slipped off the crux holds and I fell flat on my rump. With it being wet, and the temperature ninety degrees, I decided to leave it for another day. I also tried Press Your Luck, which was much harder and just as damp, but had the sort of guidebook description you can’t say no to: “Stand start on a sloping jug. Big Money, No Whammies!” Okay...

Press Your Luck
The climb was two moves to what looked like a crux mantle. I did the first (easy) move and decided I wouldn’t press my luck. I moved on to the Hideaway, which was much drier. I tried Ward Smith’s testpiece Y2K9 for a while, but it too proved too much for me. I did some mellow climbs to cool down, then headed home. I’d recommend this spot to anyone in the area, provided it hasn’t rained for at least a week so the gems at the Happy Valley have time to dry. While New England lacks the expansive climbing areas found in the Northwest (even Pawtuckaway is only the size of two or three of Leavenworth’s larger areas), the small areas scattered about do have some amazing problems on really great stone. The weather, however, is another story...

The Millenium Boulder at the Hideaway

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


After a couple of posts relating to Squamish climbing, I’ll return to spraying about myself and about Washington. Specifically, I want to write about a climb I recently put up in Gold Bar: Citroen.

Citroen lies far off the beaten path, way above the main forest in a hidden spot that would be impossible to describe [less-than-subtle hint]. I found it during that window of springish weather Gold Bar has every February, but never returned to it until this summer. I was lucky enough to have last week off, and found the problem again on Tuesday. I instantly started cleaning. I tried it for about an hour that day, managing to do all the moves but unable to send it in its damp just-cleaned state. I returned on Wednesday, only to find that the evening fog had turned into bona fide precipitation and soaked the boulder. Disappointed, I hiked down and turned my energy elsewhere. On Thursday, I went back up with Cortney and did the climb in a few tries. I named the climb Citroen because for some reason it reminded me of one of those smart little European cars. While it’s not too tough, it was nice to be able to dedicate the time to cleaning and climbing a fun new problem. If I spent all of my climbing time doing this, I would be a happy camper. Here’s a video of the FA:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Squamish Climbing Magazine

I thought I'd provide a link to the first edition of Squamish Climbing Magazine, a new online publication devoted to Squamish and other Northwest rock climbing areas. It's produced by Tim Schaufele, who obviously put in a ton of work in finding articles, finishing a creative layout, and generally putting the whole thing together. I'm assuming the magazine is a quarterly, and I hope the effort, funding, and readership will all build to support this effort through many more issues.

Of special interest to NWGranite followers is a short trip report/article on Leavenworth put together by my friend Rick Kupskay. It's hard to write about Leavenworth without devoting a lot of time to tongue-in-cheek discussion of the Bavarian theme, and I hope that Rich's article won't steal too much of the thunder from the Climbing Magazine article by Jackie Hueftle and myself that is up for publication this fall. Rich's feature has some great pictures and definitely does the area justice... so check it out!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Squamish Weekend

Cortney and I took a trip to Squamish a few weeks ago with most of the Seattle monkeys: Kyle, Drew, Joel, and Johnny. It was still pretty hot, but we had a lot of fun touring the forest and climbing as many cool lines as possible.

Joel and I spent a lot of time trying the Backseat, but neither of us could manage to stick the second move. For some reason I had always thought that it would be over after the first move – it’s not. Cortney came heartbreakingly close on Superfly but fell on the last move... next time. It was fun watching group sends of several classics like Sesame Street and George’s hard new addition Pain From Below (located in the woods just above This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven). In the end, Johnny was the only one who really cleaned up, with quick sends of everything, including an impressive three-try send of One Zen.

The Backseat
Cortney on Up From the Depths Johnny on One Zen Joel’s Flapper(s)The Secret Camping Spot

On Sunday, the rest of the guys went up the road to Paradise Valley, and Cortney and I stayed in Squamish to climb in the forest. Cortney made progress on Swank Stretch, figuring out all the moves quickly, but it was our third day on and she decided it would have to wait for another trip.

Later in the day, we met up with our friend and fellow Seattleite Jonah Harrison, and headed over to No Troublems. I had only tried this problem once or twice in the past, and could never get the first move. I got psyched soon after we arrived, and quickly did the moves in the roof. After a few more minutes, I got the guts to do the topout, and then set about trying to figure out the first move. Following many unsuccessful attempts, Jonah showed me some special beta and I stuck the move. As soon as I did, I went into Johnny mode, knowing that I might not get another chance to send the problem that day. I zeroed in on all the moves, executed them without any of my typical fumbles, and soon found myself wedged into the chimney at the top.

While it’s not the hardest problem around, No Troublems had always felt tough to me, and it was really great to send it on the end of my third day on. I’m always impressed by climbers like Jamie Emerson who can carefully meter their skin and muscles and climb hard for numerous days in a row, but that’s just not my style. When I’m out bouldering, I usually try to climb as many problems as possible. I can't usually avoid climbing many classic warm-ups or moderates in order to be fresh for a hard problem during the evening or the next day... I usually just circuit a lot and get trashed early, and as a result don’t get any solid climbing done on the typical Sunday. That I could climb No Troublems in the way I did gives me hope that age may actually benefit me – I’m not as strong as I used to be, even though I’m only 26, but sends like this make me feel like I’m still improving mentally. And, I met my quota: climbing one problem I haven’t done before is still enough to make my day...

Cortney on Swank Stretch Sponch! Jonah on No Troublems No Troublems