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!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yosemite Part IV - Tuolumne

The four of us spent the last couple of days of our trip in Tuolumne on the strong advice of our good friend Jens Holsten. It turned out to be the perfect respite from the heat and the crowds that had defined our experience in the Valley. We started climbing at the Gunks, an old-school area named for the resemblance it shares with the blocky roofs of the Shawangunks in upstate New York. This was an awesome area, and though we were all feeling a little creaky and sore, we had a long and enjoyable session here.
Half Dome from Olmstead Point
Me on Cellulite Eliminator
Joel Highballin'
Tenaya Lake from Olmstead Point
Later in the day, we headed over to Puppy Dome to check out Chris Sharma's Thunderbird and play on some of the fun moderates nearby. Though a bit smaller than the Gunks, this area had some really nice rock and hinted at the larger potential that must exist in Tuolomne. I was very impressed with the bouldering up there - the wide open views and vast expanses of granite reminded me of areas in the Enchantments and North Cascades, and made me excited to do more exploration in the Washington Pass area (stay tuned). I would highly recommend a short visit to Tuolumne to anyone on a bouldering trip to Yosemite.

Me on a Fantastic Warm-Up
Joel Sending The Proj
Thunderbird - Crazy!
Joel and Drew Scrambling
Me 'n' Cortney

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yosemite Part III - Valley Boulders

Here are some more pics from our trip to Yosemite. We made a good effort to climb at other areas besides Camp 4, and these photos depict a host of other areas that were both far less crowded and far less travelled: The Sentinal Boulders, Candyland, and Curry Village (well, so much for less travelled). Anyhow, it was really great to get to see a wide variety of problems in an equally wide variety of settings. I'd have to say that Candyland was one of my favorite areas we visited, simply because of its off-the-beaten-path location and relatively fresh feeling stone. It reminded me of Washington, only slightly different. Here are the pics:

Cortney on Zorro Joel on the Perfect Move Drew on No Holds Bard Me on Spanish FlyRoadside Coffee Break Sweet Swimming Hole Cortney on Once Upon A Time Me on The Diamond Cortney Warming Up at Candyland James Lucas is Psyched Joel on Across The Tracks

Friday, October 2, 2009

Yosemite Part II - Camp 4

I took a lot of pictures in Yosemite, so to break them up I'm going to post them by area - starting with the infamous Camp 4, which I'm told is the center of the universe.

We only climbed at Camp 4 for two sessions, but the area was really warm and sunny during the day and we were generally more psyched on checking out more secluded areas. I was still really impressed with the quality of the bouldering in Camp 4. It wasn't as greasy and traveled as I had remembered, and some of the climbs are just out of this world. One climb that I had really wanted to try was Midnight Lightning, but between the heat and my crappy skin I didn't even try it... Like most of my bouldering experiences during this trip, my visits to Camp 4 only whet my appetite for a return trip. Here are the pics.

Classic Warm-Ups on the Wine Boulder
Joel on King Cobra
El Capitan
Joel and Drew on Bachar Cracker
Joel on the Dominator
Me and Joel on Tendons Give
Camp 4 Wildlife
Joel on Thriller