Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Asana Pad

Joel, Johnny, Isaac, and I just received a serious batch of crash pads from Asana. Our good buddy from Portland, Adam Healy, started working for the company recently and suggested we try their pads.

Cortney Pad Testing On The Pocket

We were not disappointed. The guys from Boise hooked it up, giving us a good deal and a custom rasta color scheme. We each ordered a Disturbed Pad, Gunther size, with the firm foam option.

The Non-Gunther Disturbed Pad
The pads are just slightly smaller than standard "mondo" pads, making them a touch lighter and much easier to carry. They are a beefy 5 inches thick, and include an inch of hard foam on both sides - a superb innovation. The hard foam on the top is also smartly continuous through the fold to prevent that mid-fold tailbone bruising that happens more often than one would expect. The pads also have thick, comfortable shoulder straps that are comparable to what you would see on a real backpack; the same goes for the waist belt. There is even a chest strap!

Joel Likes His New Pad

The Disturbed Pad also includes a nifty no-spillage closure system and "pit protectors," straps on the ground side that can be cinched to prevent the pad from folding into holes. They are fully customizable, so anyone can create their own unique design (or get silly matching pads with their friends like we did).

I would definitely recommend Asana pads, and especially the Disturbed Pad, to anyone in the market. I don't really have anything negative to say about it, except that it is a tad heavy, but then again I've never owned a large-sized pad before. Mine has been great to fall on, and I think its burly straps and innovative size will make it great for longer excursions into alpine territory. More importantly, they just look so good with the fall colors... Thanks Adam! And thanks Asana!!

Johnny On A Project At ForestlandMore Leavenworth Pad Testing

Friday, October 22, 2010

Twisted Tree Photos

Here are two pictures of Cortney on the Twisted Tree. I hope everyone gets out this weekend! The rain is coming...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rat Creek Boulders

I went out to Leavenworth last week for a nice fall day with Kyle, Drew, and Joe (and Honcho). We visited the Rat Creek Boulders on the hard-to-access south side of Icicle Creek, and warmed up in the open, flat area directly across the river.

Warming UpJoey T on a Five-Star FaceKyle on Greatest Hit, a Sweet Lowball I Established In 2005Bubble Boy, also FA Me 2005. Good Job Me.

After a quick warm-up on the lower plateau, we headed straight up the hill to the flat plateau one step up the Rat Creek valley. I had heard rumors that this airy perch contained the goods, but had never hiked up to it. Drew and Johnny had taken the initiative to check it out last week, and with Drew's enthusiastic motion, we all signed on. The area is awesome.

The Upper Rat Creek Boulders

The talus field is not quite as big as this picture implies, but definitely contains future gems in addition to the half-dozen climbs that have already popped up. We did a handful of nice problems, including Kyle's first ascent of Required Taste, an awesome dyno problem that is straight out of one of the new school Yosemite areas... Though they require a pretty grueling hike on top of a seasonal river crossing, the Upper Rat Creeks are definitely a good addition to Leavenworth's long list of areas...

Kyle on A Big MoveDrew on A Funky TopoutKyle and Drew on Required Taste
Kyle on Woofman

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Camera - Test Video

I recently got a new Canon EOS Rebel T1i. In addition to (eventually) allowing me to take much better pictures (once I figure out how to), the T1i is capable of taking 1920x1080 "full" HD videos. I use quotation marks because the frame per second sample rate is not the same as the HD videos we see on TV or in fancy climbing DVDs, but it is a HUGE improvement over my cheap Kodak point-and-shoot.

I plan to use the camera to again start making internet shorts and posting them here. I do have the ultimate hope of producing something full-length that I could burn to a DVD and sell for the benefit of the Access Fund or Washington Climbers' Coalition. For now, however, I'm still in the testing phase: figuring out how to take decent videos with a fully manual camera, and finding an editing program that can handle a large Quicktime format and provide a complete range of editing features.

Here is my first test video: Johnny Goicoechea repeating his climb Chutzpah at the River Boulders in Index. Be sure to click on the "HD" and "full screen" links for the full value version.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Font Photos 3

Here is a last batch of pictures from our trip to Font. All in all, we had a great time, but it definitely wasn't the trip of a lifetime. I had been to Font six years ago for a short trip with a crew from Trinity College in Dublin, and I was really excited to return for a longer trip as a more experienced (and less hungover) climber. Font is a magical place, and carries a special aura as the birthplace of modern bouldering, but it is also rife with contradictions that seem to befuddle our aesthetic sensibilities, nay, even common sense.

Biceps Mou at Bas CuvierCortney on Duroxmanie at Bas Cuvier

At least we had a wonderful time playing and circuiting on the area's stunning sandstone formations... well, maybe not completely. Font boasts plenty of wild formations and holds, but the real gems are not as abundant as most trip reports may insinuate. I would assert that between 80 and 90% of the problems in Font are less than vertical; this is fine, but I tend to seek overhangs in abundance on the rare occasion I take an expensive and long-planned climbing trip abroad. Similarly, Font's famous circuits are a neat concept, and have undeniable historical value, but the myriad painted-on arrows are not discrete or that helpful. In my opinion, they detract from the climber's interaction with nature, and destroy the microcosm of adventure that many of us seek through bouldering.

White #50 at Franchard Isatis - A Fantastic On-Circuit Climb

At least we had a blast trying some of Font's incredible and difficult classics... well, maybe not completely. Font has literally thousands and thousands of problems, but the number of classics is far below what visiting foreigners might expect. Of the 1,789 routes in the well-designed and comprehensive "7 & 8" guidebook, I would assert that no less than 60% are variations, eliminates, or squeeze-ins of some sort. The remainder includes some really fantastic lines, but again, they are not without their flaws: pof has created a slippery sheen on many footholds, there are fat tick marks on most problems over 7A, and chipped holds are surprisingly common. I was appalled at the number of Font classics that include one or more modified holds - El Poussah, La Balance, L'Aerodynamite, La Toit du Cul de Chien, Cortomaltese, Karma (though not by climbers), and many others... what a depressingly long list! And how unmotivating!

Using the Bowling Ball Pockets on L'AerodynamiteRookie Stripe MadnessThe 'Classic' La Super Joker. The left photo is the proper start, the jug in right photo is off.

At least we got to enjoy our time in the "magical forest" of Fontainebleau... well, maybe not completely. Font's bouldering is scattered throughout a pretty, aesthetically-pleasing forest, but as far as we could tell, it's basically the only forest in central France. The result? Trash, trash, and more trash. And trampling. And more trash. The cleanest area we visited was far dirtier than any area I've ever climbed at in the U.S., including the picnic side of Swiftwater and my old haunt of Lincoln Woods, RI (which has plenty of graffitti, but so does Font - see above). At Bas Cuvier, it is virtually impossible to throw down your crash pad without disturbing a potpourri of condom wrappers and cigarette butts. Maybe I'm just spoiled by the verdant forests of the Northwest that allow us to boulder among rich second-growth and feel as if we're on the edge of a vast wilderness...

Viva La Garbage (zoom in for the full effect)Cortney on the Cortomaltese Boulder at Bas CuvierFont's Unique Landscape - Which Is Beautiful

At least we got to experience the serenity and beauty of the French countryside... well, maybe not completely. We did have some really neat experiences visiting small, ancient towns in the countryside, but anyone who harbors visions of France as a quaint, cultured, and classy world apart is somewhat mistaken. French climbers surely issue just as much noise, smoke, and bullshit as American climbers do. And there are plenty of them. Font is also plagued by Parisian gangs that break into cars, apparently with the acquiescence of the police, as long as they limit their exploits to cars with British plates or a rental sticker. We were lucky enough not to have one of these experiences, but it was definitely a drag to feel unsafe climbing into the evening - I can't recall any time I saw a gang walking around one of our areas in Leavenworth or Gold Bar. And the food is pretty terrible - apparently "vegetables" have yet to catch on in France (sort of an unfair criticism considering that we got most of our food from the boulangerie).

The Parking Lot at Franchard Isatis - a "quiet" areaA Pof-Head

Okay, enough complaining! I should point out that all of these criticisms are relatively minor, and that we had a truly fantastic trip with lots of fun times. But I do think that Font doesn't live up to its reputation as the august, stately mecca of all that is refined and sophisticated about bouldering. Like any other area, it has its flaws, the largest of which is not the fault of the French: the heavy cost of an international flight. I will definitely return to Font, but the next time I'm looking to spend some of my sandstone savings, I think I'll head to Joe's Valley...

Warming Up at Bas CuvierLa Couer