Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Red Wall Traverse V9

I sent the L to R Red Wall Traverse first try this morning after a few tries yesterday. Here's the video. Might be soft V9. Conditions were surprisingly good despite some warmth. I'm looking at the R to L version but I think it would be nice to have some cooler weather. However that is pretty unlikely.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Guidebook Controversy

Over at, a question has been raised about the appropriateness of including Area A at Mount Evans in an upcoming guidebook from Falcon Books authored by Bob Horan. At this point Horan can't be that much in touch with the current Front Range scene and his guidebooks have long been notorious for factual errors and sheer fables alike. There is a great need for an author who is up on current developments and is an active boulderer. Here's Falcon's description:

"Colorado is one of the world’s premier bouldering destinations, and Boulder resident Bob Horan has been climbing them all for 35 years. Horan has established hundreds of new routes and boulder challenges, pushing standards such as the first free ascent of the Rainbow Wall, which is Eldorado Canyon’s first 5.13, as well as Beware the Future (5.14) in the Flatirons. This original book contains nearly 4,000 individual routes covering the entire state, with some listings found nowhere else. Geared to all skill levels, the book is enhanced by roughly 900 detailed maps and full-color color photos accompanying Horan’s comments. "

Given the tone of the paragraph, Falcon seems pretty out of the loop. Nothing like those "boulder challenges" to conquer a sheer rock face or two.

Anyway, it is a terrible idea to publish Evans which has become a total zoo, especially Area A. Rock and Ice started the ball rolling with a big article a couple of years ago and relentless publicity for problems such as Ode to the Modern Man, Clear Blue Sky, and No More Greener Grass has only upped the crowds. Proximity to Denver, lower elevation, no entrance fees and a less barren environment has made Area A more and more like the Happy Boulders of Colorado. The fact that it's a wilderness area is lost on the masses of visitors. I am hoping that the aura wears off eventually and given the number of quick repeats/flashes of big number ticks, maybe this is already in motion. But until then, despite my ambivalence towards hoarding "secret" areas, Evans should not be published.

Email your comments to

Here's the text of my email:

"Dear Falcon Books,
A serious issue has been raised regarding a planned bouldering guidebook to Colorado and that has to do with the publication of "Area A" at Mt. Evans. This is in a wilderness area and is already in jeopardy of having access restricted or eliminated. I would suggest that the author be prevented from including Mt. Evans and that Falcon Books seriously consider the impact its book will have on a very fragile access situation. I would also highly recommend that the book be vetted by currently active participants in the Front Range/Colorado climbing scene. If you need some names I would be happy to forward them. Please take this issue seriously. Two other major publishers in the region have passed on publishing Evans."

I was surprised to see in the same message board that a prominent Boulder climber has apparently installed a crash pad at Evans. This is a major dab. During my early morning forays to RMNP, I keep my eye out for any stray pads and am happy to carry them out. I look forward to letting readers of this blog know whose gear I find up there. If the owner doesn't identify him/herself on the pad, I'd be happy to add them to my quiver. I'm already hauling 3+ up and down and one more won't make much difference.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Reverse Face Out Traverse

Got up very early Saturday morning to have a go at my latest nemesis, combining King Conquer Traverse V6 into Reverse Face Out, hard V7. This problem requires keeping it together on very small holds at the end of a 30 foot overhanging wall. After some fussing with beta, I did it 3rd try this morning, maybe 4th day of attempts. Since it felt significantly harder than the Undercling Traverse, I am proposing V10, maybe on the easy side of the grade. I'm happy to be done with it, although the full loop, going down the regular Face Out and finishing left, is waiting. Maybe on a cooler day.

I also looked at an interesting potential project on First Overhang, starting out of the cave and heading right to join First Overhang. Could be V11, looking at the holds and the angle of the wall. I wonder if it might be time to terrace and flatten the landing below the boulder. The hardpacked dirt is like a skating rink now. It might be worth staking down your crashpads here to ensure their staying put upon impact.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Back to the Park (100th post to this blog!)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hot Summer Indeed

While I am chickening out and going to the Spot--even dawn patrol is too warm now-- some crazy things are going on in the world of hard climbing.

First Paul Robinson's 2 hour repeat of the Fred Nicole V15 testpiece Amandla. Go to his blog for more. This was Nicole's ultimate route and suited Paul's style perfectly

Second Tyler Landman has been killing it in Switzerland with fast repeats of New Baseline V14, Danse de Balrog V13 2nd go, Radja V14 (both Nicole problems and likely the first of the grade in the world). He also flashed a V13. Go to Moonclimbing for more.

And another 8c+ onsight and this time it's in France at Pierrot Beach, Presles, near Grenoble. Paxto Usobiaga did Home Sweet Home, a 40 meter route that looks similar to the enduro testpieces of Spain. Details at

Here's a video of a 9a route from the same cliff, Nice to Eat You, by Michael Fuselier.

Amazing stuff going on everywhere... except in the Front Range. Katherine Parr aka Flannery Shay-Nemirow repeated Bierstadt V10 at Evans with crazy beta, documented at Kelly McBride's blog. I haven't heard anything else recently really worthy of note. With Ty, Daniel, and Paul absent, the field isn't quite as strong as it was. Olson, sadly leaving for BC in a couple of weeks looked pretty strong in the Spot on Sunday, even with a knee brace.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Some interesting Items

A few things to stir the pot here a bit while the Front Range bakes under the heat:

First, I recently encountered a boulderer working on the Automator in RMNP and in between burns, dousing the crux holds in rubbing alcohol. Personally I think if you're adding anything but chalk and effort you probably should be trying something else. Anyone know what's up with this practice? Seems to me it should be strongly discouraged. This climber was not a local.

Second, I noticed that the right start hold for Gang Bang seems covered in something that refuses to be brushed off. I heard from another climber that pof or resin may have been deployed in the area. Anyone else heard this?

Climbing Media Watch Item:

A lengthy interview on Climbing's website with and short article in the print issue by Matt Segal regarding his repeat of Mike Patz's gear-only ascent of China Doll (5.14a R). I have commented elsewhere on the non-newsworthiness of this ascent and the suspect journalistic aspects regarding its media placement in the Alpinist. It is disheartening to see it resurface in the pages of Climbing. I can only speculate that creating controversy is sometimes part of being a "professional" climber but I find it irksome that Segal is quoted as saying that there are a lot of climbs in Boulder that deserve to be chopped.

"C-note: (Caroline Treadway)
If you could chop the bolts on any climb, which would it be?
Matt: A lot of climbs in Boulder deserve chopping: China Doll, Deadline. I don't think there should be bolts on either of those routes."

It is ironic that the editorial " Why we don’t need to fight" in the most recent print issue of Cimbing, commenting on the recent deaths of Alan Nelson and Steve Dieckhoff, seemed to be aimed toward leaving this kind of rhetoric behind. Why Matt is talking like this is beyond me but I would like to ask his sponsor, The North Face, "How do you feel about your athletes advocating bolt removal in a public forum?"

Ironically for someone who went to Naropa University, where he studied Buddhism and double majored in Religious Studies and Eastern Psychology, here's a quote from the extended interview:

Matt: There's a line I really like in it, (from a TV show called "Weeds) "thugs don't have to say sorry." I'm over tiptoeing around people at the moment. Like right now, I'm gonna go in the Trident and not tiptoe, I'm gonna stomp and sh**, make a point.

And there you have it... Thugs be stompin’ at the Trident. Which, if you know the place, is actually pretty funny and I hope that’s Matt’s intention. However I would prefer to see more about climbs like Tommy Caldwell's incredible one day ascent of Magic Mushroom which is like climbing 20 China Dolls in a row. Maybe even from Mike Patz who actually first freed China Doll. Not to mention the many other climbers who are doing something new and not getting the coverage they deserve. Climbing is urging me to resubscribe but if this is where the magazine is headed then my subscription may have to lapse again,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Taurus Video

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Photos of Secret Splendour

Shannon Forsman took a few photos of me on Secret Splendour, a V12 just left of Nuthin' but Sunshine. I think Ty Landman did it first. Shannon has a show at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder titled "Flesh and Stone". It's up until August 1 so check it out soon. It's one of the very few times you're likely to see climbing photography in a regular public gallery.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Struggles in Chaos Canyon

Shannon Forsman and I headed up to Chaos Canyon on Sunday morning. I tried the 3 pad carry which actually was OK except some of the tight spots in the talus. We warmed up on Tommy's arete which I tried to flash but to my shame could not commit to the last move to the jug. The V7 rating must depend upon the fear factor since the problem is otherwise very easy. Even draping a pad on the adjacent slab didn't help my mental state. I'll be back but the episode illustrates one of the factors that adds to the totality of the RMNP experience.

We went over to the Centaur boulder and worked a bit on the Marble which was pretty much in the hot sun and very greasy. Shannon was doing great on it however. I got nowhere and in fact did much better on Secret Splendour a V12 around the corner, fortunately in the shade in the morning. so I may be back for that one. It's one of the few V12s in the state to have been flashed, along with No More Greener Grass, that I know of, but seems pretty solid for the grade. Crimpy technical but with a lot of squeezing and tricky footwork. I may have pictures from Shannon soon.

Friday, July 11, 2008

July Heat

I met up with Chuffer on Wednesday morning to try the Reverse Face Out Traverse, a combination of the regular King Conquer Traverse V5/6 and the V7 Reverse Face Out. My skin was pretty fried from the day before so I couldn't link them up but I would propose a pretty solid V9 for this problem. Good to catch up with Chuffer--if you haven't gone to his (still unfinished) online guide for Flagstaff Mountain, you don't know the half of what's available. His own estimate is 800+ problems. People often put Flagstaff down and granted, much of it is less than stellar. But I would argue that there is virtually no other bouldering area in the world so close to a city that is of such extent and quality, so accessible, and across such a range of difficulty (classics from VB to V13). And it's still not tapped out. If you're like me and don't have unlimited free time and want to find hard problems outside, there is so much to do here that you may not even know about, most of it within 2 minutes from the road. I might say that it is the ultimate urban bouldering destination in the US.

Jamie Emerson has put together a concise encapsulation of Colorado Bouldering's Golden Age or as I would put it, a Renaissance, describing eloquently and accurately the impact of the past 10 years or so of a truly transformational wave of achievements and personalities. You must read it as Jamie nicely evokes the excitement of the time that he got caught up in and that is now past. As a cultural historian, studying the shining moments of the past is part of my job and yet there is always the sure knowledge that the past survives only in memory, words, and images, none of which truly can convey the spirit of the time that they try to express. I applaud Jamie's effort to set down, however briefly, in words the flavor of a truly historic time in American climbing that is, I agree, now past. We are left to reflect on its afterglow and pay homage by yet another hike up to Lake Haiyaha, which I am planning to do tomorrow afternoon, if the weather cooperates.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Flagstaff Video: King Conquer Traverse and Reverse Face Out

After driving up Boulder Canyon to find the water too high for Hardboiled, I went up to Flag to try the King Conquer Traverse. After scoping out the holds well, I figured out a likely sequence and went for it. I next tried Reverse Face Out and should have flashed but stalled setting up the last move. Such a crimpy problem.

I'm feeling a bit fitter now. A quick venture up to Chaos last Sunday was fun. Toting 2 and a half pads just a few days after two weeks at sea level produced the following results: Bear Lake to Nymph 9 minutes, Dream Lake Junction, 9 minutes, Chaos Trail turn-off, 35 minutes. Not exactly a difficult hike, even with an extra pad. Worked mostly on the Centaur, a great V12. Planning on the left (Marble) exit since the snow will be gone well before I have any chance of linkage. A good reintroduction to the park. Nice to meet Jamie, Angie and Brian Camp up there.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Back in Boulder

We've been back in Boulder a few days now. Hot weather, typical for July. I hiked up to the Satellites to try Face Full of Brian, a classic little V8 power problem. However things were a bit warm and humid and I could not stick the move off the sloper to the fingerlock. A good reintroduction and warm-up to bouldering with an approach. I checked the elevation gain and it is roughly comparable to that for Lower Chaos Canyon, over a shorter distance. The reason I think that's interesting is that the pad-stashing controversy is apparently back with the NPS actually removing stashed pads in RMNP. The Climbing Narc has posted on the topic and I have weighed in at that site already. The short version is that pad-stashing is weak, selfish, and detrimental both to climbing access and the climbing environment. There is no reason that even two reasonably fit climbers couldn't carry up enough pads to protect most of the problems in both Lower and Upper Chaos and carry them back down.

I am thinking about going up to Lower Chaos tomorrow, pretty early. Not sure yet what I want to try but I would like to get up there and look around. I think it's time that there was a much more respectful attitude towards the environment in RMNP. I suspect the "insider" attitude towards the area has resulted in more abuse than respect. Boulderers take themselves very seriously but it would be better if they took their responsibilities toward the environment and other visitors equally seriously.

Speaking of taking things seriously it is very hard to take the recent article in Climbing on Rifle very seriously. Essentially it profiles the history of sandbagging at Rifle, particularly at the 8b/8b+ level. A Boulder climber whom I know fairly well is described as the master of downgrading and is quoted along the lines of, "Why rate something 14a when some Euro might come along and flash it?" This is a classic instance of how to sabotage your path to improvement. When you become so obsessed with a number and your "reputation" as a climber that you can't get past the idea that a route might really be harder than you felt it was, you are probably not focusing on getting a whole lot better as a climber. The article was an eerie throwback to a scene in Rifle that was dominant in the 90s or at least was until Chris Sharma did Lungfish in an afternoon and put everything in perspective. That scene with all its dysfunctionality has since dissipated somewhat, helped along perhaps by the increasingly exorbitant cost of driving there from Boulder. The math is c. 350 miles roundtrip at 30mpg so about $45 plus 7-8 hours driving time wasted in polluting the atmosphere all to send the "proj".

That's in part why I started exploring local projects instead of queuing up for the 18th ascent of 7 PM Show. It was nice to see a little recognition in an article in the same issue by Abbey Smith about Clear Creek. If I had to choose between Rifle and Clear Creek, I would take Clear Creek any day. Good bouldering, multi-pitch routes, moderate routes, tons of potential, and no parking and camping hassles. The surface is still only being scratched regarding really hard climbs there.

Anyway it's good to be back in town, even if the weather is hot.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Almost out of New Jersey

Tomorrow we head out New Jersey after a few days with relatives. The weather this trip has been so swampy--hot and humid--that anything outdoors has been disgusting. I don't know how people stay here and remain climbers.

A good story on the NYT website about a 41 year old swimmer Dara Torres qualifying for the US Olympic team with some interesting points about non-athletic factors that bog older adults down, chief among these being time and money.

Hoping to get back into climbing upon my return. I've had a good physical rest period but I'm really ready to actually do something for a change.