Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Alpine Bouldering Season Wrap-up

I think it is safe to say that the regular bouldering season is finished as of about 12 noon this last Tuesday. Currently most of the Front Range is under about 8 inches or more of snow. I made one last-ditch effort to try European Human Being on Monday afternoon but was unsuccessful, make that completely out of it altogether. Angie Payne, who was trying Freaks of the Industry, was also unsuccessful that evening. To top it off, just as I was at Bear Lake, having navigated every stretch of ice successfully on the way down so far, I slipped and fell on the tiniest little invisible patch. Chaos Canyon was obviously not done with me yet.

My highpoint on European was reached in mid-October

Anyway, it's been an uneven sort of year overall, it seems to me. Dave Graham and Carlo Traversi started things up with a splash at Endo Valley, especially the opening up of Flux for Life a V13 roof problem. The weather rapidly warmed up but high snow levels in the Park limited activity for much of June and into July. Even after the snow retreated, the summer at Chaos was marked by no particularly difficult first ascents or repeats. This may have been the first time in a long while that Jade saw no repeats and Daniel Woods' Hypnotized Minds from 2010 remains unrepeated as well.

There was a lot of activity at Lincoln Lake, especially from the Southern team of Jimmy Webb and Brion Voges. Nate Draughn and Brad Weaver also checked in with notable ascents on Mount Evans, Nate on the Big Worm V14 and Brad with a flash of No More Greener Grasses V12, both at Area A. The primary weakness of Lincoln Lake, its crumbly granite, was revealed once again with the altered holds of Evil Backwards which went from V14 to V12. Once again the Daniel Woods testpiece of the area, Warrior Up V15 remains unrepeated since last season as does the amazing Let the Right One In V14.

Dave Graham on The Ice Knife Cameron Maier Photo

Most impressive perhaps was Dave Graham's ascent of the Ice Knife V15 in Guanella Pass, near Georgetown, south of I-70. Done less than a week before Dave left for China and of course the massive recent snow, this was the latest in a long line of contributions Dave has made to Colorado bouldering. No doubt there are a few more projects still being considered in his fertile mind. But if it's alpine it will have to wait until next spring.

Here's a great little video of the indefatigable Ryan Silven in action in RMNP, again from Cameron Maier.

The publication of Jamie Emerson's alpine bouldering book, if the lack of crowds I encountered is any indication, did not prove to be the ruin of these special areas and I hope the publication of my own book on bouldering will encourage others to responsible and safely enjoy them as well.

For me it was a season of discovery as I finally began to understand more clearly what the task of bouldering hard at altitude is all about, especially with limited time and usually no companions. I have a clearer picture of what I want to do moving forward, especially in Lower Chaos. For now the lower elevations will have to do but I am definitely looking forward to next June (or earlier!)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thoughts on the World Cup (or what happened after)

OK, I admit it. I have been putting off writing about climbing. Not because of the latest compliment/putdown by Andrew B. And it's not because I have been trying desperately to get in just one more decent session on European Human Being before the snow entombs it until next July, though that has been an issue. It could be apathy, could be laziness, it could be burnout. Whatever, as people used to say before whatever became, well, whatever.

Then the World Cup rolled into town last week and I began thinking a bit more about what this implies for climbing moving forward. Or to be more precise, what Ramon Julian Puigblanque's onsight of the Crew at Rifle, a few days after the event, implies. Comp-wise, Puigblanque placed 8th in the World Cup, primarily stymied, as was the similarly height-challenged Sean McColl, by a peculiarly long dyno move relatively low on the final route.

The event by the way was a blast to watch at home via a web feed that worked very well. Well done Jon Glassberg and the IFSC. Though the men's final looked as though a compass and GPS would have been handy for finding your away around, the comp went very well in my view, and the push for inclusion as an Olympic sport seems justified. But back to the Crew.

This ascent was rapidly spread about the Internet and with considerable justification. But there has not been much comment in US media on what it implies about the state of European climbing. First, the Crew has long been a rite of passage for Rifle climbers since its establishment by Chris Knuth, the hardest route there for ages, worked over weeks if not seasons for many. Furthermore it is a top route in a place that prides itself on hard grading. And furthermore again, it was the first onsight of the grade for Puigblanque. The ascent was made without kneepads or esoteric kneebar beta, both considered mandatory for the Crew. The question has to be asked. Is there any climber from America remotely capable of such a feat anywhere else in the world? And that is setting aside the myriad other hard routes Puigblanque onsighted in Rifle, including Living in Fear earlier in the day.

I am going to go ahead and say no. I am not going to pontificate on whether that's a good or bad thing. After all climbing is a lifestyle, not a sport, or something, which is what people would say when they left comments on this kind of thing before. But regardless, it is an ascent that should certainly leave American pro climbers wondering what's next. Olympics indeed.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Window Shopper V12?

I had recently been going through a drought of sorts in bouldering, focusing on unproductive projects that were draining my energy. A hint of things beginning to turn around popped up when I was able to start linking up European Human Being last week, actually falling off the last move from the start. A cool day last week but not much time meant a quick visit to Flagstaff Mountain where I haven't climbed in months.

Though it was bit warm at first, warming up felt OK and as the sun went down the conditions got better and better. I was hoping to finish up a long-long-long term project called Window Shopper, a problem first done by Will Lemaire in 2006 and unrepeated since, especially after various minor breakages. A few tries on various moves didn't promise much much, especially when I couldn't do a few of them! However after a brief rest, I could do everything and felt a potential link was on the horizon. I came very close after two tries, dryfiring off a poor left hand as I was establishing at the lip. Realizing this could go the next try, I waited for the air to get cooler and for good recovery from the last effort. The next attempt was successful, aided by a subtle change in foot placement.

 Here's the video:

After some thought, and considering that despite its proximity to the road, its being done by a boulder with a serious reputation, and its fairly high quality, the fact it has not been repeated in five years indicates a fairly high grade is in order. So I am suggesting V12 for this problem and believe that if it was in the Park, it would certainly earn that grade.

Speaking of the Park, a session last night saw me just missing the send on European Human Being. The weather (thanks to global warming/weirding?) is still too warm in October to try these problems much before 5 pm but I got my fingers on the last edge and couldn't stay on. Urgh. Hoping to finish this one off very soon. And then the next one. And so on...