Saturday, October 20, 2012

Frank!

The forecast weather for last weekend was perfect bouldering weather; 18C and sunny.  Keen to do some exploration, Shelley and I gathered up Aya and Rowan (who were both keen to get out to the mountains) and went for a drive on Sunday to Frank Slide and the Crowsnest Pass.  I wasn't planning on doing too much bouldering because my ankle had been really inflamed and painful (again!) on Saturday, but I brought some bouldering pads and shoes so we could spend some time on the boulders.

I am really keen to find new problems at Frank.  When I first moved here I was worried that all the hard and classic lines were already done, but after a couple of quick hikes around the boulders I am convinced that there are MANY lines yet to be done. 

When we arrived at the Frank boulders, I went for a short walk and found what looked like a more-or-less virgin boulder in a nice (for Frank) setting, with some trees and near the river.  With a bit of moss on the holds, and a loose hold,  I was (am) fairly certain there were new problems to be done.  A bit of a brushing (what a welcome change from Squamish!) and I was ready to start working my new project.  Three reasonably hard moves on positive edges lead to a tall arete; falling from the end of the problem would be pretty dire, except for the fact that an agile climber can jump onto the next boulder if they fall.  The arete project is probably V4 or V5, and a lot of fun!  There are three more potential problems on the boulder (all a bit easier), and two short hard problems (both likely harder than V5) on the adjoining boulder.  All in all, a nice little area, and a nice reward for a few minutes of exploration!  I fell awkwardly and hurt my foot a bit when a foothold exploded off at mid-height, but I'll be back so I can send it, hopefully this fall.

Frank desperately needs a proper guidebook, however.  The Frank section of the "Bouldering in the Canadian Rockies" Guide is poor, and finding the problems listed in the guide is difficult (and sometimes impossible) due to the overly brief descriptions and crude drawings.  Furthermore, there are many new problems that are not included in the guide, which further reduces the value of the existing guide.  It would be nice if a guide also included a listing of the local restaurants and coffee shops, although that represents my personal bias... :)  Since I was reasonably happy how my Bear Mountain bouldering guide came out, I am tempted to turn my guidebook writing attentions to Frank, next. 

At any rate, I had a fun (albeit brief) outing at Frank.  Here are a few photos of the day.  Enjoy!
 A view of the boulders from my car, looking towards the river.  The Teardrop Boulder is just out of the picture (I think), and some big boulders are visible across the river. 
Project arete!  It's probably 15 feet high, with a lot of fun climbing.  The biggest chalked hold is about 6 feet off the ground.

Take care!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The End, and a new Beginning

First, the End.

In August, the end of our time in northern Alberta was approaching fast.  We were moving to southern Alberta (Lethbridge) in September, and I had far too many projects to wrap up.  Problems to clean at Bear Mountain, new areas to explore at Babcock, and sport routes to climb at Hasler.  In particular, I had two projects at Hasler; the .12+ extension to Revelations, and a new 23 meter route (the "Agent Orange" project) that I cleaned a bolted several weeks ago.  I had worked the Revelations extension enough to know the moves, but the Agent Orange project was a lot harder, and more sustained.

Fortunately, the Revelations extension also had a short, but hard crux - really only a half-dozen moves, of which only one was really hard.  I kept my fingers crossed that I could get out to Hasler to give it a try.

On my last possible climbing weekend in the Peace River country, several of my climbing friends (Chris, Carlee, Phil, Carl, and Andrew) planned a trip to Hasler.  I excitedly joined the group, and off to Hasler we went!  A stop at Subway for lunch, and we were at the crag.  Carl and I warmed up by climbing Revelations, and trying the extension.  Maybe not the best way to warmup, in retrospect!  Still, we put in a bit of a work session (first on lead, then on toprope), and I was psyched to get all the moves.  I pulled the rope, took a bit of a break, and sent it next try!  It went pretty smoothly, but still like solid 5.12.  It's probably .12b or .12c.  I called it Armageddon Destructor (in homage to old-school sport routes like Pumping Hate, I figured that it needed a funny / intensely aggressive name).  Carl almost got it too, but it started getting hot, so we moved on to other routes.

At the end of the day, the whole group went over and we played on the Agent Orange project for awhile on toprope.  It's such an amazing route, with long cruxy sections and three reasonably OK rests.  Power-endurance routes aren't really my forte, but I did manage to do all the moves on TR, although CERTAINLY not with any big linkages of the bottom half, which is where all the hard climbing is.  It is going to be a really special route, very high quality climbing on solid sandstone and conglomerate.  It is probably .12d or so, but it will have to wait for another year! 

I would to thank all my climbing friends in the Peace River country.  They are such an amazing group of people; funny, psyched to climb, always up for sessions in the gym or trips to the boulders.  The Peace Country is slowly becoming a genuine climbing area.  Bear Mountain will have hundreds of boulder problems (albeit on less-than-perfect rock), and Babcock will have thousands of problems on bomber sandstone and conglomerate.  Hasler and Commotion Creek will eventually have 150 routes or so, from 5.5 to 5.13+.  Plus, there are many new crags waiting to be developed.  It is an exciting time to be a climber in the Peace country!  My hat is off to all the people who are making things happen!

My new guide to the Bouldering at Bear Mountain is now being hosted by the good people (well, good person!) at Sendage.com.  You can check out the guide at Sendage.  Thanks Jamie! 

Now, the beginning.

Shelley, Aya, Rowan, and I have moved to Lethbridge, in Southern Alberta.  Shelley is heading up a new research lab down here, so it's a good move for us.  I am a little sad to have moved from a land where there is SO MUCH potential for new bouldering, but I am excited by the prospect of finding new climbing in southwestern Alberta and southeastern BC.  Plus, Canmore is only 3 hours away, which will be nice.  I've been to the climbing gym here several times; it's got a great toprope/lead wall (an older but very nice EP wall), and a reasonably decent bouldering cave (ok, it's short, and really old-school with bulges everywhere, but it has good holds and it's reasonably big).  I'm getting to know the climbers here, which is an interesting process.

But I am most psyched on the potential for new things.  Everyone I have talked to has said pretty much the same thing; that the rock in the Crowsnest pass area is terrible and chossy, and that the potential for new routes is limited.  I went on an exploratory mission this weekend (aided by Google Maps, the crag-finders best friend), and I was moderately encouraged by what I found.

First, the bad news.  The rock is, by and large, choss.  Most of the mountains are rubble-covered heaps. However, two thick bands of Palliser Limestone DO reach the Crowsnest area, and this is encouraging.  I didn't find armloads of new crags, which is not surprising.  However, I did find enough to pique my interest.  Which brings us to the good news.

First stop: Frank Slide.  This boulderfield is ENORMOUS.  Unfortunately, most of the boulders are fridge-sized.  However, there are probably 100 boulders that are big enough to hold multiple problems, and I saw several boulders that had good problems that looked like they hadn't been done.  I saw three classic-looking hard projects (that looked like virgin lines, although it is hard to tell), so I'm happy with the potential there.  Next stop: the Crowsnest Pass lakes.  I checked out a wall by Emerald Lake that looked like it would hold several short multipitch sport routes.  This wall is close to the road, has a really nice view, and is in the shade for much of the day (all good things).  It is Palliser limestone, so it should be reasonably solid, although a more extensive exploration is needed to discover how good the rock is.  There is another potential sport-climbing area nearby, at Gargoyle Ridge, but I couldn't find the trail.  Next time!

Next stop was an area I had scoped out using Google Maps.  Line Creek, near Sparwood, BC, appeared on satellite images to have a number of steep limestone walls.  I was not disappointed; if the rock there is solid (and it looked reasonably so), it would have room for hundreds of sport routes on vertical to overhanging rock.  The only problem is a BIG one; it is just inside a mining lease.  The pictures I took of the area are very encouraging, but not particularly grand because I couldn't walk up the crags.  I'm going to contact the mine operators, to see if access for climbers can be arranged (climbers wouldn't have to use any roads, or come near any actual mining to access the crags, hopefully the mine operators can be convinced!).  Here are a few pictures of the area...


The first picture shows the lowest tier of rock, which is just barely visible in the second photo (there are four tiers in total).  Although the picture isn't great, the rock looks steep, compact, and streaked (a good sign!).  The first tier is also the shortest of the four tiers, but is still probably 40 - 50 m high.  The three higher tiers look much taller, and are probably 50 - 100 m tall.  A truly amazing amount of climbing, and potentially one of the biggest rock climbing venues in the entire southeastern portion of the province.

The future?  First, a more serious trip to go bouldering at Frank is in order. After that, it may be time to start thinking about bolts...

Cheers!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bear Mountain Bouldering Guide!

Last weekend I managed to make one last trip to Bear Mountain.  I really wanted to make some drawings for the first draft of the guide, and to do a few problems that I hadn't had the opportunity to try on previous trips.  Although I was climbing by myself, I managed to add a few more problems to the mountain, including the really easy (warmup) problems Aunt Sponge (V0-) and Aunt Spiker (V0-), as well as a few more challenging problems (12-Step Program (V4) a problem with a low roof, and The Last Day (V4), a tall arete). 

This week, working at home, I finished the first version of the guide to the Bear Mountain boulders.  You can view a Google Docs version of the guide (I think) HERE. I hope everyone enjoys the new guide, and uses it to enjoy the climbing at Bear Mountain.

I will try to get a proper PDF version of the guide hosted online as soon as possible.

Before I left Bear Mountain, I wanted to ensure that people could find the Shaman Cave area, which holds a lot of bouldering potential. I cut a new trail from the Tower of Death, past some of Andrew's new problems, over to the Shaman Cave.  I flagged it with pink flagging tape, which should make it easy to follow the trail until it gets worn in.

I am hopefully heading to Hasler Bluffs tomorrow, so I'll post again soon.  I'm heading out with a posse of the GP climbers, so it should be a LOT of fun!  Hopefully I'll get at least one of my projects there wrapped up.

More soon! 


Friday, August 3, 2012

Bouldering! Trips!

The Peace River Country continues to provide me with a fun (and satisfying) summer of bouldering.  In the last few weeks, I've managed to get out for two day trips - one to Bear Mountain, and one to the potential-bouldering-Mecca of Mount Babcock. 

Trip 1.  Bear Mountain Posse!
A few weeks ago, the planets aligned correctly for a number of Grande Prairie climbers, and a reasonably large posse of boulderers headed out to Bear Mountain.  I left early, planning to get there well before everyone else in order to do some scrubbing on toprope.  Weeks before, I had looked at a tall (!) line up an overhanging face in the Steps Area, left of the arete (Nipple Eraser V2) I had sent.  It looked like it had enough holds to make it go, including a prominent pebble protruding from an otherwise blank face.  Arriving at Windmill 34, I put a toprope on it, and started scrubbing.  The topout seemed a little tricky, but reasonable.  A high slot would provide a mental break immediately before the topout.  Then came the blow - the protruding pebble wasn't as solid as it looked, a little prying made this crucial hold disappear.  There were now only three holds in a huge blank section - a shallow mono, a terrible quarter-pad sidepull, and a high (but decent) three-finger pocket. 
Soon, Dom arrived and after showing him around the area a bit, we settled into cleaning problems, waiting for the rest of the GP climbers to appear.  We heard voices after an hour or so, but they faded away.  We decided that the rest of the group had arrived, but had headed off elsewhere, so we decided to hike over and find them.  Eventually we did (they had found some new boulders, and were climbing), and eventually the group coalesced at the Steps Area.
Armed with more mats, we tackled my newly cleaned highball.  Everyone made good progress, but we were stumped - as I thought we would be - by the huge blank section.  Chris almost solved the crux by dynoing, but couldn't *quite* stick it.  I eventually managed to do a HIGH high step, and a long cross-over, and gain the upper slot before the lip.  Unfortunately, I hadn't cleaned the holds I was now pawing at, and fell.  I cleaned it up a little more on toprope, took a good look at the mantle, then sent it next try.  At Julian's suggestion, I called it The Doctor's Office (V6-).  17 feet high, and a stellar line!  Not super-hard (maybe V5 or V6), but high enough to be exciting.  It's a real testpiece for the area, and since it's so clean, I encourage everyone to get on it!  (With a long sling, it can probably be easily toproped if the height is too intimidating.)
Me working The Doctor's Office.  Photo: Julian?
The Doctor's Office (V6-) climbs the block in the background, between the right-hand arete and the black streak. Very fun. And tall. Photo:?
We spent the rest of the day cleaning and sending new lines, especially Dom who cleaned a handful of new moderate problems.  We tried (!) to send the hard 'crack-direct' line on the No Exit boulder, without success.  I managed to send a new sharp problem to the right of The Real Chris, calling it Calvin Klein (V4+ or so).  Everyone migrated over to Carlee's Cave, where I managed to send the left-hand arete project, calling it High Functioning Human (V5).  That only leaves one more project in Carlee's Cave, namely the so-called 'Julian's Crimp' project.  I did the crux move, but couldn't piece it together at the end of the day.  Next time!
 Julian, looking tanned on one of Dom's new problems. Photo: Carlee?

Carlee on Carlee's Cave (V2+), looking tough.  




Trip 2.  Mount Babcock = Bouldering Mecca?
Last Sunday, Dom and I decided to make a quick trip to Mount Babcock for the day.  When we arrived, we engaged in an obligatory exploratory mission, and ended up on a ridge overlooking the area.  It is always amazing to see HOW MUCH bouldering there is at Mount Babcock.  From our viewpoint, we could only see about 1/5 of the area, but even that amount of bouldering is staggering.  I estimate that there are AT LEAST 2000 potential problems at Mt Babcock, probably more.  Certainly, Mt Babcock rivals (and likely exceeds) Squamish as the largest accessible bouldering area in Canada.  Downside?  It is fairly remote, and has a short season. Plus, there is a coal mine across the valley.  Upside? A lifetime of bouldering, tons of steep problems, and a beautiful alpine setting.
Me, looking over the expanses of boulders at Mt Babcock, feeling like a king in his realm.  The boulders below me are only about 1/5th of the potential.  Scale?  Two of the boulders on the right-side of the boulder field have short sport routes on them.  So yep, they're big.

We started by cleaning and sending a couple of moderate problems on bullet-hard sandstone.  Both were probably V1, with a harder traverse that linked them.  We moved over to the project-of-the-day; a stellar-looking block overhanging the spur trail (in the Lichen Towers area).  We counted at least 8 independent (and all great-looking) problems on the boulder, and set to cleaning.  The boulder was fairly clean, but did have a loose-block on top that had to be shoved off (there was actually two, but we couldn't get the second one off easily; the problems underneath it will wait for another day).  We sent a *beautiful* V2 or V3 problem that would have a line-up if it were in Squamish.  Pockets, a rail, and perfect incut crimps up a slightly overhanging wall (still unnamed; I'll think of something soon).  Then I sent a moderate line through a huge pocket to the left, and started work on a harder (V6ish with a V9ish sit start) project before we had to bail for the day.  I didn't clean the topout of the project, so it's still waiting there, a prize for a motivated boulderer!
Me and Lupin, looking at boulders. The first two problems we did are right in front of me.  A V1 face to my right, and a very cool V1+ arete behind the trees I'm looking at. No names yet...
Me topping out on a fun, pocketed V0.  Amazing stone!  The uber-classic V2/3 problem Dom and I did climbs the shadowed face to my left, and the 'arete project' is on the far left arete.
 Huge overhanging face.  Lots of these.  
Me halfway up the arete project in the Lichen Towers. Yep, I'm hanging on a huge, perfectly incut slot; a big dyno looms overhead. No, I didn't do it. I look like I have huge forearms in this picture.

I hope that Canada's climbing community starts to take Mt Babcock seriously.  It is remote, but it is truly an amazing area!

SO much to do, SO little time.  I'll have to come back soon for a longer trip!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Summertime Climbing in Northern Alberta!

I've been getting out climbing a LOT this summer, mostly thanks to the tolerance of my wife (Thanks Shelley!).  In the last month, I've been to Jasper, Hasler, and Bear Mountain.  Three weekend trips, which amounts to a lot of climbing this month!

Trip 1: Jasper
I was invited to go to Jasper for three days with Renee, Steven, and Andrew, three of the staunch climbers from the GPRC climbing gym.  Although Jasper used to be my stomping grounds (hmmm... 13 year ago or so!), I hadn't climbed there in a while and was keen to make a trip down memory lane.  I was not disappointed! Although we didn't have perfect weather, we climbed at Lost Boys for 2 days, then at the Rock Gardens for a day.  I led a handful of 5.10 trad routes at Lost Boys, which I was excited about (I NEVER used to climb the trad routes there!), and managed to do a bunch of sport routes in the 5.10 to 5.12- range.  SO MUCH fun to climb at Lost Boys!  I climbed Peer Pressure (.12-) on my second try; it used to be somewhat sparsely bolted, but now with 2 more bolts it is an amazing route!  I onsighted (or re-onsighted, since I hadn't been on the routes there in 15 years) everything else I tried, which was nice.

Going back to the Rock Gardens was powerfully nostalgic for me; I had put up several routes there over the years, and even after such a long absence it seemed I remembered each hold and route.  With Andrew, I climbed on a handful of the new routes there; first we did a new(ish) 5.8 and .10c that cross Layback W (both cool routes), then we went around the corner to try (what we thought was) a new .10d.  The route consisted of a tricky vertical section, then a long TECHNICAL slab.  Andrew tried to onsight it, and did very well on the vertical section.  We was baffled by the slab, though, so he lowered off so I could give it a try.  Still thinking it was .10d, I thought the route was hard, and after a long battle with a sustained slab, I managed to clip the chains.  Later we found out it was .11b (the retro-bolted Yo-yo), and so we felt better.  Later, I flashed Climbing for Punishment (a steep .11b) and did Raven's Laugh (.12a) on my first try.  Raven's was the first .12 I ever bolted, so it was especially nice to climb it again!  Felt a lot easier this time than it did when I was 24 or so!  I also re-flashed Guidekiller (.11d), which was a treat!  Steven will get it next time, for sure; he made good progress on it.

I am very thankful to Renee, Steven, and Andrew (especially the latter, because he drove both ways) for a great weekend!

Trip 2: Hasler Bluffs
Several days later, Shelley, Aya, Rowan and I packed up for a weekend at Hasler Bluffs.  With Aya and Rowan, we knew that I would essentially be left belayer-less for much of the weekend, but I didn't mind that much, as I was keen to get some work done on my new project there (code name: Orange Crush).  It was hot and sunny, but I went up on a rope and put in the time to scrub lichen and put in bolts.  Originally I was going to end the route at about 18m, below what I thought was a blank section of rock.  To my surprise, the last section of rock had a number of positive holds, so I pushed the route to the top of the cliff (23m!).  It will be the hardest route at Hasler, most likely, at .12c or .12d (I'm hoping it's no harder than that!).  It has four cruxes, and the bottom half of the route climbs a beautiful orange-streaked sandstone wall.  It also climbs through a band of conglomerate (the third and fourth cruxes), but these moves are really terrific as well.  It's an amazing route, and I hope I can manage to get up it!

There were several people at Hasler, so I managed to borrow a toprope to do The Quick and The Dead (.10d) and Anorexia Crack (.11c).  I'll lead both next time I'm out there!  They're both stout trad routes, so I'm excited to get on the sharp end to do them!

Trip 3: Bear Mountain
Today, Shelley, Aya, Rowan, and I went to Bear Mountain, despite the heat (32C!).  We had a great time, on the blocks right at the beginning of the descent trail (not the rope access trail, nor the trail to the Shaman Area, but the trail that heads down and right).  I cleaned five new problems, although a couple had definitely seen some cleaning action previously.

The first problem I did was a very cool pinchy arete (Bear Mountain conglomerate excels at producing pinchy aretes), with a couple of very interesting moves, a very worthwhile problem.  Has it been done before?  Who knows!  I called it No Exit (V1 or V2ish), because the boulder has no easy downclimb (as it turned out).  To the left, it looked like there was a potential for a cool conglomerate-sloper problem, which I cleaned and did in a few tries (I wanted to call it 'The 41st Alderman', but Shelley said NO; it's V4ish).  It was very fun, and I convinced Shelley to take a video with her iPhone... so here it is, my first online climbing video! ;)
video

Next, I did a harder start into No Exit (calling it Full Exit, V2), then cleaned and climbed a V2ish highball arete on the boulder facing the No Exit boulder.  It's a square cut arete, and only the first move is hard, the rest is easy (which is nice for a 17 foot problem, in my mind).  I finished off the session (it was getting HOT out by this point, 32C) by cleaning and briefly working the 'slot traverse project' on the next boulder over.  It'll be hard (V6? V7?), and fun, but it was far too hot to try sloper problems, so we called it a day and headed into Dawson Creek for ice cream!
The 'Slot Traverse Project'.  It will have to wait for a cooler day!

Hope your summer is going as well as mine!  Take care!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bear Mountain Bouldering Pictures

Chris D. (who was out bouldering with me at Bear Mountain) sent me a handful of pictures of our day of first ascents. 

The first shows the downhill side of the boulder we spent most of our time on.  It's a fairly big block of sandstone, probably 18 feet high or so.  The line of slot/crimps coming out of the overhang on the left side of the boulder is Deadpool Low (V6?), which is likely the hardest problem at Bear Mountain.  Deadpool (V1+) starts at the high positive slot / jug at the top of the crimp rail, and heads up and right on perfect sandstone slopers.  Chris's other problem, Modern Merc (V2?), starts at the right side of the face at the arete, and follows the slopers and slots at the lip left to join the end of Deadpool.  All three problems are really fun, despite the sandy rock.
The Rubble Boulder has five problems so far, with potential for another five or so.  Deadpool is on the left, Modern Merc on the right.

The next photo is me on Barney Rubble (V5), which starts on a huge flat jug and heads up and left on thin pockets.  I've included a photo of the key pocket on Barney Rubble - a shallow three-finger pocket.  To do the problem you reach up to a much smaller two-finger pocket, then do a big move to the lip of the boulder.  Good fun!  The other problem we did on the boulder - Betty Rubble (V1) starts on the same jug, but moves right to the arete, then climbs the arete to a cool topout.  Technical, but easy.
Me on Barney Rubble (V5ish).  The rock here is pretty atrocious, really - poorly cemented conglomerate.  Hopefully it holds together for a while so people can do the problem, which is quite cool.

The key pocket on Barney Rubble.  

We finished the day by doing Shaman and Trickster, fun problems in the Shaman Cave.

Our day of bouldering essentially brings the number of problems at Bear Mountain to 10, not including eliminates.  It'll be nice when there are 50 problems or so, so climbers can do a bit of a circuit on the mountain.

What next at Bear Mountain?  I have a project on Carlee's Boulder that should check in around V5 or V6, and a STEEP roof problem on the boulder next to the Rubble boulder, that I'm hoping will be a little harder, maybe V7 or V8.

Happy Bouldering!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bear Mountain Bouldering

Last Sunday, Chris D. and I made a "boulder hunting and sending" trip to Bear Mountain.  I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the boulders at Bear Mountain.  The boulders there are really accessible (a relatively short drive and a very short approach), and lie scattered throughout an aspen and pine forest in a truly beautiful setting.  The boulders look beautiful, with a great diversity of angles (from slabs to roofs), and the problems generally have good landings.  Unfortunately, the rock there is often quite soft, and the holds can sometimes be brittle and/or grainy.  Despite these issues, the problems at Bear Mountain are proving to be a lot of fun, with quality movement despite the sometimes soft rock.

Arriving at Bear Mountain, we scouted around for an hour or so, before deciding on a cluster of great-looking boulders directly downslope of the Shaman cave.  We cleaned a handful of problems on a single boulder, and they all turned out to be nice lines.  The rock there generally has some moss and lichen, and although it cleans up nicely, it does take a little work to get the problems ready.  We first climbed a line I had cleaned, a leaning arete to a fun sloper topout.  We both did it without any real difficulty (V1?), and set to work on the second problem, a steep problem on shallow pockets.  The problem starts on a huge hold (which is nice because it makes for a very comfortable foothold), but then climbs up a relatively blank face via smooth pockets where pebbles have pulled out of the conglomerate.  After many tries (and breaking off many footholds), I finally managed the big deadpoint to the lip and finished the problem (V4? maybe V5?). 

We moved on to the problems that Chris had cleaned.  The first was a great problem on AMAZING sandstone slopers - perfectly radiused, and great texture.  It was a little stiff (V2?), but we both managed to flash it.  Then we moved on to a great-looking line that started on a big sloping pinch, and moved up with big moves and perfect slopers.  Chris flashed it; a good effort on a classic line!  Then we turned our attention to the low start to that problem, a hard start that climbed out a little cave on incut crimps.  We thought it would be pretty casual, but it turned out to be a lot more difficult than we anticipated.  We traded beta and worked on the moves for nearly an hour, and nearly gave up.  Adopting some of Chris' beta, I finally did the first four moves (the crux!), and finished the problem.  It is the hardest problem at Bear Mountain (so far), and is probably V6.  I've got my eye on a TALL slab on the backside of the boulder; if I get it cleaned, I'll take some photos so people can get on it!

Even though our fingers were feeling pretty pulped by this time, we headed up to the Shaman cave so Chris could do Shaman, and we could work on the other problem in the cave; a harder version of Shaman on perfect half-pad edges.  We did Shaman fairly quickly, and then worked on the other line.  Chris made very quick progress on it (using kneebars!), but couldn't quite stick the finishing hold.  Playing catchup, I managed to finish the problem (it finishes on a black pod-pocket high on the wall), calling it Trickster (V4ish).

Now thoroughly thrashed, we walked over and checked out some cracks at the main wall, then headed to McDonald's for ice cream.  A good end to the day!

So, my relationship with Bear Mountain continues.  However, on a sunny day, climbing on new sandstone boulder problems in a beautiful forest, I definitely love it far more than I hate it!

[Sorry for the lack of photos.  Chris took a couple, and when he sends them I'll post them here.]


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spring Season!

Spring is well underway here in the Peace Country, and that means perfect temperatures, no mosquitos, and long days.  Together, these factors spell spring bouldering!  I have finally managed to make short trips to the two closest bouldering areas - Mt Babcock and Bear Mountain.  I was pleasantly surprised by both areas, although for different reasons.  First, Mt Babcock had even more bouldering potential than I remember (certainly potential for more than 1000 problems in the area).  Second, a bit of exploring and some good information (thanks Julian, Carlee, and Chris!) showed me that Bear Mountain had a lot more to offer than I thought it had.  As a result, I have moved a lot closer to my goal of opening (or being involved in the opening) of 100 new problems in the Peace River country this year.

Session 1: Mt Babcock.  Andrew and I hatched a plan to head out to Mt Babcock for a day on the long weekend. When he showed up at my house, he also had Rachelle and Chris Dart in his truck, which was nice - the more the merrier!  Heading across the border into BC on logging and mining roads, we arrived at the giant jumble of boulders on Mt Babcock known as The Boulder Gardens. There was still a fair bit of late-season snow in some spots, but we hiked around the area (guided by my trusty photocopied map!) checking out the potential and looking for projects.  Finally, we turned a corner and found a perfect warmup boulder of coarse conglomerate.  The rock at Babcock ranges from fine sandstone to coarse conglomerate, and this boulder was somewhere in the middle (with a matrix in the coarse sand - pea-sized pebble range).  We cleaned and sent three good warmup problems, with 'Hedgehog' (V1) being especially fun.  We worked a sent a harder slab pebble-pinching problem (V3?) on the boulder too, keeping us entertained.

We had spotted a wicked-looking highball nearby, so warmed up we headed over to clean it up, and throw some bouldering mats down.  The line starts on a big frown-shaped pocket, and heads up by compressing two opposing rows of crimps.  Very fun, but very hard!  We made *some* progress, but had a hard time linking moves together.  We dubbed it the 'Charles Dickens project' (referring to the scary height of the problem and the three ghosts of A Christmas Carol). We'll have to train hard and come back for it! 
The 'Charles Dickens project' (V10ish) - a highball up the belly of a BIG sandstone block.  Too bad I can't do half of the moves.

All-in-all, a very informative trip.  Mt Babcock holds a LOT of boulders, with a lot of steep, hard, lines.  Interestingly, there will be a lot of crack problems, which is unusual for Canada.

Session 2: Bear Mountain.  The following weekend, I had a spare morning, so I decided to make a quick trip out to Bear Mountain, just over the border in BC.  With better directions to a better part of the cliff, I headed out early to get in a few hours of exploring and bouldering.  I wanted to try and repeat all the problems on Carlee's Boulder, and get a few new problems done as well.  Arriving at the area, Lupin (my German Shepherd) and I explored for an hour, then found the Carlee boulder.  The boulder was A LOT dirtier than I had hoped, although Carlee, Chris, and Julian had done a good job of cleaning the problems on the block.  I didn't flash Carlee's Cave* (although I came close), which climbs out a long easy roof to a slightly harder lip traverse.  Its a really good warmup, because almost all the holds - and moves - are big.  I did manage to flash Carlee's Pinch Problem*, with big moves to big coarsely-textured holds (including a cool pebbly jug-pocket at the lip).  I could see that another problem was possible, by heading directly left from the start jug and escaping the roof via a long reach to a one-finger pocket.  It's been awhile since I climbed a hard mono problem, but I cleaned it up, taped my finger (!), and gave it a shot.  In a half-dozen tries I managed to pull through the mono and the pebbly crimps above and finish the problem.  Although the mono is a bit grim, it is still a fun line.  I called it Carlee's Great Escape (V3/4).
Carlee's Boulder; Carlee's Cave* has a low SD by the mat, heads up and out of the photo, then traverses left along the lip before topping out at the arete.  Carlee's Great Escape (V4ish?) heads directly left (i.e. above the mat) after the starting hold.

The grim mono of Carlee's Great Escape... ticked and ready for action.

I prowled around a bit, and uncovered a cool overhang between two GIANT boulders.  There were four lines, with some of the nicest holds I've seen in some time.  The premier line on the boulder started on a big pocket, and headed up and left along a line of incut slots and crimps.  Although not hard, this problem is classic (!), and will be popular.  There is a potentially VERY hard dyno project on the boulder as well; I'll have to find someone who enjoys that type of thing.
 The starting holds of Shaman (V1+ish).  Very cool, and very solid rock!  The big pocket perfectly swallows my entire right hand.

A very fun trip!  Since Bear Mountain is only 107 km from my house, I will be back there soon!

What next?  A trip to Hasler is in order, and return trips to Mt Babcock and Bear Mountain as soon as possible.  I need to get out a lot before the mosquito season arrives!

* These are not the real names of the problems that Carlee, Chris, Julian, and Tyler did.  I don't know them, so just made them up.  Carlee's Great Escape IS the real name of the problem I did.  The grade may be suspect, though. Harder? Easier? Who knows.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Bear Mountain!


On Sunday, I felt the need to get out, do some exploring, and stretch my legs.  My explorations usually take the form of rock-seeking-missions, and I decided that this Sunday was going to be no exception.  I have long wanted to go check out the cliffs at Bear Mountain, and to see if there were any bouldering opportunities to be had there.  I knew (from rumours, and various online fragments of information) that the cliffs at Bear Mountain were sandstone, and tended to be somewhat sandy (i.e. poorly cemented); not exactly a destination.  However, climbing is climbing, and adventure is adventure, so I grabbed a coffee, put Lupin in the van, and headed off to Dawson Creek!

Perhaps the most unique thing about Bear Mountain is the enormous wind turbine installation there.  There are over two dozen HUGE wind turbines installed along the ridge, which gives the setting a somewhat science-fiction vibe.  I parked near the end of 233 Road, near the first wind turbine. I decided to hike through the forest along the entire length of the scarp (to ensure I wouldn’t miss any boulders lurking in the forest), then hike along the top of the cliff on the way back (to enjoy the view and check out the cliff itself). 

To make a long story short, my explorations were moderately successful.  Good news = I did find a nice cluster of boulders in a pleasant woodland setting with nice landings.  There is probably room for about 50 problems, with lots of overhanging arêtes which will provide some decently hard problems.  Bad news = there was only one cluster of boulders.  I did find a few more boulders at the far end of the scarp, but they were neither big nor plentiful.  Also, the boulders are formed almost exclusively by big cubes of coarse sandstone-conglomerate.  The conglomerate will be a little hard on the hands (think texture like a meat-tenderising hammer), and isn’t always completely solid.

I did see a few really nice-looking potential problems, though.  The first big boulder I saw (photo 1) was a big brick-shaped block, but one end was propped up; as such, the two suspended arêtes had sit-down starts, and could both be in the V6-V8 range.  Another cool-looking line (photo 2) was on a big tooth-shaped boulder with a scoop.  It didn’t look difficult, but did look really (!) fun.  Other than that, there were a number of arêtes and small caves scattered around (photo 3), from which a dedicated boulderer could make a nice circuit - once everything was cleaned up.

If anyone wants to go there and take a look, do some scrubbing, open some problems, let me know!  I am certainly willing to show anyone what I’ve found.  Cheers!


1) The business end of a giant brick of conglomerate.  Sit down starts on the right and left.  My walking stick  (about 3 feet long) for scale.



2) Cool scoop, with a crack/seam feature.  One of the best lines I saw at Bear Mountain.



3)  Bear mountain boulders.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hasler Flats Trip

I headed to Hasler Bluffs this past Monday with my friend Domhnall to do some climbing, and check out the potential for new routes and bouldering in the area. One of our goals was to get a rope on at least one new line at Hasler Bluffs. When we arrived at Hasler Flats, we first stopped to check out the new area, then headed over to Hasler Bluffs. We walked the length of the crag to check it out (Dom hadn't been to the area before), then we decided to lead (what we thought was) a moderate bolted route that wasn't in the guide. It turned out to be an oddly bolted 11-, so I took some hangs at the bolts trying to get psyched to boulder up to the next bolt, which always seemed to be in an odd spot and a little too far away. After we finished with that route, we went down to the base of the crag and did some bouldering on the blocks down there. We repeated Anonymous Arete (Dom flashed it, very nice!), and then cleaned up a new line on the adjacent block. We worked it and finally sent it - it's a really classic compression problem up a steep bulge (probably V4ish).

Then we headed back up to the cliff where I led Nose Goblins (5.7), which is a fun route with good gear, although I felt that there were some loose flakes on the route that could maybe have been pried off to make the route safer. We moved the rope over, and Dom made quick work of a .10b crack. We moved the rope over again, so we could toprope a new line that climbed through a beautiful orange wall with a big roof at midheight. It looked about .11b from the ground, but it turned out to much harder and more technical than I thought (partially because some of the rock was covered with a beautiful patina, which meant that the friction in those sections was a bit reduced). Such an amazing route - hopefully I can get out there to put bolts in it soon. There is a lot of potential at Hasler Bluffs for hard routes in the .11+ to .12+ range.

There is a (somewhat outdated) guide for Hasler Bluffs written about a decade ago; it is certainly worth having if you are planning a trip to the area. The guide (hosted by the Prince George section of the ACC) can be found HERE. I am hoping to write a new Hasler Bluffs Guide this year, but we'll have to see if I have time.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Need a New Mat?

Revolution has their 12-G Mat on sale! Not a bad deal, especially if you knew someone in the States who you could have it shipped to. Check it out here.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bouldering Guides to Giscome, Hedley, and Godman Creek

In an effort to make them accessible to as many people as possible, I have decided to make the three bouldering guides I have produced in the past available on this blog. They are 'copies' of the original guides, as I am making them available via Google Docs. This virtually guarantees that most people will be able to print copies of the guides if they wish (although the quality may be somewhat less than the original PDFs). I'll also provide links to active URLs where the original PDFs are hosted. Happy Bouldering!

The Giscome Boulders, near Prince George (BC). A fun little bouldering area on reasonably decent granodiorite. Only 50 problems, but several are of exceptional quality, including Fear of Flight (V2), Solar Power (V4/5), and Amon Ra (V10). This was the first guide I wrote (back in the late 90's, I think), and the grades are 'Northern Rockies Stiff', i.e. notably stiffer than those of Squamish. The Google Doc version of the PDF can be found HERE, and the original PDF (requires Adobe Reader) can be found HERE.

The Old Hedley Road Boulders, between Princeton and Hedley (BC). This is a fun area in the arid south of the province, and could ultimately hold a few hundred problems. A few friends and I spent a several days there, cleaning stuff up, and had lots of fun. The rock is a generally solid granodiorite (some boulders have smooth water-worn features), and the landings are often very flat and sandy. There is an AMAZING swimming hole nearby, with some very fun deep-water soloing over a deep, clear, warm pool in the Similkameen River. Standout problems include Scot's Cave (V7/8), Inner Vision (V5), and Nose Job (V1). The boulders are essentially scattered at the base of a talus slope adjacent to a Provincial Campground; only a short walk from your campsite to the boulders! The Google Doc version of the PDF can be found HERE, and the original PDF (requires Adobe Reader) can be found HERE.

The Godman Creek Boulders are located in West Vancouver, just off the Sea-to-Sky Highway that links Vancouver and Squamish. I was pretty heavily involved in the development of this area, after discovering it on one of my many 'boulder-hunting' forays (some people hunt mushrooms, other hunt for bargains, I hunt for boulders). The problems at Godman Creek are generally on short bluffs of granite similar to Squamish. The problems here are generally slabby, although there are a few steep lines as well (including Jenga V4). There are several decent lines here, althought the REAL classic of the area is the highball Moby Dick (V1), cleaned valiantly by Ronald Gagne. Other great problems include Trent's Baby (V4) and Trouser Trumpet (V2). The Google Doc version of the PDF can be found HERE, and the original PDF (requires Adobe Reader) can be found HERE.

Enjoy!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Gym Projects

In the wake of last month's competition, the walls of the GPRC climbing gym were a little thin, so Julian and I spent four hours last night setting routes and boulder problems. I had thought we were only going to set for a couple of hours (from 9 until 11), but Julian is a machine, and we ended up setting until almost 2am. We had a productive time, though. Julian set two routes, and I set a route and five boulder problems. We were mostly setting moderate routes, and three of the five problems I set were fairly moderate. I did manage to set a couple of harder problems as well; these new lines, combined with all the new problems that Julian, Steven, and Noah set, will mean that the gym is well-stocked with projects for the next month or so. Spring training will be fun!

Spring is almost here! I am planning on heading out to Hasler in the next few weeks, to start climbing and cleaning new projects. More to come!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Training!

Many people (myself included) primarily just climb (mostly in a gym) to train for climbing. There are those, however, that REALLY train to climb - and reap the benefits when they become monstrously strong. Markus Bendler is one of these people. Check out this video (first in a series).(Go to http://vimeo.com/36429174 if the link doesn't work for you).

Eisprinz - Chapter one (with Markus Bendler) Indoor Training from Berni Kogler on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hasler Cracks

Spring is slowly, but surely, coming to the Peace River country. With spring, of course, will come climbing. New projects, new boulders, routes to be bolted, cliffs to be climbed. I'm excited to try and climb the four hard cracks at Hasler Bluffs this year. I know at least 2 (maybe 3) of them have been done, but the fourth may remain unclimbed. Regardless, they all look great - thin cracks up faces that are either steep slabs or vertical faces. Here's a photo of Pressure Cooker (5.6 A1, with the A1 section being the thin crack that constitutes the bottom 3/4 of the route). Would be nice to climb this thing...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Le Reve!


Jonathan Siegrist, already known for impressive ascents of Lucifer (.14c, The Red), Waka Flocka Flame (.14c, Rifle), Just Do It (.14c, Smith Rock), has made the first ascent of the amazingly steep Le Reve (possibly .15a) in Arrow Canyon, Nevada. You can check out the amazing short film of his ascent of this monster route on his blog. Well worth watching!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rock Out With Your Chalk Out!

I spent last Saturday afternoon in the chalky haze of a climbing gym, filled a sense of deja vu. I was at the GPRC Climbing Gym in Grande Prairie, setting problems for their annual bouldering competition, "Rock Out With Your Chalk Out". It had been a few years since I had set for a competition, but having done it so often, it was easy to step back into the role and put up some fun problems. "Hmmmm... deadpoint out to this pinch, then we'll have them cross up to this huge pinch... then match, throw for a sloper..." Like riding a bicycle; once you've set for a number of competitions, it comes easily. I was only one of several setters for the comp, though, and all 27 of the problems were good - lots of varied movement, lots of cool holds. Oddly, I set three of the easiest problems in the comp, and the two hardest (no moderates for me, this time!). One of the hard problems I set was a world-cup style problem at the base of the lead wall. Big moves, lots of technique, big finish. The other hard problem was a long, techy, involved roof problem on big pinches and slopers. I didn't get the chance to finish them during the setting, so I am looking forward to getting on them this week.

It had snowed a LOT the night before the comp, so I was worried that attendance would be poor. My fears evaporated as people started pouring into the gym an hour before the comp - there were almost 30 competitors, which is a good number for this small gym. Scorecards in hand, the competitors poured into the gym. Julian had built and installed a number of new volumes before the comp, which really added to the excitement. After a half-hour or so, everyone settled down to the business of working and sending problems. Thanks to the organisers and the setting, the comp went over smoothly, with lots of energy, and no big mishaps.

Huge thanks to the sponsors of the competition - Valhalla Pure Outfitters in GP, and Starbucks (coffee for everyone!). Julian and AJ did a great job organising the comp, and all the setters came through with quality problems.

It was fun being part of a comp that is a little removed from the regular comp scene. There was a lot of competitive energy, but everyone's focus was on having a good time. I do have to say one thing - the GPRC Junior Team REALLY needs to work on its comp skills! :) No attempts to read the problems before they got on them, no strategizing... As an ex-coach myself I could see room for improvement!

Here's a few photos of the comp, taken by Julian. Enjoy! (The guy is the hat and blue shirt is yours truly...) One last thing... the guy in the white tank top (name unknown to me) is probably the most positive guy I've ever met at a comp. Props to him!

RESULTS

Womens OPEN: Carlee 2510
Womens ADVANCED: Michelle 1490, Keria 1400
Womens NOVICE: Ashley 1090, Kate 1000, Cheri 900, Breanne 890

Mens OPEN: Carl 3000, Andrew 2870, Jacob 2230, Dom 980
Mens ADVANCED: Tristen 2310, Devin 2270, Rogan 2240, Dwayne 2110, Corey 1990, Tyler 1870, William 1600, Shea 1370, Lawrence 1290, Chris 1280
Mens NOVICE: Troy 1970, Brad 1090, Cody 1060, Jared 1000

Now, my only wish is that all of these people would come and climb at the gym on a more regular basis! The gym needs more energy!




Friday, February 24, 2012

Field of Dreams

Google Maps has changed the face of bouldering. "Nonsense!", you say. "How could a piece of corporate software / web application change bouldering at all?" The answer, of course, is that online satellite imagery has allowed climbers to prowl the world looking for new bouldering areas. In Colorado, for instance, several new areas have been found using Google Maps (or Google Earth).

Unfortunately, the resolution of the Google Maps satellite imagery for much of Canada is too low to look for boulders. On a whim, I tried looking at the National Geographic map too (powered by Bing), and was surprised to find that for some areas, they have much better (higher resolution) imagery. I spent some time scoping out the boulders at Mt Babcock (near Tumbler Ridge), and was excited to see that the boulders were FAR more extensive than I had previously thought. I had bouldered at Mt Babcock several years ago, establishing several problems with Shelley and our good friend Curtis Sauve. But now it seems that we had been only to the most minor of the areas at Mt Babcock. The really exciting areas (expanses of apparently huge boulders) are still waiting for a visit!

I have compiled a image of the entire Mt Babcock boulders. I was going to keep it to my myself, but decided against it. Enjoy!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Gym Time!

I've been spending one of two evenings a week at the climbing gym at GPRC. I'm starting back on the long road to fitness, but it's a slow process. Furthermore, I am not sure that 2 hours x twice a week is going to get me back in great shape by spring! Fortunately, I am climbing with some great people, who are making bouldering indoors a lot of fun. There are several great people at the gym; Steven, Renee, and Julian are especially great to climb with, and are good motivation. Now, if I can just get my current red-and-black-tape project sent... Maybe next week!

I've got all my spring projects lined up. I'm hoping to bolt 2 routes on the project wall, one on the wall across the canyon, and 3 routes at Hasler Bluffs. I've got the lines picked out, and my drill is charged. Should be fun!