Monday, April 28, 2014

More Bouldering... of course!

On Sunday, Frank Slide was a-bustle with bouldering activity, relatively speaking.  There were at least seven people out in the slide, including people from Lethbridge, Calgary, and Cardston.  From talking to Kyle the previous day, I knew that some people were interested in climbing in the House Area, so when my vanload of people (really just Mark G, Mark D, and I) arrived at the Slide on Sunday morning, we headed up to the ridge above the House Boulder.

I was interested in heading up to that particular area for two reasons.  First, because this is where the compression problem Commodore 64 (V8, a stout Adam Currie FA) lies, and secondly because one of the 'missing problems' (namely the 'March of Time' project) is up on the ridge as well.  I had scoped, cleaned, and tried a few moves of the 'March of Time' late last year, and started cleaning / building up the landing as well.  Though perhaps not the most impressive-looking line at Frank Slide, it has a 'Squamish-like' appeal; thin start holds in a small cave lead to a difficult lip traverse to an easier finishing arete.  I had also cleaned a more moderate line to the right, and was curious to see how it would climb.

It was windy and cool, so I had a hard time warming up (although shuffling rocks to build 'patios' helped!).  We warmed up on some easy slabs and short problems at the top of the ridge, and then moved on to some more difficult lines.  After a few tries, I did the V4-V5ish problem on the right side of the face (no name yet), which ended up being fun (though only the first two moves were particularly hard).  I then tried the 'March of Time' project for a bit with Mark D.  It should be a cool line when it gets done as it has a fairly well-defined sequence; pull on with difficulty using a right-hand edge and a left-hand sloping blocky sidepull, this is followed by a hard move to the lip, and then four hard lip moves to the right lead to another four easy arete moves.  Should be very hard, perhaps V9 or V10.

Finding it too cold to work on the problem seriously, I shuffled a few mats over to try a steep slab that Mark Guckert had found.  It ended up being tricky, with relatively easy moves leading up to a final long move to a tiny edge at the top of the boulder.  Quite fun despite being an eliminate (aretes are off) and having a little loose rock.  We did the problem again using the arete, and though it climbed differently it was also a fun line.

Evan Erickson employing foot trickery to pull through the reachy crux of Commodore 64 (V8).

Shuffling the mats around to the rear of the boulder, Mark G, Mark D, and I tried Commodore 64.  I did well on my first attempt, but was stymied by a long move to a good crimp at the lip.  Mark D did the problem quickly, reaching through the crux moves to the good hold at the lip with relative ease.  We were soon joined by Evan, Kyle, Ashley, and Kristy.  Evan was keen to try Commodore 64 as well, so he pulled on his shoes to give it a try.  Unfortunately, we were both were stumped by the long move to the lip holds.  Not being tall enough to reach through the move (or strong enough to use Kyle's compression sequence), we resorted to trickery to climb the left arete of the boulder.  Evan used a brilliant heel-hook / toe-scum combination to statically pull through the crux, whereas I eventually used an overly-high and balancy high step to gain the lip.  It felt quite hard to me - huge props to Adam Currie for finding and sending this line years ago, and for Kyle Marco for getting the second ascent!

People were trying another line to the right, on the boulder immediately right of Commodore 64.  I had filled in the pits beneath the problem and cleaned up the holds earlier, so I was keen to try it.  A right hand crimpy sidepull opposed a tricky left heel-hook to start, and I sent it in a few tries.  Definitely a fun new V5 or V6 line to do when up trying Commodore 64!  Mark D called it The Price of Gold, try it if you get the chance. 

Many ways to skin a cat!  Kyle and I on the first move of The Price of Gold (V5?6?). 

In the meantime Mark Guckert was trying an unusual bomb-bay slot/crack problem formed where two boulders leaned against each other, forming a small but deep cave.  Soon everyone was trying it, and intrigued I jumped on it as well.  The two boulders form a undulating wide crack, necessitating an interesting combination of face climbing, crack climbing, and off-width climbing techniques.  Having the most crack-climbing experience, Mark G sent it fairly quickly.  After pumping out and falling off a few times, I focused on getting the hand-jams placed as smoothly as possible, and send the entire problem.  One of the most entertaining problems I have done in a while, very cool movement! (Post-script: Mark G has called the crack/slot problem Meatgrinder (V3))

Evan Erickson compresssssing at Frank Slide!

After this, people dispersed a bit into the surrounding boulders to try a few more lines before packing up and heading home.  It was nice to finally get a chance to try (and eventually send) Commodore 64, and now that there are more problems in the sector surrounding this testpiece it will undoubtedly see a little more action.

Until next time!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Climber Profile: Lloyd King!

I first met Lloyd King ages ago, when dinosaurs walked the earth, bouldering pads were thin and expensive, and John Sherman still had a moustache.  In the late 1990s, I had moved from Prince George BC to Edmonton in order to finish writing my MSc dissertation, and was fortunate enough to rent a house in south-central Edmonton near the Vertically Inclined Rock Gym (VIRG).  I rented the house with a handful of other quasi-employed and unemployed climbers, including my wife Shelley, Dan Gable, and Colin Dorward.  The house - referred to as 'the cabin' by its inhabitants - was virtually a shack (it was torn down soon after we moved out), but it allowed me to freedom to climb in the evenings and work on my dissertation long into the night.

The effortlessly stylish Lloyd King, sporting hard-earned, climbing injury-related footwear.

In those days of training at the VIRG, we fell in with a great group of climbers who were already established at the gym, including Lloyd, Greg and Irene Tos, Mike Cummings, Aaron and Yvonne Pellerin, and a large handful of others.  Rather than forming separate groups at the gym, we were welcomed by the commuity there, and what followed was several very successful months of training before the denizens of 'the cabin' moved to Vancouver and the boulders of Squamish.

Since that time, I have taken every possible opportunity to climb with Lloyd.  Lloyd is one of those rare individuals who effortlessly combines the social, cultural, and physical aspects of climbing, but remains perfectly humble and approachable.  "Where is the best place to buy coffee in Bishop?  Which brand of climbing holds are most durable?  Should I camp or stay in a gite when I visit Fontainebleau?  Should I cut my feet on this dyno?"  Ask Lloyd, and you'll get a friendly, genuine, and worthwhile answer.

In addition to being a terrific ambassdor for the sport, Lloyd also possesses a remarkably complete set of climbing skills.  Mad skills. When climbing with Lloyd, I came to realise I had to prepare myself for two eventualities.  First, that I would see movement that was inevitably smoother than my own.  And second, that I would only rarely be the first to top out a given boulder problem.  As a result, it is always a pleasure to climb with Lloyd outside, whether at sport crags in the Rockies or in the boulders of Squamish.  Lloyd has gone on to translate his climbing successes into professional success, and is now a program coordinator in the climbing program at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.  

Bishop CA.`14 from Lloyd King on Vimeo.

Lloyd's latest climbing forays include two that I am particularly excited about.  First, he has taken determined strides into the world of climbing film-making.  The humorous styling, crisp framing, and skillful editing of his short films rival that of most professional adventure film-makers.  Secondly, he has begun to explore the backcountry boulders of the Canadian Rockies, discovering a hidden trove of quality problems.  Vive la difference!

Lloyd has graciously answered my grueling 'Top Three' Questionnaire.  Read on! 

Name...? Lloyd Donald King

Where from...? Born and raised in Trenton Ontario now residing in Edmonton Alberta

Top three favourite climbing areas...?
3) Bishop California
2) Fontainebleau France
1) Wherever my last trip happened to take me
     (ed. note: not Squamish?  What gives?)

What do you consider to be your three most important and significant climbing accomplishments...? 
3) Climbing a 25 foot indoor vertical tower and down climbing it (because I was to scared to sit back in my harness to be lowered) on my first day ever climbing birthday party experience
2) Maintaining a healthy relationship with the Canadian climbing community
1) Inspiring others to challenge themselves through hard work by Teaching, Instructing and Coaching climbing since 2001

What do you consider to be your most important and significant non-climbing accomplishments...? 
3) Not going to jail when I was a grommet
2) Owning a beautiful home in a great neighbourhood that`s walking distance from a job I love
1) Meeting and marrying the women of my dreams

Top three favourite routes and boulder problems...?

Boulder Problems 
3) Solitaire - Buttermilks, Bishop California, USA
2) Cortomaltese - Bas Cuvier, Fountainbleau, France
1) Heisenberg - Rockbound Lake, Banff, Alberta, Canada
     (ed. note: the latter is a proud Lloyd King FA, and is an amazing line high in the Rockies. Definitely on my To-Do list!) 

3) Bistec de Biceps - L'Olla Sector, Suirana, Spain
2) I Por Dios Abigail - Mariella, Mt. Pellegrino, Sicily
1) Stay Gold - Echo Cave, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

And finally a quote from Lloyd, something he's learned while on the long road between 'then' and 'now'...
You can tell a lot about a person`s character and personality by what they do and where they go in their spare time.

Slab from Lloyd King on Vimeo.

Lloyd is perfectly correct; slab is NOT "So Lame and Boring"!

Now, if Lloyd would just come down to Frank Slide this summer, and add to Southern Alberta's growing collection of high-quality problems... and maybe bring his video camera.

Until next time, happy climbing!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Missing Problems

The traveling boulderer, upon visiting Frank Slide, will be struck by a statistical oddity.  While there are hundreds of easy and moderate problems, there are surprisingly few 'hard' problems (let's somewhat arbitrarily label problems V7 and up as being 'hard').  To date, there are only 35 (or so) problems V7 and harder, not a huge number given that Frank Slide has approximately 600 established problems.  It seems that the difficult problems of Frank Slide are missing. 

"Curious." you say.  "What might be the reason?"

I am simply speculating, but I think there are at least three processes that have produced this pattern.  First, it may be that the geology of the area (Livingstone Limestone and adjacent formations) creates boulders that are either heavily featured (and thus easy) or are relatively blank (and thus unclimbable).  However, while it is true that some boulders are relatively blank, most faces are replete with holds - especially the ubiquitous "Frank edge".  Secondly, the nature of the slide itself (where larger boulders 'floated' upon a moving relatively coherent moving mass rather than tumbling) produced relatively few overhanging faces and caves.  The third reason is a historical one.  In general, the climbing community of Southern Alberta (especially those interested in climbing outdoors) is small.  The development of an entire bouldering area is a herculean task for a half-dozen individuals, no matter how motivated.  From that perspective, the efforts of boulderers such as Kyle Marco and Evan Erickson is impressive.

Once a 'Missing Problem', but no more.  The final hold of the sloping rail of The Ice Cave (V7).

To satisfy my own curiosity, I've compiled a list (first mentally from memory, then scribbled on paper, and finally transcribed here) of all of the potential 'hard' problems that I've seen scattered across Frank Slide in the past year or so. It seems the 'hard' problems of Frank Slide may not be missing, they may simply be misplaced.

Since they are only potential boulder problems, I am very reluctant to attempt to estimate their difficulty.  Looking at them, though, I would guess they range from about V6 to V12+.  The asterisks denote lines I have actually attempted, while the remainder are simply faces that I have looked at and said "Yep, that looks fun! Yep, I think it'll go... not by me, maybe, but by someone!"  I have only included problems that look aesthetic and fun, are reasonably tall, and feature solid holds.  While I am sure there are scores of one-move mini-caves at the Slide, I am not interested in them.

This list is, of course, intentionally vague.  No, it is not a "secret list"; if it were, I would not be posting it on a publicly accessibly website.  However, if asked, I will not attempt to describe where individual problems are, as this process quickly becomes absurdly comical.  "It's that problem, with those edges on that grey streaked face, on that grey block, which is behind that cluster of grey boulders, after you walk over that area of smaller grey boulders and past that quite cubical grey rock..."  I will gladly take anyone to any of the problems on this list - I am keen to try to them all!

I'm posting this list for two reasons.  First, to demonstrate to visiting climbers that if they want to climb something new and exciting, the potential exists at Frank Slide! Second, I've posted this list as a point of reference for myself.  It's like a stack of Christmas presents, each waiting to be opened, to reveal their particular secrets of movement, power, and technique.  As each problem gets opened, I'll amend this list.  Likewise, as new projects get discovered, I will append them to the end of the list.

So here is The List, with the problems in no particular order...

1. Rum-Runner Arete
2. Floodwater*
3. Mark of the Beast*
4. Karst Right Side
5. Wizard Prow*
6. Old Man and the Sea
7. March of Time*
8. Seaworld Arete
9. Black Slot
10. Rail Arete*
11. Left Rail
12. Junk Arete*
13. House Super-Project*
14. Triangle Pinch
15. Giant Left
16. Giant Right
17. Baby Giant
18. The Shield (V9+, FA by JB: July 19 2014, big moves, lots of compression)
19. Sunny Corner
20. Fully Fed (V7, FA by JB: July 20 2104, slopey extension to Feed the Need)
21. Evan's Cave
22. The Right Right (V8, FA: July 13 2014. Powerful and subtle with a solid heel hook)
23. Split Left (V9, FA: July 2013 by Morgan D. Powerful moves on edges)
24. Split Boulder Prow
25. Seventy Arete*
26. The Ice Cave (V7, FA: April 21 2014. Amazingly subtle movement on edges and pinches.)
27. New Zombotron*
28. The Slash Face*
29. White Bulge
30. Beaver Prow
31. Dan's Project*
32. Flying Squirrel*
33. Perestroika Project*
34. Long Wall Center
35. Long Wall Right
36. Zeus Cube Right
37. Zeus Cube Left
38. The Blessing (V7, FA: July 13 2014. Great slopers with techy footwork)
39. Sherlock (V7, FA: April 30 2014. Funky prow problem with techy movement)  
40. Graveyard Shift (V6, FA: June 15 2014. Tricky sequential moves on flat edges) 
41. Bone China Project

33 of 41 projects left to send!

Let me know if you want to go bouldering!  Cheers!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Ice Cave!

This past (Easter) weekend my family played host to my brother and his family.  Luckily, they had beautiful weather for their entire visit; Lethbridge is beautiful in the spring after a long winter.  After they left on Monday, though, my thoughts turned to bouldering.  It was a warm (20C) and sunny spring day, and I still had lots of daylight left; why not take a trip out to Frank Slide?  I could be there by 3:00, and since the sun didn't set until after 9:00, I could get in several hours of climbing in perfect spring conditions.  So I quickly loaded up the van, and headed west.

On the drive out, I debated which sector I should visit.  I am looking forward to spending the spring and summer working through the problems on the two lists that I maintain.  The first is a list of the projects I am currently working on (at the moment, 16 problems), while the second list is the 'Missing Problems' list, which contains 37 unopened problems that represent an inventory of hard potential problems.  I finally decided that perhaps a systematic approach would be best - I would start at the south edge of the Slide and work my way north.  With this plan in mind, I arrived at the Slide and headed to the Healing Area.

I was hoping to be able to cross the river and look at some of the projects there, but the river was roaring through the rapids making that destination too dangerous to consider.  I packed up my mats and headed in towards the Foxhole and Relentless Boulders.  On the way, I stopped to warm up at a boulder I had walked past several times and had always wanted to climb on, a distinctive white-striped boulder at the junction of the two gravel tracks that run through the southern edge of the boulderfield.  The problems all looked easy, but weren't.  Three easy V0- problems on one face contrasted with three steep slab problems on the face that faced the gravel track.  Both took me several tries and I had to really bear down to send them; Emerald City (V3ish) on the left, and White Lines (V3ish) on the right.  They were too crimpy for warmups, really.  Ouch.

Sunshine, springtime, fresh boulder problems, and new coaster pads!  Perfect combination!  Mats arranged below Emerald City (V3ish).

Warmed up, I headed into the Foxhole Boulders where one of the problems on the 'Missing Problems' list waited; the so-called Ice Cave project in the Foxhole itself.  The Foxhole is a gap between two large boulders, and deep in the Foxhole is a line of edges climbing out a bulge.  Arriving at the area, I climbed three more warmups (Foxhole Right (V0), Foxhole Left (V0+), and Foxhole Center (V1)). I shuffled the mats into the cave, being careful to arrange the pads over the slab of ice that can linger in the cave well into spring.  I cleaned the holds and set to work. 

The moves felt harder than I anticipated.  A long move to an edge was followed by a couple of tenuous but easier moves on sloping pinches.  After that, though, was a very hard move to a sloper with a finger-tip catch; this move was hard, and I couldn't see a way to use trickery to do it.  That was followed by another seemingly-impossible move to good lip holds. 

Crimp and sloping pinch; the second and third holds of The Ice Cave (V7/8ish).

Beautiful rock!  The Crux of The Ice Cave.

With a bit of work, the powerful moves started to yield.  I simply had to bear down on the first move, but the crux moves above became possible if I shifted my weight carefully and bumped my hands to better positions.  Soon I was linking the first three moves, and the last three, leaving only three moves in the middle.  Soon enough, though, I unlocked the sequence for the middle three moves, and after a handful of attempts I managed to link smoothly through the entire problem.  Strange how ten moves up a piece of limestone can create such feelings of elation!  I was psyched to send The Ice Cave (V6?7?8?), but I still had lots of time left in my day.

The Ice Cave!  One less 'Missing Problem'!  36 left to go!

I turned my attention to The Hand Sponge, a Mark Derksen FA from last year, located on the opposite side of the boulder from The Ice Cave.  I had tried it to no avail, having no problem with the initial sloping lip traverse but getting shut down on the final highstep / mantle move.  I set the mats up, took a look at the holds, and was surprised when I almost sent the problem, falling off midway through the mantle.  I refined my beta a bit, then sent it quickly after that.  The Hand Sponge was originally graded V7, but given that I did it so quickly perhaps low-end V6 seems more likely. 

The Hand Sponge (V6ish) comes in from the left then up the blunt prow, Sponge Bath (V5ish) keeps going across the lip to end on rail holds on the right side.  Both very fun!  Amazing rock!

Re-arranging the pads, I added an extension to The Hand Sponge that I had looked at last year.  Starting on The Hand Sponge, my new problem continues along the lip ending on the jugs of Dave's Arete (V3).  Sponge Bath (V5ish) is a great new line, with really fun lower body movement.

Left foot heel hooking and right foot scumming.  Who wears matching shoes?  Not me.

With a couple of hours of light left, I headed over to the Serial Killer boulder.  I have always wanted to do Serial Killer (V5), but was skeptical that I could do it quickly as the first move looked really powerful.  Arriving at the boulder, I cleaned and felt the holds, visualised the moves, then pulled on and flashed the problem!  Happy to send it!

It was getting late, but I thought I would end my day with a bit of a session on the slopey Energitus (V8).  I`d tried it before, but couldn`t unlock the sequence for the last third of the problem.  This time I had a lot more luck, and fell on the last hard move (going to the left arete). I did it in two overlapping sections, though, so given that I was completely thrashed I`m hopeful that I can send it sometime soon.

All things considered, an amazing half-day of bouldering in the Rockies!

My perfect ending to the day was ruined, though.  The interac machine at Tim Hortons wasn't working, and I had no cash.

Until next time, happy climbing!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Here's a better version of the Springblade (V3ish) clip.  Hope this one works for everyone!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Projects, and a Video!

This morning, whilst having coffee, I decided to satisfy my curiosity by making a list.  I know that some people think I take list-making a little too far, especially when it comes to making lists of my current projects.  This list, however, had a different purpose.

I have long thought that the grade distribution of the problems at Frank Slide is a little odd.  While there are many problems in the V0 to V6 range, there are notably fewer problems in the V7 to V10 range.  In fact, the number of problems in each grade drops off steeply above V6, rather than declining gradually as in other large bouldering areas.

So, this morning, I made a list of all the potential hard problems I had seen about The Slide, including an 'eyeball grade estimate' (i.e. a guess as to how hard it might be, based on my not inconsequential climbing experience).  To my complete surprise, I listed 32 potential problems mostly in the (likely) V8 - V10 range!

As such, I think I have solved the riddle of the missing hard problems.  I haven't done them (nor has anyone elso), but they are there, waiting.  Granted, some of these problems are very tall (like the House Cave Project, which is probably nearly 25 feet tall and in the V9-10 range), but many are perfectly reasonable in height, and likely represent some of the best problems that Frank Slide has to offer.  Should be a busy summer!

On a related note, here is a short film I made of Kyle Marco climbing his new extremely fun moderate problem, Springblade (V3 or V4).  Blogger has done something strange to the video quality, but as long as you don't view it at full-screen size it looks ok.  My first real effort, and it shows that I have lots of room for improvement.  Enjoy!  


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring! Frank Slide! New Problems!

"In the spring / a young man's fancy / lightly turns to thoughts of bouldering..."

I know what you're thinking.  "Trent," you say to yourself, "you are scarcely what I would call a 'young man', though quoting Tennyson is laudable."

At any rate, spring has finally arrived (I hope!) in southern Alberta.  It was 8C on the weekend, and temperatures as high as 20C have been forecast for the upcoming week.  After weeks of unseasonably cold weather 8C seemed positively balmy, and with most people seemingly occupied in Lethbridge Kyle and I headed off to Frank Slide for a day of bouldering.  Though there was still some snow in the Slide, it was melting quickly in the warm weather, and hopefully it will be largely gone by next weekend.

I was keen to check out a few potential lines I had seen during my last trip to Frank, and since Kyle didn`t have particular destination in mind, we agreed to do a little hunting for problems in the jumble of boulders on the ridge above the Triangle Pinch Boulder.  Though short, the walk in to the Triangle Pinch Boulder seems awkward to me, with relatively unstable footing.  Arriving on the ridge, we went for a bit of a walk to scout for likely problems, and then opened our mats to warm up on a smallish boulder with an unusual open-book feature. 

I spent a few minutes cleaning the holds, and then Kyle sent the problem easily on his first try.  I pulled on my moccasyms and repeated the problem to warm up, but it certainly felt harder to me than Kyle had made it look!  We both did the problem again (V1ish), and then added a sit-start to the line which felt a bit harder (V2ish).  Starting on a small right-hand pinch on the arete and a thin left-hand crimp, the problem pulls to a very cool dish-shaped hold, then traverses across a sloping lip to an interesting topout on yellow-speckled rock. I think Sun Trap would be a great name for the problem, as it faces directly into the winter sun and is well-protected from the wind!  We then added a right exit to the problem, and a right-traverse exit as well.  To wrap up the boulder we did another really easy (V0-) problem on the left side of the face as well.  A great cold-weather warm-up boulder! 

Kyle warming up on the fun V2 on the Sun Trap boulder, in the spring sunshine!  A short problem (six moves), it nonetheless has some interesting movement and some great holds.

Warmed up, we looked around for another boulder to climb in the immediate area.  Just a few steps to the north we found a hanging boulder - a fat blade of rock perched upon two other boulders.  Kyle thought the hanging arete on the east face of the boulder looked fun, and he was right!  We swept the holds, fixed the landing a bit, then pulled over the mats;  Kyle sent the problem quickly; from a sit-start on two incut edges, using a toe-hook allowed movement up a series of large flat edges along the arete to a very cool rock-over topout. Probably in the V3 range, and one of the best V3s in Frank Slide.  Good vision on Kyle's part to spy the line!

Kyle on the middle and end of his new V3ish / V4ish problem on a fat blade-shaped boulder below the Mushroom Boulder.  It sit-starts underneath the bottom of the blade on two opposing edges.  Very fun!

Sitting around after sending the problem, I started to look more carefully at the long block that was holding up the left side of the 'fat blade' boulder.  It was certainly large enough to have problems on it, and it was composed of the strange shelly-sandstone sometimes found at Frank Slide.  Usually that type of rock is not compact enough for bouldering (often the boulders are too small, or the rock too friable), but when solid enough and the boulders big enough, it can hold fantastic problems!  This block was no exception, and we opened a handful of problems from V0- to V2ish, including (from left to right) Sandbox (VB), The Sandstone Traverse (V0ish), Trent's Dyno (V1, a Kyle FA due to the fact that I can't dyno...), and Crafty (V2).  All the problems on this boulder have fantastic sandstone holds - mostly rounded rails - and are great moderate lines though somewhat marred by rough landings. 

There appeared to be another, much harder line that traversed right-ward around the boulder, starting on the positive rail of Trent's Dyno.  Thinking that the problem looked too hard for a spring day, I contented myself with cleaning the holds and imaging the moves.  Becoming more and more intrigued, I decided to put on my shoes and try a few moves.  Then I thought I needed better heel-hooking shoes, then I worked a few sequences... Soon enough I had pieced together all the moves, and I decided to try the entire problem.  After a couple of tries I managed to send the whole problem (13+ moves!) quite nicely, calling it The Orange Traverse (V4/5) after it's substantial resemblance to The Green Traverse (V6) in Squamish (and the speckles of orange lichen, of course!).

The Sandstone Boulder!  Five fun problems on this face, including the very fun Sandstone Traverse (V0ish, starts on lower left corner of the block, then climbs up and across the sloping lip to finish just right of the peak on fantastic juggy holds), and The Orange Traverse (V4/5ish) that starts on a rail just above my chalk bag, and traverses right and around the corner.  

To wrap up the day, we decided to walk a short distance further and try a short rail problem I had spied a few weeks ago.  The boulder, although short, featured a sharp rail that angled up and across an overhanging face.  I swept the holds, and then Kyle and I both sent the problem easily.  I was a little disappointed by the line; perhaps I simply wished it had a few more moves.  Calling the problem Moss Rail (V2ish), we packed the mats and picked our way back to the van through the field of snow-covered boulders.

A fun - albeit short - day of bouldering in the Crowsnest Pass!  Weather is getting warmer, days are getting longer; soon we'll be fully immersed in the Spring Bouldering Season, one of the nicest times of the year in Frank Slide.  I've got lots of projects to send this year, and I'm looking forward to working through my 'to-do' list!

Until next time, take care! 

Boulderfest 2014!

Last weekend (March 29th) the climbing gym was packed for Lethbridge's big annual bouldering competition... Boulderfest!  Boulderfest is one of the longest-running bouldering competitions in Alberta (the first Boulderfest was in 2002), and it is always a lot of fun to see all the climbers in the region come together for a single event.  Everyone who worked at Boulderfest did a fantastic and professional job (with special acknowledgements going to Alyssa and Ashley), and as a result the event went off very smoothly, with all the competitors having a great time climbing and socialising!

Everything ready, waiting for the doors to open.  Seven of the 60 problems were on the 75-degree wall.

In climbing competitions, virtually all of the hard work is finished before the doors open on the day of the comp.  Between midnight on Thursday and 4:00 am Friday night Kyle and I (with some help from Morgan and Mike) set 60 boulder problems that ranged in difficulty from V0- to about V8.  Boulderfest is a somewhat tricky competition to set for, as it maintains a tradition of being accessible to climbers of all levels of experience and age (really, it is as much a festival as a competition). As such, we needed to create problems that ranged from juggy fun problems with short reaches to hard, steep, powerful lines that would challenge the strongest climbers.  Luckily, Kyle and I have about 30 years of setting experience between us, so we managed a very fun set of problems for everyone.

Stacks of wax!  Lots of holds to work with, which is nice.  Most of the problems were set at this point.

While it was hard work setting that many problems that quickly (we'll definitely have to add another setter next year!), the positive tradeoff in having only two setters doing the bulk of the setting is that it allowed us to have tighter control over quality.  A few problems didn't go off quite as planned (especially number 60, which had one too many holds and thus was climbed using a much easier sequence than I had intended), but this was more of a fore-running problem due to time constraints (the last dozen problems were fore-run late at night, which is always a bad idea) than a setting problem.  All-in-all, a pretty successful effort!

Steep problems on the 75-degree wall!

Problems ranged from easy child-oriented problems (numbers 1-5), to balancy slabs, to steep hard crimpy lines, to hard pinch problems.  Everyone in both time slots (1:00 - 3:00, and 3:00 - 5:00) had a blast trying all the problems; no one managed to climb the hardest problem (which ended up being number 59), with all other problems seeing ascents.  As a setter, this is virtually a perfect result; too many sends of the hardest lines means either that you under-set, or that you misjudged who would be showing up to the competition. 

When the chalk dust finally settled, the top three winners of each category of the 2014 Boulderfest were:

Alexis Demecha (3036)*
Ashlee Matkin (2422)
Christine Wallace (1761)

Mark Derksen (3920)*
Dave Trudel (3838)
Taylor Hudson (3766)

Will Kwan (2120)*
Lauren Kwan (2096)
Kieran Meadows (1916)

 *2014 Winner's Jersey Holder

 For the full list of scores and competitors, go HERE.

 Alexis Demecha, women's overall winner!

Powerful problems on the 45-degree wall!  We had lots of volumes this year, which made for fun problems.  It also makes setting a little easier...

Lots of prizes for the 2014 Boulderfest!  Every competitor got something, which is great.

A few additional notes on the nuts and bolts of the 2014 Boulderfest...

This year, the organization of Boulderfest was divided between two groups, an Organizational Committee (Alyssa and Ashley) which was primarily responsible for scheduling and sponsorships, and a Climbing Committee (Kyle and I) which was responsible for route-setting and climbing-related tasks on the day of the competition.  It seemed to work brillliantly (huge props to Alyssa and Ashley for all their hard work!), and it seems likely that Boulderfest 2015 will adopt this same organizational structure. 

Another small change in this year's Boulderfest was how prizes were doled out at the end of the competition.  Alyssa and Ashley did a great job of approaching sponsors, and there were ample prizes from Flashed, Delire Climbing Holds, Awesome Adventures, and several more companies.  This year, all prizes were handed out as draw prizes, while the climber with the highest score in each of the mens, womens, and youth categories were awarded 'winners jerseys' with a specially-designed "BoulderFest" graphic and logo.  A great compromise, I think!

So, what's next?  I'm looking forward to the 2015 Boulderfest, certainly!  Also, and more proximally, the 2014 Tour de Frank (the outdoor bouldering 'competition' / checklist / fun participatory event) at Frank Slide will get underway soon as well, although I sometimes feel that it would be fun if we adopted a one-day format (similar to the Hueco Rock Rodeo) instead of the summer-long format used last year (free and for everyone, in either case!).

The spring climbing season is virtually upon us, and the great bouldering of Frank Slide awaits!  It would be nice to see more of the climbers from Lethbridge actually climbing outdoors this year; with Frank Slide being so close and so fun (over 600 problems (!) from V0- to V11, and more being added all the time, and landings improving...), I am sure we'll see more people taking advantage of the rock-climbing opportunities that Southern Alberta offers!

Until next time, have a good time climbing!

NOTE: All photos are courtesy of Alyssa, though I think Ashley make have taken some of them.  Huge thanks!