Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shut Down

Bouldering, Sport Climbing and most other out door activities have been halted today for what may turn into a week or more of early winter. Rain and cold are supposed to give way to snow tomorrow. I am not ready for this, but alas the changing of the seasons are upon us.

I have put six tries into my granite sport route in the Lower Canyon to no avail. I have good sequences figured out and have one hung the route 4 times now pushing my high point higher each time I try it. I need to be good and rested to do this route and with regular bouldering sessions every other day I can't seem to recover enough to fire this route off. My friend Aaron took some pics the first day and made some video clips with my flipshare camera, none of which were what I was hoping for. I then tried to make a video using a tripod set up 100 feet away, this was marginally better than watching paint dry. I have excerpted some photos from the vids to spare you the agony of watching it.
The last 4 clips seem slabby, compared to the bottom, though this is not the case.Some pinches and stemming down low. Cruxy turning the lip, though not super hard, you are pretty pumped.

Again, wrestling with the lip.

I planned on climbing the Scoop route on Saturday morning, and with Clint in tow we showed up to 40 degree windy and shady conditions at the base of the route. No go for this geezer, I wouldn't even pretend to be that tough. So Clint and I raced up Cedar to join Dylan, Clint had his sights set on Two Face one of the best V7's on the mountain or any mountain for that matter. One of the warmups here is called Batman, a long V4 traverse that magically switches boulders to top out. A very unorthodox thing to do in bouldering, Cody boulderers did not invent this idea, but we definitely advocate it. People seem to hate traverses and the concept of switching boulders during a climb, too bad because this is a gem. I captured the reclusive Dylan Etscorn for his 100th or more lap on this problem.

Dylan Etscorn climbs Batman V4 from Mike Snyder on Vimeo.

We have been hitting up Drews new area around Dining at the 'Y'. The High Boulder, the Pioneer boulder, the Cougars Den and the Dime Lady Boulder all make worthy additions to our Boulder Garden. Also Danscaping saw multiple repeats and may settle in to the V5 range. I finally climbed on the black streak on the Dragon Force Boulder and could do it from the stand but adding a proper sit start will be damn hard. The stand has V3ish moves to get on and then a handful of big moves up runnels to the top. The Dragon Force problem itself had some action too, with Clint solving the exit which itself is a V3 sit start. You can start lower in the cave for something in the V11 range, a fine FA waiting for some big guns. Also, I shot some footage of Drew caressing the Megarete, another fine new addition.

Drew Haman climbs Megarete V2 from Mike Snyder on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Drew is Industrious

A week or more has passed and I have had several bouldering sessions resulting in many new problems. Drew Haman has been hard at work climbing problems he has not done, building trails and scrubbing new boulders and putting up new problems. Between Drew and Dan, it would seem we are having another surge of development which always gets me psyched!

Jason and I roped Drew into a tour of his new area the Driving Range, above and to the right of the Fort Boulder. This area was the result of trying to find a high trail to access the Fort Area from the Spirit Mountain Cave Road. Earlier this year Drew, Clint and myself chopped a new trail down through the forested hillside and into a new cluster adjacent to the Fort Boulder. As it turned out I was already familiar with the Driving Range boulders, having spied them during the trail building recon. Most are now landscaped and have established problems such as the unnamed warm up boulder, The Sandstone Pleasure Palace and the boulder now called the Country Club. This boulder had a golf ball and a driver near it when we found it hence the name. Drew had cleaned some holds and began to envision the climbs but hadn't had any success yet. We put in another day of cleaning and the sending began. Four short but good lines resulted with some variants as well. Here is a video we made.

The Country Club Boulder from Mike Snyder on Vimeo.

Another session above the Pre-Cleaned/Pit area with the Tuesday/Thursday crew resulted in the Megarete V2 getting a more thorough scrubbing and more sends. We also wandered up to Dragon Force and cleaned the steep arete to the left which resulted in Danscaping a short but cool V6-ish problem with a viscious slopey top out with dab potential. I went back with Jason and Dave for Jason to try it and made another video.

Danscaping V6 from Mike Snyder on Vimeo.

Meanwhile Drew has spent the last two days hacking a new series of trails around Lewistown Pharmacy and has unearthed a bunch of new stuff to climb as well. There is a corridor in particular that I had been meaning to get back to that apparently now has several new problems. Psyched!! Fall bouldering season is gaining momentum.

On a last note I am reluctant to let the sport thing go just yet, so I finished bolting a steep route on the granite in the lower canyon. This is a line I began a couple years ago but just never got to finish it. As it turns out its quite steep with side pulls, underclings and pinches. I TR'd it today and with a little help from Meg, figured out a sequence that is funky but works pretty well through the steep scoop section. I slammed in 8 bolts and cleaned many exfoliated potato chippy flake thingies. One more day of cleaning prep and I may have a new rockstar of a climb. I sure hope I can climb this little beastie. More on that as it unfolds.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Goodbye to a friend

Bobby Model passed away yesterday evening from complications due to an illness. Bobby lived an amazing life and fought back adversity from a near death accident several years ago. I was glad to have had time to get to know him over the years and am now sad I didn't visit him more often during his rehabilitation in Cody over the last 8 months. My family and I will miss his spirit and kindness. He was an inspiration in so many ways for many people. Rest in Peace

Monday, September 14, 2009

A little More

I have made some peace with the demon that is my urge to climb. I feel like I have spent more time this summer chasing around trying to get things done and have found a bit of success. This in no way quenches the hunger the demon possesses, but seems to distract it for a while, hopefully enough to regroup and shift gears. This is good because as sport climbing season comes to a close, the fall chill brings bouldering season.

The boulders typically see very little change as far as our local boulderfield goes. Occasionally someone authors a new problem or cleans up a new boulder or some jackass partyers make a fire ring and a huge trashy mess (that the climbers clean up). This summer has been different and momentum for improvement has increased in the recent years. This summer has seen landings flattened, large intrusive stones are literally gone, and many new problems on old well established boulders have been opened. I am psyched for circuiting this fall and trying some new games. The 100 point V4 circuit list has been made and now we have to go put it to the test. A similar traverse circuit has been bantered about and those with a bit of endurance are eager.

After warming up the other day at the Ethiopian we wandered next door to the Starvin Marvin Boulder to run through the fun problems it offers. We had a good crew so we shot some video and though it is not in the footage I managed to snag the FA of the link up Starvin Ape which we figured at V7. I had tried this on and off over the years but could never manage the Ape Index throw after crawling down into it, I just had to dig a little deeper. Here is the clip.

Starvin Marvin Boulder from Mike Snyder on Vimeo.

I took the girls to Tensleep on Saturday because Meg said she was too busy to join us. Maya wanted some proof that she had crossed a raging river on a log because a kid at school called her a liar. We made a video of her and Eden crossing and excerpted some snapshots for her to take to school. Of course I had my own agenda and knew Alli and Kev along with their friends from Canada would be there. Kevin and I both had our sights set on Bro Job a 5.13a link up of Slim Jim into Esplanada. I had watched Kevin last weekend as he worked Slim Jim and hoped the bottom would be pretty easy, and with a recent ascent of Esplanada, I was secretly hoping I could flash it. No luck, the bottom turned out to be pretty stinkin' hard and dammit if I didn't poop out a bolt from the end and got the beat down by the crimpy finish. The weather conspired against me and keeping my fingers warm was tough. I ended up taking a short run along the cliff to get my body temp up and then tied in to send it on my third try.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Linea Alba

Someone has given the climbing community a great gift. This someones name is Bill Davies from Molt MT, and he has created an awesome 3 pitch sport climb in a beatiful alpine setting up Rock Creek Drainage west of Red Lodge, Montana. I mentioned the remote climb to my friend Drew Haman, who has recently moved back to town, and his eyes got wide. I knew I had found a capable partner, being that I have drug him up local multi-pitch stuff before and I know he is comfortable in the backwoods, due to his backcountry skiing/suffering resume.

We blasted out of town after I finished work and were on the road by 1:00. I figured about 7 hours round trip if all went well. The drive took an hour and forty five minutes and the hike another thirty minutes. We racked up and I set off up the bolt line not knowing how long the pitch was. The beginning was a little unnerving climbing over giant slabs of hollow rock to reach the first bolt which was up 40 feet or so. Once I got onto the more solid stone the climbing got better and I found a groove and just kept moving. The pitch was about 150 feet and seemed hardest going through the small roof at maybe 5.11-. It took me a long time to lead it, more than a half hour and Drew followed taking about the same amount of time. The second pitch is more sustained though slabby with a mid 5.11 crux section and is a little more than 100 feet total length. I led this pitch as well and it took only 15 minutes, drew followed pulling on quick draws to save time since it was getting late and cooling down. The final pitch is around 100 feet and goes through a larger roof on square cut jugs, it felt like 5.11-. Drew followed and we rapped with two 70 meter ropes down to the first anchor then to the ground.

Drew following the first pitch

The techy 2nd pitch

Looking up at the 3rd pitch with a big flake and then roof

Typical bomber anchor

This route is very well concieved, well protected and has modern bomber chain anchors. I would highly recommend trying it if you are confident leading 5.11. Two ropes are required since the first pitch is so long and 18 or more quickdraws worked well for us. Though overall a bit slabby there are several roof sections to get you good and pumped. The climbing is mostly on edges of varying sizes but occassionally you find great pockets. I believe the rock is granite though it tends to appear like limestone at times. Summer is the best time of year for this route and it gets morning sun. We were on it at 3 o'clock in early September on a perfect bluebird day and it was a bit chilly.

Monday, September 7, 2009

What's Different?

Another weekend in the Motherland, Tensleep. We had hoped to get out of town on Saturday morning and stay through Monday evening, but as luck would have it that didn't quite work out. I got a call from Aaron Mulky owner and operator of Core Mountain Sports to guide/teach a rock climbing class. I used to do this for Jackson Hole Mountain Guides but they downsized their Cody office to only guide mountain trips which I do NOT do. Rope gunning, hand holding and climbing lessons however, I like to do and it is pretty good money so I took the offer. This pushed our departure back to Saturday night which was no biggie since two days of pocket pulling and more recently tiny edge crimping is about all this old man can handle.

We desided to forgoe the comforts of campground camping and try wild camping. No water pump, no picnic table, parking area, no bathroom and no fees. Everyone did great but lamented the fact that I had not chosen a spot near the river, since river play is part of our morning routine. Nevertheless this was one of our better camping weekends, we had our hammock set up, an awesome fire ring and some fine food.

The French Cattle Ranch was our destination and I was psyched on trying some harder routes but nervous about the river crossing with the whole fam. As it turns out though the river is wide where we cross with both rock hoping and log shimmying, everyone did fantastic and were psyched that the hike up to the crag was so short. We warmed up on a route that was named after my eldest Maya back when she was just crawling right before she learned to walk. The route Racing Babies a fun 10b has a new start and a new finish since I last climbed it, and Meg had never done it before. We ran into several crews at this popular area including Jason McNabb from So Dak. I had met Jason on a trip to Spearfish Canyon a few years back and he was our gracious and most helpful guide for the day. He expressed an interest in bouldering in Cody, so we offered up our digs and a guided tour when he is free for a weekend this fall.

After the warmup I gave Jason a recommendation for some brilliant 5.11's over on the Back Forty Wall and we headed for the Grasshopper Wall. I had it in my mind that it was finally time to try Blue Light Special 13b. This is a route I bolted back in 2001 before any routes had gone in at the FCR, I remember being quite proud of it but knew it was going to take something I didn't possess at the time. Being that I flailed and failed on its easier brother to the right, I passed it on to Alli who claimed the FA. But something had changed this summer and after success on the route to the left I hoped I would now succeed.

I stick clipped bolt #2 since that seems to be standard protocol between gumbies and pros alike, and started up. The route is not very steep and the holds are typically single pad crimps and pockets with the occasional jug. I broke an unchalked crimp before I clipped the third bolt and took a giant whipper thus ending my flash attempt. I went into exploratory mode which is not as fun as onsight/flash mode but way more cautious and controlled. The route is demanding and has a very difficult crux 1/3 of the way up which I managed to make it through, though it doesn't really ever let up, offering one shitty rest at about 2/3 height. I worked out a plan and went for it about an hour later and fell right before the poor rest. After a little more refinement and another hour to rest I climbed through to the anchor surprisingly not pumped which was strange considering the size of the holds.

With a little encouragement from Meg I hung the draws on Kielbasa .12c and damn near flashed it. The crux is at mid heighth and has another 5.12 section above that. I managed to squeak by the hard stuff and lost my balance after commting to a high step two moves from the anchor and pitched off into space. No chalk and a hasty misjudgement contributed to that error, oh well, no one ever said onsighting was easy. Enough for one day.

The next day brought Alli and Kevin, Gilly and his wife Joyce and a guy named Dan all of which are genuinely kind and cool people. I was psyched for more and not sure whether to try Dances With Cows .13b or Slim Jim .13b which is Kevins current project. After some discussion I decided to go with Cows as it is yet another old creation of mine that I left behind for other climbers to conquer. Kevin had red pointed it recently and left a chalky trail for me to follow. He brought his drill with him as he usually does and asked me if I thought it would be okay to move some of the lower bolts around as there seemed to be ground fall potential due to poor placement on my part. I agreed with his assessment, so he set to work, fixing my prior short sightedness and I have to agree it seems much safer now. We talked about the unneccessary run out at the top of Keilbasa and after red pointing the route I hauled the drill up and added a bolt and changed out the frozen biner on the anchor.

Dances With Cows is also a really good route with a lot more big holds than I remembered. The intro stuff up the first 20 feet is really hard, not 5.11+ like the guidebook says but more like solid 5.12. I manged that bit and enjoyed the easier section above but the beast reared its bovine head back and thumped me soon thereafter. There is some very fingery hard shit to deal with before easing again to the typical Grasshopper Wall crimp and pocket ladder. I worked out a sequence or two and lowered to the ground, worried that I hadn't studied the crux well enough, but confident that I could finish it if I could somehow link past the hard shit. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting I lauched up and found a better solution for the bottom and hung on through the crazy small stuff in the middle. The end has great intermitant pockets to relax on and one test just shy of the anchors. I am very happy to have completed two of my hardest routes ever in one weekend with only 5 tries total.

The question I keep getting from people is "What is Different?" Why are you able to do this now when you could not in the past. I've climbed my hardest routes by far this season and the my hardest boulder problem in 15+ years of climbing. Well I'm not really sure what the answer to that question is. I did switch to La Sportiva Solutions and dammit if I didn't start climbing harder and more confidently the moment I put them on. I have had more time to climb this season and have been able to push myself harder so that has something to do with it as well. My kids are old enough now to drag to the crag and they and my wife have truely enjoyed our trips this summer. Having my family involved I am sure has also helped. I stopped the gym training for the first time in over a decade and though I bouldered a bit this summer I have avoided injury which has allowed me to climb at my limit. So maybe those things are the answer - all I know is I am, and don't mind being, addicted to this pastime. So I will conitue to rock climb. I have found a partner for the Rock Creek 3 pitch 5.11 sport climb and hope to do it tomorrow or Wednesday. Adios and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Everyone Loves Bouldering on Granite

So I planned a trip to the granite playground outside of Red Lodge up in Rock Creek Canyon because this is the best time of year to be there. Clint had asked about it several times in the last year so I knew he would be down, and I hoped some of the rest of the crew would come too. As it turned out everyone else bagged but Clint - suckers just don't know what they're missin'. Aaron Mulkey was interested in getting some pictures and the young powerhouse Kerrick Stinson tagged along with him. Our mutual friend from Billings, Joel Anderson joined us as well, so we had a fun crew despite the local Cody baggers.

Clint and I rolled up Friday night and drug the pop-top camper up the bumpy dirt road and parked it in a very unlikely spot right in the middle of all the boulders - perfect! Clint has been into stargazing this summer and has learned enough to entertain someone for hours with his laser pointer and star chart software on his ipod touch. The sky was clear and with no ambient light for miles in any direction it was pretty damn cool!

Saturday brought ideal temps and Mr. Anderson right about the time we were getting ready to begin our assault on the Landon Stones. We started with the venerable Sherman Boulder, named after the Verm himself due to the teaser pic he leaked out to one of the national climbing rags a decade and a half ago with the caption " perfect granite somewhere in Montana - I'll never tell". Actually Jon, the boulder is in Wyoming, a quick check of Google Earth confirms this. We did the classic West face V2, the Sherman Problem V5, with the sit V6, and LG's Desperate Ho's V6. All very good problems!
Clint Cook on the Sherman Problem V5.

Some rain later in the day yielded some brilliant staged photos.
Joel Anderson on the Sherman Boulder.

We made our way over to the Love Shack boulder passing by the Military Boulder cause it was baking in the sun. There are some cool slabby problems on this boulder including Hotel Lovin' V3, One Night Stand V2, Mutiny On The Booty V4 and Jump for My Love V5. We ran through all of these problems and needed a lunch break. Once finished with lunch, we decided to go for a walk through the trees to check out the rest of the less obvious boulders. This was about the same time that Mulky and Kerrick showed up, alas no break, they were fired up to get started. So it was off to the Tool Boulder to try out the Rod of Lordly Might V7 and several others. I managed to capture a strong effort on Clints part.

Clint Cook sends The Rod of Lordly Might V7 from Mike Snyder on Vimeo.

We bypassed some cool problems on the back of this boulder and went looking for the Cave Boulder which is a little farther into the trees. I really wanted to do this route my friend Matt Wendling had done back in '03 but I was just too wasted from everything leading up to this, plus I'm not sure I could do the crux move even if I was fresh. Oh well, Kerrick was psyched so I sprayed him down with all the beta I could remember and he made short work of it.

Kerrick Stinson sends the Cave V10? from Mike Snyder on Vimeo.

We landscaped the left side of this boulder and rediscovered an old problem and a new one that we insisted Mulkey do the first ascent of. He put down his camera and obliged us, creating Mulkeys Meat V2 or 3, a funky one move crux into a juggy finish. We finished up with the Cave Route, a cool V5 that comes straight out where the V10 starts. Everyone tried it and it slowly became clear that we were all done for the day.

I brought along some Delmonico steaks for Clint and I, we made some mashed potatoes and corn and chowed down. It seemed to cool down quickly and before long everyone was tired and headed for bed. One of the nice things about camping in this wide canyon is that it stays shady in the morning until almost 9:00 a.m., and I like sleeping in when I'm camping.

As soon as breakfast was done and the sun hit the boulders Kerrick was ready to work on the Assassin a cool and involved V9 that seems to keep getting harder as you go. Its about 10 moves long and has both open hand slopers and small sharp crimps. This was another one on my to do list, but I just wasn't feeling it so I went for a hike to check out a few boulders up on the hillside and an impressive crag at the top of the talus field. Here are a few pics from the hike.

The 300 foot tall granite crag, notice the boulder in the lower right corner of this shot, it is the one below that Clint is standing under in the next picture.
Impressively large and featured - maybe the next generation will solve this one.

Here is a shot of our camp right in the middle of the boulders

When I got back down to the valley floor young Kerrick was very close to solving the Assassin. I snapped a series of pictures and he fired it off shortly after.

We hiked up the road a bit and played on a roadside boulder and ended up doing 5 good problems on it. I am sure I've climbed on this boulder before but I have no idea what the name is. The problems are V1 thru V6. We drove up to Leif's House, another absurd name for an area, to find the Buddha Room Boulder. Near the end of the road, this large Bulbous Boulder has a rad V6 called the Bodhisattva on the front side. We dispatched this cool fright fest and set to work on an extension to Siddhartha a V2 that just ends to early. Unfortunately an alpine storm blew in and chased us back down the canyon to tear down the pop-top camper before it was soaking wet. We made it just in time, hooked the trailer up and eased her back down the bumpy road whence we came. The end of another rad weekend.

Incidently the Red Box Car, an old converted rail car, along side of the highway in Red Lodge has some tasty and cheap victuals if you ever you find yourself with a powerful hunger as you motor through town.

Although I didn't accomplish either of my ultimate goals for the weekend, the high end V climbs I hadn't yet done, I felt satisfied with my climbing and racked up 66 points on Saturday and about half that on Sunday for over 100 points for the weekend. Also Joel clued me in on the location of a 3 pitch sport climb that I was able to locate with my binoculars. Now I just have to find some psyched partner to drag back there and bag this gem. Heres a photo of the Line.