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.

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