Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Doin' it in the Box

That's right, Box Canyon just outside of Socorro, NM. Not a destination you say? Perhaps, but I have found myself there two other times in the past two decades, always on the recommendation of a good friend who is from there. On this particular trip not only was he there with me but the catalyst for the entire trip, more like I was there with him and two other homies from Cody. We had four days to see what the Box had to offer. Our quiver included three giant crashpads and associated bouldering hooha, such as chalkpots, a variety of brushes, speakers and Ipods, green chile beef jerky, etc. In addition, I insisted we bring sport climbing stuff, cause at the box, you can do either and they're both very good.
The trip down was a breeze. We drove through the night, taking 4 four-hour shifts and were there in time to get a full day in. We hit up the warmup blocs in the riverbed right near the parking area. We then marched up the hillside to the THC wall and another wall up and around the corner. Nearly everything I climbed on was cool and needless to say I overdid it and felt trashed by the end of the day.

Dan Miller Pioneering at the THC Wall from Mike Snyder on Vimeo.

Another THC Wall problem from Mike Snyder on Vimeo.

Day two we clipped bolts at the Alcohol Wall. Dan and I struggled, er.. warmed up on the two climbs on the far left of the wall. We thought they were 10+ or 11- and it turns out the guide says 10a and 5.9. Meanwhile, Dylan and Clint warmed up on a cool climb he claimed was 10c. Dylan lead it and commented that he didn't remember it being that spicy. We all struggled through believing it was only 10c, only to find out later that it was actually 11c. Dylan kept talking about this old project through the bulge to the right. He bolted it and did all the moves but could never send it, he claimed it was probably 12+. Since the rope through the 11c anchors hung straight down the old project I figured I would give it a top rope. The moves up to the bulge are on the biggest jugs which is easy right into four super hard bouldery moves. I tried this sequence but could only do two of the four moves and couldn't link any of them. We talked to some one later on and found that this proj was sent by Timmy Fairfield and called Pimp Daddy and given 5.13d. No wonder I was getting nowhere.
We rounded the corner to the Pocket Change Wall to try the route of the same name. Dylan put the draws on in good style and 3 out of 4 of us flashed this quality route. After sampling one more easier 10 as a warm down we packed up and headed down to check out the Unbeatable boulder and several others down the drainage. No one had any skin or energy to muster much of anything but we all picked gems to work on the following day.

Pocket Change 5.11c from Mike Snyder on Vimeo.

Day three brought more fantastic weather, sunny but cool. Bouldering was the agenda for the day and we headed to the unbeatable to warm up. This superb stone has a steep wave on one side and a perfectly vert side on another offering a variety of easier climbing and a few test pieces. We did the phenomenal arete Pressure Drop V1, and it took us all multiple goes to fire off Lion of Judea V3, a viciously sandbagged steep juggy roof. Dylans friend Jake was along with his wife and kids. Jake is somewhat of a legend in Socorro having pulled off a mile of non-stop traversing of the streambed boulder some fifteen years or more ago. He easily hiked Jah Lives given V7 but regarded as V10 nowadays. An impressively strong dude to say the least.

After the blood was flowing we ventured further down the drainage. I had my sights set on Rubber Walrus Protector and Tyler Durden Meets Tyler Durden. My friend Eric from Alberquerque was down with his son and wanted to try another random V4 on the left on the way down to RWP. We both whacked away at it and made slow progress to no avail and ultimately decided there were better fish to fry. We made our way to RWP where people were already starting to congregate. I watched a few goes which seemed like an eternity because I desperately wanted to try this climb but secretly hoped to flash it. This one of my favorite types of climbs, an upside down compression squeezy thing, including heel hooks, toe scums and lots of slapping. I sidled down under the beast to the starting holds, knowing the crux was in the first two moves and the rest would be easier. These moves revolve around a heel hook that keeps you from swinging around, and everything else is just straight on power. We had heard rumblings of V4 all the way to V8 but no one seemed to know for sure. I almost wish I had failed because watching the crew work out the details led me to believe this was surely a classic. It fully engaged everyone that tried it and there turned out to be multiple approaches to solving this striking boulder problem.

Rubber Walrus Protector V4-8? from Mike Snyder on Vimeo.

We had watched a crew the day before working this steep bulge on the downhill side of the Fight Club Boulder. The difficulties revolve around a single two finger pocket and sloping edge you get after launching out under its belly. It looked fun and powerful and from the looks of the group climbing on it, not too hard. Turns out those first couple moves were so difficult that every one in our group except Dylan and I resorted to an alternate sequence going up the side on crimps avoiding the pocket altogether. This just wouldn't do for me, being that the perfect two finger pocket is what drew me in to begin with, I had to do it that way. Perhaps the duality of solutions lent to the bipolar name of this cool problem: Tyler Durden Meets Tyler Durden V7.
After trying a few of the other Fight Club Boulder problems and getting bouted, I wandered up to Sofa King V4 to find Tom and Paul two other old friends of Dylans working the line. They were more than happy to give me some beta and I was psyched to flash it. Several other folks showed up and the pads were shifted to Dark Knight V6 and a line formed. This turned out to be another brilliant and engaging problem that seemed to take everyone a number of tries to solve, except for Jake who didn't fall or fail on anything all day long.
Day Four my friend Eric came back by himself to sport climb with me at Dirt Wall, and the rest of my crew wanted to see the streambed boulder, so we split up. Eric and I marched up to Fillet a Papillon aka: Dirt Wall, and I was happy to find routes very similar to the limestone I'm used to tugging on back home. We warmed up on New Kids 10+, then Eric moved the draws over to a short 12b called Little Caterpillar for me to try after another 5.11 to get fully warm. It went very well with two cruxy moves and the rest being straight forward enough to onsight. Pleased with that, I tried a longer 12b called Red Tag Sale, with a 5.11 mid-point anchor and was too pooped to continue past the first anchor. I finished with Dreadlock Holiday another good and long, although sharp 5.12a that baffled me two moves from the anchor.
All in all this was a great trip with good weather and the opportunity to climb everyday. We all climbed well considering climbing on real stone has been had at a premium lately. The laid back attitude of the locals combined with the killer NM style cuisine and availability of bouldering and sport climbing make this place a favorite for me. My only possible complaint was not visiting the Enchanted Tower though it was potentially snowed in and I wouldn't have traded any of the days I had in the Box.

Monday, February 8, 2010

FOCM Rides Again

FOCM pronounced fok' em is an Acronym for Friends of Cedar Mountain. This benevolent and hardworking coalition was formed to clean and maintain the bouldering areas on Cedar Mountain in Cody, WY. Meetings are held Tuesday and Thursday evenings on the mountain during the Daylight Savings Time portion of the year ranging from March through November. During these meetings boulders are climbed (and sometimes moved), trash is identified and erraticated, spray, chicanery, heckling and other forms of banter are exchanged, six packs consumed and general revelry for the outdoors and the act of climbing are celebrated.

Occasionally this circus, er show, is taken on the road. Last year we headed to HP40 in a single 30 hour push to climb for a week on what could only be described as some of the finest boulders in one of the chillest areas found anywhere in the world. A great trip that predated any of this bloggety stuff for me. My friend Dylan put together a great 20 minute slide show but we didn't shoot any video.

This year we will be headed to New Mexico to partake in some bouldering around Soccoro and sport climbing at the Enchanted Tower near Datil. I have visited both before and was impressed.

My fitness is about as bad as it could possibly be right now. I have skiied a half dozen times and spent two days landscaping new boulders so my cardio and legs have seen some activity but overall I feel really weak after the two month climbing break. Since February 1st, I have had several hangboard/pull up bar sessions, one gym session, a day of bouldering and one freeze yer ass off 5.9 sport climb which combined has left me sore as hell. I will train in the gym Tuesday night and then we leave for NM Wednesday evening. I hope to feel stronger by Thursday afternoon. I'm no spring chicken any more so we shall see.

The FOCM crew has been busy bouldering in the gym and outside, weather permitting. They decided that the quality rock and caves at the base of the Carcass Crag are ripe for new development. So here is a video of one of the best and easiest new climbs churned out as of now. I managed to thrutch my way through this for a flash.

What's The Problem? V4 from Mike Snyder on Vimeo.