Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer at the 6

I ran into two old friends in Ten Sleep the weekend before last.  BJ Tilden and Kyle Elmquist were on a quest to send some of the harder lines the canyon has to offer.  They asked me to come along with them and their friend Tom and we had a great day at the Superratic and French Cattle Ranch.  They were resting the following day so I talked them into hiking in to see a new crag I have been working on, Crag 6.  I convinced them to bring harnesses to belay me but couldn't get them to bring their shoes, it was their rest day after all and bringing a pair of shoes usually means you will climb.

I have spent two seasons putting routes in at this remote crag and like so many random crags dotting the vast Big Horn Mountains, this one is a real gem.  Needless to say I was eager to show off my find and try to send something.  There are nearly 20 routes there now and with some 10's from Charlie K, some 11s and 12s from JB to compliment the 13s I installed, we now have a crag stacked with three star climbs.  I was asked to keep this crag a secret even though I stumbled upon it first and started the process of development.  I agreed and we laid down some ground rules, 'no topos and no directions posted on the internet', though bringing friends in for a day of climbing was allowed.

Many of the routes I put up are very hard for me and I knew they would each take serious effort for me to ever be able to redpoint.  Consequently I have given several away and was psyched to see the rest sent as well.  When I finish a new route, I always climb it to see what its like and then determine if I am ready to start projecting it or move on.  Crag 6 has two premier walls, one really long with endurance related routes and a shorter wall with bouldery routes.  I chose a route on each wall to save for myself.  BJ and Kyle were very impressed with all the routes and decided to come back the following weekend.

Our crew consisted of myself, BJ, Kyle and his lady friend Julie. In addition, Casper sent along two envoys, Micah and Eric to round us out at 6.  After warming up on the incredible long 5.11s, the Casper guys set to work on Special Delivery .12c, an enduro steep arete on the far right side of the Rap Stars Wall.

Micah Rush on Special Delivery .12c

BJ onsighted and Kyle flashed the long brilliant Deez Nutz .13a for seemingly a second warmup. Then Kyle, BJ and I went to work on some of the shorter bouldery routes.  I sent Bo Cleevil .13b for the FA on my second try of the day after climbing through the hard stuff and bungling an easy move up high on first go.  BJ went right to work on the steep blunt arete and after a quick recon sent it on his second try,  he dubbed it Godfather FUZ .13c.  He then went on to flash Bo Cleevil and its sister route High Park Rodeo .13b for the FA.

Kyle Elmquist on Bo Cleevil .13b

BJ Tilden getting the FA on Godfather FUZ .13c

The second day we swapped the Casper guys for some friends from Cody, John M. and Jesse.  BJ flashed Thugagra .13b, the longest and hardest of the enduro Rap Stars routes in impressive style.  He then went on to dissect the Girl Next Door .13c for its second ascent and strung its start into Godfathers finish to create the linkup Girl FUZ .13d.  Kyle and I floundered about on High Park and Bo Cleevil and at the end of the day when we were all thrashed from a weekend of tugging on small pockets, I went to hang draws on Holla, a long pumpy .13-. This being the last unsent route and my next project, I wanted to equip it so I could try it next time I was there.

It never fails to surprise me how I can sometimes perform my best at the end of several days on and this was no different.  I guess it was low expectations for that particular try, I made it through the crux down low and felt good moving through the bigger moves in the middle.  I kept finding the best jugs to rest on and as the route tipped back and the moves and holds got bigger, I just kept going.  I only became nervous about 10 feet from the anchor when I realized I might just pull it off.  I don't normally celebrate when I clip the chains but I couldn't help letting out a "HOLLA!" that echoed across the empty meadows down below.

My cohort in development of this crag JB Haab has always been diligent about enjoying a cold beer directly upon reaching the truck after a long day at the 6.  Having absorbed this lesson well, those beers felt as good going down as they did on my swollen finger tips.  

 Homeboys and girl grinning ear to ear after a great day at the 6.

I went back the following day and bolted another line and started in on a second one.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cody Granite in the Winter?

A very warm January and February saw a flurry of activity on the granite walls of the lower canyon in Cody.  My friend Jason and I were enjoying some fine Scotch whisky one evening the first week of January and he mentioned he was going to try bolting the following day.  I chuckled at first, then immediately checked a weather app and realized mid 40s could be reasonably comfortable for bolting.  That spark set off a little over a month of Jason and I equipping 10 new routes and climbing or trying nearly all of them in unseasonably warm winter conditions.

The Single Malt Wall had a half finished route I had started last Fall, so that is where my 2015 bolting season began.  That line became Single Track, named after our fantastic spirit distilled right here in good 'ol Cody Wyoming by Dr. (and former climber) Tom Pettinger. A goofy line, in my opinion, that rambles up a vertical wall passing through a roof and finishing on a steep shield with a bouldery mantle of a top out.  I honestly wasn't that excited about the route, but everyone that has climbed it has really enjoyed it, including my wife who is a harsh critic of granite sport routes, her least favorite medium for rope climbing.

Jason Litton reaching for the 'bread loaf' coming through the roof on Single Track .10d.
Photo: Christian Baumeister

Meanwhile, Jason began bolting a meandering line just left of Pug Mahone .12a, coming through a large blocky roof and finishing up a beautiful headwall of red stone.  We stopped to look at it one day as we approached other climbs.  As we stared at it it became clear that we were looking at two different lines, he returned a few days later to split them into their respective individual lines.  The Last Pale Light in the West .12c and The Judge .13a/b? turned out to be really amazing lines.  I have yet to try either but am stoked to put some time in when the cold weather subsides.

Kevin Wilkinson grapples with The Judge .13a/b?
Seen here with a knee bar and shoulder scum, this thing looks physical!

Last Fall while warming up on LaPhroaig .11a at The Single Malt Wall, Dan Miller asked why I hadn't put a line up the blunt arete in the center of the formation. 'It looks like a killer dyno might be the final move!" he said.  I have to admit I had been wondering as well what sort of climb might materialize there.  After swinging himself over and confirming there was a decent hold to jump from, he planted the seed that would become Stranahans .12c.  Meg and I toured the Stranahans distillery in Colorado last Fall when we were in Denver to see the Black Keys in concert at the Pepsi Center.  A delicious and somewhat sweet grain distillation, I'd swear it was partially a bourbon.

Jason Litton going for it on Stranahans .12c.

Jason was keen to install a line to the right of The Art of War .12c and had mentioned it often over the past couple seasons. The rock turns bright red for a steep stretch before graying out and entering rounded runnels.  It was an obvious line and after I installed Slapping the Fridge, a .12a a little further right last Spring, I told him he had better get after it cause the clock was ticking. He took the bait and put up Phoenix .12b, a truly inspiring long line.  I wish I had a photo for that one.

Stranahans allowed me to glimpse at the features just to its right and I realized another cool line may exist there as well.  Three steep folds produced 3 individual boulder problems that seem like V1, V3 and V5 with great rests in between. A bouldery little nugget of a route The Oban .12b/c is very entertaining and now that it is cleaned and chalked well, apparently quite on-sightable.

Trying to get into position for the last bouldery section of the Oban .12b/c.

Jason made his way up the canyon a bit and tackled the back side of a steep red fin with bullet looking stone.  This was another line he had been dreaming about for a couple seasons but had failed in trying to scramble up the slabby choss pile on the front side to establish an anchor.  He decided to put his Rope Access skills to work and teach himself to aid climb, bolting as he went up.  He borrowed my brand new Climb Tech RB and though he was successful in his task, manage to mangle the RB in the process.  Oh well, all in the name of progress, he got two new routes out of that endeavor. The Red Baron .10+/.11- and The Red Right Hand .12a are supposedly of high quality though I haven't been able to try them yet.

There is a wall directly across the river from Single Malt Wall that has been calling out to me for years now.  I knew people had been over there to climb the path of least resistance cracks as evidenced by a blue sling on the lower plug of rock.  I also knew that Nick G. and his brother had climbed and summited the much taller upper section of the formation via a wide crack/chimney system. I was interested in the plumb line up the steeper left face starting right off the river rocks.  What I didn't know was how to get to the base of this wall as it appeared to be rim-rocked.  Last Fall on my birthday, I was in the area trying to send a new route and wandered toward the cliff while resting between burns on the project. I found a passable ledge system and with a few 5th class scrambling moves I was deposited at the base of the wall where I gazed up at this gorgeous possible line.

Straight up the center of this face to finish by climbing the rounded seam in the little white streak.

Oh my!

The rappel in from the top of the cliff was way longer than I anticipated.  My 75 meter static line got me to where I needed to be with 4 feet of rope left. This line has all the colors Cody granite offers, black, brown, pink, white, all the shades of grey and a full spectrum of licheny greens. Now it is bolted and cleaned, I even hiked the gas powered back pack blower over there to blow the dust and dirt off the larger ledges.  This is going to be a super route!

Unfortunately winter has returned, temporarily.  Can't wait to try it out!