Thursday, 19 May 2016

Bouldering Part 1

Hello again to like the five people who read these posts!

I've been pretty (completely) inactive on here for the past few months, but I've finally done something exciting enough with my life to justify sitting down and writing a new post. Here goes.

So after all my pristine rock skin had wilted away and I got back into the swing of climbing on plastic, I didn't really get up to too much. I was routesetting and coaching at two gyms 40+ hours a week, not to mention climbing three or four times a week on top of that. To say I felt like I lived at the gym would be a bit of an understatement, but for the most part it was good! I felt like I was starting to put a bit of muscle back on, and felt like I was slowly honing my routesetting skills a little bit as well.

Then came the Rock Jungle lead comp. Our head routesetter was away on a climbing trip, and the other main setter was coaching one of the RJF Teams, so he couldn't be very involved on the lead end of things in the interest of keeping everything fair and impartial. Of course, that meant that it was up to me to handle a majority of the responsibility of the event (at least where routesetting was concerned). On the wednesday before the comp, we stripped the entire lead pit. Thursday, I set three of the five lead routes (Dan helped set the other two). Friday, I foreran, tweaked, taped, changed, scrapped entire sequences, drew route maps, and Frankensteined the five routes together to get them to the point that I was proud of them. It was a long day. The event preceding the RJF comp (the first event of the season) had ties for first in the open categories, so I wanted to make sure that that wouldn't happen again.

In my infinite wisdom, however, I didn't check the list of who has registered, and was sad to see (on the morning of the comp, mind you) that the three strongest men weren't coming to the comp. Panic tweaks to the mens final ensued, and luckily I made the correct judgement calls and everything ended out working pretty well across all routes and categories when it came to separation and competitor enjoyment. All in all, I was pretty proud of the job I'd done.

Fast forward a couple months where nothing all that exciting had happened (aside from a couple short weekends down in Canmore) and I was back on the road again, this time with ma buddies Matt and Paul. We had a 2.5 week trip planned to Joe's Valley in Utah, but the apocalypse rain across all of the state resulted in us keeping going down to Red Rocks, just outside Las Vegas. This was my fifth time in Red Rocks, but I'd never bouldered there. After the four months of route mayhem that was my Euro Trip, I was feeling psyched for some bouldering. The day we arrived (after 24 hours of driving) we met up with a few other friends and got out for a super fun afternoon session in the Kraft Boulders. We all had some fun cruising some classics of the area such as Bubble Butt (V7) and Scare Tactics Right (v8), before I took a super nasty fall straight onto some nice comfy rocks. I couldn't walk too well for a couple days, but that didn't really end up mattering because of the awful rain that had followed us south.

Yay more rain clouds! Photo: Me

It was hard to get too bummed out with a psyched crew and the always exciting night life of Vegas, but after seeing most of what Vegas and the surrounding area had to offer (including the damn Hoover Dam) and even going for a gym session, we were itching to get back onto rock. So much so, in fact, that we ended up braving the sketchy offroad in the minivan one evening and adventure hiking (with pads and all) way back into a canyon trying to find dry rock, only to realize it was still too wet to climb. The problem with sandstone is that it acts like a sponge; any water gets soaked up and results in extremely fragile holds. Just when it seemed things were getting dry enough to be able to climb again, the clouds would roll in and rain on our parade over and over. After spending a week camping in Vegas and getting two and a half days in (mind you, I got to climb some amazing problems like Ode to the Modern Mayor and The Lion's Share, both V9) we saw a weather window back up in Joe's and drove through the night to make the most of it.

Gearing up for the last move on The Lions Share, V9. Photo: Spencer Gatt

Our first day in Joe's was spent frantically scrambling around trying to climb as many boulders as we possibly could. I flashed a whole bunch of the classics down in the Riverside Boulders before heading up to climb Wills of Fire (V6) and They Call Him Jordan (V8). Then we headed over to Big Joe (a steep roof that was basically just a climbing gym), and I managed to flash Nerve Extension, a prime example of Joe's Valley grading (V10 in the book, but it felt maybe V8/9 to me). I spent some time trying I Shaved my Head for This (V11) that just had one really hard bump move to a crimp, and checked out Big Joe Left (V11) but wasn't overly excited by it. The next day we rested since we may have went a little too hard the previous day, and got really excited to climb some more.

Mid-Crux on Scare Tactics Right, V8. Photo: Spencer Gatt

After not getting much climbing in in the first half of our trip, I was hungry to climb anything and everything I could get my hands on. We went to a new area, and after warming up I was stoked to put down Freak (V10) and Resident Evil (V9/10) within about half an hour of each other. The interesting thing about Joe's Valley is the range of style of hard problem. Either you can get tiny razor crimps (which often end up being pockets), or big swooping slopers that can feel either amazing or unusable depending on the conditions. The previous two problems were of the crimpy variety, so we took some time to go check out Ghost King (V11), a prime example of a slopier problem. Unfortunately some rain brought the end of the session with it, and we said goodbye to Paul and our other friends who had to depart back home. Fortunately, Matt and I were able to go have a night session on Ghost King, since it didn't end up raining much and there was plenty of wind whipping through drying things out. Of course, the session wasn't too productive, but it was awesome to play on such an amazing line nonetheless.
Slappin the super good sloper on our first night session of Ghost King, V11. Photo: Matt Hendsbee

The next day we checked out a boulder that should be on everyone's life list, the Worm Turns (V10/11). Sandstone roof tufa? Who can say no? It took us a long time to figure out what the hell we were supposed to do to be able to progress up the climb, but once we unlocked the sequence I managed to send it in a few goes with some loud scary noises and a lot of squeezing. After getting worked that session, we were ready for another rest day.

Sizing up the last move before top out jugs on my send go of The Worm Turns. Photo: Matt Hendsbee

That next day we checked out another area we hadn't been to before. After a bunch of super fun warm ups, I did a great job dabbing on the dab boulder as I got into he crux of Death Scream (V10) on my flash attempt, but sent the next go. Sorta frustrated that I muddled up my flash, I started working on Barely Legal (V11) on the same boulder. The problem consisted of super fun movement along the lip of a roof, and on my third or fourth go I climbed all the way to the last move only to fall. I took some time to refine my beta, but the heinously tiny crimps made me a little too tired to put it down. After lounging around the Food Ranch for a while and making dinner, we went back to the Ghost King for another evening session.

I don't play around when it comes to carrying my pretty pretty pads around. Or when it comes to looking majestic.

In typical "I'm-obsessed-with-this-climb-and-I-really-want-to-send-it-as-soon-as-physically-possible" fashion, I had been dreaming up all sorts of new magical beta that I wanted to try out; one in particular. We got to the boulder, I messed up my first attempt down low, but just executed my idea perfectly the next go and was suddenly standing on top of the boulder. Psyched doesn't really describe it; my ideas never actually work! Part of me was kind of sad that I had sent it already, as it was such a cool and fun problem that I kinda wanted to keep climbing those moves.

#candid Matthew Hendsbee gettin handsy topping out on a warm up. Photo: Me

The next day, Matt and I were pretty pooped, so we settled for a day of upper range classics, climbing awesome problems like Anti-Future Plan (V8), Worst Case Scenario (V9), and Bring the Heatwole (V7). After the rest day, we headed back up to Barely Legal, and despite not climbing my absolute best I managed to put it to rest! We went and enjoyed the perfect boob holds on Playmate of the Year, one of the best V9's anywhere. I then got obliterated by Battletoads (V10), making no progress whatsoever, and we retreated once again to the lovely land of the Food Ranch. Another night session on Ghost King was unsuccessful for Mr. Handsbee (but only just), as was most of our efforts on basically everything we tried up in Dairy Canyon the next day. We did get a sick tan as we repeatedly oozed off problems like Lactation Station (V10), so the day wasn't a complete waste.
Squeezin some boobs. Photo: Matt Hendsbee

Some of the healthy balanced breakfast options from the Food Ranch. We went for bacon instead.

After being super manly and shirtlessly cooking 3 pounds worth of bacon over a campstove in celebration of Matt's birthday and taking the rest of the day to recover from the grease overload (and in my case, the burns over most of my torso) we spent our last day trying to finish off some old problems. Matt crushed The Worm Turns (with some next level knee-scum beta) and Nerve Extension, and I managed to send I Shaved my Head for This with some super attractive mid-crux grunting reminiscent of low quality Mongolian throat singing, before we both ran a victory lap flashing Tubesnake Boogie (V9) just as the skies opened. Feeling victorious, we packed up our campsite in the rain and started the long drive home, knowing the futilty of trying to climb the next day as we had planned given the deathclouds dumping their payload over the entire valley.

Movin through the upper section of Barely Legal, (V11). Photo: Matt Hendsbee

After dropping Matt back home, I'm in Canmore getting ready to help out with difficulty Nationals in a week. I'm excited to be involved in the routesetting department as a forerunner and getting to soak in some of the wisdom of the main setters, and a little nervous about co-commentating the livestream of the event... at least I get front row seats? After Nationals I'm off to Squamish and Kelowna to check out some new types of boulders, so I'll try to get another post up after that. Thanks to anyone who's still reading this gibberish... You're my favorite.

Sam Tucker cruisin through the foot first roof in Red Rocks. Photo: Me

Adios for now!!

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