Monday, January 30, 2012

Off to Neverland!

Neverland is a truly magical place.  You won't find Peter Pan and Captain Hook there, and it certainly isn't in Michael Jackson's backyard, but you will find stellar rock, and lots of it.  The area is absolutely massive, and offers potential for all styles of rock climbing.  Boasting incredible boulders, steep overhung face climbs, beautiful multi-pitch granite domes, and more cracks than you can imagine, Neverland certainly has the potential to become one of Wyoming's premier climbing destinations.  But for now, it remains a pretty low-key area.

 Pile o' boulders with some steep cliffs in the background

I first visited Neverland at the beginning of January, and needless to say I was super pumped.  Seriously, the rock is so good and the sheer amount of it is, multiple lifetimes of climbs to be done.  I logged two quality FA's that day, Davin put up an awesome moderate highball called Colossus, and Bryan VanSickle finished his long-standing project, dubbed the "Whale Dick Project."  That, by all means, was a good day.

A bit of the Old Neverland sector

This weekend was not so good.  Davin Bagdonas, Dylan Stowers, and I were looking forward to putting up some new lines under sunny skies and warm temps.  However, we soon learned that the weather forecast was LIES!  We were greeted by heavy cloud cover and 50+ mph winds, which, when paired with knee-deep snowdrifts and fourth class scrambling, prevented all actual climbing.  It also didn't help that I wore sneakers and forgot my gloves...but that's besides the point (don't judge me).  What ensued was a day-long tour of some of the best that Neverland has to offer.

Some huge cave

Oh, and I left my camera's battery charger in Virginia and the battery died, so above is the only picture I snapped that day...forgive me.  Anyways, we began by attempting to climb in a new cave, which is about 80 feet long and 40 feet tall at its highest point; plenty of potential for power-enduro boulder problems and hard, dynamic sport routes.  But, with the ever-unforgiving weather, we had to call it and not climb, it was just too damn cold.  We headed back to the car and off to some nearby established climbs, notably the Columbine Roof.  The Columbine Roof is hands down one of the most impressive overhung boulder's I've ever seen.  It has problems ranging from V2-V10 on it, and the granite is smooth like glass from years of wind erosion, a definite classic.

Further away, Davin took us to his epic project, called the XXX Roof.  It's a truly spectacular boulder, with complex and powerful movement on a deceptively steep face, thus far estimated to be V12/13 upon completion.  While Dylan and I explored some of the nearby boulders, Davin had a bit of a "beta-refresher" session, going through each individual move in his head.  He really knows this problem up and down, forwards and backwards; living proof that once the flame has been ignited, there's no keeping a man from his project until it's sent!  Hell, even his dog knew there's something special about that boulder, suddenly exploding with energy when we walked up to it.  Another classic.

We then stopped by another VanSickle project, called the Finger Paint Cave.  This interesting little cave is marked by the obvious mock petroglyphs that line the walls, whose only explanation is the 1970's and LSD.  It starts on a short but burly V9 section, finishing on a V4ish problem, another great climb.  We checked out a few more boulders, including some super-highballs and potential sport routes in a sector called Little Britannia.  To finish off the day, we stopped at one more unclimbed roof that's totally going to go down this spring.  It's huge, has at least 3 natural lines with mixed slopers and crimps, and is almost totally clean.  It also just happens to be just perfectly (debatably) on the outside of a nearby rancher's property line...destiny??  CLASSIC.

The drive home saw long discussions about climbing grades, politics, nutrition, the decision to start meeting at Daylight Donut instead of Coal Creek Coffee, and more climbing plans; needless to say we were inspired.  All things considered, a bad day of climbing isn't necessarily a bad day at all.  Maybe a day of good old fashioned motivation was just what we needed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

FoCo Fa-Sho!

This past weekend was a mixed-bag with regards to climbing.  Saturday yielded temps in the mid-50's and plentiful sun in Northern Colorado, so I headed down to Fort Collins' Horsetooth Reservoir with a farily large crew consisting of Evan Martin and his wife, Meredith Neill, Bridger Huhn, Kenny Gilbert, Jake Williams, Austin Holler, and Sarah Rea.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the boulders, having heard contradicting remarks about them; some said that they were garbage and others raved about them.  So it was time to find out for myself.

The first thing that I noticed was the vast differences between the climbing scenes of Colorado and Wyoming.  I mean many crags, even back in the heavily trafficked East Coast, have big signs labeled "The Bouldering Revolution" with a map of all the boulders!?  Also, the whole park was bustling with climbing activity, not just limited to the dozens of boulderers, but also a few trad climbers on the fairly short (35') cliffs.  Some easy V0-V1 problems introduced me to the Horsetooth rock: heavily featured, fairly smooth sandstone with a lot of incuts, crimps, and plenty of feet.  Like most old and popular crags (climbing at Horsetooth goes back to the 1950s and 60s), the holds are somewhat polished, but not terribly so.  You do get a little spoiled climbing on that untouched Wyoming granite, but hey, polished or not the Horsetooth rock is still pretty nice. After the warm-up, the group split into two to go work different problems.  I went off with Evan, Kenny, and Jake to do some V2-V4 type problems, including a cool V3/4 sloper problem that Evan had put up the last time he visited the area.

We later headed over to a more popular boulder, called the Mental Block, to check out one of the area classics, Mental Standard.  We found ourselves amongst about 10 other climbers and tons of pads, and one after another, everyone began attempting the problem.  From our group, only Evan and Kenny finished it, along with two other locals.  It climbs up a line of crimps to one big move to the lip, followed by a terrifying whale-flop-of-death top out.  At V4, its generally considered a sandbag, but V4+/5 seems right to me.  After that, we regrouped at the cliff line where everyone else was working a nice V2 line ascending a clean face.
Bridger on the V2 problem

A typical climbing day at Horsetooth Reservoir

After regrouping, we all decided to drive off to another outlying boulder field called the Tropics, which turned out to be a bit of an epic.  After about an hour and a half's effort, including hiking up steep ridges and miscommunications, we ended up following a road to where the area is located on the guidebook's map only to find several barbed wire fences and "NO CLIMBING" we called it a day and went to the local Culvers for dinner, where my Butterburger cherry was popped.  It was a good day.

The rest of the weekend did not bring very pleasant climbing weather...

The view from the Source Gym the rest of the weekend was spent working on a new crack machine for the Source Gym.  Upon completion, it will about 15 feet long, completely overhung, and conveniently tucked behind the 50 degree wall.  Yet another tool to become stupidly strong with.

And in other news, I began efforts to start a climbing team for UW last week, and the mailing list has now grown to about 90 recipients.  I'm super psyched to see how the organization will work out; we'll have competition and recreational memberships, pretty much giving everyone everything they want.  The comps are organized by U.S.A. Climbing's Collegiate Climbing Series, which is an intercollegiate climbing competition series (duh).  We will compete in the Rocky Mountain region this year (Colorado & New Mexico), and hopefully have a new one started by next year, which would include Idaho and Montana.  It's been so much fun to see people get excited about the idea of the club over the past few days, and I can't wait to see where it goes.  From absolute beginners to some of the area elites, everyone has been signing up, so it will be interesting for sure.  In other words, 2012 keeps throwing logs on the stoke-fire!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Mode of Passion

Material nature consists of the three modes—goodness, passion and ignorance. When the living entity comes in contact with nature, he becomes conditioned by these modes.
The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kuntī, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activities
O chief of the Bhāratas, when there is an increase in the mode of passion, the symptoms of great attachment, uncontrollable desire, hankering, and intense endeavor develop

These quotes from the Bhagavad Gita essentially sum up the lives of all serious rock climbers.  They call it "the sickness."  Some get it only for a few weeks, others, their entire lives. The search for the perfect line is one of the most powerful and enduring themes of the climbing world, and it struck me like a lightning bolt over the past few months.

But lets start from the beginning...

I was a bored kid from Northern Virginia who wanted to get the hell out of the city and do some crazy shit...for lack of better words.  During the spring of my junior year in high school, I suddenly and inexplicabley became fascinated by the idea of rock climbing, particularly bouldering.  I drooled over dozens of internet videos of Chris Sharma and Daniel Woods sending ridiculous boulder problems and sport routes, things that I never imagined possible.  My birthday quickly arrived and, not knowing what else to get myself, I bought a pair of cheap Evolv Defy rock shoes from a local shop.  Little did I know that I had sealed my fate.

I went to the climbing gym once, and that's all it took.  I had massive oozing blisters on all of my fingers, my back and shoulders were destroyed, and I couldn't stand to grip anything for almost a week afterwards.  I was hooked.  That summer, I ordered my Organic Bouldering crash pad and it all just went downhill from there.  A year of gym climbing and basic top rope anchor classes fueled the fire that was my rapidly developing climbing career.  It wasn't until the next summer that I began to seriously try my hand at outdoor routes and problems.  But it only took a few outings for me to get tired of the slick and heavily trafficked routes of Great Falls National Park, and at that point, I had long decided that NOVA was not the place for me.  It was time to move to the great state of Wyoming, or as they call it in most parts, Wisconsin.

Great Falls classic, Romeo's Ladder-5.6

It didn't take long for me to make my way into the local scene in Laramie, home to the University of Wyoming where I currently study anthropology.  I pretty much started climbing as soon as I arrived; my first week there was spent in Vedauwoo on a trip with the UW Outdoor Program.  Vedauwoo introduced me to (fat) crack climbing, as well as the expensive and terrifying pastime that is traditional rock climbing.

                                                         Super classic, super sandbagged Flying Buttress-5.10b

Pretty soon, I joined the Source Gym in downtown Laramie and befriended local bouldering guru, Davin Bagdonas, who truly introduced me to the ideas of finding new rock and putting up new routes.  Four days after meeting him, I found myself in a pristine untouched alpine boulder field in the Wind River Range with some of Wyoming's finest climbers, establishing completely new boulder problems.  That day, I made the three first "first ascents" of my life, which were soon followed by several others in the many crags that the Cowboy State has to offer.

Bennett Peak

Needle Peak

And now its 2012, I've made several incredible friends,  my trad rack is of monstrous proportions, I'm climbing harder than I could have ever imagined a year ago, and there are great things still to come in the future.  A future brought forth by a transcending and undying passion for climbing.