Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Torrey Valley, Bomber Basin, and Bennett Peak

With summer now in full swing, cool climbing temperatures have been hard to come by in the Laramie area.  Hot and muggy days with intermittent rain showers had set in, and upon hearing of the cold front moving in from the West, Davin, Bryan and I made plans for a week of climbing on some of the alpine boulders in the Northern Wind Rivers.  Camp was set up in the scenic Torrey Valley near the trails up to Bomber Basin and Lake Louise, all of which contain countless high quality gneiss and granite boulders.  Unfortunately, as those of you who regularly read this blog know, I generally mess up at least one thing on any given trip.  Sometimes its something completely basic and essential...like a tent.  But with a little help from my friends, I got by for the few days we spent there.

 And yes, we were in Grizzly country.  But, why be scared when you have The BEARFUCKER?

 I found it behind a tree.

After setting up camp, we spent the evening cleaning a few lines on the Elemental Wall, which is about a quarter mile up the Glacier Trail.  We all repeated an older line called Hydrogen (V3) before working on new problems, none of which were completed that evening.  The next day, we hiked up to Bomber Basin, which is about 3 miles up the Glacier Trail.  We stopped at a cluster of trail-side boulders for a few hours initially, and put up 5 new problems and left a few projects to be done.  I put up two on the prow of the largest boulder in the pile.

 Bomber Basin

Lean-to- V3 (Green) and Of Mice and Bears-V4 (Red)

 Bryan Vansickle crushing one of his new problems

Davin Bagdonas working a new project

We later walked about a half mile further to another boulder field, which was quite spectacular.  We couldn't spend much time there due to an incoming snowstorm, but what I saw was some of the best I've seen in the area.

 What a place to go bouldering...

 Clean alpine gneiss

 The one problem I cleaned up there

Because of the unpredictable weather systems at work up high, we stayed in Torrey Valley for the third day.  We spent the day primarily repeating established problems, however each one of us put up a new one on a tall and clean block.

Davin on the tall, slabby face.

Pep Talk (V2), techy face climbing to a long move to the lip.

Bryan working Poho Kanhi (V10)

After managing three good days on the rock, the weather finally overran us, and we had to cut our trip a little short.
Waking up and smelling the nature.

On the way back, we made a last minute stop to scope out some sandstone boulders on the Ferris Mountains just off of the highway.  Quite literally in the middle of nowhere, we ended up atop several large sand dunes, which are known by few people, even locals.

With no real plans for the weekend, I took one day to repeat Vedauwoo classic, Roast Possum Vinegar Pie (V5).  Very solid at the grade, and easy to protect with one pad if you're out on your own.

Afterwards, last minute plans were made for a trip to Bennett Peak to do some bouldering and possibly bolting.  Our first day out, not much of anything got done.  We repeated a few old (10+ years) problems on a large roof by the camping areas, but the weather turned into complete garbage.  I almost considered leaving that night, but was convinced to stay with hopes of climbing a large overhanging boulder we looked at earlier.

After a good night's sleep, we were eager to climb.  Unfortunately, there was still an arctic wind blasting our boulder, which made conditions less than perfect.  Either way, two problems went up.  Davin established the River of Time on the left side of the boulder, and I put up Words Like Rain (V4) on the central face. The problems are long (30' or so), but the landing moves up with the boulder and keeps the landings relatively safe.  Either way, the descent is pretty damn scary.

 Words Like Rain V4

 Davin contemplating his fate

As always, no trip to the Saratoga area is complete without a stop by the hot springs, which have magic fingertip-healing properties.  Time to recover from another long week. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Princes With No Money

A lot has gone down in the past few weeks, and not all of it can possibly be captured in a single blog post.  So here's a brief overview, mostly through pictures.

Just before classes ended for the summer, Nick and I went back to the Grove for a day of scouting around high up on the ridge.  It seems that in the area, the boulders fade and give way to large walls.

The Jurassic Park Wall

 Pretty steep, with a massive bulge about halfway up

 The Safari Wall

 Looks vaguely like a tiger's stripes, no?

We mainly hiked around that day, but we climbed a little.  I found a very steep section of wall on the back of a large pinnacle visible from the parking area that I named the Red Wall.  I cleaned a couple of potential lines, but focused mainly on the only one that would be able to top out.  It was definitely a bit harder than I expected, but it should be able to go fairly soon.

The Red Wall

On the hike out, we stopped by an overhanging boulder we saw on the way in and put up two moderates just before getting hit by a rainstorm.

But by far, the highlight of our day was the rare opportunity to eat at Weenies & Things...

 "The Best Food in Town!"

Two days later, I was Lander-bound and prepared for a full week of sport climbing.  Fellow East Coast expat, Mike Mills, joined  me for most of my trip, and showed me around several of the Sinks Canyon and Wild Iris classics.  At the end of the week, I had sent 20 different climbs, and averaged about 5 pitches a day.  My lead head started to get pretty solid, and I was climbing harder than ever on the sharp end.  Most climbs were pretty cruiser up to 5.11a (my hardest onsights), however I didn't try anything harder since I start to get nervous once I'm not extremely solid. More motivation to get crazy stupid strong.

The Killer Cave of Sinks Canyon

 Jesse Brown working The Urchin (5.13a)

Mike Mills on the Urchin

Overlooking the sandstone buttresses down-canyon

Popo Agie Falls

Jackson locals Vienna, Preston, and Chris, who I climbed with one morning

Epic sleeping setup 

After a week on a rope, I was feeling like some bouldering.  Locals Jesse Brown and Dave Lloyd  invited me to go bouldering at a fairly new area called the Rock Shop, about a half hour's drive out of town.  There, we met Chris Marley (who has put up many of Lander's hardest problems) and proceeded to clean and climb some new lines.  Chris put up a V6 roof problem called Sleepy Hollow, Jesse climbed a V4 highball called the Headless Horseman as well as a V5 sloper problem, and Dave made what he called the best FA of his life on a boulder called the Cube.  I put up a long and fun route that I called Mustache Ride (V2) which has good movement on great edges and incuts.
 Part of the Rock Shop as seen from the Cube

Riding the Mustache

Dave crushing his new (kind of scary) problem

With everyone busy and unable to climb the next day, I decided to return to Laramie, however I still wanted to climb.  Dave recommended that I stop by Sweetwater Rocks to check out some problems in the God's Eye boulder area, and gave me some really thorough directions.  Unfortunately, I could not find the last turn he mentioned, but everything else was dead on, so it must have been user error.  I ended up pulling over at the first rock pile I saw and wandering around.  I found a few chalked up boulders, so thought I could find some good new ones nearby, which wasn't quite the case.  What I found was very Vedauwoo-esque, but still pretty cool.  I ended up cleaning and working a few problems, but nothing really stood out except for one, which is a very hard climb up slimpers and mega-contrived slopers.  I may or may not ever end up going back to finish it, but still worth putting out there.
 I called this thing the Revolting Blob
 Beautiful, mostly blank boulders
 Not your daddy's slimpers
 A very small portion of the rock at Sweetwater
Overall, I was really happy climbing every day, eating lots of soup, and showering with wet wipes.  You don't need a whole lot to survive, and most people, myself included, weigh themselves down with so many unnecessary possessions and socially constructed responsibilities.  At the end of the day, its all about doing what you love.  As 63-year-old climber, guide, and general badass Al Burgess said one night at the Lander Bar, "We're climbers man!  We live like fuckin' princes with no money!"
 And he's right; we work minimally to spend our time doing what we want to.  Does that really make us bums or dirtbags?  I don't think so.
I'd much rather be a poor man than a poor soul.