Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Problems at Curt Gowdy State Park


Nick Turner's passionate and rather bizarre war cry echoed through the forest as he flung off of my most recent boulder problem, Face Full of Nothing.  As I lowered my camera and took in the vibes of our crew and the boulders, I couldn't help but think...

Holy shit, Vedauwoo bouldering is actually fun!
In the weeks that I've been out of town, there has been a recent surge in development of a sector of boulders in the heart of Curt Gowdy State Park, which is a mere half hour away from Laramie.  This new sector is littered with the usual blank eggs that you'll find in most of Vedauwoo, however, several boast clear lines that are just begging to be climbed.  That, paired with the relative shelter of the forest, allowed Davin and Josh to explore and begin developing the boulders throughout December and early January.  They had a certain psyche about the area that was just contagious, so I was nothing short of eager to go check it out.

My first weekend back, Davin, Josh, Nick, and I set out hungry for some new problems.  Upon arrival, my first impression was not great.  The rock was, as per usual Vedauwoo, super abrasive- "suprabrasive", if you will.  On top of that, our first stop of the day was getting blasted by wind, making the would-be comfortable 45 degrees miserable.  Needless to say, nothing really went down there.

It was not until we relocated to a more sheltered cove that we really started climbing.  We also met up with Nick there, as he showed up late and spent about an hour and a half wandering through the woods until he happened to find us.  Anyways, Davin put up Deck of Cards (V3), which we all repeated and shared similar moments of terror on the topout.  The line starts on an obvious cobble, which leads to sloped jugs and a balancey mantle with a good crimp.

Davin on the FA of Deck of Cards

We then headed a little ways down the slope and put up two lines on a boulder with two big flake systems.

At the end of the day, we moved back up the hill to a boulder where Davin wanted to work a powerful compression line.  On the opposite side of the boulder, I put up a really fun easy problem I called Dihedroid (V2), which comes out of a small dihedral on good incuts and a bomb undercling.
 Despite the less than underwhelming first impression, I quickly began to realize that the largely unpopular style of Vedauwoo bouldering just takes some getting used to, with the sharp crystals and the blood and what not.
We returned the next weekend, with the additions of Bart, Joyce, Nicole, Chris, and Tim.  It was slightly colder and completely overcast, but utterly still- conditions were perfect.  While everybody warmed up on the flakes from last time, I wandered off, always in preference of something new.  I cleaned and warmed up on Lowbrawl (V3), which moves up nice incuts to a classic sloper mantle- a swift reminder of where it is you're bouldering.
From there, Nick called me up to check out a small recess he found with several nice lines to choose from, which we quickly got excited with.  Nick was focused on a gentle overhang with good holds, while I turned my attention to the intimidating slab across from it.  Once joined by Chris, Nicole, and Tim, we worked the slab.  I first finished an easy variation, which uses the juggy edge of the boulder, but what I really wanted was a direct finish, which involved a few key inverse crimps on crystals to get to the last good crimps.  After a few tries, I worked out the sequence and topped out Face Full of Nothing (V4), which is by far the best slab problem I've put up.
Face Full of Nothing

Nick reaching for the last good crimp
 Shortly after, Nick made a quick ascent of Lost in the Woods (V2 or V3), which we all repeated.  It starts with a big heel hook which leads to good crimps and jugs at the top.
Nicole at the start of Lost in the Woods

Nick topping out

 Following these ascents, everyone except Davin, Nick, and I headed back to town.  With the last hour of daylight, the three of us walked to the top of the hill, which proved to be fantastic on this windless dayThere, Davin worked a very difficult overhanging lowball while Nick and I worked a big and very obvious roof problem.  The roof begins on good crimps which lead to a short sequence on progressively worse crimps, climaxing at a powerful gaston and cross into jug city.  I couldn't finish it that day, but definitely next time
 Tired and physically abused, we called it a day at 6:00 p.m., unheard of on a late January day. With several projects now in the works, I'm actually pretty excited to go back soon.  Being as popular a climbing destination as Vedauwoo is, I feel privileged that I can still be out there establishing lines on virgin boulders.  There are even a few towers in the area with great cracks and slabs just waiting to be climbed!  We here in Laramie sure have our work cut out for us...and its great.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Few From Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is an island much revered for its beaches, music, and rumRock climbing has never received much, if any, attention by locals or tourists.  This has begun to change lately, and articles on Puerto Rico now seem to be somewhat in vogue in major climbing publications.  With half of my family being proud Puerto Ricans, I spent a lot of time on the island growing up, however, this past winter was my first visit as a climber.

Unfortunately, I was dealing with a relatively minor case of tendonitis at the time of my arrival.  Because of this, I cut out all climbing and climbing related exercises for two weeks before attempting to get on a wall again.  This seemed to be sufficient, and I quickly found myself dragging my family along to various crags around the island.

Bayamon, a popular sport crag, was the first place I visited.  Being only a 15 minute drive from the heart of San Juan,  Bayamon is effectively the gym for locals and an exotic adventure for tourist groups.  The rock is a pale grey limestone that is generally littered with pockets, tufas, and stalactites.  I first took my brothers there for a day of easy climbing after recovering from my injury, climbing several 5.8-5.9's and a few 5.10's.  They seemed to enjoy it very much, as the wall I took them to is ideal for beginners with massive pockets and feet everywhere.

Later, towards the end of my trip, I returned with local climber, Dario, to attempt an area classic called Chocolate Sky (5.11d).  My new years resolution this year is to stop being a bitch and climb 5.12 already, so I figured I may as well start by getting on that route.  We warmed up on a tricky 5.10 just to the left and a moderate 5.11a to the right, then I took the route by storm.  It goes up a thoughtful section of 5.10+ which leads to a big rest, then pushes through a stellar headwall with cool tufas and crimps.  I made it to the second clip of the crux sequence before I got the nerves & took.  The route was super well protected, so I proceeded to French free the  rest of the clips and free the moves afterwards.  This at least let me realize that every move was physically easy for me and that it's really not that hard to climb at these more difficult grades- I just need to keep my cool.

Dario on the big rest before the headwall

Apart from the great sport climbs, I began to crave some good bouldering.  Bayamon has plenty of boulders, but hardly anybody on the island owns a pad.  Out of sheer desperation, I became crafty and fashioned a makeshift pad of my own to take on a short session one afternoon.  Complete with durable duct tape shoulder straps, the Trash Pad was born.

It was shitty and dangerous, but better than nothing.
There are a few other sport crags spread out across the island, and the only other one we visited was the walls at San German.  This crag is a little less beginner friendly, as you have to climb an approach pitch to reach most of the climbs, which look really good.  I led the awesome 5.10a approach pitch, which offers some 80 feet of continuous moderate climbing and great views, before heading down to the wall called the Gym.  This wall is overhung at a sustained 30 degrees and boasts dozens of fun jug hauls.  A lot of the pro is sketchy webbing tied through holes and jugs, which keeps you pretty attentive too.

The rest of my outings were beach bouldering sessions, which I really enjoyed.  The first beach we climbed at was Surfer's Beach in Aguadilla.  There is a single 25-30' boulder right by the parking lot, which has dozens of climbs that range from 5.6 to 5.10, with a few V2-V3 boulder problems on the short sideYou can exhaust it pretty quickly, but the routes are so fun you'll want to do them over and over again!

 Dozens of boulders lie in the forest as well, but they're really dirty and would need a committed crew to clean and maintain.
The last beach we hit was Vacia Talega, which is just outside of Pinones.  The seas there are much rougher, and the wind is deafening and constant.  The climbs are also more difficult, with not much easier than V3.  

I wish I could have climbed more during my stay, but either way I was just glad to be away from school and the bitter cold for a while.  

Actually, I was pretty happy to come back to Laramie with its -22 degree weather.  With new goals and the usual motivation, I'm super stoked to be where I am when I am, and 2013 is looking like it will be a great year!