Saturday, January 7, 2012

New and Old from the Ranch

Above: Kate on the Swiss Chard Traverse v6
 It was a treat to visit the Swiss Chard boulder at HCR this weekend and tick off the classic Jeff's Prow. This climb is super classic and feels impossible until you unlock the ninja toe hook beta. Joe Larson came up and we both sent it quick with good temps and constructive competition. Kate got her first v6 points by redpointing the Swiss Chard Traverse. The climb suited her style and diet. Saturday I headed up with Kate, Joe, Barret, and Steven to do Typhoon, a v11 variation to an amazing sloper hold. I don't think this one is quite v11, but was excited to find unique beta and send first go today after working it last week. Steven sent the stand, and Joe got super close on it too, but was nursing a sore finger.
Afterwords Joe and I did some searching nearby for new problems. We found a whole cluster of undone projects near some old Dave Graham problems. Joe found the first gem worth brushing off and we quickly went to work figuring out the beta on a unique arete with amazing compression moves. The crux was dynoing off of two crimps that were sloped at a 45 degree angle the wrong way for the angle of the climb, making it nearly impossible to stick the last move up to the slopey lip that was surprisingly far away. Joe unlocked the bottom section pretty quick, but we both struggled on the last move for a good hour.

I finally figured out what I thought would be good beta for the top, took a short rest, and gave it that "onelast try... for real this time." I barely caught the lip and thought I was going to peel off at least three times before I finally controlled the swing and regained my composure to top it out. Kate did an awesome job catching the dyno in action! Props to Joe for finding this spectacular line, Smaug, v9.

Above: Wayne sticking the lip on the FA send of Smaug, v9.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The New Frontier

Perfect highball near Stack Rock Area
Arkansas has an interesting topography, particularly in the Ozarks. New technologies have allowed climbers to take rock climbing development to another level by viewing this entire topography with a few simple mouse clicks. GPS and Google Earth in combination are great ways to discover new rock in Arkansas. There are many other factors that go beyond marking a huge cluster of boulders on your gps and hiking out into the woods. Access can be an issue; in Arkansas you may end up skirting the property edge of some unfriendly backwoods hillbilly who probably would love the opportunity to horrify an urban yuppie by reciting lines from Deliverance, shotgun in hand.. I would know; I grew up in Newton County and have a great deal of respect for many of the "back to the landers."  Also, how do you know that the boulderfield you are looking at has that perfect block of sandstone instead of a massive choss pile of boulders. I hate coming back from an area and telling other climbers, "That boulder field  would have been awesome, but all the hand holds broke off in my face when I pulled onto the rock. 
Finding good rock takes dedication and honest discrimination. In the past I would find a new area with unlimited rock and amazing features and bring out a crew to discover that the climbing "flow" wasn't there. Perhaps the rock was a little sandier than I remembered or the features just did not climb as well as they looked.

Left: Joe Larson cruises through bullet pockets 
on an unamed moderate near Stack Rock.
Above:Joe gets the FA of the new classic v4, Hellfire, at the 
underworld near Strawberry bouldering area.
Below: Joe stands beneath a new block with multiple brojcts
near stack rock

The more I am developing in Arkansas, the more I am realizing it is a climbing area of many zones. Arkansas bouldering is a true backwoods adventure. There are few uber-concentrated climbing areas like Hp 40 or Stone Fort. Sometimes you hike an entire boulderfield to only find a few gems. Take for example the Cowell area. There is an unbelievable amount of rock there and a few really good zones, but the majority of the rock is sandy and not featured well for bouldering.
Here are some basic rules for developing new boulders. Always make sure that you respect the land you are about to hike in. A new area is not the gym and or an established area that has had people working hard to gain access. If it is on National Forest, you can loosen up a bit, but be mindful about where it is you are climbing and please do not jeopardize an area for others to enjoy. If you find a good area on private land consider approaching the land owner with somebody who is a smooth talker or has knowledge of the general area. Secondly, developing is an art that requires a synthesis of many different skills. Lines are not always visible in the same way to different climbers. Picking out a good line is a skill. How many people come to an area and enjoy attempting or repeating your line is a good indicator of the classiness of your new problem. It is a good idea to bring at least one other person when you hike a new area to make sure your head isn't in the clouds. I don't know how many times I have brought somebody over to my "sick new proj" to have them give me a blank stare indicating, "what in hell were you thinking." Bring friends when you search for new ares, it is more fun. Also, your development of an area is limited to your ability. I have found so many areas that have good projects in the v10-15 range. Sometimes you just need to give up on cranking on that crimp-mono and give your buddy that crushes your projects in his trainers a shot at it; which brings me to my last point. Developing is not for the number chasers or people interested in the fame aspect. Some of the best problems that I have done in Arkansas I will never hike back to or take anybody else there. The areas are just too remote or not concentrated enough. Sometimes hiking in is more fun than the climbing. If you ever find yourself loathing the approach to an amazing area, you should take a moment and reconsider your motivation for rock climbing.