Friday, May 30, 2008

Psycho Tower

I decided it was time to take a break from the small blocks to go climb something a bit taller. I hooked up with my long time climbing partner Jared Vilhauer to go climb Psycho Tower. This beautiful Wingate Sandstone tower is located in scenic Big Gypsum Valley, not far from the meandering Dolores River. We left Thursday evening and camped out overnight at the nearby BLM campground. The spot was pretty enjoyable, although it was atypically busy with lots of boaters launching rafts onto the river.

Dasha came along and we were supposed to have another friend meet up with us in the morning. The plan was for Jared and I to get going early (to be off the wall before the temps really heated up) and to climb the 5.11b slab variation to the beginning of the Regular Route. Dasha and friend were to follow on the Regular Route shortly thereafter.

Jared and I moved swiftly on the route and were done in a handful of hours. Our friend still had not arrived so I had Dasha rope up and I climbed it again with her. Seven pitches of climbing for me. Not a bad day. Here are some pics. 1-Jared and Dasha trying to find the tower (hint: it's the obvious tower behind them) 2-Me starting up the 5.11b variation- 'Nameless Face' 3-Jared nearing the finish of the second pitch 4-Me on the super fun and wild third pitch traverse. The fourth and final pitch is out of view.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hidden Gems

Went to Ilium again today. Seems to be an ongoing theme. It's not that I'm avoiding the Mine Boulders or other areas, I just have been having a fun time cleaning and climbing new problems at Ilium and spending time in some of the more obscure areas. Today, Dasha and I climbed all of the problems at Rivendell and some problems in the North End. Here are the photos.

(above) Me on the sit start to 'Bilbo Baggins', a hard V3.
(below) Dasha midway through the sit start to 'Shadowfax' (V1+).
(bottom photo) Here is me again, this time on 'Heroine' (V2+). The left hand edge of the sit start has broken, so this now starts standing, as shown. Right hand on original low pinch, left on bad pocket, finish straight up. The grade is pretty much the same.

The Latest

Mountainfilm came to Telluride this past weekend. It was a fun event. I didn't go to that many films- just 'King Lines' and 'Fitzroy' (as part of the Chuck Kroger Tribute). 'King Lines' ended up winning the Charlie Fowler Award for Best Climbing Film. It was a really enjoyable film that showed how much fun climbing can be when we forget about grades and all the other stuff and just go climb.

On Sunday, I did a book signing as part of the Reading Frenzy. It went well. I sold a few books, met some cool people, and got a chance to catch up with Ginny Fowler Hicks (Charlie's sister). We didn't know each other well while Charlie was still alive, so it gave me a chance to express how much Charlie meant to me and I was able to show her the dedication to Charlie in the book, and give her a copy. She was there signing copies of 'Mountain Star', which is a children's book about how to draw a star using the story of Charlie Fowler's life. Look for it in your local bookstore!

In addition to all of that, we've also been doing some climbing. I ran into some guys from Phoenix yesterday, and they complimented me on the book. They were giving 'Pinch' (V3) on The Premier all of their effort. I comforted them by telling them the grade was rather sandbagged. It's probably closer to hard V4, but the local hardmen say V3. I'm happy to say they pushed hard and completed the problem, sending in good style.

Anyhow, here are some pics from the last few days. First, Damon Johnston sending the proud direct start to 'Beams of Light'. This problem is listed in the guidebook at V2+ and goes at that grade if you head slightly more right and then up. This new variation moves from the undercling to crimps for the right and left, and then to a hard to hit sidepull. Pull the feet up and throw for the rail! I would say the grade of this is closer to hard V3 or easy V4. Though Damon made it look pretty easy by sending it in only a few tries.

My last photo is of Scotty Nichols climbing one of the last projects for the area- the hard arete of The Shire boulder. Scotty nailed the stand starting with a left hand undercling/pinch low on the vertical rail on the right side of the overhang, and his right hand above that on a cool vertical pinch. Foot trickery and a big throw lead to some campusing and a hard finish on crimps and a good edge. The grade is probably somewhere in the V5 range. The sit start is still a project. Here is 'Headlights Like Diamonds'.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

New Problems From Ilium

Dasha and I spent yesterday cleaning problems and climbing at the Disappointment Boulders at Ilium. This rarely climbed area is actually starting to clean up quite nicely and offering more climbs than originally thought. All of the problems are short and trend towards the easier side of the V-scale, but most of them are fairly fun, and there are a couple of harder problems that will be quite good once we finish cleaning them.

Pics: 1-Dasha cruising up the super fun 'Slavic Slab' V0. 2-Dasha pressing out the crux mantel of 'Short Circuit' V0+. 3-The improbable starting crimps of 'Pumpkin' V0-one hard pull leads to a very easy finish. 4-A bad left crimp and a shallow pocket for the right lead to jugs, a dynamic move for the lip, and a satisfying mantel- Christian begins 'Le Grand Champignon' V0+.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


The weather has been pretty poor the last two days. Snow. That's right, snow.

All of this moisture puts a damper on the climbing. Dasha and I decided to try and put a positive spin on the situation and go exploring for some new boulders. We spent a lot of time at Ilium giving it a thorough exploration. We confirmed what we already supposed- there isn't much left to find. However, I did find a couple overhangs up one of the drainages that were pretty high quality and will yield about half a dozen problems. No pictures of those, but perhaps you'll hear more about them in the future.

We also checked out the talus field just down valley of Lawson Hill, along the Galloping Goose trail. It was quite a grovel with the talus being so wet, but we did find some fun boulders and good rock that would yield about a dozen problems. So we might do some development of that in the near future. It should be noted that there is also a small but good boulder located along the Galloping Goose trail about two minutes from the trail head in Lawson Hill. You can see it from the Keystone Hill Overlook. It's got three fun lines on it, all starting from a sit on the obvious low rail.

I hate posting without pictures so here's one of me on a fun problem at Chebucto Head in Nova Scotia. Dasha and I will be heading back there in August to sample some more of the excellent bouldering. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More From Ilium

Today we spent some more time at Ilium, climbing some fun problems and cleaning some of the problems on the Black & Tan Boulder. All of the problems were looking really sweet by the time we were done. One problem that we spent a lot of time on was the right arete (when looking at the main face of the boulder). This problem is listed as the 'Black & Tan Arete' in the guidebook. This problem has an interesting story. When I was researching the guidebook, I was told this arete had been climbed and went at V3. It was quite mossy, but seemed to be plausible, especially if one used the killer undercling to the right. The hard moves are all in the first half, and then it's glorious jugs to the top. I figured I would come back and clean it, and all would be good to go. Well, it took me a long time to get around to cleaning it. After vigorous removal of moss, lichen and pine needles the problem was ready to be climbed. Damon Johnston showed up shortly thereafter and started giving the problem some serious burns. We decided to do this problem the 'proud way' and started from the lowest holds- left hand on the sidepull at the right end of the shelf, right hand on a small sharp edge, both at 2.5-3 feet. We also decided to avoid the holds out right and climb the true arete, finishing up and slightly left for a tenuous, full value top out. This new take on an old problem has outstanding and hard moves with sneaky beta.

Here is Damon on the 'first ascent' of an old problem. We named it 'Climbed Out', and graded it V5. The name comes from the fact that everyone keeps telling us Ilium is climbed out but we keep finding new and fun lines. All you need is a sense of adventure and a wire brush. The stand start, off of small crimps directly on the arete at 5 feet, goes at V2-ish. Enjoy!

Ilium Boulders Update

The time is here again, when the evenings grow long, and temperatures at Ilium are perfect. Since we got back from our trip, Dasha and I have been spending the evenings climbing at Ilium, cleaning old problems that have grown a little licheny, and even putting up a few new problems. Nothing super proud, just fun lines on some of the more obscure blocks. Damon Johnston and I also talked about bouldering the proud face of the Black & Tan Boulder. It's almost certainly been climbed before, but probably not ropeless. We agree that it's probably in the V4/5 range, so not super hard, but certainly tall, with a bad landing. But, there's some cleaning to do first. I'll be heading back out there again today, focusing on cleaning a couple of the Black & Tan problems that need love.

Each spring it's interesting to head back out to Ilium and see if anything has changed- if holds have broken, if any new rockfall has come down from the cliffs above, if some hidden block in the forest has revealed itself. A few of the more obscure problems have had some holds break. The 'Pool Problem' at the Shire had a key hold break, but it still goes at the listed grade of V2. Both this problem and 'Elf Magic' (V2) right next to it appear harder than the listed grade, but go at V2 with tricky beta. For more problem info, check out the new bouldering guide, written by yours truly- 'A Guide to Bouldering in the Telluride & West End Areas'.

(above) Dasha Zamolodchikov on a new V1 just left of 'Video Killed The Radio Star' in the One Hit Wonder area. It starts off two opposing sidepull/edges at 3 feet, and goes straight up on good holds. 'Video Killed The Radio Star' (V1+) had a key hold break this winter, but still goes at the same grade via a sit down start right of the dihedral with your left on a crimp and the right on a good edge just right of the flake. The problem still avoids the flake, instead moving to a left undercling and then up. Here Dasha shows us the beta.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Road Trip, Pt. 6- Little Cottonwood Canyon

After leaving Lake Tahoe, we had the pleasure of staying in majestic Reno, Nevada for a night. I was able to meet up with my friend Britt and catch up, while Dasha and Noah drove around looking for a suitable place to eat for over an hour. No such luck.

Leaving as soon as possible the next morning, we drove across the Nevada desert, past the Bonneville Salt Flats, and the Great Salt Lake and into our favorite Mormon city. While Utah, and Salt Lake City in particular, is one of the strangest places you'll ever visit (religion looming over everything, incredible unending sprawl with every chain store imaginable, etc.), it does have some of best skiing and climbing in North America.

Some of the best bouldering in the country is located in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Yes, some of the problems are extremely polished, and it's crowded, and the smell of brakes lingers in the air. But the quality of the granite and the beauty of the movement is undeniable. It snowed and rained the first day we were there, and we forgot the camera the next day. So, we don't have many pictures. Here's one of Dasha climbing a fun, juggy warm up at the Secret Garden.

Road Trip, Pt. 5- Lake Tahoe

It was hard leaving Yosemite because there were so many problems I still wanted to climb and so much left to see. But, even a few more days wouldn't have been enough. A month would be good. Maybe six months. I'm already thinking about a fall trip there.

So, we packed the car and headed north out of Yosemite and towards Lake Tahoe. Dasha and I had driven through there last year on our way out of Bishop and decided that it was worth a longer stay. Lake Tahoe is a strange place- a mix of second rate casinos and sprawl on the southeastern side of the lake and funky little towns and stunning natural beauty on the west side. There is some great skiing, and more importantly, some exceptional bouldering.

Granite is everywhere. Take your pick from pulling hard down by the lake to tracing perfect stone in alpine sunshine. This place was so beautiful, and a lot of fun. Dasha turned 25 here, and Noah won $80 in roulette.

Now to the pics. 1-Dasha looking out on the incredibly beautiful Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. 2-Dasha Zamolodchikov showing her birthday strength on a fun slab at Middle Bliss. 3-Noah Sheedy going for the big throw at Middle Bliss. 4-Dasha latching onto the final crimp, Middle Bliss. 5-Probably my favorite problem in Lake Tahoe- beautiful setting, killer moves- V4 on the Tall Boy boulder at Christmas Valley. 6-Dasha cruising up the 'Y-crack' with Donner Lake in the background, Grouse Slabs.

Road Trip, Pt. 4- Yosemite

It was time for me to finally make the mandatory climber's pilgrimage to Yosemite. We only had four days so no big walls for me. Instead, we decided to check out some of the smaller stones and find out if the rumors of Yosemite's bouldering potential were true.

They were. This place is amazing. There is rock everywhere, from towering cliffs to thirty foot tall blocks hiding out in the forest. Another place where pictures and descriptions can't possibly do it justice.

The bouldering was fantastic. I think we were so overwhelmed by the scenery and the quality of the climbing that we forgot to take any pictures. The boulders are huge, the granite is perfect and the problems are super beta intensive and often reward power and subtlety in equal measure.

Here are a few pics. 1-Noah climbing a fun V0 located a short walk from our shelter at Housekeeping Camp 2-Dasha finally sending a hard V0 with tricky beta, also at Housekeeping Camp 3-Giant Sequoias 4-Half Dome from Glacier Point 5-El Cap, enough said

Road Trip, Pt. 3-Bishop: Other Areas

Here are some of the other areas around Bishop. All of these areas are no more than 20 minutes from Bishop. 1-Rock Creek 2-Noah trying an unorthodox technique at the Dreamers 3-Dasha getting high at the Dreamers 4-Church of the Lost and Found (left) at the Catacombs 5-Church of the Lost and Found (right) 6-Dasha on 'Slight Inducement' at the Happies

Road Trip, Pt. 3-Bishop: The Buttermilks

Bishop. What can you say? This place is one of the most amazing bouldering areas in the country, if not the world. The Buttermilks alone would make this place worth visiting. What makes Bishop so great? The quantity and quality, but also the diversity. Three different rock types- quartz monzonite at the Buttermilks and Druids, volcanic tuff at the Happies and Sads (and on the Sherwin Plateau), and perfect granite at Rock Creek. I could say more, but if you're a boulderer you just have to visit this place. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Here are four from the Buttermilks.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Road Trip, Pt. 2-Ibex

After three days in Joe's Valley, we drove further west towards our destination of Bishop, California. We decided to stop at Ibex, in western Utah, since it's literally a 15 minute detour from our trip.

Arriving late at night, we scanned the guidebook for camping information. It warned that this place could be one of the windiest places on earth. Dasha and I had the pleasure of spending a day climbing at Ibex last spring. We had a beautiful day with barely a breeze. Since it was dark and late, we decided that heading to Ibex Crags would be the easiest to find (since we had been there before) and the wind didn't seem so bad. Upon arriving at the crag, we camped away from the main bouldering on the lee side of a decent sized boulder. The wind was consistent and strong, but not that bad.

About an hour later, the wind had changed directions and we were now on the windward side of the boulder suffering gusts of up to 75 mph. The tent sounded like it was going to rip in half, and I had to brace my body against it to keep it from blowing away. Interesting.

Nevertheless, we survived the night and woke excited to test ourselves on some quartzite. Unfortunately, the wind continued to blow ridiculously hard all day to the point where some problems were probably a full grade harder. Here are two of the few pictures we have from that day. Dasha climbing a fun problem on one of the smaller boulders at Ibex. This place is really special and one of the most unique landscapes I have seen in the west. Visit it if you have the chance.

Road Trip, Pt. 1- Joe's Valley

The first stop on our trip was Joe's Valley, in central Utah. I've been here many times before. The sandstone is amazing here. Similar to the best sandstone we have in the West End, only way more solid and freckled with incredible features. Here are some photos.

Here is our campsite during our stay in Joe's Valley. The wind was blowing pretty hard and it was pretty cold in the canyon, so scoring this incredible spot was lucky. And, there were excellent climbs right around the corner. This is Dasha and Noah checking out our fire.

We invited our friend Noah to come with us on the trip because he had a tough winter, both personally and physically. He likes to find new and absurd ways to get injured. Like when he injured his shoulder pretty badly less than a week before our trip working on his jibber steez in the park at Breckenridge. Shoulder injuries and climbing mix well.

This is Noah tearing up an easy problem at the UMWA area. His impeccable footwork would be an ongoing theme of the trip.

This is Dasha on one of her favorite problems at the UMWA area. Looking silky smooth, like always. Noah provides a great spot.

Here's Dasha on one of her favorite problems at Joe's-the super fun 'Sunshine'.

This is one of my favorite problems at Joe's Valley. The moves are pretty easy, but when the river is running high, it adds a little spice. 'The Angler' V2

The End Of One Season Is The Beginning Of Another

This past winter was an atypically snowy and cold one for all of Colorado, but especially Telluride. One of the things I love about this place is that I can ski outstanding snow on any given day, and then spend the next day climbing in a t-shirt in the desert after driving for no more than an hour. In fact, you can often climb in San Miguel Canyon all winter as well, which is only a 20-40 minute drive depending on what area you're climbing at. During an average winter, I try to climb at least once a week, and sometimes get out as much as three times a week. This winter I maybe climbed five times total in four and a half months.

After almost five months of snow and well over a hundred days of skiing, you need a change of pace. Dasha and I were both super psyched for what is now an annual climbing road trip. We take about a month in the spring to travel to places that we really want to visit and climb at. We wanted to leave as soon as we could.

The ski season ended April 6th and I spent the next week and a half taking care of other PSIA related skiing obligations. I was finally done with anything related to skiing on the 17th of April.

We left on April 20th.

This picture is from the last day of the season.
Note the sick terrain and the insane amount of snow left.