Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spring break!

A couple days left of spring break for me, and it's been a great one.  Last Friday I finally made it down to Baja to visit my sister in Los Barriles.  Something I've been meaning to do for a while, and probably would have done sooner if I'd known about the ridiculous amounts of smoked fish and amazing chocolate waiting for me. Seriously, the things coming out of the tiny Charlie's Chocolate shop might be the best I've ever had.  Even Emily said they were the best, and that's coming from someone who lived in Belgium for a while.

Oh, and my sister got married, which was pretty cool too.

I got an awesome new big brother out of the deal...

and my mom didn't even have to miss any training time.

The weather has been perfect since we got back, though at first I was less able to take advantage of it than I'd hoped.  After being less diligent than I should have been about "don't drink the water" in Mexico, I was equally careless about "don't eat expired food" when I got home, and am still feeling the effects.

I did manage to get out on Friday for a bit though, and went to Rocks State Park with enough energy to do the Right Cross Problem.

Yesterday I went out to Bushwhack with Jsun and Rachel, who had never gotten out there before.  We threw up a rope on The Way Life Should Be, still one of my favorite short routes out there.

While Rachel worked on gear placement for a while, I stepped away to join Charlie over on his project for the day.  It's hard to really get the full perspective from these photos, but it was scary even to watch him, especially when he spent a good minute shaking out before making a committing move over horrible talus.

The rest of us did Short But Sassy, which I've never actually seen dry, then pulled the rope and moved  down so I could try my own project on toprope.  It's going to be scary over pads, but at least now I know there are holds there, and the sequence is about as dialed as it's going to be.  After that we made a brief stop at the Tourette's boulder, which unfortunately Jsun was too full of Oreos to do much on.

Weather looks good for tomorrow, and also promising for Rockfest next weekend.  Can't believe it's almost here, but should be great time.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

More Bushwhackery

After a busy weekend of poker games, daffodil-filled gardens, crab covered tater tots, and a fun performance by Emily's band, she and I got a leisurely start Sunday morning for her first trip out to Bushwhack in far too long, with some of the best weather in recent memory.  Meeting up with Penny and Maitreya in Frederick, and joining Ryan at the rocks, the girls and I started off with some easy laps up the slabs of the Bird boulder while the boys played around up the hill on the Switch boulder.

Emily on Knights who say Knee
Penny on Knights who say Knee
Maitreya feeling out Flipping the Switch
Eventually we made our way to the Tourettes boulder so Penny could check out the problems there.  The first boulder I ever climbed there, and one I visit almost every time, and still it never gets old.

Emily on Rise and Shine
Penny had to head out after that (something about watching people throw orange balls at circles), but the rest of us finished our day at the top of the talus were a couple of lines had caught Ryan's eye.  The first shared the start of Constructive Winter, then continued a few moves left around the lip rather than topping out at the first opportunity, making an already fun problem even better.

                              Robin on Constructive Winter               Photo: Ryan Jones
While Ryan immersed himself in a game of Pad Tetris over on the left side of the overhang, I played around on the short slab on the back of the boulder.

Before long, Ryan popped over the top, having flashed the problem he had spent probably fifteen minutes padding.  I went around to check it out, and it was one of the most unique things I've climbed around here.  In an area not known for obvious face holds, the left of the overhang had a series of deep incuts running up the hard surface layer of the rock.  Thin but strong, they reminded me more of hardened desert rock, and Ryan had found a fun sequence through them to the undercling arete.

                                                                                           Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                           Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                           Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                            Photo: Emily Close 
                                                                                            Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                           Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                           Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                           Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                           Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                           Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                           Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                     Photo: Maitreya Sriram
                                                                                    Photo: Maitreya Sriram
                                                                                     Photo: Maitreya Sriram
                                                                                     Photo: Maitreya Sriram
                                                                                     Photo: Maitreya Sriram
We were losing sun pretty quickly by the time we wrapped up there, but I was happy with the day.  After a few sessions of too much standing around, I walked away feeling like I had actually done something, and had the stiffness the next day to prove it.  One more day of climbing here before I'm off to sunny Baja for my sister's wedding, but will still have almost a week left of spring break after I get back.  Fingers crossed for dry rock!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bushwhack Tuesdays

Temps are up, flowers are out, and the sun is finally staying around long enough to put Frederick back in the range of after work climbing for me.  Not that I did a ton of it on Tuesday.

After finding a parking space not filled with random deer bones (yes, tis still the season), I was glad for the still un-vegetated walk as I went to join some of the Rockville setting crew, who were putting in some burns on Stink, Stank, Stunk when I arrived.

We only stayed there for a few minutes before walking down to Life is Beautiful.  With an eye-catching finger crack running out the bottom of an overhung block and then up a nearly blank face, it was one of the most memorable things I saw on my first trip out there, and I was excited to hear that Ryan Shipp had climbed it as part of the Great Pennsylvasion a couple years ago.

Physically, it's not a hard problem.  The real issue is the feeling of exposure that starts a couple moves into the crack and never really goes away, making a boulder that's probably only 13-14 feet feel way taller.  I never ended up putting my shoes on, but Charlie and Ward made it look pretty, even campusing through the bottom of the face for some extra fun.

Somehow we only had an hour left by the time we finished there, and at my request we headed back toward the fire road to get on Full Atonement, which I had been wanting to see Charlie get on for months.

So why was I more excited about watching someone else climb than getting on the rocks myself?  I guess it comes down to the fact that as excited as I was to do Full Atonement back in September, I hadn't talked anyone else into repeating it yet, and Charlie has continued to crush just about everything he touches.  A couple months ago he easily put down the first ascent of the Sykesville Monster, a link into Guillotine at Sykesville's Levitation area that would almost be better graded as a route.

Check out the Sykesville Monster FA video from Ryan Jones here.

He's also worked his way quickly through several of Maryland's harder established problems, including the coveted Moby Dick at Rocks State Park.

moby dick from Charles garcia on Vimeo.

His sending spree hasn't just been limited to local rock.  Even though our trip to Chattanooga fell through last weekend, he recently had a strong few days at Rocktown, culminating with a send of Golden Harvest (around 11:00 in the video below).

4 Days in Rocktown from Will Anglin on Vimeo.

If Full Atonement was going down again, this was the day.  In hindsight, I probably could have let him suffer a little more, considering the three sessions it took me to find the right feet for the first move.  But I was excited, and with his permission I showed him the key foot, hoping the remaining hour of daylight would be enough for him to figure the rest out.  Turned out he only needed about two minutes.  Yes, the problem that took me a total of six sessions to complete, he put down on his second go.  Then repeated it for the camera.  This guy is a monster.

With conditions finally getting good again, it'll be exciting to see what else our little rocks have in store for us, especially with so many strong climbers getting out.  When I first started bouldering, we only had a handful of hard problems to aspire to, and even fewer known projects.  Now I struggle to prioritize all of the things I want to climb, and it seems like the list gets bigger every day.  People out west laugh when I say that one thing that keeps me in Maryland is the climbing, and while I understand their confusion, I'm glad to be surrounded by friends who see what I see.  Yeah, I think I'm here for a while.

Here's some great video of Tuesday's sends, courtesy of Ward.

Bushwhack from Skilla on Vimeo.

And just for comparison, the original ascent of Full Atonement.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mallside slabs and Honey NoGo

Sore muscles.  Shredded skin.  Struggling to stay awake until 9 o'clock.  It was a good weekend!

Saturday, after our plans to do so fell through last weekend, Indy finally showed me around the Hunt Valley Rocks, along with Penny and a few other friends.  Literally located next to McCormick Road at the edge of the Hunt Valley Towne Center, what these slabs lack in height and atmosphere they more than make for in texture. Composed of some form of quartzite, further east and way more folded and banded than I've ever seen, they offer the best pure friction climbing I've seen in the state.

                                                                                Photo- Mark 'Indy' Kochte
We only set up in a couple spots, but every route I did was fantastic.  I started off on the Grey Face, thoroughly enjoying myself on Avoid the Temptation, which follows a beautiful slab up through a couple undercling pinches, with a good left arete available for those who don't quite trust their smearing skills yet.  The arete was also really fun as a layback called Daylight Dancer on the vertical face to the left.
Alex starting up Daylight Dancer     Photo- Mark 'Indy' Kochte
Penny approaching high step #1    Photo- Mark 'Indy' Kochte
High step and mantle    Photo- Mark 'Indy' Kochte
The slab on the right of the Grey Face called to me as soon as I saw it, and according to Indy it hadn't been done yet, which explained the number of holds that snapped on my first few attempts. The bottom is almost entirely blank, but several sharp crystals come quickly within reach for hands.  Once I finally found a few that could support my weight, it was easy enough to work through underclings and side pulls and then straight up the right arete.  In absence of any other known ascents, I decided to call it Banks of McCormick as a tribute the first ascentionist of Silver Spot, and in keeping with the history of that climb have decided that 5.10 is as good a rating as any for this one.

Banks of McCormick     Photo- Mark 'Indy' Kochte
Sunday's climbing was entirely different.  Bryan and I started off the day at Gunpowder, where I hoped to climb the slightly contrived but fun looking Honey GoGo.  Didn't happen.  I tried to start it three times, but quickly realized that I wasn't nearly warmed up enough.

Meanwhile, Bryan was playing on the flake over on the right side of the boulder, and I decided to join him for a couple minutes before we abandoned Gunpowder for our backup plan of Rocks.  Somehow two hours passed, and Bryan and I found more and more ridiculous sequences to exhaust ourselves with.
Bryan on... another random move
It was actually very freeing to forgot what we knew about the problems on the boulder and just climb.    With all the options of holds, I almost felt like we were on a nearly horizontal system board, and from a training standpoint I'm sure it was just as good for us since we so rarely get to climb on such step terrain.  Here's my favorite sequence from our session.

Still wanting to make a stop at Rocks before we were entirely exhausted, we headed on down the road.  Once there, we didn't do as much as I'd anticipated, starting off on the Right Cross problem and never really getting any further.  Again I walked away without finishing it, again because I figured out what to do after I was too tired to do it.  At least this time I was smart and wrote a note in my phone about the foot beta for next time.  Now all I have to do is remember it's in there!

Tomorrow was supposed to be the start of our trip to Chattanooga, but it seems the rain has decided otherwise.  I'm sure we'll find plenty of other local fun to get into.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Carderock multipitch?

St. Patrick's Day, and I'm home because of snow.  Again.  At least it'll be a good chance to catch up on a few things, and after getting out to climb for the past two days I suppose I'm okay with a day inside.  Especially one that includes second breakfast.

Saturday we went out to Levitation with a huge crew and turned the Jam boulder into a gym for a while, then spent some time with silly dynos and long reaches in the upper section before walking down river to another great little boulder that I hadn't been to yet.

Yesterday, Emily and Bryan and I went down to join Chris and Nicole for what I thought would be a laid back day of toproping.  And it was at first, as Bryan and I dropped a rope on Spider Walk and Silver Spot while the others got on Meenehan's Staircase.

                                 Silver Spot           Photo: Chris Irwin
For Bryan's first time there, I was glad that he really got the full Carderock experience... technical slabs, slippery crystals, and old regulars walking by every few minutes to offer "encouragement."  They were out in force yesterday too, attempting to catalogue Carderock's countless eliminate boulder problems, which until now have largely been confined to the area's oral history.  Bryan also set and climbed on his first toprope when we moved over to work on Sterling's Crack and Evan's Bolt Ladder.

The real highlight for me was following Chris on the "classic" Chris Wex Don Traverse, first done in the 1940s, and no doubt originally involving pitons and hardware store ropes.  Just to clarify for those unfamiliar with Carderock, this is a toprope area.  The cliffs are usually 30-40 feet tall, bolting is not allowed, and the regulars swear that the gear placements are all questionable enough to make leading a downright irresponsible act.  In fact, most of them won't hesitate to loudly question your judgement as they free solo past you.

Let others say what they will, but when this guy thinks something is a good idea, who am I to doubt him?

                                                               Photo: Emily Close
This isn't the first time I've belayed Chris when he's decided to lead something there, and apparently this route has been on his mind for a while.  As soon as he asked if I had brought any whiskey, I knew it would be a fun route.  There was no whiskey to be had, but fortunately I was able to borrow women's helmet from a nearby party.

                                                                                            Photo: Emily Close
With the vague directions of "climb part way up Garbage Chute and then go 400 feet right," we were soon immersed in the freedom of multipitch in one of the last places I would ever expect.  Even though none of the climbing was hard, there was some ugly fall potential and I give Chris a lot of respect for going through with it. It was also interesting to do something where following felt almost as sketchy as leading, especially since the beginning of the second pitch was downclimbing a ramp over the river, though actually getting to climb over the river was both beautiful and one of the most peaceful experiences I've had there.

                                                            Photo: Emily Close
                                                             Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                           Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                           Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                           Photo: Emily Close
                                                             Photo: Emily Close

                                                             Photo: Emily Close
                                                        Photo: Nicole Martino
Thinking of climbs like this being done over 70 years ago only increased my already considerable respect for the early generations of climbers who developed the area.  Carderock is a place I love and appreciate more with every visit, and I would absolutely encourage anyone to get out and explore some of the old forgotten lines at this or any other old local area.  Hard new climbing has its place, but the feeling of continuing someone else's history always seems more satisfying to me in the end.

Cheers to all on this snowy day, and an extra toast to all of those old school badasses who paved the way.