Sunday, April 22, 2012

Governor Stable, finally

I remember a night, maybe five years ago, raw fingers cooling on a hoppy pint at the old Frisco Grille as my friends discussed an early morning trip to Governor Stable.  It was just into Pennsylvania, they said, about half the distance of Coopers Rock and its winding mazes of gritty delight.  And it was diabase, whatever that meant. Somehow all my mind could conjure up was boulders made of something akin to concrete, but my friends promised it was fantastic bouldering, and conditions would be optimal with a forecast high of 41 degrees. "Next time," I promised them, unaware that Governor Stable would soon be closed to climbing for the foreseeable future.

Although I mourned that missed opportunity, the news came a couple years ago that a group of local climbers calling themselves the Friends of Governor Stable were leasing the land and reopening it to climbers from 2011-2013 during the months of January through August.  Access is limited to annual members or those who have purchased the $10 day passes from the web site, with the money going to help pay the lease and insurance, as well as the cost of maintaining walkways through an otherwise muddy approach. Volunteers are on site not only to ensure that climbers are registered, but also to answer any questions or offer advice about the climbing.  They've also put out a great guidebook, written by Ryan Shipp and Kevin Catlin, about which my only complaint is the lack of an index for the 370 problems listed.

Despite my plans to make the most of the three year lease, I didn't make it to Governor Stable at all last year.  Even as some friends planned nearly weekly pilgrimages there, and Art's tantalizing photos popped up continuously on Adventures in Pebble Wrestling, it was February of this year before I finally made the trip. From the first boulder I saw there, I could understand the hype, even if the crowds did lend an outdoor gym feel that was vastly different from the more solitary bouldering I preferred.  Still, I've often said that climbing is about the people I'm with, and I had a blast getting to be with so many friends who I've only ever climbed with at Earth Treks.  I did a few really fun problems like The Egg45 Traverse, Casablanca, and Pyramid, got a decent start on Open Circuits, and finally had a chance to climb with the APW crew for the first time since their entry into the blogosphere (read about their adventures that day here).

              Rounding the corner on Open Circuits         Photo: Jon Alexander
Highstepping through Pyramid     Photo: Jon Alexander
Last weekend I made it back for a second round, driving up with my mom and Emily to meet a few friends, and running into Seth (a.k.a. Red Spot) and Paul in the parking lot on their way in.  We started our day in the Upstream Area, working our way through some of the traditional warmups, including the pleasantly tall and juggy Private Slabby.

Pennie Close on Kid in a Candy Store
Kat Butler leans hard on Balarete
Jon Alexander on Private Slabby
And Pennie Close gives it a run
Kat Butler dances up
Emily Close on Corner Slab
Emily wants a Royale w/ Cheese
Fingers stretched but skin still intact, we went to the Cave Area where Jon, Jayce and Kat were working on Herr's Left.

                    Jon Alexander reaches up Herr's Left       Photo: Jon Alexander
Emily considering Herr's Left... and deciding against it
Meanwhile, I crawled through the small opening into the eponymous cave, thrilled to see several easy but fun cracks on the slab inside.

                                                                 Photo: Emily Close
Then we went just downhill so I could check out Fisticuffs, while Emily and my mom took a walk up the beautiful Fern Feet cracks.

                                                                                                  Photo: Emily Close
                                                                                                  Photo: Emily Close
     Pennie Close takes care to avoid fern trampling        Photo: Emily Close
Wanting to check out more of the problems in the Circuit Area, we went up top to Dominate and Dom Don't Know, both short problems with good movement.  I also took one shot each at Slopey Dom and The Gathering, which seemed like great projects for another day.

Pennie Close dominates Dominate
Originally planning to get back on Open Circuits, I decided instead to join the crowd on Apex, sending it quickly thanks to the helpful blood trail left by Seth before he moved over to work on Low Ride.  I found Apex to be disappointingly short, but very fun while it lasted, especially the move to the top.

Just downhill from there we did the three problems on the B.C.B boulder, particularly enjoying Hacker on the slopey left arete.

Emily Close squeezes up Hacker
Starting to wind down and hearing the call of Frisco's 50 taps, we packed up and walked back toward Pyramid, which had taunted my mom as we first passed it.  She started up it, but then decided that highball slab and a sore big toe were a terrible combination, and wisely agreed to save that conquest for a future visit.

         Pennie Close on Pyramid          Photo: Emily Close
Although we were done, Jon wanted to settle his score with The Egg, and I had agreed to donate my highball pad to the cause before calling it a day.  As Jon, Jayce, and Kat worked on it, Seth and Paul soon appeared on the scene, followed shortly after by Esten and Art.  Seth and Art wisely joined me in in my supporting role, but the temptation was too much for Esten and Paul, and we soon had a steady rotation of five plummeting bodies.

               Jayce comes close on The Egg                        Photo: Jon Alexander

But it wasn't to be
Paul gives it a shot
                                                   And another                   Photo: Jon Alexander
Esten Abell is sure to crush it, right?
Maybe next time...
Kat Butler rocking up
And another one spit off!
As the battle raged above, my mom communed with the Chai boulder.

Pennie Close enjoying the solitude on Coffee or Tea?
And Seth dispensed words of wisdom to his adoring disciples.

Seth channelling his inner Buddha
For Jon at least, the day ended on a high note, balancing his way through the touchy topout .

I should clarify that although I refrained from getting on The Egg that day, it's a problem that I absolutely recommend doing at least once, especially if you want something entirely dependent on balance.  It's also a great equalizer for mixed groups, since despite the V5 rating I think veteran climbers and those with minimal outdoor experience are equally likely to succeed.

Governor Stable is a beautiful area with an impressive variety of climbing.  Whether you like slab or overhang, technical cracks or sloper traverses, thin crimps or compression aretes, you're sure to find something you'll love.  Is it worth the $10 for a day of climbing there?  In my opinion, absolutely.  Will I be going there all the time?  Probably not, but at the same time there are so many amazing looking problems that I feel it would be foolish not to take advantage of the area while it's open.  A huge thanks to Friends of Governor Stable for opening these boulders back up, and best of luck to them in keeping that access going!

(Click here for more photos and stories from the day, courtesy of Adventures in Pebble Wrestling)

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