Monday, April 2, 2012

Sykesville highballin': Mulligan Flash

It's been a pretty exciting couple weeks in Maryland climbing, with Dan Montague putting down three impressive projects in short succession.  As Conrad reported yesterday, Dan sent two of the new routes he had been working at Harpers Ferry with Martin Leska, both estimated to be in the 5.12 range and led on gear ranging from brass micros to a gargantuan #6 Camalot.  Nine days earlier, he was in Sykesville dispatching a highball project on the Levitation boulder, easily one of the most intimidating boulders in the state.  Called Mulligan Flash, the cruxes come at both the bottom and top, so the estimated grade of V5 shouldn't be taken lightly.

Dan had first taken me to visit Levitation and the nearby Jam boulder a few weeks ago after we had finished climbing at The Nest.  Located on the North side of the river, just downstream from Sykesville itself, the Levitation boulder is an overhanging monstrosity that Dan had been itching to try.  After looking at it again that day, Dan started cleaning it over the weekend, and we returned that Tuesday so he could start working the moves.  Although he had rapped down to clean some of the holds, he insisted on figuring out the beta ground-up.  His initial plan had been to move up and right to traverse across a u-shaped rail, then make a committing press off a high right gaston to an easy topout.  Given the logistical nightmare of spotting him on that final move, we decided it would be best to come back for the send another day.

Two days later, we returned accompanied by Jon Alexander, who hoped to get video of the send.  With cameras set on tripods and Jon freed up to spot, we figured the two of us would be sufficient to protect Dan if he blew the final move.  Then Dan changed the game plan a bit, opting for a direct finish after reaching the curving rail.  While this gave him smaller holds to work with, it also meant smaller and more controlled moves.  More importantly, the fall also became more direct, no longer requiring spotters or pads to move from one tier to another.

As we were setting up, we saw someone coming down the tracks toward us.  As he approached we saw that our mystery visitor was John Kelbel, Patapsco rock guru and possibly the most badass climber in Maryland.  Although John continued his walk after hanging out for a bit, he managed to return just in time for Dan's send, getting some great photos of the much scarier than expected finish.  For the record, I was terrified and I wasn't even the one climbing it!

                                                                                                  Photo: John Kelbel
                                                     Photo: John Kelbel
                                                    Photo: John Kelbel
                                                    Photo: John Kelbel
I swear he just took that chalk break to mess with us!  After collectively catching our breaths, we packed up and walked over to the Jam boulder for some lower fun.  The boulder is named for The Jam, a sweet overhanging hand crack that runs right up the middle.  John made light work of it in his street shoes, but claimed his hands hurt when we asked him to repeat his performance for the cameras.  We also played on the left arete, which has an awesome overhanging sloper traverse.  Combined with a couple great arete and crack problems on the small boulder uphill from Levitation, this area more than makes up for its small size with fantastic quality bouldering.

And now, here as promised is Jon Alexander's video of Dan sending Mulligan Flash.  Below it you'll also see my uncut footage of the climb.  Jon's is a much better video, though the spotters' reactions at the end of mine are worth seeing.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful. No videos for the Jam Boulder?

chris bursey said...

These boulders are awesome! The arete problem above the levitation boulder is sweet, and the entire jam boulder is amazing

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