Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Day at Northwest Branch

One of the many perks of teaching in my school system is that unlike many of my friends who must rearrange their entire schedule to make voting possible, our schools are already closed to serve as polling places.  Add in Columbia's efficiently run polls, which in yesterday's case had me in and out in ten minutes, and I'm all but guaranteed a full day of climbing after I've done my civic duty.

Although in past elections I've gone as far away as Coopers for my bouldering fix, yesterday I opted instead to stay a little more local and get in a full day at Northwest Branch, usually reserved for shorter after work sessions.  So after a leisurely morning I went down and met up with Chris and Jackie, whose own voting experiences had not been nearly as stress-free as mine.

Since Jackie had never seen the boulders downriver, we started off with a walk down to the 495 boulders. We warmed up on Triforce, an enjoyable walk through stacked slabs and small overhangs, with enough of a hill below you to make you think a bit.  Around the corner we also got on Death Mountain, starting on good holds in the crack/flake to move up and left on sidepulls and slopers, with a hillside landing below and a few holds that are still managing to break off.  A great little boulder, but maybe not a good idea to climb alone!

Going back upriver a bit, we stopped by the Long Wall area to play on some problems on the Easter Egg boulder.  This is one of my new favorite boulders, with great slopers and dishes all around a short roof with a safe landing.  We started off on the Egg Traverse before getting on some of the harder stuff to the right side. Jackie and I got on Speed of Life (not to be confused with the much better problem a few hundred miles north), which was fun and lived up to its reputation for being balancy.  We weren't actually sure about the proper starting feet though, as starting with the heel hook already in made it seem way to easy for the grade.  Hoping to get back soon and do it from a true sit.

Meanwhile, Chris took a few shots at a line just to the right, starting low and moving right up the corner to an awesome sloper.  Another problem I'm looking forward to returning for.

With Chris needing to get back home, Jackie and I went over to the Tick boulder, one of my favorite NWB boulders that she had never seen before.  The Traverse felt pretty easy thanks to all of the extra ab work I've been doing, but an exciting little foot pop on my second run through reminded me not to get overconfident!  I also got on Kiss the Prow (a.k.a. Odd World), the little prow to the right of the Tick boulder which I had somehow never actually done, starting from a left foot underneath and a right heel hook (without toe-camming the adjacent rock).  It was awesome!  Definitely one I'll be adding to my regular rotation there.

To finish up, we decided to check out Secret Garden, another problem that I had looked at several times but never actually tried.  I was actually a little nervous about it, having heard stories of injured tendons resulting from the crimpy sequence, and reinforced my fingers with so much protective tape that I could barely feel the holds.  Soon it became apparent that I had to choose between protection and success, and the tape came off.  Meanwhile Jackie was cruising through the initial moves, and I was sure she was going to send it quickly.  With the "secret" toe-hook beta failing me, I switched over to her initial footwork sequence, and ended up sending after a few tries.  Only the quickly fading sunlight kept her from sending as well, and I have no doubt she'll crush it on her next visit.

As I try to come up with grades for some of our newer problems, it's good to get on stuff like Secret Garden for a bit of a reference point.  I think it felt a little comparable or maybe even a bit easier than Tuesday Trivia out at Eden Brook, though that could just be my own body type and beta, and someone else might have a totally different opinion.  I'm excited about all of the problems that are now coming into reach though, especially the ones I've looked at for years thinking they might never be possible for me.  A little change is always good.

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