Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Casa Diablo: A Treasure Map

There has been a trickle of interest regarding Casa Diablo and the questions generally include asking directions to the established problems.  While I hope people take the time to explore and establish new stuff I realize a dangling carrot is often needed to get folks started.  With that in mind I put together a quick map showing the exact locations of some of the better stuff that we did.

Remember that most of the points on the map will also have other development around it and there are plenty of problems that I only had time to give a quick brushing and are waiting for an ascent.  And if anyone does make it out there please let me know what you find and what you think of the place.  Happy hunting.

It's also worth noting that GoogleMaps might give directions to Casa Diablo Mountain from Bishop via Hwy 6 to Benton or Hwy 395 to Tom's Place.  It is much shorter and faster (unless you drive 15mph the whole way) to just take Casa Diablo Rd as for the upper parking to the Sad Boulders.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Casa Diablo: Things to Consider

Casa Diablo is amazing.  The place meets pretty much every criteria for what makes a great area, from the beautiful setting and stable climate all the way to the amazing lines and abundance of quality rock.  But despite having so much going for it Casa Diablo will not appeal to most climbers.  Don't get me wrong,  there is certainly potential for mass appeal but I don't foresee the place getting crowded.  For that to happen a few adventurous spirits would have to take a shine to the area and lay the difficult groundwork that is generally needed before the majority of climbers dare to venture from pages of their guidebooks.

It is a bit presumptuous to think a rarely read climbing-blog could seriously impact an area but I actually have mixed feelings over "spraying" about Casa Diablo.  I'd hate to see it turn into the shit-show that other Bishop areas have become but after consideration I decided the only thing that would really do that is a guidebook after much development.  At this point underdevelopment and a lack a information will certainly keep Casa Diablo from getting crowded, but its proximity to Bishop and the quality problems could drum up some decent traffic in a few years.  Currently it will appeal to those kindred spirits that prefer a little adventure and enjoy the process of finding and developing problems.  So with those folks in mind here are some things to consider if you are thinking about checking the place out

  1. Not all the rock is good.  There is a lot of choss at Casa Diablo but the good rock is bullet and worth the effort.  Finding the gems can be the crux at times but the good stuff is very good.  Also, much of the rock falls in the "decent" category but if you take the time to clean it up you might just unearth a classic.
  2. General rock quality varies by area.  While pockets of good rock can be found all over there are certain areas that tend to have generally better rock than others.  I've found areas with boulders a bit more spread out are generally better quality.  Jumbles of massive boulders often have cool features but the rock requires more cleaning than I was willing to put in.
  3. It deserves more than a quick look.  My psych for Casa Diablo grew every day I spent there because I hiked and brushed a lot.  A couple of the best problems were missed on previous days and taking a second or a third look can often have a big payoff. 
  4. Be prepared to hike/scramble.  Finding the good stuff could require trudging around and while some of it is very close to the vehicle you'll be missing out if you aren't willing to go wander a bit.  Lazy people probably won't appreciate Casa Diablo and will be waiting for a guidebook that will hopefully never come.
  5. It's an easy hang.  Casa Diablo is easy to get to (type "Casa Diablo Mountain" in GoogleEarth/Maps) and is reachable in even a standard car.  Camping is free (public land), cell coverage is great and the view/setting is stunning.  It's worth noting that I always approached from the obvious parking to the west and the very last bit of road is quite steep.  
  6. I haven't seen it all.  I really tried to see as much of Casa Diablo as I could but I had limited time and often a kid (or two) in tow.  I've found some mega stuff but I haven't come close to seeing it all.  You never know what is still out there to find.
If anyone does take the time to check the place out I'd love to know what you think and hear about what new problems you put up.  Here are some more pictures from my time there.

Tooth Decay was one of my favorite moderates.  Techy with the holds and feet in just the right places for it to work.  I also added a sit-start from the big scoop at the bottom. 

Prairie was painfully close to doing Tooth Decay but always came up just short on the big crux move

This project is one of those that will require a lot of cleaning as the rock isn't great but will be manageable.  Usually I wouldn't bother but this one was so beautiful it could be worth the effort. 

Tom and I did a few "filler" problems near the Mega-Boulder and they cleaned up nice.  Here is one of them

This boulder had beautiful patina and I originally thought the middle line would be a classic warm-up.  It ended up being harder than I thought and is now a classic moderate I called Mi Casa.  I also did a sweet one to the right and there are two to the left I didn't get around to. 

The problem to the right which I called Tu Casa

I stumbled upon this boulder after already exploring the same area on previous days. Crazy how I somehow missed this one and shows the importance of being thorough in your exploration.  The arete is one an awesome moderate I called Hell Freezes Over and there are a couple things on this boulder I'd love to get back to.

The Devil Wears Prana is probably the hardest thing I put up in Casa Diablo.  I even stayed an extra day just to do this and my many attempts are probably the reason I couldn't muster doing the awesome arete on the Mega-Boulder.  All in all I'd say it was worth it as this thing was pretty sweet.

This shot of The Devil Wears Prana gives you a better idea of the problems.  First you tackle a big "Huecoesque" roof with the help of two knee-bars before busting out to some bad slopers.  The crux is the end and took quite a bit of refining before I could put it together.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Casa Diablo: The Mega-Boulder

Casa Diablo is certainly more than just a one-trick pony as there are multitudes of amazing problems scattered around.  That said, there is one particular boulder that stands out and has received more of my attention than any other in the area.  I've dubbed it the "Mega-Boulder" due to it's quality/size and, as I said before, it alone is worth a trip.

The steep face that I'm so enamored has yielded two world-class problems (yes, they would be classic anywhere in the world) and the 2 or 3 projects remaining on the boulder are worthy problems as well.  Here are a few pictures and commentary

The Mega-Boulder.  Tom is standing under Midnight Roses with the stunning arete to the right and the rope hanging down over a project we never got around to trying.  Far to the left and obscured by a tree is another project we brushed up that will be a nice addition.  

Noah laying eyes on the boulder for the first time.  The boulder is massive but since the top-out is low angle it makes for perfect bouldering. 

While Midnight Roses was the first problem we did, it was the arete that I originally took a shine to.  It's one of those lines that you know is doable but the difficulty is hard to assess and the fact that it is highball with a tiered landing means overcoming fear will also be a major obstacle.  Last winter's ground-up attempts proved terrifying but this year we cracked the beta on rope and then tried to dial in the crux sequence before going cordless.

Even though working the arete on rope eliminated a degree of uncertainty it was still unnerving to climb without a grip of pads.  Since neither Tom nor myself are famous enough to attract a posse to contribute pads Tom decided to set up his circus net (seen in the photo to the right).  That's right, Tom has a circus net for just such occasions and the fact he busted it out speaks to the quality of this problem as it is no easy task to set it up. In the end I think Tom would say it was worth it as the effort culminated with him safely on top of the Mega-Boulder.  I wasn't so fortunate and while I have lots of excuses for my failure I'm kicking myself for not taking full advantage of the cushy landing.  I can't remember what Tom called this one but it is awesome.

Midnight Roses was the first problem we establish but it didn't go down easy either.  We resorted to working this problem on rope (Lisa doing just that in the photo) and the beta took some refining before we put it all together.

Midnight Roses is actually fairly sustained but the first move proved to be the physical crux.  The "standard" beta involves a big right-hand move to a sloper but there is also alternative beta that better suites those of shorter stature.  Lisa and Noah demonstrate the different options.   

This problem definitely goes on my list of favorite first ascents* and it is an amazing addition to a region that is already renowned for its climbing.
*technically Tom did it first but we sent in rapid succession and the process certainly was a team effort. All depends on how you look at it

Another angle of Midnight Roses that helps you get the idea of how steep the boulder is at the start.  It ain't really over until you're standing on the holds above the lip.

One final photo of Tom on Midnight Roses.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Casa Diablo: Bishop's Untapped Granite Bouldering

I know it might be hard for some to understand but I've been over Bishop bouldering for a number of years now. Don't get me wrong, Bishop is great and this is a classic case of "it's not you, it's me". I've just spent too much time in Bishop and the last few years in have lacked psyche as I've been reduced to circuiting, seeking out obscurities and occasionally sending a "hard" problem.  Of course I always find myself coming back as the winter climbing options are pretty limited and most of the other spots (Hueco, JTree, Vegas, Moes, etc..) suffer the same fate as Bishop.  I do realize I'm spoiled but after 15 years of climbing I'm having a harder and harder time finding spots that provide a reasonable climate and get me excited.  Well last winter Bishop suddenly jumped back on my radar as I happened upon a place that makes me very excited, Casa Diablo.

Casa Diablo is not new or secret (not that I know of at least, or not anymore.....) and I've actually known about it's existence for roughly 6 years but never made the trip to check it out. I'd been meaning to go but the reports on the place weren't good and I'm generally only in Bishop for a week with the family so I didn't make it a priority. Another factor was that the amount of climbable rock around Bishop is staggering and I focused on other “new/secret” areas I caught wind of. At this point I feel I've seen the majority of Bishop's many unpublished satellite areas as I began to seek them out in earnest when my motivation started to wane but I never found a place that made Bishop shine again. All the new areas served as only minor distractions, providing a few days of motivation at most and some of them were so underwhelming that I never put on my shoes. Of course I enjoyed the process of searching but had started to give up hope that anything substantial was out there, until last year when I decided to check out a massive collection of granite that I hoped wasn't total choss.

I convinced my good friend Noah to join me for that first inspection of Casa Diablo and before even getting out of the car I knew we would find something worthy. From where we parked I could see rock with solid patina and rounded huecos and I simply did the math; I knew from studying satellite images that there were thousands of boulders and lets be conservative and say only 10% is good rock. Well, you're still looking at hundreds of quality boulders and with those numbers I knew that somewhere in that mountain of granite it would all come together to make some 3 and maybe even 4 star boulder problems. The crux of course would be finding them.

Long story short, I strapped my infant son to my chest and Noah and I spent roughly 6 hours hiking around.  We split up to optimize productivity and occasionally came back together when drawn in by a shriek of joy and a request to "come check this thing out".  We saw plenty of great things to climb on but it all culminated around the discovery of a dream boulder that was so good we new it would be the starting point of our development.  Since that first day I've spent roughly a week in Casa Diablo and every time I get more excited about the place.  Of course the fact that I live in Europe makes getting back to Casa Diablo difficult but it sure is nice having a reason to go back to Bishop.

Here are some pictures and I'll try to get around to posting some more information in the near future.

Casa Diablo.  I've spent several days hiking around and haven't come close to seeing everything.  Check out satellite images to help grasp how much there is in the area

Noah is a little camouflaged in this picture but if you find him it'll give you scale for this impressive looking boulder

I'll try to spare readers from too many pictures of boulders from that first day of hiking around but you get the idea.  We saw so many things it was hard to wrap our heads around it.  Clockwise from upper left 1) A cool roof with huecos and edges that proved too hard for us. 2) A highball with amazing hueco features. 3) The roof lacked enough features but the arete/prow is a top quality moderate. 4) A wall with bullet rock.

And then there was the Mega-Boulder.  When we saw this thing we new our search was over as this thing alone would make a return trip more than worth it.  More on this boulder in another post....

Nick on a worthy easy/moderate.  This problem may have been climbed on before and will be an area classic.

Prairie with a solid spot from Nick

Noah on a project.  This thing is a stone's throw from the parking which makes me think it may have been tried before but I suspect it hasn't been done.  We figured out all the moves but it wasn't easy.

I convinced Jay (spotting Prairie in the photo) to join us for a day last winter and we hiked to a new sector I had scoped to establish some moderates.  This wall was stellar as it offered top quality rock and some rare granite tufa features.  

Prairie unlocking the stemming sequence for the start of Old Pine.  

A tricky crack climb we established on our way out one day.

I've put 3 sessions into this project but came up empty handed.  It might have gone down if I had the discipline to actually rest but with so much to do it's hard to take a proper off-day instead of "only" developing moderates.  One of the many problems waiting until next time......

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Some Shots from the Road

I'm wrapping up four weeks in the States and it's safe to say the trip hasn't quite worked out as expected as a broken computer kept the blog silent and a broken van curbed movement and climbing.  So it goes.  I'll catch up with some retro-posting soon and in the meantime here are some shots from the road.

I drove through this little town in California where I'm kind of a big deal.  

Just south of Walker (the town, not me) on Hwy 395 is a lone boulder that offers a perfect pit-stop.  I stopped for a quick session and ended up getting sucked in to trying a project for 4 hours.  Fortunately my buddy Tom randomly drove by and stopped to join the fun

Tom on the awesome project that took a long time to figure our.  By the time we had all the beta we were too sauced to send but I'm certain Tom will fire it when he returns.  

The Tungsten City boulders is a rarely visited area outside Bishop I decided to checkout.  It had a nice little circuit and you can't beat the approach.  This was before my van started giving me trouble

Traveling without the family means dinner can be thrown together last minute.  Sometimes I don't want to put in much effort.

And sometimes I happen upon a sweet Mexican restaurant. 

Fellow van dwellers enjoying some spiced whine after a day of bouldering

The crew trying to stay warm

The Sierra Nevada mountains catching the first rays of sunlight as the moon descends.

Catching the moon.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Finding Worthy Rocks: First Ascents in Dartmoor National Park

As my friends are well aware, I was not too psyched about the move to Southwestern England.  I generally judge an area by the quality, quantity and potential of the local climbing and it was safe to say that Exeter is a downgrade in every way from my home in Gothenburg.  Fortunately I quickly stopped whining about what I left behind and started exploring my new home and realized there is a decent amount of rock to be found at my "local" area of Dartmoor National Park.  

Those that know me are aware that I like the process of searching for boulders almost as much as I like climbing them, and since everything in Dartmoor was new I had plenty to keep me busy.  I went to work systematically visiting every area, ticking the local classics and searching for anything that might have been overlooked.  Using various online resources, local beta, satellite images and detailed maps I started trekking to every area that had even the remotest chance of having climbable rock, and while most of these missions were met with disappointment I'd occasionally stumble upon something worthy.  

Well, the productive outings have started to add up and not only have I collected quite a few projects but I've also added 15 new problems with some of them being among the best in Dartmoor.  So here are a few pictures of some of the new problems and there is certainly more to come.  I have come close to exhausting the areas closest to home but there is still plenty on the far side of the moor.  

The majority of climbing in Dartmoor is on rocky outcroppings called "tors" like Greater Rocks (foreground) and Hound Tor (background).  While all of these tors have been climbed at for years (they are hard to miss) there are some obvious problems that have been overlooked.  

One such overlooked problem is at Easdon Rocks and only two meters from the classic Easdon Arete.  It goes from a sit using a "nonhold" under the roof and then navigating the slopey lip/arete to the top.  I called this one Overshadowed.

While the potential up on the open moor is limited there are several wooded areas with clusters of boulders hidden in the trees.  I've had the good fortune to meet some kindred spirits that have been exploring the woods for years and they gave me a tour, saving countless hours on my part.  Thanks to Tom Rainbow for showing me around and pointing me toward this project, which I called Lazy Colon.

A little arete I found hiding in the woods and brushed up.  I do try to seek out the best stuff but not every fa I do is going to be an area classic.  Sometimes you got to find the "best of whats left" and I can say being in England is teaching me to make do with what I have.

 Lustleigh Cleave is a large wooded area that has the most potential of the Dartmoor areas and where roughly half my fa's are, including this gem.  Over the Mountain is one of the most enjoyable and surprising new problems as it started as a nice option for a day out with my sun and turned into a minor obsession.  It took me two days to just figure out the beta and I hauled my son back roughly 8 times before putting it together.  The climbing is pretty unique for Dartmoor and packs a lot of climbing into a small space.

Here's a shot of the crux underbelly of Over the Mountain

Here's another new problem in Lustleigh.  I brushed this one up while supporting a friend on an adjacent problem and Mikey and I sent it one after the other.  Another problem worth doing if in the area.  Hey Mikey, what did you call this one?

Perhaps the best problem I've put up in Dartmoor is also in Lustleigh and climbs the face of "the project boulder".  Yankee Doodle Dandy is essentially just three moves with the last one being a big dyno.  I did do this one by myself but it's not recommended as pads and spotters will prove helpful.

It's always nice to visit areas you've marked on your map and find someone has done most of the work of cleaning the boulders.  I later found out who had developed this little area and informed that I was the first to do this little dandy.  I called it The Gift and want to thank Dave Henderson for cleaning it up.

Another sweet problem Dave had cleaned up was this slopey traverse he called Snaresbrook Snake-charmer .  He started from a jug in the middle and I added an extension that sit-starts all the way left.

This one is actually still a project (one of many) but I've figured out all the moves and at some point I'll get back to it.........