Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ninja Warrior Sweden: Season 2

Last week they aired the final episode of the second season of Ninja Warrior Sverige (Sweden) and while no one finished André Sihms and David Johansson got the furthest, falling at the same spot on the ultimate cliffhanger.  Congrats to them and all my fellow competitors as it was a lot of fun.  
As for my performance, I did manage to be among the 25 competitors that made it to the finals but I consider anything short of finishing the whole course a disappointment.  Those that saw the final episode witnessed me punting on an "easy" obstacle and while I have plenty of excuses for my failure it simply comes down to a lack of preparation and execution.

I do admit that I was in worse shape than last year but the nice thing about being a climber is that my base fitness level would have been more than enough to complete every obstacle pretty easily if I didn't do anything stupid.  The real crux was more a matter of focus as I was there alone with Björke and wrangling a one year old doesn't really give you much time to concentrate (or sleep for that matter).  So it goes.  In season 1 I walked away feeling cheated and this year I left feeling like a big disappointment.  The plus side is that I'll be better prepared for next year and I'll certainly put in some time learning to use those little trampolines.

Here are the Youtube clips of my "semi-final" run and a very short "finals-stage 1"

You can catch a glimpse of Björke at the beginning and end of the clip.  I'd like to think that his crying was just his way of yelling support for his dad....

It would have payed to familiarize myself with those little trampolines.  I knew I had a bad hop from the get go and had to change trajectory mid air.  Unfortunately this forced me to grab the net low with straight arms which is not the way to do it.  I guess I was stressing over the time but I should have taken a couple moments to do it right.  Sucks to fail on something you've never had a problem with before.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Dartmoor First Ascents: The Great White Slope

Last year I removed a moss carpet from a boulder in Lustleigh to reveal a massive sloper.  The feature alone made this rather short boulder suddenly very appealing and I added it straight on my to-do list.  The sloper ended up being worse than it looked and I needed to wait for cold temps but to be honest I wasn't expecting this problem to be that hard.  It ended up putting up a serious fight and is full on from beginning to end.  In fact, just getting establish proved difficult and I had one whole session where I was never even able to attempt the first slap.  I even put a rope on to try the upper moves and I can honestly say this is the shortest boulder I have ever done that for.

It took three more sessions and so much skin to crack this one and in the end I barely scraped up it.  I'd be curious to hear how it goes for other folks as maybe this one just played to my weaknesses.  But better get after it soon as I'm not how much longer we'll have favorable conditions.....

Here's a little video that only captures a small part of the struggle.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Five Tips for a Climbing in Fontainebleau

As anyone that has been to Font can tell you, it's a magical place and the best bouldering in the world (I stand behind that statement). I think this was my 10th trip to Font and while I'm far from fully versed on all-things-Font, I feel I've learned a thing or two over the years and thought I'd share a few tips for anyone planning a trip to the magical forest. So in no particular order here are my top 5 tips to optimize your trip to Font.

Bring an umbrella. The weather in Font can be notoriously bad and if your trip coincides with a rainy spell you'll want to utilize every weather window available. That means you'll be among the hoards of desperate climbers flocking to the rocks when the rain stops and subsequently running for cover when the showers return. A good umbrella and/or small tarp will be your new best friend as they will keep you dry during short showers or day ending rains. It can also be wise to use the tarp and fashion a little roof in anticipation of the rain and it can even be used to keep the top-out of your project from being saturate. It is worth noting that you can't count on hunkering under a roof as they can be overcrowded and substantial rains will have streams of water gradually encroaching on your cover until there is no more shelter.  It is no fun to pack wet gear into your car and even worse if you're camping with a crashpad doubling as your bed. Hopefully you'll have good weather but if you draw the short straw then do yourself a favor and get an umbrella.
It could be worse, at least they have an umbrella.

Learn how to poop in the woods. Don't you just love it when you are exploring around the boulders and encounter a minefield of human feces. Yeah, neither do I so please be considerate and learn how to poop in the woods. If you don't know let me break it down for you. Take a long walk far away from trafficked areas (not just behind the first boulder or tree) and find a suitable place to dig a sufficient sized hole. Ideally you wouldn't leave behind toilet paper by using what nature provides (moss, smooth sticks, rocks, etc) or packing it out but the bare minimum is to bury it with the poop. After you do your business someone should be able to walk by without even knowing what just transpired there. Seriously, why is this hard for so many people. The ground is not that hard and a stick can easily be used. I could go on ranting but I'll leave it by saying there is never an excuse for leaving your shit for someone to step in and your toilet paper to be blown to the wind. If you have to poop in the woods learn to do it properly and everyone will have a better time in Fontainebleau.

Don't go to Bas Cuvier on a weekend. It can be nice to bump into other climbers at the boulders but it can be a bit much when you have to take a number just to try a problem. Under normal conditions you can expect the popular areas ( Bas Cuvier, Sabot, Isatis, etc..) to be busy but during European holidays and weekends they can feel just like Disneyland as you'll spend most of your day waiting in lines to get on the more popular rides. Fortunately there are multitudes of less popular areas that are equally as good and offer the perfect place to spend your weekends. And if you simply must try one of the uber classics in the middle of Bas Cuvier go early in the morning and you'll have the place to yourself, or wait until the evening we things tend to die down.
Henrik trying an awesome problem that we stumbled upon while exploring the boulders around Rocher d'Avon one Saturday.  No crowds to deal with, just sweet sweet sandstone. 

Forget your tick-list. Font is the one place I've been that genuinely has loads of amazing problems across the entire grade spectrum and I pity those that are slaves to their predesignated tick-lists. With so many stunning problems the idea of spending several days trying to do a single one just seems crazy to me. Yes, you should seek out those classics that will challenge you but I've seen folks so hellbent on sending a V-blahblah project that their whole trip is spent climbing on a handful of problems. What makes Font special is the ability to run around and do so many great problems one after the other and if it's your first trip to Font you'd be cheating yourself by even going to the same area over and over. So dump the tick-list and try to visit as many of the more than 100 areas as you can. And if you really want to appreciate Font I highly recommend doing some curcuits. You'll do tons of great problems, see the whole area and become a better climber. 
Henrik and Lina learning the subtleties of climbing in Font.  Both these problems are on red circuits, awesome, and unlikely to stroke the ego of number-chasers.  

Drink wine and eat cheese. While you might be in Font to climb on rocks don't forget that you are in France and should take advantage of being a tourist. A day trip (or two?) to Paris is probably in order and there is no better way to start your day than picking up some fresh bread from your local boulangerie. Personally, my wine and cheese consumption goes through the roof but there are lots of ways to embrace your inner Frenchman/woman. Just don't take it too far because despite what your mom says you can't quite pull off the pencil mustache and beret. 

Now get out there and start planning you next trip.....  

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fontainebleau: Bouldering Fun for Everyone

We've just returned from a short trip to Fontainebleau and while the weather was pretty bad during our stay we still managed to get out a bit and have a good time.  Man I love Font and I can't wait to go back.  The place is generally given the distinction as the best bouldering in the world and I wholeheartedly agree.  The setting is awesome and it is hard to beat for quantity, quality and accessibility but what really sets Font apart is its appeal to the entire spectrum of climbers.  Not only is Font great for beginners and crushers but the awesome sandstone features make the ideal playground for kids.  Truly great bouldering for everyone.  

Just a typical day in the forest.  Font is hard to beat if you got kids in tow as the approaches are casual and most areas are extremely kid friendly.  And of course the bouldering offers something for mom, dad, big sister and even the little man.

Lina climbs a sweet slab in Canche aux Merciers while Björke tick-marks some footholds.  

Martin working L'Étoile Filante at Dame Jouanne.  Just another problem problem that would be considered amazing in most places but in Font it is only "pretty good".  It's certainly worth checking out after you've done the dozen or so better problems in the area.....  

Rêve de Pierre was a sweet looking problem in Rocher Canon that Henrik and I checked out during a short break in the rain.  While this problem was fun there is a skull crushing block at the top that should be avoided at all costs.  It isn't too hard to avoid but it makes top a bit harder.  I really feel that someone should pry off that thing before it kills someone.  

Lina about to fire one of the problems on Éléphant's fantastic black circuit.  Unfortunately Éléphant is a bit rundown as the rock is softer than most other areas around Font and heavy traffic has pretty much destroyed some problems.  

I'm a big fan of doing circuits while in Font and if you find yourself in Roche aux Sabots the red circuit is awesome.  But if you want to complete the circuit you'll have to get past L'Angle à Jean-Luc (red 25), which is notorious for leaving folks one problem short.

La Lune was an old project for Lina and while she did get the "jug" this trip it still remains a project.  Guess we'll have to go back....

If you like dynos they you'll love Font as there are plenty of them.  Here Henrik fires Le Danseur at Rocher d'Avon. 

Many of the climbs in Font are so good I can't help but want to repeat them.  I had done La Memel a number of years ago but it was just as good a second time.  Here is Henrik gunning for it.

Many people like Font for the good landings and the low to moderate height of problems but there are no shortage of highballs if you like things spicy.  Tom trying to find the balance on the beautiful L'Ultime Secret at Isatis.   

And of course there are the sloper, oh so many slopers.  Elsa learning the subtleties of a particularly sweet sloper in Isatis.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One of Dartmoor's Best Boulder Problems: Tropic Thunder

I've been racking up a fair number of first ascents here in England but I recently establish my best yet.  Tropic Thunder is a real gem of Dartmoor bouldering and good enough that it could be classic anywhere in the world.  In my opinion Tropic Thunder is second only to Devon Sent in the Dartmoor area but folks should get out and decide for themselves. 

Tropic Thunder climbs a prow/arete out the middle of a visor.  I would have brushed up this problem had I stumbled upon it anywhere.

A rarity for Dartmoor, Tropic Thunder it very steep and utilizes an array of heels and toe-hooks.
Here is Mikey sticking the first move.

Tropic Thunder also makes use of a couple xenoliths that are very uncommon around Dartmoor.  Here is Tom trying to make use of a toe-hook on one of the xenoliths.  

The problems climbs extremely well and it took two days to work out all the little subtleties.  The crux to Tropic Thunder was figuring out what to do once you got your hands on the slopey lip while your feet are way under the roof.  I found 3 different sequences but in the end it was the one that required doing a little bump and holding a massive swing that proved successful.  It's always nice when everything comes together.....

If you want to check out Tropic Thunder it is pretty easy to find as it is located on the slope along the north side of Beadon Brook.  Park off Beadon Lane just where it crosses the brook and either follow the brook for a bit until you see rock and scrabble up the slope or take the higher path (easier) and drop down when you see rock.  This area has a bit of rock with roughly 20 established problems and more potential if you're willing to brush.  Enjoy

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.