Monday, September 27, 2010

Lolo Concierge Treatment

Submitted by Ken Turley

I feel I've climbed my share up in Lolo over the past 7 years. In reality though, my experience has been pretty minimal, limited to repeat trips to Elk, Tor and Braxton. A look in the Falcon guide shows the granite domes have a lot more to offer. And that's only part of the story. In the last 3 years the Lolo scene has experienced a resurgence in development, resulting in a significant increase in routes and a huge burst in new boulder problems, all thanks to the tireless efforts and psych of Levi, Dean, Kelsey and others.

Taking advantage of a break in Levi's schedule, I was able to hook up with the man himself this past Sunday. Our goal was to view some of the new routes and boulders I'd never seen, and maybe get me on one or two.

After topping off the tank and the cooler in town, we drove to vicinity of Tor rock, making a detour onto a side road for a peek at a couple of lesser domes not in the guidebook. Here I got to inspect two new bolted 12s on Roll Rock featuring bouldery starts that I'll definitely add to my list for a return visit. Levi also directed my attention to a shady outcrop through the trees across the road. Up-slope from a mountain stream sits a new project bolted by Scotty. Once Sparkered and company send, hard 5.13 sport will be firmly established in Lolo.

Back on Granite Creek Road, we headed beyond Tor to mile marker 6 and a gated logging road. This is the approach to the Random Events wall (page 70 in the Falcon guide). I'd heard quite a lot about the high quality and unique pockets of the routes here, especially Cappuccino Cowboy. More and more it seems, this route is spoken of with high regard, as a must-do 5.12 in our area. It has even been blogged about by Levi and other climbers much stronger than me.

It takes about 15 minutes to walk in to the wall. The first part is on a logging road, and the remainder on a casual climbers' path with minimal elevation gain. The wall is 70 to 80 feet high and located in a shady, healthy forest with live water nearby. The aspect is slightly to fairly overhanging and features a crazy assortment of sparse pockets, from deep monos to killer jugs.

Random Events Wall - Steep and Shady

Three routes are listed in the guide: Green Eggs and Ham, Cappuccino Cowboy and the Lorax. We started on Green Eggs and Ham (10c). I headed up on lead and quickly received a proper welcome when I fell at the 2nd bolt after being far too casual on some balance moves up a thin spine. The rest was fun and varied climbing with a mid section of bomber gear to a bulging bolted finish on large pockets.

We then tossed a rope down the Lorax. Levi demoed the beta with its very specific mono and 2-finger pocket sequences. I followed and really enjoyed the moves. I then lowered to the start of a new Levi line, the Once-ler, which busts out right from around the 2nd bolt of the Lorax. The route features a distinct crux with techy feet and sequence to a positive lefthand mono, and then heads up a series of powerful moves through pinches, pockets and blocks. Both these routes are high-quality, challenging climbs.

The Lorax seems in the 11b/c range. The Once-Ler probably comes in at 11d, but only if you have it sussed. On-sight, who knows! I was only the 3rd or 4th climber to attempt it, so a consensus grade still awaits.

Next I had a choice between Cappuccino Cowboy and a new Levi-Dean route, Crystal Concierge, both 5.12. I knew Cappuccino Cowboy would be a project route for me, so opted to try my hand at the striking Crystal Concierge. This climb shares a few opening holds with Cowboy, then heads right into an obvious overhanging corner system. The crux involves getting yourself established in the white corner above a ledge. Levi again demoed for me, cruising to the anchors. I tied in, executed an improbable mono "undercling" in the crux prelude, then settled in to finding alternate crux beta to Levi's desperate press-to-gaston move. Once you establish in the white corner, it's not even close to being over. Thin, delicate stemming leads to a rest jug. From there you climb a pumpy overhaning layback crack, execute a groping exit, recover, then climb an aired-out, looming headwall to finish. The climb can spit you off eye-level with the anchors. It's full value from the first move to the last. I made it up with many hangs, sweating and perfectly spent. I'll definitely be back soon to attempt a red point.

Levi offered 12b for Crystal Concierge. It felt nails hard to me on my intro burn, but I can see that it could level out at that grade once I get the moves dialed. It's worth noting that, as the harder of the two, Cappuccino Cowboy must certainly be sandbagged in the Falcon guide at 12a.

Opening pockets of Cappuccino Cowboy

With daylight dwindling, we headed back to the truck and drove around toward Elk Rock where I got to see the Euro Boulder and the Beautiful Boulder, two prime examples of the numerous new blocs in the area.

Many thanks to Levi for taking the time to show me around. And huge props to all involved for the mountains of careful and mindful work that has added considerably to Missoula climbing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Season Turning

Autumn colors are creeping down the canyon, and that means climbing's best time of year is about here, the aptly named "Sendtember."

On that note, props go out to Jesse Selwyn for getting an onsight first ascent of Give and Take as reported in comments here. We're always psyched to receive comments on the blog, as well as news of any sends you'all are doing at the North Rim. Thanks again for the report, Jesse!

Kurt, who opened Give and Take, put a tentative 5.10d rating on it. As Kurt said, "Seemed close enough." Dane, who tried it quickly during an early t.r. session, thinks it could be 5.11. We'd welcome any feedback on the grade.

Li'l Crack 5.7, Give and Take 5.10d

In other activity, Dane and Ken made it out for the afternoon on Sunday, arriving about 2pm. It was bright sun, cloudless, and pretty warm, but a breeze kept things fairly nice. By about 5pm temps dropped and it got quite comfortable. We focused on the Upper Tier routes, climbing No Drama Obama and taking a couple spins each on Proof of Concept. These are two fine routes, and for those who are seeking Tempest-like climbing, they come highly recommended. Proof is rated 11d, but safely bolted and lends itself to projecting on lead.

We climbed with a 70m that has been shortened to maybe 62 meters. When lowering off of Proof's anchors, the leader touches ground near the start of QED, a good distance below the belayer. With the shortened rope, there appeared to be just enough left to indicate that a 60m would reach. If you do climb Proof with a 60, be certain to knot the end before lowering. Worst case scenario would require the belayer to climb up the route 5 feet or so in order to allow the leader to touch down. Note that if you did run out of rope, by that time the leader is suspended 15 feet away from the rock, so there's no chance to climb back up. Remember too that QED definitely needs a 70m!

A team of two climbers with a black dog arrived at the Tick Farm mid-afternoon and got in a few climbs, starting with No Dick Tick. They left before we did, so we didn't get a chance to see who it was.

If you're a repeat visitor to the area and have climbed through the Tick Farm routes, we encourage you to venture up to the Upper Tier and sample Snaggletooth (10a), No Drama Obama (11b) and Proof of Concept (11d). These routes are considerably steeper and longer than the Tick Farm, and of really high quality. Note that Snaggletooth does require a couple of wires or micro-cams for the opening 20 feet. The other two are bolts only. So venture up and enjoy!

Descending from the North Rim
Evening Shadows, Bitterroot Valley

Friday, September 10, 2010

Labor Day

Labor Day on the North Rim started off cold. Michael Moore, Olin Martin, Kurt Krueger and Dane Scott stood around stamping feet and blowing on fingers before heading up Snaggletooth, an odd but interesting climb on the Upper Tier. Named after an 8-foot, 1,000 lb horizontal tooth sticking out of the rock 70 feet up, it always raises the question, Do you trust it!?

Kurt Krueger on Snaggletooth

After Snaggletooth, Kurt and Olin spent most of the day on Kurt's challenging 10-ft roof crack, Give and Take. Kurt is the author of the area's two trad lines to date. He's doing his best to make sure the "youth" at least know what a hand jam looks like. The not yet geriatric Kurt managed to lead this physical and intimidating line with only a couple hangs. It will go soon for him, but Kurt has also declared it open for all others. Any crack climbers looking to get the first clean lead, have at it. There's one bolt in a blank section mid-route, and the rest is gear. The climb, with a proposed rating of 10d, ascends one pitch and finishes at Fixe rap anchors. (See last image of this blog post for a look up the start of the crack.)

Michael and Dane decided to do some labor in honor of the day. They quickly bolted and climbed a new 9-bolt line that shares anchors with Sabertooth. They dubbed the line Tiger Beat. While not quite of the same quality as the more sustained routes on the Tiger Wall, it's worth doing. It has a bouldery crux at a roof in the neighborhood of 11a. Be warned not to drift too far right at the roof to a large and loose looking block. Let's call that off route for now. Bolts 2 through 4 were closely spaced to do double duty. There is a direct variation that climbs straight up the bolts on excellent rock, avoiding Tiger Beat's larger holds just to the right of the bolts. While contrived, this variation offers challenging climbing in the 11c/d range -something definitely worth doing.

Tiger Stripe above Tick Farm
Give and Take is crack just right of rightmost snag.

There were a dozen people at the Tick Farm and maybe 7 cars at the trail head at one point, a virtual mob scene for Montana. Longtime Missoula area climbing fixture, the lithe and agile Brian Quilter, showed up with his new bride, Carlene. The couple is finally united in the same country after a long and Kafkaesque encounter with the US and Canadian immigration bureaucracies.

Ever since Beth Rodden and Tommy Caldwell split up in 2009, the world climbing community has speculated as to who would replace them as America's First Climbing Couple. As we watched the Quilters ticking off some of the North Rim's long, sustained and overhanging routes, we felt that here in Montana we need look no farther. As the rest of us left for the day, the happy couple was last seen enjoying the late summer sun on the Upper Tier climbing No Drama Obama. We are all glad to see Brian and Carlene finally united in Missoula.

At the end of the day, Brett Klaassen Van Oorschot and Ondi Crino did Witness the Tickness. Everyone seems to lower off this route with a wide grin, showing the lichen in their teeth. With its boulder-problem opening, and powerful but positive crux moves, this 5.11a climb is emerging as a consensus 3 to 4 star route. Olin, who pulled a key starting hold off of Snaggletooth and damaged his heel in the process, came back for a final attempt on Witness, as well. Alas, his labors with Kurt left him a little gassed, but he shall return. Both Olin and Brett have assisted Michael with bolting, Brett on Sabertooth and Olin on Ticktastic.

--Dane Scott and Michael Moore

Other sightings:

Seen Cruising the Canyon on Saturday

Friday, Sept 3rd In his first visit to the North Rim, Kyle Scharfe, back from a summer working in Glacier, joined a friend to climb the four-pitch Pie for Strength. Kyle remarked on good bolt placements, an attention-grabbing entry to the flake on Pitch 2, and the challenging crux seam on Pitch 3. Sounds like the 5.9+ fourth pitch, which doesn't see as much traffic as the other three, is starting to get cleaned up a bit. With a top-out onto the rim (and easy hike back down to the main trail if you choose), it's definitely worth doing, but climbers should still expect some crunchy lichen.

Saturday, Sept 4th Dane, Ken, Carlene, Michael, Olin and two climbers who arrived later, spent most of a fairly hot day on the Tick Farm, often wishing for a breeze that never quite filled in. Dane spent 2 hours re-crafting several bolts on QED, eliminating a couple and re-positioning two others. QED is now completely dialed, with 12 bolts and about 5 cam placements. Dane waited for good conditions for a redpoint attempt, but the hoped-for cloud cover never materialized, and by 3pm the air conditioning and cold beer at the Hamilton House drew us away.

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Climbing and Philosophy Book

As a philosopher and ethicist by training, and a lifetime rock climber and alpinist, the University of Montana's Dane Scott is in a unique position to formally explore the game of climbing. In the new book Climbing, Philosophy for Everyone published this August by Wiley-Blackwell, Dane joins sixteen other authors in analyses that examine climbing within a philosophical framework.

Dane's essay, titled "Freedom and Individualism on the Rocks," pairs three seminal climbing routes with major individuals in ethics and philosophy, and examines how each climb, its era and ethics can be understood in terms of the associated philosophical tenet.

These pairings include,

Nietzsche and the Bachar-Yerian
John Stewart Mill and To Bolt of Not to Be
Charles Taylor and The Path

The book contains a forward written by elite big route speed climber Hans Florine. It is just released, and has already generated positive reviews.

Order here
Read a review here

Dane Scott Beneath His Route QED
Mill Creek

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Saturday, Aug 28th

Thanks to Tim for this report from August, 28th.

Went to Mill Creek on Saturday with Brian. Met Kurt there with his visiting coworker Laura and her husband Reed from Maryland. They did most of the Tick farm routes. Brian and I went directly to the shelf above Tick Farm. Brian let Tiger by the Tail and I did Shere Khan. I traversed too high and fell on the traverse bolt but was then aligned to climb it. Brian then led Snaggletooth and set up a TR on No Drama Obama. We both had a great time on Obama.

Brian Story and his wife Leia topped out on Pie for Strength as we were getting done with Obama. They said it was a great route. Brian said the 3rd pitch presented some challenges. Leia was getting ready to lead the 4th pitch as we left.

Daithi Firing Pitch 1 of Pie for Strength in July

Kim was also back at the tick farm with 2 friends from Tucson. She
said she loves the casual atmosphere.

On the way down the trial we encountered 20 members of a church group casually
walking up the trail to get a glimpse over the edge. They where about
half way up the trail to the climbs.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ten Sleep!

This may be "the Mill Creek Report" but since a road trip took several of us, including Dane, Tim, Gray and Ken, away from witnessing or creating Mill Creek news, it seems appropriate to report on our travels.

Ten Sleep, Wyoming has certainly hit the international climbing radar the last couple of years, especially after elite climber James Litz blasted through in 2009, establishing a number of 5.14s. Full time sponsored climbers Alli Rainey and Kevin Wilkinson live there. Pro climbers Joe Kinder and Colette McInerney spent this summer climbing and establishing more hard routes. Jon Siegrist swung through on his summer road trip. And the Climbing Narc even stopped on his and Mrs. Narc's vacation to Yellowstone and Glacier.

Several of our local crew, among them Scotty, Levi and Kyle, also traveled to Ten Sleep this summer. Counting this last trip to meet up with us, Scotty's been there three times. Yeah, the place is that good.

Crux Mono on Cocaine Rodeo 12a

The canyon is oriented roughly north-south and the vast majority of climbs are located on the east-facing rock. On hot, August days, the routes begin entering the shade precisely at 1:30pm. Temperatures were in the upper 90s and triple-digits down in the flatland, but in the canyon we climbed in super comfort, always in the shade, often wearing a light jacket and hat while belaying.

School's Out 10d - First day, first climb

For morning climbing on hot days, there's the amazing Wall of Denial - Ice Plant. This sector features ice caves hidden inside deep chimneys. To belay at some climbs, you need full autumn garb to endure the (literally) freezing air that flows out of the chimneys. This canyon is a crazy natural phenomenon with the added bonus of dozens of great routes from sub-5.10 to 5.12.

Dane - Wagon Wheel of Death 11c

Ten Sleep climbs ascend Big Horn Dolomite. We found it very kind to our hands. We were able to climb 5 days in a row, and only on the last day did we start to feel some tenderness in our fingertips, and that was due to projecting a 5.12b on one of the more crimpy walls in the Shinto sector. This was climbing more reminiscent of Rattler. The rest of the climbing is quite diverse, with an emphasis on pockets, but not in the same way as Wild Iris or Sinks -- meaning, don't be put off it you aren't a pocket crusher.

Scott Parker - Mr. 8a to you

It's hard to single out individual routes. Basically, everything is so good. Just head up to a sector and start climbing. The routes are safely bolted (you need zero gear at Ten Sleep, only draws) and offer the entire spectrum of grades. Camping is free in primitive sites in the canyon. The town of Ten Sleep is close with good eats, drinks and free water at the Lyons Club park. Don't miss the new bakery and espresso bar with wireless internet. It opened just 2-1/2 months ago and features excellent lattes and amazing homemade bagels.

Gray - Sending 5.11 with GT style

The distance is right at 500 miles from Missoula. We left Thursday after work and spent the night in a free fishing access campground in Columbus next to the Yellowstone river. We drove the rest of the way on Friday and were climbing by noon even with a breakfast stop at a restaurant in the tidy little town of Cowley, WY.

Ten Sleep -- go climb there! We definitely will many more times.

Tim - About 12 bolts to go on a sweet 5.11

Gunner Livin' the Life