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.