Monday, November 5, 2012

Firsts, Flashes and Friends

What a time at Mill this past Saturday! The beautiful November forecast brought out many groups of climbers for what was certainly one of the best days we've ever had up there. The temperature was crisp, and the sun shown most of the day making for aweomse friction in teeshirt conditions. The crag filled with activity.

Michael is now the Missoula area coordinator for the MT Rock and Ice Meetup started by Chris Nadasi in Kalispell, and he's been getting some great response. He was joined by several climbers who coordinated through the Meetup, including repeat and first-time visitors. Among them was Gina, climbing with Michael on the Tick Farm, and enjoying her first climbing day ever. It's always great to hear of someone trying climbing for the first time. Shout out to you, Gina!

First Girlfriend Buttress
To the left of Tick Farm and Tiger Stripe, Ken got the first ascent of a new route he bolted a week ago. The climb ascends Cougar Bait to the second large ledge, then follows four new bolts straight up to Liger's anchors. Since it starts on one route and finishes at the anchors of another, we gave it its own name of "Coyote Tricks."

Opening Coyote Tricks
It has a provisional grade of 5.11d R (could be 11c/d, more feedback needed). The "R" comes from ledge-fall potential if you blow the clip at the 2nd new bolt. Hollow-sounding rock leading up to this bolt prevented a better spacing. The climbing through there is on big holds and is not the crux, but is still reachy and somewhat powerful. The best approach is to do what Ken did: climb Liger as your warmup, then on the lower pre-hang the top three Coyote Trick bolts, placing a longer draw on the third bolt from the top (which is also the bolt that protects the crux). With that bolt pre-hung, the clip is pretty mellow with your right hand on a fairly positive large, flat-topped ledge. After that, you're super safe and good to go as you contemplate the postive but small edges of the crux bulge. You'll also want a single-length runner to clip the last bolt on Cougar Bait off the big ledge before moving up and left to Coyote Trick's first bolt.

22-Liger (10d), 23A-Coyote Tricks (11c/d R), 23-Cougar Bait (11d)
One of the climbers sampling the area for the first time was the very strong John Gogas. John was in town visiting relatives, and we owe Tim thanks for getting him up to the crag. John was a pleasure to meet and climb with, and it didn't take more than a minute watching him warm up to realize he's the real deal. Turns out this initial impression was not only accurate, but a fair understatement. Climbing with Tim, Dane and Ken, John steadily clipped his way up the grades at the crag. He finished the day by flashing both Big Science (for its 6th ascent after Dane, Hobbs, Ken, Conor and Bill), and Scary Math for its 2nd ascent (Dane FA). With his input, we've finally settled on grades of 5.12b for Big Science and 5.12c for Scary Math.

John Gogas - Big Science crux during the flash.

Big Science - Last moves before the chains.

Scary Math - Flash, before the roof shakeout.

Scary Math - Above the roof.

Scary Math
Face to face with the redpoint crux after all that climbing.

It turns out John is not just the "real deal," but has a significant history with modern climbing and the upper echelon of our sport's athletes. For example, you can read of his role in the development of Hueco Tanks bouldering here and here. Needless to say, it was highly motivating to watch John climb our hardest routes with such solid control and power. We'll all be hitting our own training harder this winter as a result, and will look forward to his next visit to Missoula!

John Gogas
Speaking of Scary Math, everyone should feel free to give it a try. Dane got the first ascent July 25th. Ken has been projecting it this fall, with several one-hangs, tagging the last hold near the anchors, but has yet to stick it for the send. The draws will stay on more or less until he does. You're free to clip them. Note you need to bring your own for the 1st/2nd bolt right off the deck. Also, there's a bolt above the main roof two-thirds of the way up that isn't pre-hung. This is a bolt best skipped on redpoint when the roof moves are sussed, but can come in handy if you're trying to figure them out for the first time. So bring your own draw if you want to use it. Be sure to let us know if you send!

QED-MF is Dane's main unfinished business. He got on it Saturday for the first time in quite a while to re-learn sequences and change out his old draws. He climbed each segment solidly, easily pulling the boulder problem crux. If the mild weather continues for another week or two in November, he looks well positioned to link it up into the redpoint.

Last winter Dane and Ken made good use of cold weather days to put up Big Science and Scary Math, with the routes ready to climb in time for spring. That proved a great use of off-season time, one we'll repeat again this winter. We have a rope hanging now from new top anchors left of Big Science. This marks the beginning of work on a route to be named "Dark Matter." The route will go up this winter. We hope to also bolt a line to its left more or less following the arete right of QED-MF that will be called "Event Horizon." Dark Matter will be another 5.12. We're thinking Event Horizon might be in the 5.10 range.

Kurt also has tag lines on the right-facing corner system right of Scary Math. He climbed on it Saturday. This line is called "Crack a Book" and looks like it'll be mid 5.11. He's doing some cleaning of loose blocks (plenty) and determining what, if any bolts will be required. So this one is still a project that will require more prep before it can be safely climbed. Look for it also by spring.

Kurt, winner of the First Annual Green Bay Packers
Mill Creek Halloween Costume Contest held mid-October.
Dane recently added anchors between Mighty Mouse and Little Heroes and worked out most of the moves on a new route that will be named "Danger Mouse." It feels a letter or two harder than Mighty Mouse. This line will also go up during the winter, adding another fun, bouldery climb to the Little Heroes sector.

Dane beginning work on Danger Mouse.
Without a doubt, the climbing at the North Rim remains dynamic and active. New routes are going up and milestones are happening, from first-timers to first-flashes. It's the the rock and the climbing that takes us up there, but a day like Saturday brings home a deeper meaning to what climbing can give us. As Michael put it looking back on the day, "It's an actual community full of joyous, psyched people -- it may be the best thing of all, better even than Scary Math!"

Freestone Climbing Gym owner Walt Hailes

Skander on Liger.

Bill (Big Science? Check!) and Tim "Flash Belayer" Karst

Carlene and Samantha

That's it for now...